Staunton, March 21 – Many Russians, encouraged by Vladimir Putin and his regime, are nostalgic about one or another aspect of the Soviet past; but Vyacheslav Polovinko says that “ever more Russians believe that in fact they live in the USSR” and in an entirely “serious” way, they have “their own ministries, coups and shootings in absentia.”
The Novaya gazeta journalist not only visited several hotbeds of Soviet revivalism but surveyed three experts on why this phenomenon has appeared and why it is likely to continue to expand (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2019/03/20/79945-shinel-dzerzhinskogo-usy-stalina-i-brovi-brezhneva).
Polovinko’s first stop was at a Stalin-era apartment building near the Semenovskaya metro station in Moscow. There, he reports, he quickly entered “a parallel Universe,” on in which there was a Supreme Soviet of the USSR, a Soviet government, and an active group of Soviet restorationists.
The first deputy chairman of this Supreme Soviet, Vladimir Kladinov, told him that the group had existed for a little over a year. He added that he woke up to the need to do something in 2015 when he decided that it was necessary to take steps to “go to the USSR” and thus escape “occupied” Russia.
He quickly attracted a group of enthusiasts around him, including Valentina Reunova, who launched a program on Youtube that has attracted 30,000 visitors and that seeks to have Soviets elected in all parts of the RSFSR and the Union republics, to restore the 1977 Soviet Constitution, and to resist plans by the British monarchy to take over Russia.
Asked about how many places had done so, Kladinov replied that “we will not talk about statistics. What good are they? If you look around, you will see that about 70 percent of the people support us.” Ever more are applying for Soviet passports or joining Soviet-style trade unions, although their validity isn’t recognized by everyone.
According to these Soviet activists, the current “’RSFSR documents’ are simply papers like those which were issued on territories occupied by the Nazis” during World War II. Those who take Soviet passports now, the activists say, can look forward to a glorious future because the USSR has “830 quadrillion Soviet rubles” in its electronic accounts.
The group has its own Soviet council of ministers, admittedly incomplete – some have died – but ready to take action. One of its actions has been to sentence Petro Poroshenko and other leaders of “’false Ukraine’” to death in absentia. Plans are afoot to do the same for German Gref, Elvira Nabiullina and Aleksey Miller.
As for Vladimir Putin, the Soviet government has decided not to touch him for the time being because he “’must serve the people.’”
Despite being “a young state,” USSR 2.0 as some refer to it has already experienced its first attempted coup with some activists seeking to displace others. The coup failed and those who won want to read the others out of the movement. But neither side has had much success in getting its supporters to take part in public demonstrations.
One partisan, Sergey Lemkin of the USSR Trade Union recalls a Soviet-era anecdote in which Stalin returns to life and is asked what should be done: he says shoot the entire Duma and government and pain the Kremlin green. He is then asked, why green? Obviously, the situation with regard to the existing regime and what should be done with it need no discussion.
Polovinko observes that “dreams about the revival of the Soviet state” are far broader in society than just the followers of Reunova and Demkina. There exist “dozens of organizations which to one degree or another want to “revive the socialist giant,” although their visions vary from the purely Soviet to Russian nationalist.
Among the latter, the Novaya journalist says, Kommersant has reported that there were approximately 150,000 who had enrolled in something called “the Union of Slavic Forces of Russia,” “SSSR” in Russian or USSR in translation (kommersant.ru/doc/3579737). All of them agree that the Russian Federation is “an organized criminal group that has occupied the USSR.”
Polovinko asked experts for their opinions about this marginal but growing group. Commentator Dmitry Oreshkin said that those in such groups are taking part because of their growing disappointment with the current regime and their inability to imagine anything other than the past as a way forward.
Psychologist Sergey Yenikolopov said that such groups are common when societies have changed radically. Ilf and Petrov, for example, talked about followers of monarchism in the early Soviet period. Declaring oneself Soviet is a response to the anomie that all too many Russian citizens feel.
And political analyst Pavel Pryanikov said that such nostalgia for the USSR will only grow given that a majority of Russians think the Brezhnev era was a golden age as far as social supports were concerned. He suggested, however, that some of these actions may be a form of trolling to identify who thinks what.