To achieve what it did with the ethnic Russians, the system “required a GULAG” because Russian resistance had to be wiped out. But “now this isn’t needed. THIS people loves its leader” even without that kind of repression, something that it many ways is even more horrific than a people who shows its love because it is forced to on pain of repression.
In Soviet times, Shiropayev continues, “the powers that be required people to put out the red flag on holidays. If you didn’t, there would be bad consequences. Now, no one forces anyone to put a St. George ribbon on his car, but everyone does without noting how hypocritical and even comic this ‘symbol of victory’ looks on a Mercedes or Volkswagen.”
“This present-day voluntary neo-Stalinism, this voluntary rejection of the possibility of being free is much more horrible than the atmosphere of the 1930s,” he says. “It marks the full degradation of the people and possibly is already irreversible. This degeneration is the result of a most powerful anti-selection” where the best were destroyed allowing the worst to flourish.
Some will remember Tengiz Abuladze’s film Repentance which marked the beginning of perestroika and Stalinism. But most did not get or now have forgotten the chief scene and message of the film: the son has to disinter the body of the tyrant father and scatter his ashes to the wind. That is, the sons must reject the past if they are to go forward.
That is what happened in Eastern Europe, Shiropayev continues. But it hasn’t happened in Russia. Instead, Russians now have rejected any call for repentance and rejection of the Soviet past as an attack on their dignity. “’We saved everyone from fascism’” and so have nothing to repent and no one to repent to.
The crowning point of this was “’Crimea is ours,’” he says. It was marked by a film entitled The Path to the Motherland. With it, “we have returned as it were ‘to the motherland.’” And we have voluntarily invited the corpse of Stalin into our homes even if he is no longer in the mausoleum.
In making this charge against his fellow Russians, Shiropayev follows in a long tradition, one that was most famously contained in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s GULAG Archipelago. In that work, the great Russian writer insisted that non-Russians resisted Soviet power but that from the beginning Russians did not.
Both Solzhenitsyn and Shiropayev capture something important, but both overstate their case. Solzhenitsyn’s argument was counted by Russian émigré journalist Yuri Srechinsky in a 1974 pamphlet How We Submitted: The Price of October that deserves to be more widely known.
In that work, Srechinsky pointed to something that helps to explain the conclusion not only of Solzhenitsyn but of Shiropayev” Russians resisted just as non-Russians did, but Moscow worked far harder and more effectively to suppress reports about Russian resistance lest Russians be inspired to continue to resist.
Two years ago, Moscow economist and commentator Andrey Illarionov detailed 210 acts of resistance by ethnic Russians to the Soviet system (echo.msk.ru/blog/aillar/2003620-echo/ and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2017/06/a-century-of-russian-revolts-against.html). That article too deserves to be better known to put in context Shiropayev’s disturbing conclusions.
As Illarionov points out, “the theme of [these Russian] revolts undoubtedly deserves detailed discussion.” But for the moment, he suggests, his list provides six obvious lessons about these popular risings:
· First, “there were a lot of them in the USSR: they took place much more often than in previous periods of Russian history, the number of participants was enormous” and this in turn means that this was in effect “a hundred-year-long war in Russia between the anti-human powers and the people.”
· Second, certain periods, “the first half of the 1920s, 1928-32, and the 1940s” were “in essence a total war against the communist authorities and the state security agencies which defended it.”
· Third, “all the post-October risings were suppressed by the authorities in the harshest manner,” far more harshly than any previous Russian government had done.
· Fourth, “the hundred-year-long civil war in Russia and the loss in it of millions and tens of millions” of Russians is a bestial tragedy for our people.”
· Fifth, the number of people taking part “to a large degree” depended on whether the population had arms or not.” When it did, there were many participants; when there weren’t, there were fewer.
· And sixth, “the success of risings under a totalitarian regime and of course a harshly authoritarian one as well are determined not so much on the field of battle as in the heads of the leaders of the regime against which the rising is directed.” When leaders recognize that suppression is an anachronism and counterproductive, those who have risen have won.