Staunton, October 17 – The massive indifference of Russians now to the revolution of a century ago is “no accident,” Sergey Shelin says. There are no parties bearing the positions of the opposing sides, the Soviet system destroyed both the participants and the links between them and the next generations, and the Putin regime itself has a schizophrenic view on the event.
Russians this year are fascinated by a movie about the future last tsar’s love affair with a ballerina, the Moscow commentator says; but they are mostly indifferent to the revolutionary events which led to his overthrow and to the establishment of a system that still casts an enormous shadow on their lives (republic.ru/posts/87044).
There is no continuing connection between the people of 1917 and those of 2017 -- the Soviets saw to that, destroying many and forcing others to identify in ways that were not accurate but very much required. And “the rapidity with which people forgot” the November 7th holiday in the 1990s “as soon as it ceased to be official shows it had long lost its importance.”
In fact, “the spell” of the Russian revolution in contrast to the spells revolutions elsewhere cast on their populations was much smaller precisely because of the totalitarian nature of the regime that that revolution brought to power and its assumption that it had to control everything past, present, and future, the commentator continues.
As a result, Shelin writes, “already in the 1990s, May 9 began to be viewed as the foundation day” of the country’s political system and thus “Stalin in a corresponding fashion as its founding father.” Under Putin, that has only intensified; and it leaves little room for the revolutions of 1917.
Today, that “grandiose” revolution has become “the stepchild” of the political system, and people are neither thinking about its meaning, identifying with its heroes on any side, or asking questions about what might have been. That will happen eventually perhaps but it is not happening now.
And the Putin regime is not displeased with that because it has an ambiguous relationship to 1917, Shelin argues. On the one hand, it wants to trace its patrimony back a thousand years; but on the other, as the website of the FSB which traces that organization’s forefathers only to the establishment of the Cheka makes clear, it is rooted in the system of that year’s victors.
Thus, in one respect, the Putin government is on the side of the Reds, and in another, on the side of their opponents. No wonder it cannot come up with a clear message, and no wonder in the absence of such a message can the Russian people find something to cling to. The situation with May 9 in contrast is simple and easy for all concerned.
Eventually, radicals on the left may rescue 1917 asking the questions Russians won’t ask now and drawing the conclusions about what to do next. But 2017 is not the year for that, and so the centenary of the revolution is the very worst time to try to celebrate or even mark that event, Shelin concludes.