Wednesday, March 14, 2018

‘I Cannot Forsake My Principles’ at 30

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 13 – Thirty years ago today, an unknown chemistry teacher from Leningrad, Nina Andreyeva, published a diatribe attacking Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms in Sovetskaya Rossiya under the title “I cannot forsake my principles,” something that was possible because both Gorbachev and Aleksandr Yakovlev were out of the country.

            Its appearance suggested significant opposition to Gorbachev at the top of the Soviet system and led to speculation that the leader of perestroika was about to be pushed out unless he changed course.  That didn’t happen, at least not in the way, Andreyeva and her fellow Stalinists would have liked; but it did mark a major milepost in the history of the end of the USSR.

            On this anniversary of her article, the Nakanune news agency asked Vyacheslav Tetyokin, a  historian who is a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) to reflect on what Andreyeva’s article meant in 1988 and what it means now (

                Gorbachev’s coming to power initially sparked almost universal enthusiasm, Tetyokin says. Here was a young and dynamic leader, and many had high expectations that he would do the right thing. But by 1988, many felt that he was taking the country in the wrong direction but couldn’t say anything because of party discipline and Gorbachev’s own “demagogic talents.”

            Andreyeva and Valentin Chikin, the editor of Sovetskaya Rossiya, were among the few prepared to speak out in the hopes of “stopping the process of the degradation of the Soviet Union.”  Andreyeva’s article was an attack on those who focused exclusively on Stalin’s “cult of personality” and failed to discuss the positive achievements he accomplished for the USSR.

            Stalin’s time “was extremely harsh,” she wrote. But it is also true that personal modesty reaching the level of asceticism” prevented the emergence of “potential Soviet millionaires” and encouraged young people to work for the good of the country, for “Labor and Defense.”  No one remembers Peter the Great’s personal habits, but they do remember what he did. So too it should be for Stalin, Andreyeva argued.

            Nakanune also spoke with Boris Kagarlitsky, the director of the Moscow Institute of Globalization and Social Movements, on this anniversary. He recalls being struck by the “paradoxical” nature of Andreyeva’s essay. She did not want any change but made her arguments in “a fully rational way.”

            As a result, he says, she highlighted something else: “The more liberals cursed Stalin, the greater interest and sympathy for Stalin a certain part of the younger generation had.” That may be why to the defense of Stalin came most often “representatives of the technical intelligentsia who saw in the liberals destroyers.”

            Tetyokin says that Andreyeva’s article indicated both to the party masses and to the Gorbachev leadership that there were two groups in the leadership: Gorbachev’s and an opposing one led by Nikolay Ryzhkov, the then prime minister.  But because the former moved against the latter and because of party discipline, Andreyeva sparked discussion but not “a social explosion.”

            Unfortunately, the KPRF official says, the Ryzhkov group was “neutralized and the ideas laid out in Nina Andreyeva’s article were not realized” and led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the destruction of the Communist Party in 1991.

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