Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Russia Will Not Fall Apart the Way the USSR Did Because It is Not the Same Country, Inozemtsev Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 26 – Like generals who make the mistake of fighting the last war rather than the present one, many in Russia and the West like to suggest that the Russian Federation will fall apart the way the USSR did; but Vladislav Inozemtsev argues that there are at least four compelling reasons why that is unlikely – and may even be impossible.

            First of all, the Russian economist and commentator says, there was little private property in Soviet times but a great deal of it. “People do not understand that under authoritarian rule, property becomes the chief factor suppressing any desire to resist and strengthens the desire of the upper class to defend itself” (

            “Where freedom is deeply rooted, property becomes its guarantee,” Inozemtsesv says; but “where it is something new, property becomes perhaps the best means of enslavement. Therefore, we have not seen and will not see millions of people coming out to demonstrate against the regime in today’s Russia.”

            Second, the commentator continues, those who argue that the population of the Soviet Union was demanding freedom rather than sausage are profoundly mistaken. The Soviet government couldn’t provide an adequate supply of goods for its population, and people wanted to get rid of the system to get the goods as it were.

            “Now,” Inozemtsev says, “there is no such irritant: the lack of money among part of the population is not the same as the lack of goods in all the stores. The second indicates the failure of the system; the first only the failure of its individual cogs.” Consequently, there may be demands for redistribution of money but not the end of the system as such.

            Third, at the end of the USSR, ethnic Russians formed just over 50 percent of the population and their share was declining. Moreover, the USSR was “multinational and many peoples had memories of independence” and even were encouraged to maintain their national identities by the system.

            As a result, “it was the national liberation movement that became the most important factor in the collapse of the USSR as one of the great European colonial empires.” But the situation of the Russian Federation is “fundamentally different,” Inozemtsev says. Russians form a far larger share, and the identities of the others are being “deliberately eradicated.”

            According to him, “practically no territory has the possibility of a successful independent existence” and “the outside world fears the collapse of Russia much more than it feared the collapse of the USSR. That factor is almost absent now and won’t re-appear anytime in the near future.”

            And fourth, “the USSR was undermined by the understanding that everyone in it was in a single “camp” from which “escape” was impossible, a sense that created an irresistible urge to destroy the system from which there was no way for an individual to leave.” Few besides Jews and Germans did. But today the situation is fundamentally different in this regard as well.

            “The borders are open despite all the problems this creates for the powers, and this constant release of steam makes an explosion of the pressure cooking almost impossible,” Inozemtsev says. “The USSR was destroyed by several million actively dissatisfied people, and not at all by the majority of the population.”

            But now, “during Putin’s reign alone, many more people have left Russia than the total number of those who took part in at least some protest actions during perestroika,” he says. “Their picketing of Russian missions abroad … their forums and conferences do not concern anyone at all now.”

            As a result, what happened in the 1980s can’t be reproduced, “and analogies with that time are meaningless, although of course, they are very beautiful and won’t be removed from the agenda of those who lived then.” But precisely for that reason, “these people will not produce a new wave of change” in the Russian Federation.

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