Alright I’ve decided not to name name’s, (ahem…) but there’s something that never ceases to piss me off about the Russian “liberal” intelligentsia. This is their constant assertion that most Russians aren’t aware of the “horrors of Communism” or “inconvenient” parts of their history such as the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact. I realize that these issues are not thoroughly discussed in Russian schools, but the idea that these topics are somehow hidden from Russians is simply preposterous. Not only do Russians have adequate access to all manner of books on these subjects in major bookstores everywhere, but these books and the state-controlled media often perpetuate myths and false claims as well. How many times do they need to see the Kremlin kissing Solzhenitsyn’s dead ass and glorifying WWI until they wake up to the fact that the state is creating a new imperialist ideology, and merely absorbing Soviet symbols into this false narrative?
These advocates continually claim that they want to fill the gaps in Russian history. Do they? Will we teach the whole truth about the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, or will we adopt Tim Snyder’s revision which casts it as a dastardly alliance aimed at starting WWII? If you want the whole story, will you start with the signing of the pact on 23 August 1939, or will you start back in 1936, when the Soviet Union consistently pursued a policy of collective security against Germany and Italy up to and even beyond the signing of the non-aggression pact with Germany? A policy, I might add, that was consistently and deliberately foiled by the British and French. Are you prepared to teach that? Or do you prefer to teach Russian school children a fairy tale about how mean old Stalin signed a deal with Hitler to start WWII because Communism and Nazism are the same?
And how about that Bolshevik Revolution in the first place? When you teach about Red Terror, will you first teach about White terror and the intervention of several imperialist powers? When you speak about the horrors of grain requisition, will you remind pupils that one of the major motives for toppling the Tsarist regime was shortages of bread going back to mid-1915? When you talk about the horrors of the civil war, will you teach them about how the Tsar sent several million Russian citizens to their deaths, into the maw of machine guns, all to save face after his regime’s duplicity toward its own ally, the Serbs, in 1908? Confused by that last bit? Yeah, nobody in Russia seems to know that juicy bit of diplomacy.
Hey and speaking of that empire, are you going to let the children know what that tricolor flag and double eagle represents? Are you going to tell them about the pogroms, the lack of rights, the quasi-theocracy, the illiteracy, the staggering infant mortality? Will you tell them about the famines of the 1890’s, or are you only interested in those that happened under collectivization, after which, by the way, no more famines occurred? Are you going to tell them how under that regime, they would be lucky to make it past the age of five, and they would most likely be illiterate? I’m asking because they will ask what ended that sorry state of affairs, and of course should you admit any of the Bolsheviks’ lasting accomplishments, it would no doubt lead to the perpetuation of modern Russian authoritarianism. So the only answer, of course, is to glorify a regime which was authoritarian.
Anyone whose thinking is not hopelessly backward can see what the ideology of post-Soviet Russia has evolved into. The intelligentsia cannot afford to denigrate or erase all Soviet symbols, but it has managed to deform, to twist, and rob them of their meaning. As time wears on, Soviet symbols become “Russian” and Russian imperial images and concepts begin to replace them. The word “Novorossiya” in reference to Eastern Ukraine is a dead giveaway. Make no mistake, the Soviet Union was a state rooted in progressive, internationalist values, which, for reasons within and without, went back upon those values and eventually rejected them. By contrast, the modern Russian state is a reactionary, right wing regime which openly admits this, save for those occasions when its propaganda hacks need to garner foreign left wing support of course. That’s when they dust off the red flags.
It’s clear the real reason Russia’s liberals engage in this kind of nonsensical behavior isn’t rooted in principle or concern for human rights. It is because ultimately, they are pro-capitalist and possibly neo-liberal capitalists. Their problem with the Putin regime is that it keeps them out, away from the trough. For whatever reason they cannot imagine why Russians aren’t enthusiastic about shock therapy and the drunken ex-president. They fail to realize that much of the knee-jerk Soviet defensiveness is a natural reaction to their bullshit antics during the 90’s. For the horrors of the 90’s were accompanied by people who continually and loudly insisted that rather than deal with issues like organized crime and rampant women trafficking, people should have been wailing publicly about the crimes of Stalin and erasing every last vestige of the Soviet legacy. More than a decade later these people can’t seem to understand why their bullshit hasn’t caught on.