Wednesday, June 10, 2015

‘Russians are the Soviet Slaves of Today,’ Panfilov Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, June 10 – The Soviet system transformed the population of the USSR into slaves of a particular type, and “the present-day Russian slave is a direct descendent of the Soviet ones,” according to Oleg Panfilov, the director of the Center for Extreme Journalism (2000-2010) and now a professor at Georgia’s Iliya State University.


            Anyone who thinks that “a contemporary Russian has emerged is deeply mistaken.” To be sure, “an insignificant percent of Russians have been abroad, acquired new cars and already cannot imagine life without good clothes and shoes … But all these goods of ‘world civilization’ have changed Russians only externally” (


            “Internally, they remain the very same Soviet slaves to a great degree envious and as before uneducated. Only now the Russian slave has another ideology; he must now respect ‘the Russian world’ and its leader Putin,” ideas that are just as unclear as the ones Soviet communists tried to impose.


            Despite the years that have passed since the end of the USSR, “the slaves are struggling for the right to remain slaves.” The hatred they show toward Ukraine and Georgia are part and parcel of this, Panfilov continues, a reflection of “envy and hatred and a desire to punish those countries for their decisions to become independent.”


            Soviet slaves constantly thought about the need to “become a hero,” to die for whatever cause the leaders announced.  “But in order to die heroically, one must fight; and they are going now to do just that,” from the lack of something better after having watched “propaganda on television.”


            “A few really want to be heroes,” Panfilov says, “because throughout their lives they have heard the strange song with the words ‘and as one we will die in the struggle for this,’” “’this’” being whatever the current leader – and that is now Putin says it is.  “For 74 years, Soviet people went to die for ‘peace in the entire world’ and for the victory of communism. Now, they do so for ‘the Russian world.’”


            “To speak with a slave is impossible,” he continues. A slave “does not listen to any arguments, he does not know what logic is. He hates everything Western but he wears clothes produced there, he drives cars from there, and he goes online.”  And he satisfies himself that this is not a problem because as his leaders tell him “’they fear us.’”


            “In this strange situation,” Panfilov says, “when the Kremlin opposes the West, the slave fights passionately but not for the opportunity to live well but simply for an empty idea which won’t be realized.” But if anyone calls attention to the slavish status of Russians today, the latter will be sure to respond with the Leninist dictum: “’we are not slaves, slaves are not we.’”


            That response, of course, confirms what they are denying and highlights the continuity from Lenin’s time to now, Panfilov says.  The Bolsheviks, as he points out, simultaneously said they were seeking to free Russians from slavery to various institutions like the church and made them slaves to new ones.


            That reply too is significant, he suggests. After all, it was the Bolsheviks and not him who “first called the Russians slaves.”


            “Over the years of Soviet rule they created a new type of slave, the Soviet man who considered that the USSR and now Russia is the best country in the world and that all must fear it.” Creating this kind of slave took enormous time and effort because it involved eliminating from people all human values and cultivating the deification of whoever was in power.


            The Soviet population was transformed into “physical slaves – ‘he who does not work does not eat’” and into mental ones as well, making that population willing to put up with anything that the leaders insisted on.  That by the way, Panfilov says, is the source of corruption in Russia today with only this difference: in Soviet times, the party regulated corruption, “now corruption controls the powers that be.”


            The Soviet leadership promoted in the population under its control “a constant feeling of envy, to neighbors, colleagues, relatives, foreigners, to all who had something and that was impossible to acquire.”  But it did even more than that: it made each of those on its territory “an ideological slave.”


            That was “the perfected essence of Homo Soveticus,” Panfilov concludes, an individual “who all his live lived in poverty and stood in lines … who loved his leader and then with the appearance of a new leader hated him.”  The main thing for such an individual then and now, was “not to think for himself: the leaders will explain everything.”




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