Monday, February 15, 2016

Putin’s Selective Revival of Soviet Past Throwing Russia Out of Europe and Back into Asia, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 15 – Vladimir Putin in his celebration of the Soviet past wants to strip it of its revolutionary core, a highly selective approach that calls into question his right to claim that Russia is the Soviet Union of today and Russia’s close relationship with Europe, something the Bolshevik revolution reaffirmed, according to Vladislav Inozemtsev.

            In a commentary for the Intersection Project, the Moscow economist points out that there is ever more officially promoted nostalgia for the Soviet Union and that it is increasingly linked to ideology and not just to the sense of loss of geopolitical status engendered by the disintegration of the USSR (

            But suggesting, as Putin has, that the Soviet Union was Russia “only called by a different name,” is simply wrong, Inozemtsev says.  “It was in the first instance a country based on ideas and goals and not by history or national identity.” The conflict between the USSR and the US was one between two super powers “whose very names pointed to their non-national and extra-historical nature.”

            The Russian economist suggests that there were “three fundamental aspects of the Soviet mentality” – “a justification for change, a promotion of equality, and the assertion of internationalism.”  In this essay, he says, he won’t deal with the second or third, especially because they are at odds with a country like Russia today with its thieving bureaucracy.

            Inozemtsev insists that the 1917 Bolshevik revolution “confirmed the European nature of Russia” because “the invention of revolutions … made Europe a center of world civilization.”  Other countries had revolts and pogroms, but Europe was the first to have revolutions, from Magna Carta to the East European revolutions of 1989.

            “The Soviet Union, including both its ruling party and its ‘armed detachment,’ was born in the fires of one of the most dramatic revolutions in history,” one that on the basis of Marxist ideology rejected private property, social strata and privileges and “proclaimed the construction of a society of equality and justice.”

            “The new republic legitimated the Soviets,” it promoted “an extraordinarily harsh secularization,” and it although “organized as a spontaneous federation marched into the world having overthrown the ‘sacred’ ideas of sovereignty in the name of being effective to the greatest degree possible of effectively advancing the world revolution.”

            The USSR, Inozemtsev says, “became the most important transforming force on the global periphery having promoted the destruction of the system of colonial dependency and in this way making an exceptional contribution to present-day globalization.”  The country “even died as it had lived” by declaring “’perestroika’ to be a continuation of the revolution.”

            “Many elements of the Soviet experiment are impossible to celebrate,” but if one is asked to celebrate the Soviet system, one should only do so by accepting all of its aspects, including its revolutionary nature.  In Soviet times, Moscow would have accepted the various “springs” around the world as revolutions and would have seen governments which had lost the support of their populations as illegitimate.

            In short, “the Soviet Union (with the possible exception of the Brezhnev period) was undoubtedly a revolutionary force.” Indeed, Inozemtsev says, “the history of the Soviet Union is inseparable from the revolutionary idea … ‘Stability’ and ‘conservatism’ are concepts incompatible with ‘the nature of ‘Sovietism.’”

            If one understands that, the Moscow analyst continues, it becomes clear that Putin’s Russia is not the Soviet Union of today. Instead, if there is such a country out there, one committed to revolution rather that stability and to being part of Europe rather than an outlier, it is Ukraine.

            Because it is in Ukraine where a revolution is making Ukraine ever more part of Europe and not in Russia where opposition to revolutionary change is “throwing it back to Asia.”  And because that is so, Inozemtsev says, “those unknown activists” who paint Soviet symbols with Ukrainian colors are fundamentally right, however much they may not recognize that fact.

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