Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Russia’s Younger Sixties Generation has Failed to Achieve Its Goals, Samodurov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 10 – Yuri Samodurov, one of the founders of Memorial and a former director of the Sakharov Center who will be 70 in September, says with bitterness that he and his generation has not fulfilled what they were called upon to do and are powerless to change the current regime that controls Russia.

            Over the last decade, Samodurov has written much about his era and its failings. But the words of Yakov Gordin in a forward to Natan Eidelman’s book, The Last Chronicler or Two Lives of Nikolay Karamzyn, have brought into sharp focus for him what has happened and why things have gone wrong (

            “Eidelman died as had his chief conversationalist and teacher Pushkin at an historical turning point, a break between eras. That the earlier era was leaving without fulfilling its purposes weighed heavily on Pushkin’s soul,” Gordin writes, “depriving him of his vitality,” a feeling Samodurov says he shares.

            My time which began with such hopes and led to the remarkable developments of Perestroika “is passing or more precisely has ended without having filled its mission,” the commentator says.

            Perestroika ended, he writes, in the horrific act of theft by Yeltsin and his regime of “everything created by the labor of earlier generations,” something they did not create but were quite happy to take possession of. And that act of criminal theft, Samodurov suggests, was something his generation allowed to happen.

            Instead of the hoped-for “transition from totalitarianism to a free democratic society and normal life,” we lived through the violent destruction of the Supreme Soviet in 1993, the war in Chechnya, and other results of “imitation democracy and rule by the decrees of a President” rather than decisions of the people. Neither the Duma nor the Courts tried to stop this decay.

            People of his generation, the commentator continues, “did not fulfill their duties not only because of the coup but because of the union of liberals and part of the democrats with Yeltsin and the KGB (the Committee was in fact kept by Yeltsin) and the striving to destroy and not reform the former Soviet system in the spirit of convergence.”

            “The union of Yeltsin and the liberals with the KGB ended with the creation of an insane pseudo-market” and with the transfer of power “by the systemic liberals and former ‘informs’ to Putin who came from the KGB” and thus was emblematic of their defeat and that of Russia as whole.

            Those of us who are now approaching the end of our lives, Samordurov says, thus feel exactly as Gordin describes the people of Pushkin’s time. They know they didn’t fulfill their promise, and they feel drained of life because of that.

            “The era begun by Gorbachev’s Perestroika did not fulfill its calling,” and those who hoped for it and for further democracy and freedom feel only bitterness that they did not do more and now, as they approach their deaths, are not in a position to change the country’s direction toward something better.

            Only those from younger generations have the chance to do that, and they will be informed not by the same ideals that informed the generation of the Sixties and its younger cohort of which Samordurov is a part but by new thoughts. They are the ones on whom the burdens of seeking change now fall.

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