Brigid O’Keeffe is an Associate Professor of History at Brooklyn College where she specializes in late imperial Russian and Soviet history. Her research interests include internationalism, Esperanto, selfhood, ethnicity, citizenship and everyday Soviet life. She’s the author of New Soviet Gypsies: Nationality, Performance, and Selfhood in the Early Soviet Union published by University of Toronto Press.
Etta James, “Tell Mama,” Mojo Presents Southern Soul, 2005.
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By Sean — 3 years ago
Paul Stronski is a senior associate in Carnegie’s Russia and Eurasia Program, where his research focuses on the relationship between Russia and neighboring countries in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. He is the author of Tashkent: Forging a Soviet City, 1930-1966 and most recently “Uzbek Elections Preordained, the Real Questions Come Later.”Post Views: 338
By Sean — 12 years ago
Gorbachev turns 75 today. This world historical figure needs no introduction. He is celebrated in the West and reviled in Russia. Yet, he continues to speak out against censorship in Russia as well as sending warnings about the re-emergence of authoritarianism. He spoke on similar themes in an interview with Radio Free Europe. Whatever one may think of his views, he remains one of the most important figures of the 20th century. Gorbachev recently gave an interview to Rossiiskaya gazeta. Here are some of his more interesting comments. All translations, for better or for worse are mine.
Rossiiskaya gazeta: In your opinion, what must the leaders of Islam do to reduce the dangerous characteristics of the rising opposition?
Gorbachev: I would like to put the question differently: What must all the participants in the process of globalization do? The Islamic world—it demands understanding and respect. It has huge human, historical and cultural potential. In the span of a century and a half it has given much to the world, enriching its science and culture. An equal and mutually respectful dialogue with it is not completely impossible. This is the only correct path.
Gorbachev remains optimistic for the victory of moderation. He rejects the idea of the “clash of civilizations” and instead sees the possibility of a dialogue based on the common language of modernity which is present in both the West and the Islamic world. Unfortunately, I’m afraid, that the rhetoric of anti-modernity has taken center stage on both sides. In the last five years we’ve seen an increased polarization based on either religious fundamentalism, or the complete barbarization of one side by the other.
RG: Do you share the position of the Russian (Rossiiskii) delegation, which refuses to vote for the PACE (Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly) resolution? [Here the interviewer is referring to a resolution before PACE that called for the condemnation of the crimes of communist regimes. The text can be read here.—Sean]
G: This brings to mind Yeltsin’s team’s plan for coming to power. I have in mind the process in the Constitutional court where he attempted to put the KPSS (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) on trial. I didn’t go to this court. I then said that there is only one court possible—the court of history. The crimes of the regime must not be combined with the lives of several generations. People lived, selflessly labored, to elevate the country. All that was achieved in this period that was achieved by the people. By a mighty people. This needs to be remembered.
RG: But PACE’s resolution does not contain accusations of the people who lived in the Communist period. This resolution condemns communism as a political practice. Even communist ideology is not subjected to judgment. That said, what remains of your relation to its past?
G: I was and remain a supporter of the socialist idea. Its ideal. Its value. But I lead in the process of debunking the socialist model which renounced democracy and made a bet on dictatorship.
RG: Once a speech was given on this . . . In February the country will mark a historical date—50 years since the 20th Party Congress. You were a young man then. What kind of impression did Khrushchev’s speech which denounced Stalin’s personality cult make on you?
G: I remember how I came to these events. I arrived in Stavropol, and after seven day duty in the Procuracy they sent me to lead a department of propaganda in a Komsomol kraikom. This was August 1955. The 20th Party Congress was in February. That said, I was prepared to take some sort of role in it. After graduating MGU [Moscow State University] I was dispatched to the Procuracy of the USSR. Twelve people—eleven were war veterans and me. They probably took me as proletarian. Then they were beginning to reorganize the department in the Procuracy which controlled the passage of penal law in the State security organs. Up to that time the [Security organs] carried out investigations, judged and carried out executions without legal oversight. Then in the spring of 1955 this already became clear to me. After all, I joined the Party in school in the tenth grade. I believed in communism; I believed in Stalin. I wrote in an essay, “Stalin is our glorious fighter, Stalin is the iron of our youth (“Stalin – nasha slava boevaia, Stalin – nashei iunosti polet”). For me the speech on the cult of personality was a shock. Then came the red little books which had the speech printed in them. They sent us to the villages with these books to conduct expository work. I arrived in Novoaleksandrovskii district with my friend, Nikolai Vorotnikov a Party secretary of a district committee, as a relatively young man. [He said to me,] “Listen, Mikhail, I don’t know what you will say. There we will attempt to explain what the people don’t believe.” We collected the people together. We addressed and told them and it was quiet as a coffin. People didn’t believe. So today we see them walking with portraits of Stalin. Because under [Stalin] the prices were lower not like it is now. Ten years ago we had a conference in our foundation on the 20th Party Congress. There, voices also cried out that the 20th Congress was a betrayal. And that perestroika was a continuation of this betrayal. You understand that the problem is not in Stalin, that this was from a personality with a certain character, but in Stalinism which was the ideological foundation of a totalitarian regime. In recent years so many movies came out on this period, the best artists played the role of Stalin. And often the hero instead becomes the antihero – “the real” Iosif Vissarionovich. And all the rest of it remains so primitive. But I repeat the problem is not in Stalin, but in Stalinism. We still have not thoroughly debunked Stalinism.
I find this absolutely fascinating. I’ll let Gorbachev’s words speak for themselves.
I’ll leave it at that. Gorby said many more interesting things, but the labor of translation got the better of me. I encourage all who read Russian to check it out.Post Views: 143
By Sean — 10 years ago
Third Congresses seem to have great significance in the history of Russia’s pro-state youth organizations. The 3rd Komsomol Congress held in 1920 steered the organization away from Civil War to socialist construction. It was there that Lenin gave his famous “The Tasks of the Youth Leagues” speech that urged that young communists must “learn communism.” Lenin said,
“I must say that the tasks of the youth in general, and of the Young Communist Leagues and all other organisations in particular, might be summed up in a single word: learn. . . The teaching, training and education of the youth must proceed from the material that has been left to us by the old society. We can build communism only on the basis of the totality of knowledge, organisations and institutions, only by using the stock of human forces and means that have been left to us by the old society.”
In this sense perhaps Nashi’s 3rd Congress may be considered a historical echo of the Komsomol’s. The Congress, which was held 25 December at the Russian Academy of Sciences, began the process of plotting Nashi’s post-Putin future. The first important outcome of the Congress was the announcement that Nikita Borovikov will take over the organization’s reins from Vasilli Yakemenko, who heads the government’s State Commission on Youth Affairs. Readers will remember that it was Borovikov who won the mock competition at Nashi’s camp Seliger. In September, I translated an interview with him from Kommersant.
The second important outcome was what Borovikov spelled out as Nashi new slogan, “10=5”. What does “10=5” mean? It means that the task of Nashi over the next 10 years is to make Russia the 5th most powerful country in the world in economics, culture, and social development. “There is an enormous amount of work ahead,” Nashi GenSek Borovikov told the delegates. “In the coming years the internal and foreign political situation will become even more heated. This demands a serious program from us that will defend our status as a strong and independent Russia within the state as well as in the international arena. We are positive that our colossal experience and love for our Motherland will allow us to make a considerable contribution to the future formation of Russia as leaders in the 21st century.”
By what Borovikov means by the internal and foreign situation becoming more heated, all one has to do is turn to Nashi’s well worn formula. The Nashisty argue that Russia despite its success and supposed stability is besieged from within and without. Within by what Borovikov calls “fascists in disguise”–a Nashi metonym for liberals, Other Russiaists, National Bolsheviks and other “radicals”–and shadowy forces emanating from the US State Department and British Foreign Office. If the myth of a “new Cold War” serves American pundits as fodder for proclaiming Putin’s Russia as “neo-Soviet,” Cold War rhetoric allows Nashi use “fascism” as political venom against the Russian state’s real or imagined enemies. “We’re here to protect the sovereignty of our country,” said Zaur Aminov, a 20-year-old economics student and Nashi Commissar told the LA Times as if that sovereignty is under threat. And who is the source of this threat the LA Times wondered? “The American State Department,” Aminov answered.
It’s also no surprise that the Nashi’s version of Lenin’s “learn, learn, learn” is being coordinated by chief Kremlin ideologist Vladislav Surkov. Surkov was on hand to guide his creation along his preconceived ideological path. He whipped up delegates’ enthusiasm with, “Here are people gathered who are not indifferent to the future of our country. It seems to me that people who have respect for themselves have an inseparable connection to respect for their country.” It’s clear that for Surkov this “inseparable connection” is mediated with a heavy dose of xenophobia, conspiracy theories, and political hyperbole.
How will Nashi carry out their “10=5” Plan? The third significant outcome to Nashi’s 3rd Congress was, again not unlike the Komsomol’s of year’s past, its consolidation and restructuring for the future. As abraximov explains on ZheZhe’s resident anti-Nashi blog, Nashi added 10 programs, or really structures to its organization:
Student Alternative (StAl’)
Small Towns (a kind of “face the countryside” campaign which now includes 120 towns in 17 regions)
Lessons in Friendship
Cadres for the Modernization of the Country
Mishki (Nashi’s Young Pioneers)
Our Army (I assuming this isn’t the Kiss Army)
Voluntary Youth Militia
Youth Business School
As abraximov rightly suggests, isn’t this move be a step away for Nashi as a “movement”? True, Nashi’s additional structures will surely enable its future bureaucratization. But will this spell the death of its dynamism? In the next few years will we no longer hear statements from a pierced lip Russian teenage devs like: “My boyfriend was a member, and I joined him for one of the actions and I thought it was cool.”? Only time will tell.
Nashi may be entering on to the slippery slope of bureaucratism. At the same time its saving grace might be in its slick branding. All one has to do is take a look at its website to get a taste of this. Amid its bright red backgrounds are nestled a potpourri of multimedia, news, and resources. To help mold the Nashi brand, they now even have their own clothing line called Shapovlova. Given Nashi’s penchant for Russian “patriotism” I’m surprised to find it written in Latin script. Perhaps it is this molding of style that will keep Nashi cool with the kids.
There has been some speculation whether Nashi would outlast its role as Putin worshipers. With the 3rd Congress, it’s clear that they are looking well into the future.Post Views: 127