Staunton, November 8 – What Russians now have in the Russian Federation is a Soviet system without communism and its administrative arrangements, and what they dream of is “a Soviet empire without communists,” an entity not equivalent to the tsarist empire as some think but one that reflects their memories of the USSR.
That is the joint conclusion of Kseniya Larina, Vitaly Dymarskiy and Gleb Pavlovsky on this week’s Ekho Moskvy program, “2014” (echo.msk.ru/programs/year2014/1432532-echo/).
Larina who hosts the program said that she had wanted to call this week’s program “The Dream of the Russian: the Soviet Empire without Jews, Communists and Gays,” to which Pavlovsky responded that that is “a short list.” But the title she did use ended by reflecting the views of Pavlovsky and Larina’s other host, Dymarsky.
Pavlovsky pointed out that the memories Russians have are constantly “rewriting the past significantly better than Soviet historians did.” And consequently, he argued, it is important not to rely on polls which do not provide much evidence about what is really happening but rather consider the country in systemic terms.
The three very much agreed that it is wrong to “equate a Soviet Union without communists … with the Russian Empire” that preceded it. As evidence of this, they point out that no one today speaks of “a Russian Empire without soviets” as in fact some revolutionaries did in the first post-1917 years.
Pavlovsky compared what has happened in China with what has occurred in Russia. China has “preserved the communist party” but effectively eliminated everything else,” whereas Russians “as always destroyed the structure which could administer the situation and then began to think ‘But how will be run things?’”
That led to a search for heroes who could, the commentator continued, with the choice finally falling on Putin who recognized that “the monopoly base of Soviet power,” which could even be strengthened “did not need the communist party or the features of totalitarianism more generally for that purpose.
According to Pavlovsky, the identity Russians are displaying in this regard “to a certain extent arose artificially in the Stalin years,” not in Lenin’s time, because of the acceptance of a paternalist state. “We all cursed inequality but we cursed the inequality of distribution,” not those who distributed it.
And this sovietism was not overcome because Russians “did not pass through some broad public discussions as the Germans did with regard to the Holocaust and fascism,” Pavlovsky said, although he added that such discussions were by themselves insufficient as a guarantee of slipping back to at least part of the past.
According to the Moscow commentator, Russians in fact “did not make any attempts” at forming a democratic society or a capitalist one. They simply did not set either as their task, and they lacked the resources to become a European social democracy. As a result, they remained patrimonial, distrustful of the communist party but not of the system in which they had lived.
The consequence of all that, he concluded is that Russia as so often in the past remained “a hybrid” of various systems precisely because it never made a clear choice among them.