Translating from here, I make no claim to the contents of the article.
The principal reproach on the Russian President and the Russian people is becoming ever clearer and ever harsher: after the surge to the West under Gorbachev and Yeltsyn, after a quarter century of moving down the route to Europe, inconsistent as it was – one step forward, two steps back – Russia has finally turned to the Soviet roots. Thus, this is how it should be treated from now on – as a copy of the USSR; surely, a much weaker one, but no less unpleasant for that.
There is logic of its own to this final sentence. The opponent, that is, Russia, should be branded by comparing it to something extremely bad. The Third Reich comparisons, while trenchant and well in practice in the public rhetoric, still have a significant flaw. On the one hand, this polemical method is firmly reserved for the thinkers like V.I. Novodvoskaya, A.N. Illarionov, A.B. Zubkov, who are not commonly considered to be all too respectable or sane. On the other hand, presenting the Third Reich as the absolute evil can lack tact towards certain young Eastern European democracies and their heroic past. If the political mythology of the modern-day denizens of Galicia* is considered acceptable (and it is), it is far more practical not to mention the Third Reich in any capacity, while viewing Bandera and Shukhevich, canonized as they are in Ukraine, as independent heroes (glory be to them**). Meanwhile, using the USSR as a totalitarian bugbear is much better simply because no foreign friends can be offended by that.
But it’s not only about tact towards friends, important as it might be. The anti-Soviet tradition is so rich and branched out, so well-rooted in the intelligentsia subculture that there is no need to think of anything new or to invent anything. A packet of mobilization orders is already stored in any intelligentsia head, just waiting for a signal to be unsealed. And there, in what comes to crushing the Sovok***, everything is already in full order: erste Kolonne marschiert, zweite Kolonne marschiert – there’s nothing to teach here, anyone in the intelligentsia knows his maneuver already.
And since the government has stopped sparing the feelings of the intelligentsia, and in this lack of mercy has gotten to restoring the GTO and the VDNKh**** – not to mention even worse actions that bear striking resemblance to the Soviet past – why be ashamed of these anti-Soviet feelings? A-la guerre com a-la guerre, especially minding that the Soviet history had a lot of quite terrible pages, as did the Soviet day-to-day life. And that’s not limited to the heroic period from 1918 to 1953, either. The golden autumn of the Soviet Union, socialism with a human face, raises a lot of just criticism and was not at all the merry Arcadia.
Thus, the anti-Soviet ideology that presents the Soviet government as the worst of evils, and V.V. Putin as a full-fledged communist leader, which makes condemning the USSR still relevant, will be both understandable and popular among a certain social strata. It is, actually, already popular.
On the other hand, the accusations of rebuilding (or trying to rebuild) the USSR produce the counterargument: “So what’s wrong about that?” and direct apologia for the Soviet regime, with the zeal of the antisovietism matched by the zeal of the sovietism. The USSR is declared the aforementioned Arcadia, ruined and destroyed partly out of stupidity and partly out of wicked intent.
Both the pro-Soviet and the anti-Soviet side share an important flaw in their reasoning, though. First, both perceive the Soviet Union as something not differentiated through time: be it 1919, 1937, or the vegetarian times of Brezhnev, it’s all the same to them. Second, the Union is seen as something completely monolithic in essence. All of that while the criticism – or praise, if that’s what you prefer, – can be directed at the Soviet Union from at least three directions.
First, the communism itself, that is, one all-conquering teaching, forcefully directed and planned economy, unified ideology etc. Everything you can read in the books of the Marxist classics, and which has been more or less implemented by the Soviet leaders. There are different opinions on whether it was more or less, at that.
Second, it’s the eternal Russia, also known as the thousand-year slavery. That is, a certain invariant of the national being, which is a lot like dough – you can chop it with an axe all you want, it’s coming together again. The Orthodox faith and the autocratic government, be they good or bad, reappear again and again, whatever you do about it. Some basic peculiarities of the political, spiritual and economic setup persistently show through the trinkets of the ideology.
Third, power is power, and any government – be it tyrannical or the most democratic – will be a cold monster, since the baseless chaos is even worse and also short-lived. It’s well known that you can’t do much without a government. The hostility that the intelligentsia feels towards government as a concept is equally commonly known.
The trouble (and sin) of our social thought is that neither in the dark times of L.I. Brezhnev’s rule, nor in the revitalizing time of the Perestroika, nor in the even more vitalizing 90ies, nor in the returning dark of V.V. Putin czar-like rule, there has been no attempt at sorting this amalgam out and categorizing it. For instance, what of the foreign and domestic policies of Russia-USSR was a sign of communist messianism, what was simple imperialism, and what was even simpler government self-preservation instinct. Instead we have a generalized term “Sovok” (or “communism”, “bolshevism”), which presupposes the principal impossibility of sorting the amalgam out.
With this misery of philosophy it’s impossible to settle accounts with the Soviet heritage. So we haven’t settled them, and there’s no knowing when we will.
* Galicia here is the name of the Western Ukraine, not the Spanish province.
** This is a reference to the slogan the Ukrainian Nazis from the OUN guerilla movement used: “-Glory to Ukraine! –Glory to heroes!” The slogan sees wide use in modern-day Ukraine.
*** Sovok is a derogatory term for the Soviet Union in Russian. Literally means “dustpan”.
**** The GTO (Gotov k Trudu I Oborone, “Ready for Labor and Defense”) was a Soviet mass phys-ed program initially developed under Stalin to prepare school students for the Army conscription, and later vastly expanded to include all demographic segments. Cancelled with the fall of the Union, it is now being restored in a handful of Russian regions.
The VDNKh (Vystavka Dostyzheniy Narodnogo Khozyastva, Exhibit of the People’s Economy Achievements) was a Soviet exhibition area of a few hectares, with a few pavilions showcasing the latest country’s achievements, from increased harvests to nuclear reactors and spaceships. After the fall of the Union it was renamed (ironically, the subway station near it wasn’t), and it is getting back its historical name this year.