Monday, February 14, 2022

Last Day of Soviet Union in Moscow Recalls W.H. Auden’s Poem, “The Fall of Rome”

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 24 – In his poem, “The Fall of Rome,” W.H. Auden writes that the empire collapsed when officials, bored with their work, simply went home with little fuss. Something remarkably similar happened in the upper reaches of Moscow officialdom when the Soviet Union was disbanded on December 25, 1991.

            Komsomolskaya Pravda performs an extremely useful service by offering that picture of what has been mythologized by Vladimir Putin as “the greatest geopolitical disaster” of the 20th century, a picture in which officials went about the business of doing away with the Soviet Union (

            Aleksandr Gamov, the newspaper’s observer, makes three basic points in the course of his compilation of what happened on that day in Moscow. First, everything was done in a remarkably business-like manner with little of the uproar one might have expected from an event that entailed such dramatic consequences.

            Second, he continues, those involved made sure they communicated with Western leaders like the president of the US and the chancellor of Germany and via Western television channels like CNN even though they were taking actions that above all affected a population whose views on what was going on that they did not bother to ask.

            And third, the losers in this contest and above all Mikhail Gorbachev were far more concerned about justifying what they had done and the role they had played than in talking about what they expected this change to mean. They did not predict disaster: they did not really predict anything. 

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