Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Entire Post-Soviet Elite Came Out of the Komsomol, Savelyeva Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 29 – “The entire present-day post-Soviet establishment came out of the Komsomol,” Olga Savelyeva of Profile says. In part that is simply a reflection of the experience of the generation of which they are a part; but it is more than that because the Komsomol more than almost any other institution shaped them into what they are now.

            Some of the elite remember their Komsomol years with affection; others prefer to forget it; but it is a mistake to ignore this page in their biographies, the commentator says, because “thanks to the Komsomol,” they were formed in ways that allowed them to become senior officials and businessmen (profile.ru/obsch/item/127360-biznes-inkubator-imeni-v-i-lenina).

            On this, the centenary of the founding of the largest and most important communist youth organization, Savelyeva says, “any normal individual over 40 will recall it with a certain nostalgia,” especially given that nothing has taken its place in the 27 years since it was formally disbanded.

            Millions of young Soviet citizens passed through Komsomol ranks, but to make her point, Savelyeva lists and describes some of those who were active leaders of the Komsomol in the past and now occupy prominent positions in Russian political, cultural, educational, and economic life.

            Among the ones she describes are Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, Accounting Chamber head Aleksey Kudrin, deputy head of the Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko, Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov. Duma deputy Gennady Onishchenko, Academician Zhores Alferov, Just Russia party chief Sergey Mironov, artist Igor Butman, Economic Development Minister German Gref, businessman Alisher Usmanov, former YUKOS head Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Senator Sergey Lisovsky.

            Savelyeva could have extended this list almost at will.  But even her collection shows that the Komsomol has served as “a forge of cadres” not only in Soviet times but since.  And because the youngest Komsomol activists at the end of the USSR are now only in their 40s, the habits of mind they acquired in that organization will play a role in Russia at least for another generation.

            Many observers of the Russian scene focus on the role of former members of the CPSU or even more the security organs in shaping Russian political life; but in reality, the Komsomol may ultimately prove to be more important both in terms of numbers and length of impact. It thus deserves at least as much study as the other institutions.

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