Thursday, April 20, 2023

Because of Putin’s War in Ukraine, Russia Again Where It was in 1916, Gallyamov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 17 – Vladimir Putin has been repeating not so much the path of Joseph Stalin as that of Nicholas II, Abbas Gallyamov says; and as a result, he has put Russia in a situation much like the one it was in in 1916, with superficial quiet but a burdensome war grinding on and revolution only months away.

            The former Putin speechwriter and now Putin critic says that these parallels are increasingly obvious. The protests in 2011-2012 were “our analogue to the events of 1905,” events that “in the Marxist tradition are calling ‘a bourgeois-democratic revolution” (

            “Both then and now one is talking about a struggle with the absolutist character of the regime and an attempt to create genuine parliamentarianism which would limit the freedom of the monarch. And in both the former and the present case, this was a struggle for political representation of those groups who considered that their interests weren’t being represented.”

            In response, both then and now, the monarch backed down and made some concessions, Gallyamov says; but at the same time, then and now, the regime organized shock troops to combat the dissident population, the Black Hundreds after 1905 and the various Putinoid groupings more recently.

            In both cases, the regime was worried about public opinion but wasn’t prepared to give up power; and so in both cases, the regime decided on a war that it hoped would generate patriotic feelings. Initially, in both cases, the war against Germany then and the war against Ukraine now had that effect.

            “But in the end, the wars turned out to be much longer than the authorities had expected and the hardships on the population caused by them much more severe. As a result, both then and now, patriotic sentiment declined and protest sentiment rose,” Gallyamov continues. These things make it appropriate to draw comparisons.

            In 1916, officials reassured the tsar that a revolution was impossible, and they were believed even though as history showed “the revolution was less than six months away.” And one can also recall Lenin’s remark in May 1917 that “if there had been no war, Russia could have lived without a revolution for years and even decades.”

            “Of course,” Gallyamov concludes, “not every historical parallel is exact.” But it is difficult not to see how close this one appears to be and thus seek to learn some lessons from the past.


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