Wednesday, August 22, 2018

It’s Not Only Russians Who Must Acknowledge Their Role in Crushing Prague Spring, Ilchenko Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 22 – When the Kremlin moved to crush the Prague Spring 50 years ago this month, only seven Soviet citizens were brave enough to protest in Red Square, a figure that means the other 240 million citizens of the USSR were complicit in this crime by their silence, Sergey Ilchenko says.

            The Ukrainian commentator said that some Soviet citizens simply didn’t know what was going on. Their own source of accurate information at the time were Western broadcasters like Radio Liberty, and during the crackdown, Moscow jammed this station and others especially severely (

                But these “extenuating circumstances do not in the least” compensate for the “silent” support and “general guilt” of all those who did not say anything. And it opened the way to further crimes like Afghanistan and, after the Soviet Union collapsed, Chechnya, Georgia and most recently Ukraine. 

            The opinions of most people in the post-Soviet space continue “by inertia” along the same lines they followed in Soviet times, Ilchenko says.  But “there is a way out of this dead end,” although it can “hardly be called comfortable.” What is needed is “a conscious acknowledgement” by all of their part of “the general guilt, honest repentance … and a clear position relative to the entire Soviet heritage in the future.”

            That problem is not limited to the Russian Federation, he argues; it falls on the populations of all the post-Soviet states. But the number of people ready to accept responsibility and repent is quite small even in Ukraine where Afghan war veterans continue to talk about fulfilling their “’international duty.’” 

            A recent Levada Center poll in Russia found that 90 percent of those aged 18 to 35 do not have any clear idea about the events of 1968 and that those who do are more inclined to accept what the Communist leadership said about developments in Prague and to approve what the Kremlin did in Czechoslovakia than to challenge the official version and oppose it even now.

            Lev Gudkov, the distinguished sociologist who heads the Levada Center, says that these results reflect “the rebirth of the propaganda of the Brezhnev period and stereotypes about Soviet times,” with the official media working to drive any such events out of the memory of the Russian population.

            Thus, the results his agency obtained were “completely expected, Ilcehnko continues. “Nothing else naturally could be expected from Russians who massively approve the murder of Ukrainian patriots and dream about cleansing Ukraine from all those who, in their opinion, insufficiently strongly love Russia.”

            The Ukrainian commentator says that in this connection he is disturbed only by one thing: “the absence of analogous data on Ukraine. I would very much like to see them, simply in order to compare them with the Russian data. I would very much like to think that” they would be different, that Ukrainians would take responsibility and repent even if Russians still won’t.

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