Staunton, October 26 – “The events of 1917 and of the beginning of the 1990s took place according to the same scenario,” Aleksandr Belyakov and Igor Turuyev say. “Only instead of Tsar Nicholas there was Mikhail Gorbachev, instead of a world war, a cold one, and Boris Yeltsin could pretend to the role of Lenin.”
Indeed, the two economists say, there was even an analogy to the Bolshevik dissolution of the Constituent Assembly: the destruction of the Russian Federation Supreme Soviet. [And] both the Russian tsar and the Soviet general secretary by their actions prepared revolutions which destroyed their regimes and powers (ng.ru/ideas/2017-10-26/5_7103_revolutions.html).
This commonality is no accident, Belyakov and Turyuyev say. It reflects the instability of Russian society and “the continuing weakness of its social and political system” and the fact that only the abdication of the ruler can set in train revolutionary forces. Everything else is in fact secondary in importance.
This is critically important for Russians to understand, the two economists continue, because “there is no absolute social-political stability in [Russia] even today, a quarter of a century after our last revolution” and “real changes of the social-political system are possible” only if the regime degrades and collapses rather than as a result of rising popular discontent.
“The basic cause of social instability is that there is in Russia a very rickety and immature society, which lacks established ties and hierarchies which contribute to a stable society” and at the same time, “there is an insufficient level of material well-being which is a reliable barrier on the path of revolutions.”
Most Russians in 1917, 1991 and perhaps in the future display “absolute indifference to the periodic destruction of traditional national values.” They “do not feel themselves real masters of their country and fate,” and consequently, they cede to others the power to make changes, even of the most radical kind.
In the revolutions of 1917 and 1991, external factors played a role; “but the significance of external factors shouldn’t be exaggerated. It only created the background for the manifestation of all the systemic weaknesses of our society and state,” Belyakov and Turuyev say.
Instead, they argue that the key events in both years were respectively “the abdication of the tsar from the throne and the general secretary from the CPSU.” As a result, “a cascade” of destructive and far-reaching social developments occurred. Thus, “October 1917 would not have happened without February and that would not have happened without the abdication.”
“If Russia in 1917 and the USSR in 1991 had been led by more far-seeing and less complex-ridden politicians, and Russian society had been more mature, there wouldn’t have been any revolutions, not proletarian or democratic,” the two suggest. And Russia might have been far better off.
“An important logical characteristic of any revolution is that at first honest political fanatics come to power and then rogues of all kinds, for whom politics and revolution are only a means for enriching and strengthening their personal power. These are the true beneficiaries of a revolution; everyone else suffers losses.”
That is what happened in 1917 and “almost the same thing” in 1991. “the political system collapsed on its own,” not because of political opposition at home or even the impact of foreign events. “Soviet was too passive, and the nimbus of any Russian power too great” for it to be otherwise.
“All this can be applied to the realities of today,” they write. Popular discontent and foreign influence will matter some, but only the degradation of the state and the abdication of its leader will lead to radical change – a reason, although Belyakov and Turyuyev do not mention it, why so many Russians cling to Putin because they fear what would happen if he left power.