Staunton, May 18 – The Russian government is conducting a campaign of “hidden decommunization” of the country, a communist-nationalist commentator for the Segodnya newspaper says, not by renaming places and things given Soviet names in Soviet times but by giving new places and things names taken from the imperial past or elsewhere.
Because this effort doesn’t involve the dramatic tearing down of monuments or the renaming of cities as is the case in Ukraine or elsewhere, Konstantin Shchemelinin says, few people in the Russian Federation are aware of just what is going on and what it means for Russians and their country now and in the future (segodnia.ru/content/187862).
“At the present time in Russia,” he writes, “decommunization has been carried out partially” even though it began in the early 1990s with the renaming of cities and streets. “But I Ukraine, this process has been completed while in the Russian Federation, it hasn’t. Why,” Shchemelinin asks, “have things worked out this way” and what does that mean?
According to him, the blame for this failure of radical decommunization lies with “the extraordinary ethnic diversity of Russia and the absence of a national idea among ethnic Russians.” That has led to “the conservation of the Soviet in Russia” because Moscow wants to call the population civic Russians or “Rossiyane.”
“But who are these Rossiyane?” he asks rhetorically. They are not ethnic Russians and they are not Soviet people either.” Instead, what is actually the case, Shchemelinin says is that “Rossiyane [civic Russians] are Soviet people from the USSR.” That is why decommunization began in Russia but didn’t go as far as elsewhere.
“In order to avoid the disintegration of Russia on the lines of that of the USSR under conditions of the absence of the Russian people of a national idea,” he continues, “a new super-national community, the Rossiyane, were invented” as “the continuation of the super-national community of Soviet people.”
That explains “the popularity of Soviet ideas in present-day Russia (and also in Ukraine and Belarus,” and why their situation is so different from the other former Soviet republics where the peoples and governments have “with varying degrees of success” created “their own nation states.” In them, he points out, “Soviet ideas don’t enjoy popularity.”
Despite this reserve of support for Soviet ideas in Russia, the Russian government is carrying out on a constant basis “a hidden decommunization” of the country, by failing to give any new ship or street or city names drawn from the Soviet communist past. Instead, it selects names from the pre-1917 imperial past.
“If Russia were the spiritual heir of the Soviet Union” as many think, Shchemelinin concludes, “then there would inevitably appear new names connected with Lenin, monuments to whom at the present time stand throughout Russia.”
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