Staunton, September 22 – On March 13, 1988, a previously unknown chemistry teacher named Nina Andreyeva published in Sovetskaya Rossiya – or at least it was published over her name – an attack on Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika under the title “I cannot give up my principles.”
Because of Gorbachev’s absence at that moment, it was distributed by the Soviet news agency and published in most newspapers in the USSR, an indication that it represented an important point of view supported by many in the Kremlin rather than simply the opinion of one chemistry instructor.
Andreyeva’s article, Yevgeny Ikhlov notes in a commentary yesterday, called into question the efforts of Gorbachev and Aleksandr Yakovlev to make use of Lenin to push aside Stalin and thereby open the way for what they hoped would be a renewal of socialism (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=59C3DF31C982C).
According to the Moscow commentator, “Andreyeva destroyed the ideological consensus around ‘the renewal of socialism’ in exactly the same way that the Kornilov attack destroyed the unity of the ‘February’ revolutionaries” in 1917. But it did far more than that, and its broader impact is why it is worth recalling now.
“The split of the perestroika people gave the opportunity to radicals (crypto-anti-communists) legally to create their own extra-party social-political movements, ‘peoples fronts in defense of perestroika,’ in the first instance in the Baltic republics,” with all the follow on from that, Ikhlov says.
Moreover, Andreyeva’s article provided the occasion for a Politburo declaration in Pravda on April 5, 1988, entitled “Principles of Perestroika: Revolutionary Thought and Actions,” that laid down more clearly than anything up to then exactly where Gorbachev and his team hoped to take the USSR.
Today, Ikhlov continues, a similar situation has emerged. Duma Deputy Natalya Poklonskaya has called into question yet another “’perestroika’ but already a ‘monarchical’ one.” The Putin regime wants to promote a return to traditionalist values including many taken from the Russian monarchy.
To that end, it has promoted articles, books, television programs, and films about various Russian leaders from the beginning through 1917. But to make a film about the last tsar which paints him in an entirely positive light is impossible not only because of the historical record but because he was overthrown by the Bolsheviks among whose heirs Putin sees himself.
But “happily” someone recalled that there was the story of the romance between the future Nicholas II and the ballerina Mathilda Kshesinskaya, and someone decided that would make the perfect subject for a popular film that would offer the image of “monarchism with a human face.”
What the present-day “’engineers of political souls’ did not expect” was how the Russian people would react to a portrayal of a tsar (or in this case future tsar) as a human being because in the very archaic world that the Putin regime has promoted, Russians want their rulers to be not human but more than human.
As a result, yet another “clever plan of the rulers to stupefy the population” failed, and it failed because Poklonskaya spoke to what the popular masses wanted and believed rather than what the Kremlin hoped they would want and believe. The regime has thus put itself in a difficult position.
What remains to be seen is whether it will lead to the formation of genuinely competing groups, as Andreyeva’s article did, and threaten those behind “Mathilda” as much as the Soviet chemistry teacher’s did those behind perestroika.