I’ve never had much interest in Leon Trotsky or Trotskyism, but serious discussions by sensible people about his life, politics, rise and fall, and global impact are rare. Trotsky’s legacy has been hijacked by a myriad of kooks and cultists. This often bastardized and farcical legacy of one of the Russian Revolution’s most important figures, makes Christopher Hitchens, who identifies himself as a Trotskyist, and Robert Service talking Trotsky a gem in and of itself.
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By Sean — 5 years ago
This weeks’ Russia Magazine column, “Historical Lineages of Putin’s Russian National Identity,”
Last week, Putin delivered a speech on Russia’s national identity at the 10thannual Valdai Club meeting. Though much of the speech reiterated central concepts Putin laid out in his 2012 Presidential campaign article on ethnicity, I was nonetheless struck by his remarks. Over the last week I’ve been talking about Slavophilism, Russian national awakening, and pan-Slavism in my late Imperial Russia class. Putin’s comments resonated with some of the same questions consuming literati in the mid-nineteenth century. In particular, I couldn’t help focusing on the Slavophile moments in Putin’s text despite its rather motley nature. Moreover, I couldn’t help hear echoes of Nikolai Danilevsky’s Russia and Europe (1869). I’ve been reading about Danilevsky’s notions of circular history, the uniqueness of Russian civilization, its incompatibility with the West, and Russia’s messianic mission for a lecture on pan-Slavism. I’m not saying that Danilevsky had a direct influence on Putin. I have no idea if Putin ever read Danilevsky’s text. Nor do Danilevsky’s and Putin’s text correspond exactly. Only, I claim, that some of the issues concerning the Russian idea in the nineteenth century remain unresolved today. Namely, the nature of Russian civilization, its relationship to the West, and its particular historical development and mission. Putin’s thoughts on these fall into a deep historical tradition on the nature of Russia’s national identity and how it’s realized.Post Views: 1,470
By Sean — 11 years ago
I was hoping to get to the controversy over the new strongly suggested for the Russian classroom, Noveyshaya istoriia Rossii 1945-2006. Kniga dlia uchitelia (A Contemporary History of Russia 1945-2006. A Book for the Teacher) and Global’nyi mir v XXI veka (The Global World in the 21st Century), but time did not allow it.
Kommersant had a long article in its weekly Vlast’ magazine detailing how the texts were basically funded by the Office of the President. Among other things were orders handed down “from the administration” on how the texts should evaluate Russian historical figures. According to an anonymous co-author:
“Stalin is good (He strengthened vertical power, but there wasn’t private property); Khrushchev is bad (He weakened vertical power); Brezhnev is good by the same criteria as Stalin; Gorbachev and Yeltsin are bad (They destroyed the country, however under Yeltsin private property arose); Putin is the best ruler (He reinforced vertical power and private property)”
Luckily for all of us, Robert Amsterdam has done us the best service. He’s provided a translation of two articles on the subject from Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Oleg Kashin’s “In Search of a ‘Short Course’” and “I Would Very Much not Want my Name to be Associated with this Disgrace” They lay out the necessary particulars better than I can.
The Washington Post has a long article on the controversy as well. It appears the texts take Russian historical memory further down a path I’ve thought it’s been going down under Putin: a movement away from the history produced in the 1990s which looked to damn the Soviet system in toto to one that reconciles Soviet and post-Soviet history in some sort of grand, and mostly uncritical, continuum. As russkii Karl Rove, Vladislav Surkov, told the pedagogical conference where the texts were introduced, “We must see the dark moments of history and its problems. But I presume that it would also be wrong to go as far as to completely deny the successes and achievements of our great country. . . . Without answering the questions of who we are, how we should live and what we are living for, effective political work and an effective economic system are impossible.” The answer to these questions of national identity lie in the ideological hegemony that all past roads lead to Putin, and all future ones will emanate from him.
One of the first signs of any stable state is when it endeavors to create a history of itself and for itself.
Update: Now you can also test your knowledge of Russian history. Kommersant has provided a short quiz where the answers are based on the next textbook. Test your knowledge.Post Views: 720
By Sean — 9 years ago
Nashi’s been keeping a list. There’s no need to check it twice. They know who’s been naughty and nice. In their own version of a “Komsomol Christmas,” members of the pro-Kremlin group Nashi decided make their own mockery of the holiday. But unlike their Soviet predecessors, the enemy wasn’t religion but the leaders of “most unfriendly governments” toward Russia. And which leaders received lumps of coal? According to a poll of its members, none other than Mikhail Saakashvili, Viktor Yushchenko, and George Bush.
The Nashists sent several neckties to Saakashvili “just in case he gets anxious and begins to chew on his wardrobe accessories publicly in the future.” Yushchenko got a package of coal and logs to keep him warm after Russia turns off the gas. He also got a reworked Ukrainian flag that combines the US flag, the Ukrainian blue and yellow, and a Nazi swastika. To outgoing US President Bush, Nashi sent a set of world maps with mousetraps to symbolize NATO expansion. All the presents were to be hand delivered to their respective embassies.
To all my readers, a very Мerry Christmas!Post Views: 553