Staunton, August 24 – Throughout the 1990s, Russian liberals and their Western backers feared that the communist party would destroy democracy and completely failed to see that the real threat was emerging from a very different direction: those officers of the security services who fought democracy in Soviet times and wanted to do so again, Fedor Krasheninnikov says.
In a commentary in today’s “Vedomosti,” the Yekaterinburg political analyst points out that “the ‘liberal’ establishment” of the first decade of post-Soviet Russia focused on the communists and other marginal figures as the greatest threat to democracy in Russia (vedomosti.ru/opinion/columns/2016/08/24/654237-mest-pobezhdennih).
“Who would then have believed,” Krasheninnikov asks, “that the true restorers of everything bad that was in the Soviet political and economic system would come to power not from below, from some kind of ‘left-wing’ party or movement but from behind the scenes of the ‘democratic’ powers that be themselves?”
KPRF Gennady Zyuganov, “who proudly carried the banner of Soviet revanchism in the years of almost official anti-Sovietism, quickly demonstrated his hopelessness and the lack of prospects of this movement, time and again losing elections to Yeltsin and to his successor,” the Yekaterinburg commentator says.
In fact, Kraasheninnikov continues, it was not the communists but others who were the creators of the new-old ideology that dominates Russia today. The communists and those who shared their views thus have remained “on the sidelines of public policy” and have been forced to adopt the “revanchist” slogans of the ruling party.
If one examines the top leaders of Russia today, “it is impossible not to note that one is speaking about an extremely narrow circle of people. And these are not former party workers nor Soviet bureaucrats without work as instructors” of communist ideology.” Indeed, they are “not bearers of Marxism-Leninism or any other ideology.”
Instead, Krasheninnikov points out, the leaders of Russia today are “the former officers of the Soviet secret policy,” those who helped erect the Potemkin village of Soviet democracy, knew the arts of manipulation and information war, and had experience in the suppression of democratic movements.
Few in Russia or the West wanted to talk about the need for lustration in 1991 and even fewer do today, forgetting that it is “hardly a synonym for extra-judicial repression and revenge.” Instead, it is “a limitation of the right to occupy specific political positions for persons immediately connected with the criminal activity of the past regime.”
Consequently, there was no lustration and no restrictions on the serving personnel of Soviet totalitarianism. From this vantage point it is clear that even if such a policy had been adopted and applied in an extremely restricted way, “the history of Russia in the 21st century would have developed in a completely different direction.”
And that underlines “the truth that not communist ideology delivered a blow to the back of Russian democracy but rather Soviet administrative practice and specifically those who were occupied with it directly and at a low level.” Such people, it turns out, “simply didn’t know how to act differently” and when they could “did everything for the return” of the familiar system.
“It is difficult to understand the logic,” he says, “by which the way was opened to the leading posts in post-Soviet Russia for those who for several years before the destruction of the USSR were occupied with the struggle against private initiative and methodically trampled the most elementary human rights while working in the Soviet punitive organs.”
Nevertheless, Krasheninnikov says, “precisely that is what happened: the former guards of Soviet totalitarianism got the chance to make dizzying careers in the new order.” They far more than the communists have been responsible for the turning away from democracy and toward the Soviet past.