Staunton, February 8 – In any country as large and diverse and with such a complicated history as Russia, there are going to be some unusual people with unusual and perverse ideas. Today, Lenta journalist Mikhail Karpov interviewed one of them, Sergey Taraskin, who styles himself “the acting president of the USSR” (lenta.ru/articles/2018/02/08/psycho_war/).
Taraskin, a former Soviet officer, has been pestering journalists for the last eight years, Karpov says, inviting them to meetings where they can here his unique version of history and his plans for the restoration of the USSR in place of what he calls “the occupying power of the Russian Federation.”
Most people simply ignore Taraskin’s appeals; but Karpov says he and his news agency decided to see what the man and his followers are about. What he saw and heard, he said, left him first with a vision of the future straight out of Soviet fantasies but then with a sense that doctors from a psychiatric hospital should be called in.
Speaking to a group of about 60 followers in a hall in Moscow, Taraskin talked about the “dawn of a new USSR, which as it turns out, he did not think had ceased its existence,” Karpov says. (To pay for the hall, his followers sold a brochure entitled “Defense of the USSR Citizen” for 500 rubles (8.50 US dollars).)
Taraskin said he began his campaign to restore the USSR or more precisely to get people to realize that it had never ceased to exist on January 25, 2010, when he made a declaration in a Moscow district court that he “as an officer of the USSR took upon himself responsibility for [the country] after the desertion of the supreme commander who had been Mikhail Gorbachev.”
“What have we been able to achieve over this period?” he asked rhetorically. “When this information first appeared, naturally no one had thought about it. Then people appeared who found in this something interesting and step by step it won over their minds.” To explain why, Taraskin gave his version of Russian history, one not found anywhere else.
The acting president insisted that the 1917 revolution should “in no case be called the Great Russian one because not a single Russian participated in it. It took place because of the actions of special organs of foreign states.” From this it follows, “there was no civil war, there was [only] foreign intervention.”
“In general,” he continued, “everything was bad until Joseph Stalin came and directed the situation ‘in a positive direction’ and stopped the evil doer Trotsky-Bronstein who intended to throw Russia into the furnace of a planet-wide revolutionary process.” Stalin then won World War II but he was never able to achieve his full potential.
After the war, foreign powers continued to work to undermine and dismember Russia. They placed their hopes in Yury Andropov, Taraskin said; but the former KGB leader was too ill to achieve all of their plans. But then Gorbachev and Yeltsin carried it out, helping others to destroy the USSR.
At the same time, Karpov continues, Taraskin insisted that Yeltsin was never properly president of the Russian Federation because he simply assumed that the Russian Federation was the direction continuation of the RSFSR. But there is no basis for that idea, the acting president declared. And Yeltsin helped the foreigners take away all of Russia’s wealth.
According to Taraskin, there were three pairs of traitors in Russia over the last century: Kerensky and Lenin in 1917, Yeltsin and Gorbachev in the 1990s, and Putin and Medvedev now. “He noted that four of these six had studied law at St. Petersburg State University,” a hotbed of dangerous Western radicalism in his mind.
Taraskin believes his moment has come, Karpov says, because of the sanctions policy of the United States. Only by declaring the return of the USSR can those accused of having stolen from the country return to Russia and be protected from the depradations of the US and other Western powers.
Over the last eight years, the acting president said, “we have revived the theme of the USSR out of oblivion … and if you look around, then you’ll see that now a significant part of the media space in the Internet is devoted to the theme of the USSR,” to the kind of traditional way of life Stalin promoted and celebrated.
Taraskin made many other comments – he rejected Marxism, socialism and anti-Semitism, he supported direct action by workers against criminals, and he urged that the state be so constituted that all people in it can have the chance to rule.
He is clearly mad, but his words and Karpov’s story are a reminder of the ways in which individuals subjected to a barrage of propaganda re-arrange things in their own minds in ways that their authors never intended. That is, most of Taraskin’s ideas have some connection with those of Vladimir Putin even if they are hyperbolically overstated.
Indeed, there are probably many more Taraskins out there; and they may matter more than those less extreme may imagine.