Staunton, April 7 – Recently, Russia passed the centenary of the 1917 revolution and soon will pass the 30th anniversary of the disintegration of the USSR in 1991, but despite that, Russians do not have agreed upon answers to the same three basic questions about either of those events, Yevgeny Gontmakher says.
They still have not been told by their leaders whether either or both were inevitable, whether either or both were really intended to put Russia on the path toward a flourishing future, or whether either or both could really do anything about underlying Russian realities, the Moscow commentator says (mk.ru/politics/2021/04/07/konec-sssr-tri-voprosa-bez-otvetov.html).
Many people have opinions about all of these questions, of course, but the country’s political leadership has not addressed them as such. Vladimir Putin didn’t in 2017, and it seems improbable that he will do so this year, given the political calendar with its own imperatives. But some common answers are needed because they provide the foundation for future choices and developments.
The provision of such answers could come from above, that is from Putin, or from below, that is from the population. The latter is unlikely, Gontmakher insists; but the former is very much going on, so far not leading to a consensus but exacerbating divisions over the past which inevitably become divisions over the future.
One can hope that the country’s political leadership will ultimately reflect on the need for answers to these questions, especially given its obsessive focus on the past rather than the future. But if that doesn’t happen, the discussions from below may mean that Russians instead of learning from the past will be, as Santayana suggested, condemned to repeat it.