Friday, January 22, 2016

Putin’s Attack on Lenin about the Future Not the Past

Paul Goble

Staunton, January 22 – Yesterday, on the 92nd anniversary of the death of the founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir Putin sharply criticized Vladimir Lenin for laying the groundwork for the ultimate demise of the Soviet Union, the latest expression of his belief that the disintegration of the USSR was “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.”

But the current Kremlin leader is neither an intellectual with a deep interest in history nor a sentimentalist deeply attached to much except his own survival, and consequently, it is worth exploring why he attacked Lenin because typically Putin’s historical discourses are not about the past but rather about where he sees Russia now and what he intends to do in the future.

Viewed from that perspective, Putin’s words suggest three conclusions: First, like many Russian nationalists and imperialists but in contrast to liberals in Russia and the West, Putin prefers to criticize Lenin in order to avoid condemning Stalin -- even on issues like this one where Stalin rather than Lenin played the dominant role ( and

Second, Putin’s attacks on Lenin’s plan for giving some non-Russians autonomy are in fact about Putin’s fears that the existence of the non-Russian republics in the Russian Federation today may play a similar role in that country’s future and his desire to eliminate them. Thus, his speech yesterday likely indicates that he intends to restart his regional amalgamation effort (Cf.

And third, Putin’s understanding of the fateful role that autonomy of ethnic groups in Russia shows that there is method to his madness in what he is doing in Ukraine even if some in the West refuse to recognize it: Pushing for “autonomization” there, the Kremlin leader clearly hopes to undermine and ultimately destroy the Ukrainian state (

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