Saturday, August 19, 2023

Older Russians Reject Suggestion that USSR was an Empire and that a Post-Colonial Discourse is Needed, Makarov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 15 – “For the majority of people of older generations” in the Russian Federation, any suggestion that the USSR was an empire or that the past and future must be discussed in terms of colonialism and post-colonial agendas is inadmissible, Mikhail Makarov says.

            If at the start of the Soviet period, the Bolsheviks talked about Russia before 1917 as “a prison house of peoples,” under Stalin, that notion was in large part rejected because of two important changes in the regime’s ideological presentation of history, the Russian blogger says (

            The first of these consisted in the idea that what was responsible for the oppression of the non-Russian peoples was “not the metropolitan center but rather ‘tsarism,’ a shift which allowed for the glorification of tsars and tsarist leaders. And the second held that the unification of these peoples with Russia was voluntary or at least their best option under the circumstances.

            After the death of Stalin, these two notions were strengthened by two others, an insistence on the sacred nature of the state after the victory in World War II and the idea that the center was financing the borderlands at the expense of the Russian core – and that therefore the former should be grateful to the latter.

            “These two arguments, the sacred and the economic, were from the outset contradictory, and this contradiction sharply intensified at the end of the 1980s when after the end of the oil boom, the economy began to collapse, store shelves empty and everyone began to look at things only from his own immediate point of view.

            Those contradictions explain the voting in the spring and summer of 1991, Makarov says. People could vote for the preservation of the ‘sacred’ USSR while on the same day voting to introduce a presidency for the RSFSR and for Boris Yeltsin “who supported the striving of the Baltic republics for independence.”

            The Russian desire to dispense with any obligations to the republics “turned out to be stronger in practice, but that notion was accompanied by the idea that ‘they won’t get war,’ ‘no one needs them,’ and ‘they will crawl back.’ Russia will then accept them but only a new grounds more favorable to it,” the blogger says.

            After the USSR disintegrated, the economic argument became less important to people, but the sacred one became more – and what one sees with Putin and the support he has among the elderly reflects that trend, Makarov concludes.


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