Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Window on Eurasia: Kremlin Can't Decide Whether Russia is Heir to the Soviet Union or to Imperial Russia, Inozemtsev Says

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 7 – As this week’s holidays show, the Kremlin suffers from an “unhealthy” divided consciousness, unwilling to commit to defining the country as heir to the Soviet Union or heir to Imperial Russia and thus sending out mixed messages that are contrary to the country’s interests, according to Vladislav Inozemtsev, head of the Civic Force Party.

            In today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” Inozemtsev traces the varied celebrations of November 7 after 1991 and the appearance of the alternative holiday of November 4 but argues that this history reflects the unwillingness or inability of the Putin regime to choose between the Russian Federation’s two very different pasts (

            The first post-Soviet and “democratic” power in Russia regularly declared “its intention” to distance itself from and repent of those things that the Bolsheviks had done, the activist continues.  However, that regime has been succeeded by a regime of “former KGB officers” who have to try to ignore this past altogether.
            That change of focus helps to explain the  appearance of November 4 as a special holiday, but the timing of its introduction, three days after Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, reflected the new Russian rulers desire to send a message that “any revolution is bad and even terrible, and any resistance to the selfish intentions of the West good and hopeful.”

            The new holiday also clearly was intended, Inozemtsev insists, to send a message about “the unity of the people with its elected autocrat and the founding of a new dynasty.”

            But far more interesting has been the attitude of Russia’s new rulers to November 7 and also “to the entire Soviet inheritance.” They are closely connected with that past, having been members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and even having written “dissertations and scientific works on the role of the CPSU.”

             Indeed, Inozemtsev points out, Vladimir Putin has “more than once reiterated that the disintegration of the USSR was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” and that the period of Brezhnevite ‘stagnation’ [can be best] characterized as a time of the successful development” of the country.

            And how often have Putin and his colleagues recalled Stalin, identifying him as the creator of a great state and “’a super-effective manager,’” the activist continues.  “Only D. Medvedev mentions about the reverse side of this ‘effectiveness.’” And the Putin regime has showed itself prepared to have the population but not the elite live like in Soviet times.

            But there is a problem with all of this, Inozemtsev says. “The USSR was and until the end of its days remained a product of the October Revolution.  Its successes of the 1930s and then of the 1930s are owed above all to the fact that [that revolution] destroyed former hierarchies and liberated the enormous forces and talents of the people.”

            The revolution demonstrated in addition that “elites are not eternal and can be effectively replaced by others no less professional and that it is relatively easy to find an alternative to any failing regime.”  This “Soviet lesson” is not one that Russia’s current rulers for self-evident reasons want to teach the population, Inozemtsev notes.

             As a result, he continue, “in recent years, practically each step of the Russian powers is characterized by an unhealthy (let us call it that) divided consciousness.” On the one hand, “it speaks about the continuation of the pre-revolutionary Russian traditions; but on the other, it speaks about “the Soviet experience and its positive aspects.”

            Moreover, “at one and the same time, [the regime] recalls Stalin and Brezhnev but condemn any and all revolutions and even more their ‘export.’” Ivan Ilin has been reburied in Russia, but “the Kremlin wall remains a place of burial of the most terrible persecutors of their own people.”

            “All this,” Inozemtsev says, “speaks of a complete loss of a political orientation, about the absence of any ideology besides the banal striving to hold onto power, about the inability (and lack of desire) to construct clear and understandable vectors of development for the country and society.”

            “It is time for the Russian powers that be to define who they are, to specify whether they consider themselves the heirs of Soviet or Imperial Russia.”  If that happens, Inozemtsev suggests, “much will become far clearer both to the powers and be and to the people” over whom they rule.

                On anniversaries of events like the Bolshevik revolution, both the powers and the people should draw certain “lessons of history even if some of these are not very acceptable” to one or another.  First of all, Inozemtsev says, everyone needs to recognize that “all new passionate societies arise as a result of revolutions uprising and radical changes of the direction of social development.

            Second, he argues, “the people have the right to revolt against a government that is oppressing it.  And third – and this he suggests everyone needs to particularly remember – “revolutions involve force, blood and cruelty” even if those who won subsequently try to present things differently.

            From these three lessons, Inozemtsev concludes, the following proposition follows: “to oppose revolutions is senseless: the active minority which provokes them will always find supporters, the passive majority which supports the powers that be will not come together for the defense of the government.”

            It is of course possible to delay revolutions or make them softer.  But “for that, the powers must not ‘feed the fires of revolution’” by their actions, but rather they must move ahead of where the population is heading. “However, few have the intelligence and the will to do that” successfully.

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