Staunton, February 24 – Vladimir Putin has tried to promote a single stream version of Russian history in which all sides of past conflicts are integrated into a single narrative. Sometimes that has worked as in the Russian Orthodox Church’s willingness to celebrate Stalin, but in other case, it has failed dramatically.
Nowhere has that failure been more marked or more fateful than in the unwillingness of most Russians to integrate the anti-Bolshevik White Russians into a single stream, Aleksandr Tsipko says, a failure that shows that “the ‘red’ truth” most still accept and national feelings are “incompatible (mk.ru/social/2019/02/20/krasnaya-pravda-i-nacionalnye-chuvstva-nesovmestimy.html).
And that failure is not only of antiquarian interest, the prominent Moscow commentator says. It likely means that Russians will find it extremely difficult if not impossible to move beyond Soviet-imposed “templates” and take the steps necessary to form a Russian nation on other than Soviet terms or to hope to integrate it into Europe.
Even though Bolshevism has fallen, Tsipko says, Russians today overwhelmingly do not find themselves in a position “to say words of gratitude to those who died in the name of ‘Holy Rus.’ Historical memory dies when no one is in a position to transmit from one generation to the next national values.”
And the possibility of that was destroyed by the Soviet system. “Do not forget,” the Moscow commentator says, when Russians exited from the Soviet period, “all of us, even those who committed the August, supposedly anti-communist revolution, were reds.” That is how we had grown up.
“Not only Gaidar, but many in Yeltsin’s entourage” considered their grandfathers who had fought in the Red Army were on the right side of history. And for that reason, until Yeltsin, there weren’t even any attempts to condemns the crimes of the leaders of the Bolsheviks,” let alone defend their opponents.
According to Tsipko, memories about the Whites “and abut their truth is needed not ony in order to restore historical justice.” Without a full and accurate picture of the past, one can’t hope to have “any full-blown patriotism.” But even more important, without understanding why the Whites lost and the Reds won, one has no chance of moving forward.
It must be acknowledged, he continues, that “the current attitude toward the drama of the Whites and to their truth is radically different from the attitudes of the 1990s. All have already forgotten that when he came to power, Putin, unlike the members of Yeltsin’s command, took serious steps to make the truth of the whites the national truth of a new Russia.”
The Kremlin leader approved the reburial of Denikin’s remains in Moscow. He backed the appearance of a memorial to the White Movement. And he talked about the way in which during the Russian civil war, “the flower of the nation,” including “hundreds of thousands and millions of people” had been killed.
But there was resistance and things did not go as far as they should have, Tsipko suggests. One important area in that regard was the failure of Russians to gain an understanding of why the Reds won and the Whites lost, an understanding that is a necessary precondition for a better future.
Even today, he says, “more than half of the population stands behind the ‘red’ truth, considers Stalin the embodiment of the Russian state idea,” and is ready to defend his repressive behavior as necessary. Such people aren’t ready to accept either the white truth or the reasons the whites lost.
“Denikin himself acknowledged that the whites suffered defeat because they were not in fact those to whom were close to the ideals of great and indivisible Rus,” the Moscow commentator continues. “But what Denikin calls the reason for his side’s defeat, Leon Trotsky “calls in his turn the reason of the [reds’] victory.”
What both were referring to was their attitudes toward exploiting the centuries’ old hostility of the Russian people to their rulers. Denikin was not prepared to encourage the population to take revenge on the elites – and as a result, his side lost; Trotsky was – and his side won.
“In his History of the Russian Revolution, Trotsky honestly admits that we, the reds, allowed ourselves what the whites could not permit themselves: too exploit the traditional hatred of those whom he called the lumpen … toward the educated, wealthy and successful of Russia.” Denikin wasn’t prepared to allow “’His Highness the Russian People’ to act that way.”
The Bolshevik willingness to exploit and encourage violence became state policy once they established their power. And behind this is “the chief truth about the victory of the Reds.” They were openly contemptuous of the Russian people, viewing it as did Marx as a backward peasant mass.
“Today, even members of the KPRF, who sometimes have read the works of Lenin have forgotten that for him, the Russian nation was great only in one sense -- ‘great only by its violence, great only by its bullying.’” That allowed them to behave in ways that gave them a victory, ways that the Whites overwhelmingly refrained from.
That Russians to this day retain such “Soviet respect to the leaders of bolshevism and to their truth” and reject the alternative the whites presented shows that there is not now just as there was not then a consolidated ethnic Russian nation. And until the attitudes of Russians change to these two truths, that will remain the case, Tsipko says.
The thing is, he continues, is that “today, the ‘white’ truth in fact is incompatible with the current anti-Western psychosis. The leaders of the Volunteer Army were republicans and westernizers. Western values above all are about the value of human life.” And the values of the reds are absolutely opposed to those.
“And if there is no nation, then certainly returning to the path which Putin, having come to power, called ‘the magistral path of human civilization,’ will be difficult after four generations who lived for almost a century under the communist experiment.” More seriously it means, he concludes “we are already not in a position to become a full-blown European nation.”