Friday, March 31, 2023

USSR Fell Apart Precisely Because Russians are Tired of Sacrificing for Imperial Goals, Tsipko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 27 – “The main lesson of 1991,” a lesson that almost no one from the Kremlin to the radical left wants to learn or even acknowledge, is that “the Russian people are tired” of being called upon to make sacrifices for some larger project and want to life their own lives and create their own happiness without such sacrifices, Aleksandr Tsipko says.

            There is no reason to think, the senior Soviet/Russian commentator says, that the Russian people now want to assume new burdens in the name of reassembling the Soviet Union or uniting a Russian world. Just the reverse, in fact, however much some leaders inside and out of the Russian government say otherwise (

            “The Belovezhkaya accords,” Tsipko argues, “led to an unexpected discovery: it turned out that no one needed the USSR. Even the CPSU which aspired to the role of the patriotic Russian party voted for them and thus for the disintegration of the USSR.” Thus, the USSR died because it couldn’t solve the material problems of the population.

            “But the most important thing that became clear was that over the course of 74 years of the communist experiment, we did not create a single economic or political institution which was needed by a democratic market-oriented Russia.” And it also became clear that there had never been any “voluntary union of peoples” despite what Moscow said.

            In recent years, it has become obvious that this “truth about 1991 isn’t useful for our present-day politicians,” not only because Russians don’t like to hear the truth about themselves but because of an essential laziness of thought and a belief that there is some heroic effort that can be made that will solve everything and that after that no one will have to work.

            The government and the left want a return to that heroic leap, but they are hardly the only ones who don’t want to face up to the truth of 1991. The liberal opposition doesn’t either because it is committed to the idea that Russians are even today inherently imperialists, despite the fact that 1991 demonstrates the exact opposite.

            “The Soviet man of 1991 did not have any imperial syndrome,” Tsipko says; “he did not need an empire that left him with shortages and forced him to live with empty store shelves. And therefore, the population of the RSFSR and above all the Muscovites followed those who said it was time to stop feeding Ukraine and the Caucasus.”

            That makes a nonsense of claims that Russia lives as long as it can expand its territory. In fact, Tsipko argues, “an imperial consciousness in the precise sense of the word could not appear in Russia because our empire lacked many of the features which characterize a classic empire and because in our country, the Russians in the metropolis weren’t its masters but its slaves.”

            Indeed, the commentator continues, “an imperial syndrome could not appear in our country because there was no core of the imperial syndrome, national consciousness in the strict sense of the word.” Anti-Bolshevik leader Anton Denikin was right when he said that “only a Russian peasant deprived of national consciousness could the Bolsheviks seduce.”

            Today, “Putin says that in 1991, the Russian world was thrown up in various directions, but the truth is that it was the Russians themselves who threw off the Russian world.” And that raises the question: “if the Russian people didn’t have a consciousness of the Russian world in 1991, then where did it come from 30 years after the disintegration of the USSR?”

            “I do not believe,” Tsipko says, “that the value of empire is so deeply rooted in the consciousness of the Russian that it forces him to forget about his main problems: Russian poverty, an underdeveloped healthcare system and how we can live without an image of the future.”

            He continues: “the idea of an all-powerful empire is so abstract that it cannot replace the desire of the Russian to find out what will be tomorrow with his pay, the prices for the products he needs, and so on.” Indeed, talk about a new empire is a way of trying to get Russians not to think about these things.

            “It seems to me,” Tsipko says, “that people forget about 1991 in order not to remember about those problems which led to the disintegration of the USSR and which have not been resolved up to now. Therefore, one should not raise the question about the rebirth of Russia in the borders of the USSR.”

            “It is very important to remember that there never was a voluntary unification of the Great Russians, the Little Russians, and the Belarusians. The Russian Empire united them. The consciousness of the Russian world as something valuable with historical advantages never existed among” any of these three peoples.

            Thirty-years ago, Tsipko says, “we were not able to preserve a country although for this there were all the necessary conditions except one: the West didn’t help Gorbachev solve the problem of empty shelves in 1991,” even though the West itself was divided on whether to do that and whether to back the disintegration of the USSR.

            The Russian commentator says that despite all this and despite current tensions, he remains an optimist and “doesn’t think that the current conflict between the so-called Anglo-Saxons and the Russians is something that will last forever or that the current hostility between the Western world and the Russian Federation will be preserved for all time either.”

            But for that day to come as soon as possible, Russians of all stripes need to learn and apply the lessons of 1991 and above all see that the Russian people, unlike some of their leaders, aren’t interested in bearing the burdens of any new imperial system. They want to live their own lives and have them improve as much as possible.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Moscow Promoting Ever More Military Programs for Ever Younger School-Age Groups

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 25 – In a sign that the Putin regime is preparing for the militarization of Russian society over the long haul, schools across the Russian Federation are introducing ever more military training programs for ever younger school-age groups, including kindergarteners, Milan Czerny reports.

            The journalist for The Insider surveys this trend which is all the more striking because in many countries governments and populations are focused on getting guns out of the schools rather than into them and offering programs to encourage young people to solve their problems without violence (

            The Russian government and especially the defense ministry have promoted this trend, Czerny says, providing weapons and personnel to train children in shooting and other military arts. But in at least some cases, the schools have sought to overfulfil the plan and introduced more expansive programs at an ever earlier age.

            Most Russian educators and psychologists see this development as both appropriate and safe, but some international experts question that, arguing that by normalizing violence, the Russian approach risks making violence more widespread in Russian society if children decide that using force to resolve all problems is appropriate.

            If that happens, these experts say, then the problems ahead for Russian society are dire indeed.

Moscow has Exploited Hostility to Ethnic Minorities It Promoted within Russia to Demonize Ukrainians, Berezhkov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 24 – With the partial exception of the 1990s, Moscow has historically exploited the hostility of local ethnic majorities to local ethnic minorities to keep Russian society divided but most recently has exploited such attitudes to demonize Ukrainians and launch a war of aggression against them, Dmitry Berezhkov says.

            The activist from Kamchatka who now lives as a political exile in Norway says that discrimination against national minorities has always been part of the Russian government’s strategy domestically but now it has become an instrument of state policy in the case of Ukraine (

            In the 1990s, the state had other things to think about and did not exercise its traditional role in managing ethnic hatreds. Then in the first decade of this century, he says, Moscow either promoted or at least looked the other way as members of ethnic majorities attacked ethnic minorities as outsiders.

            The Russian government’s only concern at that time was that this kind of nationalism did not lead to political movements that might challenge the Putin regime. To that end, it punished severely nationalist leaders of all kinds but generally did little to stem the rising tide of attacks by members of one group on those of another.

            This use of administered nationalism, discrimination and hatred is “a very dangerous phenomenon,” Berezhkov says, because it means the state can redirect these hatreds almost at will, as long as it provides a new target. That is why the campaigns against LGBT people are so dangerous for non-Russians and why the war in Ukraine has served Kremlin interests so well.

            According to the exiled activist, the situation in this regard in Russia is “unique” because “the state totally controls the national question and takes part in the administration of discrimination, directing nationalist convictions wherever that serves its purposes.”

            A move toward democracy is a necessary but insufficient condition for addressing this problem, Berezhkov says. Many who favor democracy really don’t understand the plight of minorities and thus the advocates of a beautiful Russia in the future sometimes act as imperialists rather than democrats. That must change.

            However, if Russia does become a democracy, there is at least a chance that its minorities will be able to defend their rights and thus change the situation over time. That has been what has happened elsewhere; and it could be the basis for positive change in Russia as well, Berezhkov concludes.