Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Disintegration of USSR Compared to Discredited Cure for Epilepsy

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 24 – The analogies people draw in their efforts to organize, understand and explain the facts around them typically have more profound consequences than the facts themselves.  And as a result, they merit the closest attention perhaps especially when they seem particularly outrageous. 

            One such analogy has now been offered by Sergey Goncharenko, an arbitrage judge, and Nurali Latypov, a neurobiologist, in a long Nezavisimaya gazeta article concerning the disintegration of the Soviet Union and especially the end of Russian and Ukrainian cohabitation in a single state (

            They say that the two hemispheres in the human brain, which have made possible speech, have as a downside both schizophrenia, “he price man pays for the increase in the power of his intellect” and also, in the view of some researchers, epilepsy. The latter notion led doctors to believe that that disease could be cured by severing the ties between the two parts of the brain.

            But that technique discredited itself, Goncharenko and Latypov say, because of its side effects. Unfortunately, they suggest, what was rejected as a medical procedure was in the case of the former USSR adopted as a political strategy, the results of which, they argue, have entailed the most unwelcome collateral damage.

            What happened with the Soviet Union, they continue, resembled “the barbaric surgical operation” that was applied to epileptics in the 1940s.  “The collective brain of the USSR in fact consisted of two hemispheres, Ukrainian and Russian.” Most of the Soviet elite was from one or the other, with much in common but also much that was different and mutually supportive.

            “By the end of the 1970s, the Soviet Union began to get sick. The political system rapidly degraded, the economic and social systems experienced not as stormy but also serious degradation.” Some like Gaidar and Chubais thus “recommended to ‘the surgeon’ Boris Yeltsin” to cut the link “between the Ukrainian and Russian hemispheres.” 

            At first, Goncharenko and Latypov say, these “patients” didn’t display any “pathological” problems. “But in the end, it happened that the right hand not only began to interfere with the left but the left with the right … and knives appeared in both and began to slice at each other” in deleterious and potentially fatal ways – just as happened with epileptics.

            “Why do we offer such a harsh analogy?” the two ask. “Because this model unfortunately is entirely adequate. It already has allowed to predict the course of many events and we hope that it will give some guidance for curing this horrific self-inflicted wound,” one that divided the two hemispheres that had kept Eurasia in balance.

            For the two of them, June 12, 1991, was a tragedy that “cut apart the consciousness of the Russian world,” a tragedy that happened because Boris Yeltsin was not capable of thinking above the level of an obkom secretary and thus was prepared to use not a scalpel to cure the diseases the country suffered but instead an axe.

            Few foreign leaders who aspired to conquer Russia, but “what is more than surprising,” they suggest, “is that a group of Russian people assured themselves and others that Russia could regain its healthy by the amputation of a majority of its organs. According to their strange notion, a Great Russia couldn’t be healthy but a cut down one could.

            The collapse of the economies of the parts was the most obvious immediate consequence, and one that should not have surprised anyone who knows that larger units almost always do better economically than do smaller ones. But that was hardly the most significant damage from this dividing up of what they call “the hemispheres” of the Soviet brain.

            It has led to the degradation of politics and it has opened the way for Chinese expansion into the rest of Eurasia. The US is terrified by China’s rise; but it should remember than in rejecting the wise counsel of the first president Bush not to allow Ukraine and Russia to divide that it now faces a problem that Washington itself helped create.

            Reattaching the two hemispheres is not going to be easy; it may not even be possible. But a recognition of the profundity of the problem the demise of the USSR and of the impact the splitting apart of “the two hemispheres” of the brain that guided it is a necessary precondition for any move forward, Goncharenko and Latypov say.. 

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