Thursday, July 5, 2018

Putin Can’t Return Russia to a Real Past: He can Only Invent ‘New Chimeras,’ Shelin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 4 – The Putin regime is trying “to sit on two stools” by claiming to be the successor of both tsarism and Stalinism, but the Bolsheviks destroyed the first so thoroughly as to make its restoration impossible. As a result, Sergey Shelin says, Vladimir Putin can only invent “new chimeras” in both sense of that term.

            On the one hand, he is seeking to combine two things that are not only absent but fundamentally incompatible and thus is creating a monster. And on the other, this chimera, as Russian readers of the influential Eurasianist writer Lev Gumilyev will recall, is an indication of the final degradation of any system.

            It is going to be difficult to fit in a commemoration of the murder of the Imperial Family next week given the World Cup, the Putin-Trump summit and the Duma’s first reading of the bill to raise retirement age; but something will be done and that is appropriate, the Rosbalt commentator says (

            For the current bosses in Russia, “the history of Russia (and of the USSR) is the history of rulers,” and the murder of one of them is thus a signal event, one of the clearest signs that the Bolsheviks were making a radical break with the past and would not allow any of its aspects to return.

            The Left SRs, who at the time of the murder, were allied to the Bolsheviks recognized the threat and tried unsuccessfully to stop it in the summer of 1918; and “we see now that this was the last chance to overthrow the Bolsheviks from within. In the next seventy years, all real threats came only from outside.”
            Thus, after the failure of the SR rising, the Bolsheviks were in a position to establish a totalitarian regime and to destroy all the pre-existing groups and arrangements in society in one wave after another, each of which was carried out in the name of wiping “’the former people’” off the face of the earth.

              Indeed, Shelin says, the Bolshevik system “was distinguished from almost all revolutionary regimes in other countries by the exceptional radicalism of its break with the past of the country and with the people who in this past played any essential role, be he an aristocrat, a merchant, a kulak peasant or a socialist of a non-Leninist variety.”

            When the Soviet regime collapsed despite having become a super power, many looked back to the pre-Bolshevik past of the country.  But “to return to the past of the ancien regime even in part as impossible – in its place remained a field of scorched earth.”

            “But it has been possible to play at it” and thus to imagine something else that is not the case either: that the Soviet past has thus been overcome as well, Shelin continues. “Decades have passed, and today our autocracy is trying to balance on two stools, imaging that it is the successor of tsarism and Stalinism at one and the same time.

            “This cult of all leaders is called the restoration of the connection of time, although there is no such connection and to reconcile the irreconcilable is impossible,” however much some want to do so. As a result of Kremlin propaganda, Russians now rate Nicholas II, Lenin and Stalin “as equals” and as part of Putin’s “single stream” of Russian history.

            But “all this show about historical themes is itself a distant consequence of that destruction of public memory which the Bolsheviks took up a century ago,” the Moscow commentator says.  “What fruits that would give, they of course didn’t guess at the time.” They simply went about destroying the past and building a chimera that lasted until 1991.

            The chimeras the Kremlin is building now because of their incompatible components will not last that long, Shelin concludes.

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