Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Putin has Acknowledged Not Stalin’s Crimes But Only Their ‘Excesses,’ Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 -- Many have been taken in by Vladimir Putin’s participation in the dedication of the Wall of Grief in Moscow this week, Irina Pavlova says; but everyone should recognize that the Kremlin leader’s action is “not a sign of the recognition of the crimes” of Stalin’s time but rather of “the excesses” in repressions under the Soviet dictator.

            “Today,” the US-based Russian historian says, “mass repressions of the Stalinist type aren’t needed and therefore excesses [of those kinds] can and must be recognized and condemned …. Today Russian society even without mass repressions is loyal to the supreme power” (ivpavlova.blogspot.com/2017/10/blog-post_30.html).

            To be sure, Pavlova continues, Russians remain closely monitored by various force structures who find it sufficient to repress “the so-called extremists and terrorists from time to time in order to maintain the necessary tone in society.”  These structures are willing to allow for some fifth column activity to call to popular attention “the idea of its existence.”

            It isn’t necessary to repress even that group all the time because Putin’s regime is “advanced Stalinism of the information era, a Stalinism which is not afraid of freedom of speech because it has completely mastered various methods of devaluing” the importance of such speech and other forms of communication.

            Advanced Stalinism is even prepared to have electoral “opponents” like Kseniya Sobchak because its masters know they can control her or make her words irrelevant. After all, the same people who dedicated the Wall of Sorrow this week plan to mark the centenary of the Cheka on December 20.

            Pavlova writes that she has always been against monuments like the one dedicated in Moscow this week because it is not a symbol of a liberation from the past but rather “a symbol of a new version of the pro-Stalinist conception of Soviet history, a symbol of a new edition of Stalinism.”

            “It is extremely indicative,” she continues, “that Russians contributed only 45 million plus rubles for this memorial. The main sum, 300 million, was provided by the Moscow government. I see in this,” Pavlova says, “not indifference as many think but the fact that the simple Russian people” understand what is going on better than the intelligentsia does.

            At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, there was a brief period when the situation was different, when people began to understand. “This was the moment when Memorial could have become not an ordinary NGO but a real social-political movement” that “could have grown into a real opposition to the powers that be.”

            This week, however, Memorial, long ago denounced by the regime as a foreign agent, took part in the dedication of the memorial “together with representatives of the Kremlin,” a measure of how far wrong things have gone and how little Russians and others understand what is going on. 

Kremlin’s Response to Growing Protest Activity in Regions Increasingly Short Term, New Report Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 – In response to growing protest activity in the regions, a new report by the Committee on Civic Initiatives says, the Kremlin has adopted measures intended to keep things quiet until after the March 2018 elections rather than ones that could allow for stable long-term development.

            Increasingly, the report, whose authors are Nikolay Petrov, Aleksandr Kynyev, and Aleksey Titkov, says Moscow is using repression and “external administration and control in combination with horizontal rotation” which is leading to the reduction in the number of locals in positions of power [dekorenizatiya]” (fedpress.ru/article/1885743).

            That may buy the Kremlin some quiet in the short term, the report says; but it means that it is likely to have to use force ever more often because it will not have local people in place who might enjoy the support of the population. Moreover, it will exacerbate the sense of “us” versus “them” between the regions and Moscow.

            That is worrisome because the number of regions where protests are still at a very low level is declining while the number where protests are growing in size and number and issues is increasing, leaving the center with fewer and fewer choices concerning what it can and should do next.

            And most serious of all, the many regions where institutional development remains extremely weak are likely to see that problem grow rather than decline as a result of the Kremlin’s chosen approach, a trend that means that if there is a crisis and serious disorders occur, the center will have fewer resources to counter them.

‘Russians to This Day Remain Soviet People,’ Moscow Psychologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 31 -- Russians remain “Soviet people,” Aleksandr Asmolov says, not in terms of the specific ideological program pushed by the communist regime but rather according to three deep structures which informed that program, ensured its widespread acceptance, and guarantee its continuing vitality.

            Asmolov, a professor of psychology at Moscow State University, says that these three deep structures – “a cult of the Center” which gave rise to the cult of personality, a world defined as one of permanent crisis and conflict, and “a flight from freedom” and decision making – still define Russians to this day (profile.ru/obsch/item/121081-sovetskij-chelovek-okazalsya-na-redkost-moshchnoj-konstruktsiej).

                “At various times” over the Soviet period, he continues, “these three characteristics took different and specifically concrete forms. But the mechanism of the system, the mechanism of the selection of the people who formed it always was in operation” – and very much continues to operate now.

            In many respects, the psychologist says, “the Soviet system in large measure became the heir of Russian imperialism. If one rephrases the formula of Viktor Chernomyrdin – whatever party we create, it will all the same turn into the CPSU – whatever state we make, it will always be ‘a tsarist empire’ in its despotic dimension.”

            That sets Russian apart from many other countries, Asmolov argues. “If you like, we have historically imperial totalitarianism.” And it hasn’t ended yet.

            “When people say that the USSR may return, I view such statements with irony because there can be another form of archaic development. But it can be eve n more horrible, with greater eruptions of ‘the Black Hundreds’ spirt, because such a matrix exists alongside one when the world became more diverse.”

            And that is especially possible, he says, because “today there are completely different mass technologies of manipulation which were not available to the Soviet leadership.” Among them is “the technology of television-promoted hatred.”

            This Soviet man didn’t disappear when Soviet power weakened and died. There was a brief period when it appeared he might, but it did not last long.  External censorship disappeared for a time, but “thanks to the Soviet system there existed a super ego which controlled and reproduced all the very same stereotypes.”

            “The Soviet man turned out to be an extraordinarily strong construction,” Asmolov says.

            No one should have been surprised when Yury Levada reported that polls show that “as soon as our man was freed, he began to “throw himself backwards not even to yesterday’s world but to that of the day before that. He became a traditionalist, he began to show himself as a pre-Petrine and not simply a pre-Soviet man.’”

            The pollster’s work showed that “the desire for a stable world when the stereotypes of the Soveit man are working does not free him from the fear of an open door but frees him only from taking his own decisions. Such a man is afraid and defends himself against any choice.” The situation is no longer totalitarian, but it is authoritarian in much the same way.

            “We live in a time when we are encountering three key challenges: the challenge of indeterminacy, the challenge of complexity, and the challenge of diversity – and in this era … even a small signal can change the movement of the entire system.” Thus, there is hope for change and the end of the Soviet man. But as of now, it is only a hope.

            “If earlier there was an ideology and the communist ideal with rhetoric about ‘freedom, equality and brotherhood’ were on the throne, now in order that there be a permanent crisis, on the throne in the system has turned out to be security,” Asmolov says.

            But one thing is very clear: “the current de-ideologized system is less stable in comparison with Stalin’s” because “no system which stands on the vertical alone can long exist. One way or another, the vertical in a poly-cultural and diverse system sooner or later will break into pieces.”

            Whether that will be the end of the Soviet man or whether such a man will demand yet another system that conforms to his underlying views remains very much an open question.