Saturday, June 27, 2020

Putin Increasingly Fusing Soviet and Russian to the Detriment of the Latter, Tsipko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 24 – Vladimir Putin’s treatment of the past including his Victory Day parade represents an attempt by the Kremlin leader to fuse the Russian present with the Soviet past and thus reverse not just the break with Soviet crimes but also the greatest consequence of World War II for Russians, Aleksandr Tsipko says.

            And that consequence was this, the senior commentator says. “The path to victory was opened only when the Russian peasant finding himself in the trenches separated in his consciousness the motherland from Stalin and the Soviet system and began to fight not for the preservation of the Soviet system but for the salvation of his fatherland and the dignity of Russians” (

            By his actions and with today’s parade, Tsipko says, Putin is seeking to reverse this development given that he sees it as a threat to himself and his regime and to restore the identification of Russians with their political system even though it no longer has the ideological foundation that the earlier one had.

            In a Nezavisimaya gazeta essay, he says that there have been many suggestions as to why Putin has been so insistent about going ahead with the parade despite the pandemic: Russians need a boost after self-isolation, June 24th is the anniversary of when Stalin marked the victory, or even to show “who is master in the country.” 

            But most likely, Tsipko continues, Putin did so for “prosaic reasons.” Since Brezhnev’s times, those in power have used parades to provide them with “the image of historical legitimacy” by allowing the current occupant of the Kremlin to link himself with the military victories of the state in the past.

             Delaying the parade again clearly threatened the view that “Putin is our all. Certainly, Putin takes into account that the pandemic with each passing time is undermining the attitudes of mobilization and militarism born in ‘Crimean spring’ of 2014; and with their fading, so too is the basis of his regime.

            Putin after all “became our all precisely after we corrected ‘the historical mistakes of Khrushchev and Russia was converted into a fortress surrounded on all sides by enemies.” In such a situation, “the Victory Parade is much more important for people inside this besieged fortress than for a free individual who calmly enjoys all the goods of contemporary civilization.”

            According to the commentator, Putin thus decided he had to stage the parade because Russians and perhaps especially the young are ever less motivated by the kind of militaristic patriotism he wants to promote, a shift that all polls even those by agencies loyal to the Kremlin show.

            Putin has a particular reason to stress things military. Stalin and Khrushchev could avoid such parades because “the chief link in Soviet consciousness was the Leninist October and the triumphal march of socialism across the planet. Today, however, what is important is not only that the Victory of May 9 is the chief Russian victory but a military one to boot.”

            For Russia today, neither the present nor the future provides a basis for optimism. Instead, Tsipko continues, “the basis of optimism and faith in one’s own country can be provided only by the undoubted victories of the past.” And that past is both increasingly Soviet and increasingly militarist.

            Moreover, “the heroization of all things Soviet inevitably leads to the heroization of death,” the commentator argues. The only content Victory Day now has is militarism and the defeat by military means of an opponent.  The costs of that increasingly are ignored, and the Soviet and Stalinist denigration of human life reaffirmed.

            But that flies in the face of humanity, Tsipko continues. “If the instinct of self-preservation did not live in people, then nothing would remain of humanity.” And consequently, all the current talk about how we “’can repeat’” this past is nothing by sado-masochism writ large.

            “What will we repeat?” Thirty to forty million deaths? More blockades and starvation?
“Today’s patriots do not know that much must never be repeated for it was forever killed in the name of the great Victory.”  No one should cast doubt on the decisive role of the Red Army in defeating Hitlerite Germany, but no one should forget much else besides.

            Unfortunately, “we have forgotten that the path to Victory opened only after the war was transformed into a Fatherland one. We have forgotten about the terrible human price of this victory. We have forgotten that it did not bring freedom or wellbeing to the Soviet people. The Stalinist GULAG continued to operate. Serf slavery for the collective farmers became still more onerous than before the war. And the hunger of the end of the 1940s carried off more than 1.5 million lives.”

            Gavriil Popov warned that all this would happen, Tsipko says.  That Russia’s new leaders would want to copy Stalin and that in doing so, they would rehabilitate him and his system to the harm of Russia’s possibilities.  But that is not the only thing that is being forgotten and being forgotten because those in power want it to be.

            “Undoubtedly, the history of socialist Russia is an inseparable part of Russian history. But the tragedy is that having recognized the Soviet as Russian, we have begun to fear the truth about the drama of war,” about the contempt of the country’s military men for the losses of Russian soldiers, and about communism’s role in the rise of fascism.

            Had Stalin not ordered German communists to avoid any alliance with the social democrats, Hitler might never have come to power.  But that is only a special case of a much larger issue Russians today unlike in Khrushchev’s times won’t talk about let alone consider the implications of.

            As Nicholas Berdyaev observed, “all Western history between the two wars was defined by the fear of communism” and its possible export to other countries.  And because of that, it is possible to say, as the great Russian thinker did, that “had there not been Lenin,” there would not have been fascism which was a response to what he created.\

            “Here,” Tsipko says, “arises an extremely serious question: what is better for the spiritual health of the Russian nation – the beautiful truth about the Victory of May 9 or the truth about the horrific human price of this undoubtedly great Russian victory? When answering this question, one must recognize that patriotism inculcated by the glamor of Victory gives little.”

            The commentator concludes that the current efforts of the Kremlin “to rehabilitate the crimes of the Soviet system” are “insane.”  “What do we want to say? That we are a special people which puts no value on human life? That we can with our own hands kill millions of our own compatriots?”

            “Which is the truth that we do not need?”

No comments:

Post a Comment