Khrushchev’s utopia began to fail even while he was still in office, Shelin continues; “and the post-Khrushchev generation of leaders put it forward as an example of an adventure that should not be repeated.” But they failed to recognize that despite its failures, Khrushchev’s program did raise the standard of living and left the USSR “much less archaic” than it had been.
But what followed Khrushchev’s failure and ouster contained within itself even more fateful developments, the commentator suggests. The failure of his drive produced not only massive disappointment but also to a degradation of the aspirations of people from something larger than themselves to a narrowly defined improvement in their individual situations.
“All this,” Shelin says, “made the so-called Brezhnev stagnation inevitable, whether it was headed by Brezhnev or anyone else.”
It is thus important to compare Khrushchev’s “seven-year” plan with “our current six-year” one which has been offered also as “a project if not for the universal improvement but at least of the country as a whole.” Whatever one says, at first, both the leaders and the people took the first seriously. “They believed in it,” Shelin argues.
“Does Putin himself believe in a confident growth of the economy of Russia as written down in the May 2018 decrees?” It seems unlikely. “The bosses now do not expect a great economic leap forward.” At the very least, they do not expect this to lift up the population as a whole. And they aren’t generating any enthusiasm among the people as a result.”
But there is one way in which the events of 60 years ago and those now are similar: both were predicated not only the initiative of the population but on faith in the power of the state to solve problems through the redirection of investments. Indeed, as a result of the past disappointments, this faith, at least at the top, is if anything “stronger” than it was.
That is obscured by another and more important difference. Khrushchev, whatever else, thought that he was taking from the population only what was necessary to improve the lot of the population. “He believed that thanks to his efforts, the people in a very short time would begin to live much better. At a minimum, he strove for that.”
But the Putin regime isn’t. “Its utopia is not simpler more pale and boring than the earlier one,” Shelin says. Unlike Khrushchev’s, “it isn’t for everyone; it is only for [the regime] itself.” And the population is coming to see that quite clearly indeed.