Tuesday, May 31, 2022

For a Better Future, Russians Must Reflect on What Kind of Past They Need, Kolesnikov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 15 – In recent years, many Russians have spent an increasing amount of energy and time discussing what kind of a future their country needs to have; but while doing so, Andrey Kolesnikov argues, they have spent far too little asking the fundamental question: to get to whatever future they want, what kind of a past will that future Russia need?

            The New Times columnist says that Russia has not been lucky about its future up to now because it has repeatedly had “bad luck” with its past. That problem arises because its rulers have used their power to create a past that justifies what they are doing and precludes development, rights and freedoms of Russians (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/212563).

            “The image of the future begins with the image of the past,” Kolesnikov continues. “If the heroes of the country are all military leaders and top politicians, Stalin and Beria, and informers and loyalists, that past forms the future of Russia, one that is very close to the Putinism of today.”

            But “if the heroes of the country are those who came out into Pushkin Square in 1965 and Red Square in 1968, then such a country has a completely different future.”

            Fundamental change in Russia will be possible only after Putin, he continues, as the history of Russia remains “highly personified” with leaders defining their eras. And there are reasons for hope. While Putin’s successors could be worse, Russian history suggests that the new leaders will compete with one another to liberalize things.

            Those who believe things will get worse argue that liberals have no option but to “cling to Putin” because democracy would bring to power the ultra-nationalists. But there are compelling reasons to think that democracy will have just the opposite effect and lead to liberalization not more repression.

            And reflecting on that means recognizing that many choices Russia made earlier were wrong, that the country would have been far better off under Yevgeny Primakov than under Putin. Not because the former was a brilliant manager but because under him, Russia wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine.

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