Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Putin’s Common History Textbook Won’t Promote Patriotism, Tsipko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 20 – Putin’s efforts to create a common history textbook have not answered the most important question: on what basis should the events of the Soviet and post-Soviet period be evaluated. This shortcoming, Aleksandr Tsipko says, reflects the unresolved tensions of the Khrushchev era and won’t help promote Russian patriotism.

            In a 2500-word article in “Nezavisimaiya gazeta” this week, Tsipko, a senior scholar at the Institute of Economics of the Academy of Sciences, argues that the Putin text is repeating the error of the 1960s by attempting to defend the consequences of the 1917 revolution while denouncing Stalinist excesses (

            As was the case 50 years ago but now is even more so, Tsipko suggests, Russians must choose wehther Russia is “above all an Orthodo Christiaan country” or “the country which carried out the great revolution of 1917,” a choice which carries with it enormous implications for the nature of the country and its people.

            If one chooses the first option, one’s heroes will be Lavr Kornikov and Anton Denikin; if the latter, theywill be Lenin, Trotsky and Dzerzhinsky.  “There is not third possibility,” and there is something “anti-natural” about those who, like the KPRF, seek to swear fealty to both “Holy Russia and the ideas of the Leninist October.”

            Moreover, supporters of such a combination find themselves caught in contradictions that flow from this choice, Tsipko continues. If you think that 1917 was an appropriate response to global challenges, then it is reasonable to argue that Gorbachev and his perestroika was an action of “betrayal.”

            But if you support humanist and Christian values, Tsipko says, then you cannot fail to appreciate that what Gorbachev did opened the way to the revival of Orthodoxy in Russia by destroying the Iron Curtain, eliminating state atheism as the basis for Moscow’s actions, and restoring to Rusians the right of historical memory.
            What the authors of the current textbook appear to be doing, he says, is a repetition of the fundamental problem of the generation of the 1960s. Like their predecessors, they are using Christian and all-hum values in their assessment of the Stalin era and of Stalinism but “Marxist anti-morality in their assessment of October and the revolutionary acts of the Leninist guard.”

            The new textbook standards do make one breathrough, but it only highlights this internal contradiction and undermines the values of the book for the development of patriotism, Tsipko says. Unlike their predecessors of Khrushchev’s time, they argue that Russian patriotism must rest on Russian philosophy, including that of the “Vekhi” authors.

            “But it is impossible not to kknow and not to take into consideration that our genuinely great religious philosophy and great Russian literature from beginning to end was penetrated by the Christian teaching about goodness and opposed everythin based on the Marxist doctrine of a proletarian revolution,” he writes.

            Moreover, Tsipko continues, “Stalin who returned to the Soviet man Gogol, Pushkin and Tolstoy thereby laid the foundation, although he didn’t understand this, for the anti-communist counter-revolution which was completed by the perestroika of Gorbachev.”

            It seems, the Moscow author says, that there is “happily” one place where “the question of ideology is not [as] important.” That involves military leaders who carried out victorious campaigns. But a focus on them alone misses much of what Russia is, especially if you try, as the authors of the text do to put Lenin and Stalin on the same plane as Orthodox spiritual leaders.

            “Patriotism does not have any meaning if it has no hard ... if it ignores the suffering of those who turned out to be victim of our endless Russian drama.  I do not believe in the force of patriotism in which there is no understanding” of crimes against the innocent.” If one tries to create one, Tsipko says, “you will not build any great Russia.”

            Tsipko says that he has the impression that “now is not the second decade of the 21st century but the end of the 1960s and beginning of the 1970s when we, the representatives of the Soviet intelligentsia were glad that we could finally speak the entire truth about Stalinist collectivization and industrialization and about the repressions of the end of the 1930s,” even though people then could not extend that critique to Lenin and his October.

            But today, he continues, “one cannot assert as do the authors of the [textbook] concept that if the CPSU had begun reforms not in the middle of the 1980s but earlier, then it would have been possible to save that socialism which they call Stalinist.”  That is simply wrong and a self-delusion.

            “One cannot fail to see that leftist Marxist accents which were characteristic of the generation of the 1960s are present in all parts of the [new] concept devoted to the interpretation of Russia’s 20th century.”  Once again, there is indifference to the fate of the Russian peasantry and to that of religious communities.

            Moreover, despite all the evidence, the authors of the next concept have not been willing to face the fact that “in Stalinist socialism there wasn’t anything that was not present in the socialism of the Leninist guard.”  Whatever they believe “there was no special Stalinist socialism.” It was simply the application of Leninism.

            Like the generation of the 1960s, Tsipko suggests, the authors of the textbook concept appear to believe that it would have been possible to “create socialism without a mobilized economy, without forcible collectivization, and without Stalinist repressions.”  But that view no is impossible from either a scholarly or a moral point of view.

            “It is time,” indeed, it is long past time, the Moscow scholar argues, to acknowledge that the victory of the Reds over the Whites in the Civil War did not do anything to eliminate “the emptiness and utopianism of the ideal and doctrine of Karl Marx about the superiority of collective communist work over capitalism.”

            In the conception Putin’s expert offer, “nothing is said about the moral lessons of the Soviet period of history,” about how it is “impossible to build anything firm and lasting” by force alone.  “If the USSR had really been a great power with firm roots and a historical future, it never would have fallen apart in the course of several days.”

            One “must not deceive oneself” on that point, Tsipko concludes.

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