Saturday, June 22, 2019

Deportation of Peoples Casts Darker Shadow on Russia than Even the GULAG, Dyukov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 21 – Aleksandr Dyukov, the historian who heads Moscow’s Historical Memory Foundation, says there are three reasons why Stalin’s deportations of whole nations, while often less fatal for those involved that confinement in the GULAG, nonetheless continue to cast a darker shadow on Russia to this day.

            In the course of a discussion on the history and meaning of deportations organized by the Lenta news agency, Dyukov lists three reasons for that conclusion: First, deportation unlike GULAG incarceration was not the result of actions by institutions constituted to establish individual guilt, however falsely (

Instead, it was the result of administrative decision by the Kremlin or by subordinate ministries and was and remains something that many view as more political, making any reckoning about it far more difficult for the successor state. There simply aren’t as many possibilities of a narrow legal rehabilitation in this case.

Second, those who were sent to the GULAG by the Stalinist troikas were at least treated as individuals even when they fit into a particular class of enemies of the regime. But those who were deported were deported not as individuals but as members of a class as such. Once you were identified as a Crimean Tatar, a kulak or a Jehovah’s Witness, you were to be deported.

And third, while the GULAG was a mass phenomenon, its inmates were all individuals, “the hostages of individual fates each of which had passed through various degrees of caricatured quasi-judicial organs” who treated them as individuals with “first names, patronymics, and last names.” Those deported were never accorded even that mark of respect.

“It is well-known,” Dyukov continues, “that an individual may change his social status, but it is practically impossible to change his ethnic one. Therefore, purges and repressions carried on an ethnic basis always are viewed as more serious because an individual becomes the victim of that which he cannot change.”

According to the historian and activist, “this approach gives rise to problems which last far longer than deportations on the basis of social status because this community supported from within does not disappear and memory about these actions continues” even after the last immediate victims pass from the scene.

That reality has forced Russian officials to turn again and again to the challenge of rehabilitating those deported on an ethnic basis, actions that inevitably help keep these memories alive and call attention to the especially criminal nature of the Stalinist state and its analogy to other totalitarian regimes.

‘Reformatting’ of Lenin Museum in Ulyanovsk Sparks Protest Appeal to Moscow

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 21 – What was not so long ago unthinkable is now happening: the Lenin Museum in Ulyanovsk (Simbirsk), the city of his birth, is now closed for renovations and will be reopened not as a museum dedicated to the memory of the Bolshevik leader and founder of the Soviet state but as museum about 20th century Russian history.

            Three things make this event important. First, it is a clear sign that ever fewer Russians are interested in Lenin, however much the Soviet past may be making a comeback. Second, it is occurring in a “hybrid” fashion, that is, the museum isn’t being closed but “reformatted,” an approach used many places and intended to avoid controversy.

            And third, despite that, the closure of the Lenin Museum in this case has led to the formation of an action group whose leaders say that they will work to reopen the Lenin Museum with its original purpose intact and with the exhibits only updated to reflect technological possibilities (

            The decision to repurpose the museum appears to have been taken by local and regional authorities, not only because they had long promised to remodel the museum but also because the Soviet-era exhibits were no longer attracting the attention that they did, but the opponents of this move want to raise the issue to an all-Russia one.

            Whether they will be able to do so remains to be seen, but both the fact that the decision was taken locally and that the opposition to this move sees no possibility of reversing it there and consequently is turning to Moscow is yet another example of the way in which regional policies and politics and all-Russian one are inextricably interconnected. 

            And it is an indication of something else: those who can’t achieve their goals in Moscow, at least not yet, may have a very much better chance of doing so locally and regionally than many in the center or the analytic community assume, another development far more important than the closing of yet another monument to Lenin. 

Putin’s Hybrid War, Like World War I but More Slowly, Creating a Revolutionary Situation, Shtepa Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 21 – Like many authoritarian leaders, Vladimir Putin has assumed that he could use aggression abroad to shore up support at home, only to discover that after the passing of a certain amount of time, the burdens of war are exacerbating the domestic situation and even creating a revolutionary situation, Vadim Shtepa says

            Just as many Russians in 1914 enthusiastically supported the tsarist regime’s participation in World War I in 1914 only to turn on the tsar and drive him and his system from power three years later, so too history may be about to repeat itself, the Tallinn-based analyst continues (

            Putin’s “hybrid” war has not yet created a revolutionary situation of that dimension – it has affected Russia far less than did World War I at least so far – but it is putting in place the very same factors: Russians no longer are distracted by war or happy to sacrifice for it in the name of glory, and again today they want domestic change, including at the top.

            As a century ago, Russians are protesting about ever more things, from church construction to trash dumps to language rules to pensions, and also like a century ago, many see these as separate from one another, but, Shtepa argues, all of them reflect a growing distrust of the authorities and their ability to respond in a positive way.

            There is another parallel with that past, one that the Kremlin so far appears to be misreading.  In 1917, most of the protests came to be led by the far left; in that case, by the Bolsheviks. Now, increasingly demonstrations across Russia are led by the KPRF, their successor.

            But what is striking, Shtepa continues, is that many KPRF deputies, if not the pocket leadership of the party, are increasingly informed not simply by social protest of a traditional kind but by anti-colonial attitudes of the periphery of the country toward the dominance of Moscow, the regionalist theorist says.

            And in this regard, the current situation contains an echo of another part of Russia’s past, the period of the late 1980s when the CPSU which contained within its ranks the “most varied social forces over a remarkably short period of time dissolved into regional parties that broke the USSR and became the basis for many of the new countries which emerged out of its wreckage.

            Concurrently, and again a reflection of that past, some members of United Russia which purports to be the ruling party are planning election campaigns for September voting in which they will conceal their party membership because a party associated with the Putin regime has become increasingly toxic to their chances.

            The regionalization of Russian protest will only continue to grow, Shtepa says, because the center no longer offers anything that Russians beyond the ring road view in a positive way.  A new war offers them nothing but more losses to their standard of living, and new federal programs only mean that more money will be taken from them and go to Moscow.

            Consequently, again like in 1917 and in 1991, Russians will see to defend themselves because they see no other basis for retaining even what they have, and as Moscow analyst Mikhail Vinogradov says, such “regional patriotism” is already more important than the “all-Russian kind” (

                In this situation, Putin lacks any other vision but to try to do what he has done before, increasing aggression and aggressive propaganda; but neither he nor his regime has the vision or the opportunity or the resources to be successful. However, many now think that the only place he could do so would be to arrange the Anschluss of Belarus.

            But in what may prove to be the ultimate paradox of Russian history, Shtepa concludes, such “’a new Crimea,’” an act designed to save the empire, could have exactly the opposite effect and lead to its final dissolution. After all, the Beloveshchaya pushcha where the leaders of three Soviet republics put an end to the USSR is located in Belarus.