Monday, October 14, 2019

Russia’s Problems All Rooted in Rulers’ Failure to Allow an Opposition that Could Become a Successor, Kiva Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, October 10 --  Russia’s tragedies including wars, revolutions and mass deaths have been the result of the unwillingness of the country’s various rulers, from the last two tsars through the communist leaders to those in charge of Russia today, to allow for the development of an opposition that could prepare itself to be a successor, Aleksey Kiva says.

            As a result of their efforts to retain power forever, each ruler has created a situation in which the country has deteriorated to the point that the people come to believe that anyone else would be better and thus willing to entrust power to people who are incapable of ruling in a way that doesn’t repeat the cycle, the historian says (

            Kiva points to three patterns in this regard. First, he says, “our rulers do not prepare replacements for themselves but seek to rule for life; and as a result, there is a strong delay in carrying out necessary changes in our way of life,” a pattern that leads to radical tectonic and costly changes when they finally occur.

            Some Russian rulers have recognized this problem. Alexander II did but was killed before he could introduce the changes he worked out with Interior Minister Loris-Melikhov, Kiva continues. He was followed by two conservatives who refused to admit the need for change and led the country down the path to war and destruction.

            Had a responsible government and serious political parties been allowed at the end of the imperial period, there might not have been the wars and the disasters which opened the way to the revolutions of 1905 and then 1917.  That is because such governments and such parties would have had a vested interest in avoiding such tragedies.

            The same problem continued under the Soviets. “The communists did not prepare for their replacements; and as a result, at turning points in our history, the leaders in the state turned out to be not the strongest leaders, including Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev, all of whom lacked the talent, breadth of vision and knowledge to lead the country on the path of healthy development. The same thing was true of Boris Yeltsin.”

            Related to this is what happened to each successor” “After the collapse of real socialism, the democratic leaders couldn’t get organized, separate human rights activities from politics and hold onto power because they did not have experience with party struggles. They did not take part in the building of a popular majority, and power was taken from them by the chekists.”

            According to Kiva, the behavior of the current rulers suggests that “they doo are not concerned about who will replace them. The president has practically all power in the country, and no one knows even theoretically who will be able replace him.” If there is no competition, then the new leaders will be either accidental or from incapable parties and Russia will never escape this vicious circle.

            Second, Kiva continues, wars and the preparation for wars “undermines the vitality and capacity of the state.” Had Russia avoided World War I, 1917 would not have happened; and had the Soviets stayed out of Afghanistan, 1991 would have not taken place in the way that it did.  The post-Soviet Russian government clearly has not avoided this problem either.

            Third, Kiva continues, “the fall of the tsarist and communist regimes had a certain logic. Our unbelievably patient people” held on in hopes of improvement until things became so bad that they decided that “any new power would be better than the existing one.” That was a misconception in both cases, but it wasn’t obvious to all at either time.

            The real danger, the Moscow historian says, is that Russians will not recognize this danger in the future and that the patterns of the past will continue, with ever worse outcomes for the people and the country all because rulers want to remain in power for life and not think about how power will be transferred to another.  

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