Saturday, August 24, 2019

For Russia, 1991 was a Neo-Brest and the 1990s a Neo-NEP, Not an Anti-Communist Revolution, Savvin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 22 – Every August, Dimitry Savvin says, Russians ask one and the same question: why did the anti-communist revolution succeed in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states and fail in Russia?  And they ask it even though the answers are “completely obvious” and have been for a long time.

            The editor of the Riga-based conservative Russian portal Harbin says that with the collapse of the Soviet system in the 1980s, there were only two “ways out”: “either an anti-communist revolution or a massive liberalization of the Soviet system” toward a neo-Brest and neo-NEP as V.V. Shulgin predicted in the 1960s (

            For a revolution to happen, Savvin says, the ruling elite must be replaced and that new elite must introduce new ideas and practices and become “the generator of the revolutionary transformation of society.”  For a post-communist revolution to occur, these ideas and practices must involve lustration and restitution, the former to get rid of the most noxious of the old rulers and the latter to acknowledge that the ancien regime was a violation of accepted norms.

            “The experience of Eastern Europe and the Baltic republics of the former USSR is quite clear: the greatest successes were achieved by countries which carried out both lustration and restitution the most consistently. And conversely [where those steps weren’t taken] the authorities retained power via the most painless scenario for them and rapidly created dictatorial regimes.”

            “As is well known,” Savvin continues, “neither lustration nor restitution in the RSFSR-RF occurred.” Yeltsin blocked both in order “not to rock the boat.”  That failure explains part of the reason Russia moved in another direction that did the countries of Eastern Europe and the Baltic region but not all of it.

            A more fundamental reason, the commentator says, is that in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states there were powerful and well-organized national movements who were ready to replace the elites that had ruled under communism while in Russia, while there were impulses in that direction, there were no well-articulated and organized nationalist groups.

            There was nothing in Russia like Latvia’s Popular Front or Lithuania’s Sajudis, and consequently there were lacking in Russia two things that existed in those countries: a national organization ready to take power away from those who had held it and a nationalist movement ready to support such moves.

            According to Savvin, “the systemic collapse of the communist system had only two possible solutions: either the liberalization of the Soviet (socialist) system or an anti-communist revolution, one that at the same time was a national-democratic revolution.”

            “Any attempt to replace the second path ‘simply’ by democracy or ‘simply’ by liberalism inevitably throws the country back to the first scenario, to the very Neo-NEP that had existed. Why? First of all, the Soviet systemin is essence was an imperial one in the sense that it was oriented toward global rule and global transformations.”

            And second, “as historical experience shows, under conditions of under-developed or weakly developed legal consciousness and systemic crisis … nationalism is the only ideology capable of consolidating society. That was true in Japan and South Korea after 1945 and in Eastern Europe and Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania” after 1991.

            But Russia did not achieve this because it lacked a clearly articulated nationalism accessible to the entire population. It might have gotten one had Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia in 1991, but he didn’t, Savvin says with obvious regret. There was thus no Russian nationalist alternative.

            And as a result, he continues, “the democratic movement inevitably was transformed into a movement for the democratization of the Soviet system. A neo-NEP and a neo-Brest” which ultimately led to a recentralization of state control over the economy, repression, and aggressive expansion abroad.

            All this happens, the Riga-based analyst says, “because the neo-Soviet system continues at the level of principle to live in the very same paradigm as the Soviet.” And that in turn means that the coup leaders did not lose. Rather they simply “did not win” in August. Their victory came later.

            They “did not lose precisely because an anti-communist revolution did not occur; and that didn’t happen” because the democratic movement was not a national one as was the case in Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries.  And unless something changes, all this may be repeated in Russia. In fact, it is “already being repeated now.”

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