Today would have been the famed Soviet bard, actor, and conscious of a generation Vladimir Vysotsky’s 70th birthday. Vysotsky, who died in 1980 at the age of 42 from heart failure, perhaps proves once again that “its better to burn out, than to fade away.” True enough. Vysotsky’s great cultural impact in life and sudden death is the stuff icons are made of. Brilliant and moving, his passionate raspy voice made him a man fit for his time. It was also a time fit for the man.
Vysotsky’s 70th birthday is not going unnoticed in Russia. Monuments to the legendary actor, poet, and vocalist are being unveiled today in Samara, Voronezh and Dubna. The one in Samara is a 5 meter tall piece sculpted by Vysotsky’s close friend and well known artist Mikhail Shemyakin.
My love of Vysotsky’s music is only a few years old. My most memorable moment was last year in Israel. I was shopping at this flea market in Jaffa and stumbled upon a Russian immigrant selling records. Among his collection was a seven vinyl series of Vysotsky’s music called Na kontsertakh Vladimira Vysotskovo. He sold them to me for a dollar a record. The wax is in perfect condition. The sleeves are a bit worn, some have a few stains of god knows what, but not too bad. The records were published between 1987-1988 by Melodiia, the official Soviet record press, and are based on recordings Vysotsky did in the 1960s and 1970s. I figured that today is a good day to bust them out of my crate of records, blow the dust off of them, and give ’em a spin.
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By Sean — 11 years ago
Vladimir Putin, President of Russian Federation
Vladimir Churov, Chairman of Central Election Commission of Russian Federation
Sergei Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation
Gentlemen, I have no doubt that you are well aware that the free expression of the will of free citizens via free democratic elections can never result in 99.4% of the votes being cast for one party with a turnout of 99.5% of the voters.
Now obviously that is only impossible where there is open, transparent political competition between electoral candidates, with equal opportunities for public campaigning, where there is no administrative pressure on individuals and where one finds impeccable honesty and scrupulous accuracy from the election commissions.
Yet all these are surely the crucial conditions for democratic electoral procedure?
No need to prove to you that these very 99.4% votes “for” provide incontrovertible evidence of vote-rigging. You know that as well as I do, and as well as any remotely literate citizen with at least commonsense, not to mention a basic awareness of the nature and possibilities of the popular vote. You of course also know that such results far above 90% (i.e. the same fraud) did not happen in isolated polling stations, no, in several subjects of the Russian, if one may use the term, “Federation”. This unfortunate circumstance is more than sufficient to correctly assess the tasteless farce being played out by untalented directors on the entire boundless Russian stage on 2 December, and for good measure in the coming event on 2 March.
It is entirely redundant to tediously collect up the electoral commission protocols rewritten in retrospect, or evidence of shenanigans with ballot papers etc – it’s all clear enough anyway. The authorities (who by the way you represent, Gentlemen), mangled electoral legislation and then wantonly, with no finesse, came up with some kind of imitation of elections. In doing so they sneered at the Constitution and armed themselves with administrative resources. The simulation was not for us but for the West you so dislike.
I am not in the slightest claiming that “United Russia” would not have got into the State Duma without the rigging. For goodness sake, obviously they would have been in first place anyway. That’s quite another, also painful problem for the country.
However on another subject now. Through your deliberate efforts, Gentlemen, in a country where the democracy was only budding forth, we once again have no elections – the main criterion for a democracy. And for a long time. Not even Stalin could have dreamed of the Chechen record. In his “elections”, that sort of percentage was gained by a single candidate with no alternative. While in the present case this pathetic 0.1% was supposedly shared by virtually 10 parties.
It’s not by hearsay that we know what’s happening to a country which receives a sycophantic puppet parliament, a decorative Constitution, a justice system working to order and an uncontrolled leadership reappointing itself (like the profoundly expressive word “successor” which has sullied our political lexicon for a good 10 years). Details are hardly appropriate. It would seem that that does not frighten you and you have decided to try it yet another. Or maybe you simply don’t know anything else.
Well, the choice – conscious and well-thought-out – has undoubtedly been made –, and long ago, and I am quite well aware that I can’t stop it.
I do have a question, however: will you be able to stop if at some stage you don’t wish to follow things through to the all too familiar end?
It’s clear that the lies exuding from all your lackey screens, are powerless to hide the electoral shame. Yet despite that, you are forced to lie shamelessly and hopelessly, with arrogance and anger jumping down on any doubts (like “… let them teach their wives …”). You don’t have another choice, I mean you can’t say: “Well, we took over here, slightly corrected the results, and there they went overboard. Well don’t be too critical, it’s all though their enthusiasm and uncontrollable functionary zeal.
And in your step there are the adepts hurriedly bustling to get themselves onto the patriot register. Earlier our leaders quite often had to lie tediously and brazenly for decades, denying the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, or the Katyn Massacre of Polish prisoners of war, or the arrest of Wallenberg. In a word, what was obvious to all around them and now it’s you. History is unfortunately repeating itself.
The lie which you so decisively have again established in government use and which you are incapable of rejecting has an important and extremely dangerous quality – I would say a particularly corrupting force. The point is that the majority of your listeners don’t believe you, and that includes your convinced supporters. That is, they are of course pleased with “United Russia’s” victory, but they understand very well whatever you say how the mould for such a victory was set.
We have a paradoxical change – you lie, your listeners know this and you know that they don’t believe you, only pretend to believe, and yet they also know that you know they don’t believe you. Everybody knows everything. The very lie no longer aspires to deceive anyone, from being a means of fooling people it has for some reason turned into an everyday way of life, a customary and obligatory rule for living. You have a Mr Markov, supposedly a professor, supposedly a political expert, and in fact a hardened and dense cynic. Speaking with him about our “politics”, a journalist said: “lies have short legs”. “Human memory is even shorter”, was Markov’s response. Horrible, yet it would seem that this is in fact the case. Of course they’ll forget a lot about the two grubby spectacles in succession in a couple of months after 2 March. However they’ll never forget something else – that the top figures of the state lie through their teeth. And how could they forget when lying is your natural element?
This memory is catastrophic and its results irreparable because the customary lies of leaders always generate and cultivate cynicism in society and cannot achieve anything else. Whatever your people now say about freedom being better than lack of freedom, about the right to self-expression and so forth, these pompous speeches are fixedly (and fairly, by the way) perceived as a continuation of your untruth. They’re mere words. There is exactly the same attitude to the bombastic ambitiousness of your utterances about the guaranteed phenomenal and swiftest successes in all conceivable areas, matters and issues.
It would seem, however strange this may be, that for us, coming from the Stalin era, those in power also need public support. So you want to rely on cynicism? Yet cynicism is cowardice, the flight from burning problems and hard-hitting discussion. It is the lowest pragmatism, petty timeserving teetering on the verge of baseness, or having toppled over that edge. It is intrigue, preferred to competition, and a rejection of moral taboos.
Can any serious political force really base itself on such social tendencies? Well, yes, cynicism does not scorn obsequious enthusiasm. We all remember well enough the paid mobs of your “nashy”, 150 per body. So what do you expect – they’re your prop in the flamboyantly announced “innovations” and other achievements? Enough, after all you, Mr President, openly shared with us your devastating assessments of your main people – the party of power “United Russia”. What other “innovations”?
What then, do you expect with pitiful charms about “four and “to turn a mob into a creative force? Now that is foolish! From dishonesty, Gentlemen, nothing grows barring new dishonesty. On that road you have already achieved your real main goal. Publicly you name it ponderously as stability, whereas in fact its total power. Simply speaking, modernizing and improving (cynically, yet reasonably subtly one must say) Soviet ideology and political practice, you have built a political construction in Russia within which it’s impossible to win the elections.
Not even squeeze them in any way in parliament. Not even exert any noticeable political pressure. This is a blind alley that can no way lead to democracy. And gradually going back by the same path we came on is almost impossible since you are doomed to lie. As I said before, you can’t renounce the lies once spoken, or your whole system will come tumbling down.
What you are to do in this situation is of no interest to me. Most probably you’ll continue your course, perhaps on the way filling your pockets (those in the know say that you’ve long being doing this – I don’t know, I’m not an expert in this area). What the country is to do, having ended up under you, now that is the question. It is immoral and very dangerous to put up with you indefinitely. Since your present shameless “elections” are absolutely useless, we therefore need an entirely different instrument in other hands.
We don’t need “political experts” and “political technology specialists”, not economists and not politicians in the traditional sense of the word. We need intelligent, daring and extremely well-meaning leaders who instead of loud opposition noises, can create a decisive, calm, persistent and unwavering protest and not allow it to slip out from the tradition of the great peaceful Eastern European victories over despotism, to not allow bloodshed and the brown-shirt plague. This is incredibly difficult. It is much harder in Russia than it was in Poland or Czechoslovakia, harder even than in Ukraine.
Yet who promised that our life would be easy? I believe that these people will at some stage come. I see no other possibility for overcoming our shameful moral crisis.
However it’s not with you that these problems need to be discussed.
With the most sincere and unwavering lack of respect,
Sergei KovalevPost Views: 575
By Sean — 9 years ago
“Lenin” and “Death”
these words are enemies.
“Lenin” and “Life”
are comrades . . .
–Vladimir Mayakovsky, 1924
Vladimir Ilich Lenin turned 139 last month making him the oldest living person on Earth. However, Lenin does not live like his eulogizers had imagined. When some mourners proclaimed that “Lenin has ceased to be an individual-Lenin belongs to the millions,” or that “Lenin has not died. Lenin lives. There is not a corner in the world . . . where Lenin is absent,” they imagined a transhistorical Lenin, whose spirit marched through time and space. His body may have died, but his essence continued to haunt the world. “And when Ilich was no more, we still had Lenin,” declared the Bolshevik jurist Peter Stuchka. And this transfiguration of the spiritual Lenin from the corporal Ilich even defied the empirical sensitivity of the human eye. “This metamorphosis went on before our eyes imperceptibility,” the jurist added. Yet, this metaphysical Lenin met his demise years ago. No longer does his spirit serve the “world proletariat” as source of inspiration or defiance. Yet, ironically, while Lenin is dead, Ilich still lives.
Perhaps it is wrong to say that Ilich lives. It might be more correct to say that he straddles the line between life and death. Ilich’s mummy state makes him undead. He is, as the wiki definition of undead states, “deceased yet behave[s] as if alive.” Granted, Ilich doesn’t wonder the streets of Moscow, attend restaurants, shits, pisses, or fucks. He hasn’t added to his oeuvre. “Better Fewer, But Better” remains the last article penned by his own hand. Ilich simply lies in state, motionless, in an eternal state of sleep. Mummy Ilich patiently waits for a time when science would revive him, and his two bodies, the corporal Ilich and the spiritual Lenin, would be a reunited whole.
There is, however, one way Ilich lives just like the rest of us. Every few years he’s given a new suit.
Or, he usually gets a new suit. Thanks to the economic crisis, Ilich’s attendants can’t afford to furnish him the threads he’s become accustom to. Lenin is supposed to get a new suit every three years, though his handlers admit it’s more like every 8-10 years. “There are hardly enough funds for the preservation works,” says Yuri Denisov-Nikolsky, deputy head of the Russian Institute for Healing and Aromatic Herbs. “Since 1992, the mummy has been sponsored by charity funds alone. And now we’ve got this crisis.” There is no doubt that Ilich’s suit costs a hefty buck. It’s tailor-made in Switzerland out of lustrine, a soft silky fabric that Lenin preferred when he was more mobile. And if Ilich does rise again, he’ll be in fashion. His suit is a modern cut, which Pravda says “is still popular nowadays in men’s fashion.” But alas, he will remain in the suit, though recently steam cleaned and pressed, he was fitted in 2003. Perhaps this is a testament to capitalism’s true universalization. It even dogs the indefatigable, albeit undead, Lenin.
One might say that the fact Lenin doesn’t acquire a new suit himself is a sign that he is indeed gone. After all, if Lenin truly lives, couldn’t he put in the order to the Swiss himself? Couldn’t he just say, “Bah! Suits are for the bourgeois. Their self worth is always wrapped in fine threads to mask their internal wretchedness and degradation. Give me something simple. Like a tracksuit.” But the truth of the matter is that if there is one constant in Lenin’s life and Ilich’s undeath, is that he rarely picked out his own clothes. Someone else always did it for him.
“[Lenin] was no dandy,” writes his biographer Robert Service. “While wanting to remain tidy, he did not enjoy shopping for clothes; he got others to do this for him–or rather he wore his clothes until such time as one of his relatives became sufficiently exasperated to buy a new suit or a pair of shoes for him.” Indeed, a read through Lenin’s correspondence shows that his mother and sisters were always furnishing his wardrobe. In 1896, in letter to his sister Anna, Lenin wrote, “You can put a few clothes in there, too-an overcoat and suit, a hat. The waistcoat, frock coat and rug that were brought for me can be taken back.” Or to his mother in 1901, “If I have to spend the next winter in these parts [i.e. Munich] I shall write for a quilted coat. Without it you either have to wear a woolen jersey or put on two sets of underclothes (as I do).” In another letter from 1897, Lenin reassured his mother that he had enough winter clothes. “As far as my winter clothes and other things (which you ask about) are concerned, I have ample. I have already bought many winter things in Minusinsk and will buy some more.” Lenin appeared somewhat frustrated with shopping in Minusinsk. In the same letter he complained that there “was practically no choice” in the village shops. “It is difficult for one accustomed to city shops to find anything in them,” he complained. Though he made a promise to rid himself of these “big city habits” when it came to shopping, he still thought in “the St. Petersburg way.” That is, “you have only to go into a shop and get what you want . . .”
Despite, his apparent love for Swiss lustrine, Lenin was never much of a flashy dresser. A lover of hunting, he tended to wear mountain boots, sometimes with a sheepskin coat to protect him from the cold. A 1970 photo of his clothes on display in the Lenin Museum shows that the Bolshevik leader at one time owned a bowler hat, suit jacket, and half boot shoes. Lenin was apparently somewhat vain. His early baldness concerned him, so much that he even asked his sister Maria if there was a way to reverse the process. He kept his beard and remaining hair trim and neat. According to Service, Lenin was a bit of a neat freak. “He hated untidiness–and he admonished family members if they failed to keep their buttons neatly sewn and their shoes repaired.”
Lenin left his own dress in other people’s hands. One such person was Karl Radek. During the journey from Switzerland to join the Revolution in Petrograd, Lenin and his entourage stopped in Stockholm to meet the city’s mayor, Karl Lindhagen. Also present was a reporter from the newspaper Politiken who was writing a profile on the émigré revolutionaries. The incident wouldn’t have been significant, except that it was Lenin’s first audience with an important politician, and perhaps more importantly, the first time his photograph was published in a newspaper. Having a keen eye for the importance of image in politics, Radek recognized that Lenin couldn’t present himself to the public in the shabby clothes. Radek recalled,
Probably it was the decent appearance of our solid Swedish comrades that was evoking in us a passionate desire for Ilich to resemble a human being. We cajoled him at least to buy new shoes. He was traveling in mountain boots with hug nails. We pointed out to him that if the plan had been to ruin the pavements of the disgusting cities of bourgeois Switzerland, his conscience should prevent him from traveling with such instruments of destruction to Petrograd, where perhaps there anyway were now no pavements at all.
Radek quickly rushed Lenin to a department store and fitted him with a new suit and shoes. Now properly dressed, as Service sardonically writes, “he was judged appropriately dressed to lead the struggle against the Russian Provisional Government.
Lenin’s dress markedly changed after arriving in Russia to lead the “proletarian” Revolution. Gone were the worn, heavy mountain boots. He often donned the suit purchased in Switzerland, but added the worker’s cap to his attire. The cap actually wasn’t the one popular among the Russian working class, but rather the cover worn by turn of the century painters. Regardless, Lenin’s suit and cap combo became his signature. It was a class statement that “distinguished him from [other politicians] and their solemn Homburg hats.”
The suit and cap also complimented his wild oral gesticulations. Lenin had a habit of rocking when he spoke. He shoved his thumbs in his waistcoat, and with his left foot forward and the right slightly back, he would bend his body back and forth as if in some Talmudic trance. When beads of sweat tickled down his brow, he would pull out a white handkerchief to dry his shiny dome, giving an almost Pentecostal flare to his theatrics. In his hagiography of Lenin, Lev Trotsky relayed this description from an eye witness:
[Lenin] got up on the platform. He was wearing a dark, I think, a black suit, a short with a turn-down collar and a tie, and a cap on his head. He pulled a white handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his bald head. I do not remember what he said. I was really paying more attention to how he was speaking. Sometimes he kept bending down quite low from the platform, stretching his arms in front of him; he had his handkerchief in his hand and often wiped his forehead. He often smiled. I was watching his face, his nose, his lips, and his small beard. His speech was often interrupted by clapping and shouting. And so I also shouted.
While Lenin’s cap and rousing sermons skillfully distinguished him from the “bourgeois” politicians, after the Civil War, his suit distinguished him the style of ardent Bolshevik. The latter was a lover of the leather jacket, military tunic, cap, and jackboots. The leather jacket in particular was a sign of an “iron Bolshevik.” For example, the writer V. F. Panova noted in her memoirs that beginning of the 1920s, her husband, a youth from the intellectual family, “forged” himself as an iron Bolshevik. Like other young militants of his time, he spoke with a echoing base, worked at a furious pace, and his main compliment to these was a leather jacket. The iron Bolshevik was a fashion ascetic who considered neckties symbols of the hangman’s noose or a reminder of the slavery of a bygone “bourgeois” era. Many Bolsheviks of Lenin’s generation mocked this fetishism of the leather jacket as “faux proletarian” and a symbol of “communist arrogance,” though there are scattered photos of Lenin in such militarist dress. Despite the ridicule from Bolshevik moralists, the style of the iron Bolshevik persisted throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s where it experienced a revival under Stalin. In the end, Lenin’s conservative and proper tastes contrasted with the Stalin generation, who, though not completely opposed to suits, were more comfortable in their military tunics.
When the Lenin Mausoleum opened on 1 August 1924, mourners passed by an iron gated courtyard of flowers and bushes as they approached two guards standing with fixed bayonets at the entrance. The tomb’s opening was fortified with lacquered wooden beams with a huge sign that read LENIN in black letters above it. Lenin’s new home was decorated in somber communist regalia. A red carpet lined the stairs to his chamber. The walls were covered with a red and black geometric pattern. The ceiling was painted red with a large hammer and sickle in the center. The sarcophagus was padded with red fabric, perhaps velvet, and covered with glass.
Inside was Lenin lying peacefully with his hands crossed above his waist. His lower extremities were covered with black and purple satin. And what was the leader of the proletarian revolution wearing, this so-called symbol of “Marxism in action” as one slogan claimed? Lenin was not dressed in his signature Swiss made suit. Nor did his legendary Lenin cap cover his shiny dome. Rather, Lenin was dressed in the old Bolshevik style: a khaki military tunic with the Order of the Red Banner and the badge of the Central Executive Committee pinned to his breast. And perhaps in an ode to Lenin’s supposed vanity or maybe his obsession with order and cleanliness, Ilich looked as natural as could be. As the American journalist Walter Duranty noted, “The embalmers have even contrived to impart a smile to [his] face.”
Clothes, it is said, make the man. And though afoul to his personal tastes, Ilich would wear his khaki military tunic until the outbreak of WWII. It was then, according to Denisov-Nikolsky, “someone decided that the uniform symbolized Lenin’s militant character and totalitarian policy, and he was immediately dressed in civilian clothes.” A new Lenin for a new era. He has been wearing the same style ever since. But not the same suit. He currently awaits another one not unlike he did when he penned those letters to his mother and sisters requesting clothes. Perhaps proves more than anything Vladimir Mayakovsky’s verses that “Lenin even now is more alive than the living.”
V. I. Lenin, Collected Works.
Robert Service, Lenin: a Biography, Papermac, 2000.
Lev Trotsky, Lenin, Capricorn Books, 1962.
Nina Tumarkin, Lenin Lives!: The Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia, Harvard University Press, 1983.Post Views: 2,589
By Sean — 13 years ago
Articles and commentary commemorating Khrushchev’s speech to the 20th Party Congress in 1956 continue. Today Anne Applebaum, the author of Gulag: A History, weighs in on the pages of the Washington Post. Unfortunately, her commentary is more about us than about the historical significance of Khrushchev.
I’ll do my best to refrain from ranting on Applebaum’s statement that the American military is in Iraq “trying to pick up the pieces after the collapse of another totalitarian regime.” Excuse me, but last I checked Saddam Hussein’s Iraq didn’t collapse. That state was smashed by the very military that is now “trying to pick up the pieces.” So let us not equate Iraq with the Soviet Union and the US military as some sort of altruistic totalitarian mop up force.
But I digress. . . One thing that you can count on with the commemorations of Khrushchev’s speech is a lot of historical re-evaluation of it in terms of the present. Applebaum suggests that Khrushchev’s speech was “the first step in what turned out to be a very long struggle to end totalitarianism in the Soviet Union.” Forget the fact that I disagree that the Soviet Union was ever totalitarian. I think that to say so is to ascribe too much perfection to an incredibly inefficient system. Authoritarian? Absolutely. Granted, Khrushchev was trying to reform the Soviet system of some serious problems inflicted upon it by Stalinism. And I’m willing to accept that denouncing Stalin opened up the possibility for reform. However, I refuse to believe that the speech had anything to do with being part of a very long struggle to end “totalitarianism” in the Soviet Union. Khrushchev was hardly anti-authoritarian. Just ask the Hungarians.
Nevertheless, Applebaum does make some interesting points. She is right to state, as so many others have, that Khrushchev’s denunciation wasn’t completely out of distaste for Stalinism, as it was to consolidate his own power:
Although it was an international sensation — no Soviet leader had spoken so frankly before — the speech didn’t exactly tell the whole truth. Khrushchev accused Stalin of many crimes, but deftly left out the ones in which he himself had been implicated. As William Taubman, author of Khrushchev: The Man and His Era, has documented, the Soviet leader had in fact collaborated enthusiastically with Stalinist terror, participating in the very mass arrests he condemned. Khrushchev’s speech was intended as much to consolidate his own power and intimidate his party opponents — all of whom had also collaborated enthusiastically — as it was to liberate his countrymen.
Applebaum also presents a lesson to all those “impatient” Americans who think that the blossoms of democracy can quickly flourish from the soil of authoritarianism. The “authoritarian impulse,” as she calls it, sometimes takes generations to shed.
Clearly there is a lesson here for those who would bring down totalitarian regimes, and it concerns timing: The death of a dictator or the toppling of his statues does not necessarily mean that a complete political transformation has occurred, or even that one will occur soon. On the contrary, it takes a very, very long time — more than a generation — for a political class to free itself of the authoritarian impulse. People do not easily give up the ideology that has brought them wealth and power. People do not quickly change the habits that they’ve incurred over a lifetime. Even people who want to reform their countries — and at some level Khrushchev did want to reform his country — can’t necessarily bring themselves to say or to do what is necessary. Certainly they find it difficult to carry out political reforms that might hasten their own retirement.
This isn’t to say dictatorships must last forever: Despite some of its current leadership’s repressive instincts, Russia itself has changed in fifty years, beyond recognition. But the transformation was often incremental, always uneven, and difficult for impatient Americans to understand or support. But then, all such transformations are difficult for impatient Americans to understand or support, and probably always will be. If history is anything to go by, we’ll have no choice but to try and do so anyway.
The Moscow Times provides more memories of Khrushchev’s speech and how Soviet citizens came to know it. An article in today’s edition focuses on the recollections of Khrushchev’s daughter, Rada Adzhubei.
Adzhubei and her fellow students in Moscow State University’s biology department had the speech read to them, she said, speaking Monday in her apartment near City Hall on Tverskaya Ulitsa, which she shares with her son and his family. It took between 1 1/2 and two hours to read, she recalled.
Like the delegates at the Party Congress, the students were given no opportunity to ask questions afterward.
“The person from the Party’s neighborhood committee took the booklet away, and we were left with our thoughts and opinions,” said Adzhubei, who is reserved when talking about the now distant past.
“Stalin was our God, tsar, hero and everything else. It wasn’t easy to debunk him.”
Yury Levada, who was editor of the scientific journal Nauka i zhizn at the time of the speech, remembered similarly:
The journal’s office, like the entire country, was abuzz with rumors that Khrushchev had attacked Stalin. In early March, the staff realized the rumors were true when they were shown the booklet of 20-odd pages, Levada said in an interview last week.
Levada was picked by his colleagues to read out the speech, and after he had finished, it was given back to Party officials, as happened everywhere else across the Soviet Union, he said. The booklet had a warning stamped on its cover, “Not for publication,” Levada said.
“I thought I’d never see an official copy being handed out. It was a surprise,” he said.
Khrushchev did not explain what caused Stalinism, or invite any discussion of the subject, Levada said. “Khrushchev made a strong effort to make sure that people didn’t ask too many questions and that faith in the Party wasn’t undermined,” he said.
Although rumors had prepared the journal’s staff for what was in the speech, they felt “a certain shock,” Levada said. Afterward, they wondered in private conversations why the Party had allowed Stalin to do what he did, he said.
Why did the Party allow the speech to be read and not published? After all, reading it does make it public. But printing it makes it permanent. The Bolsheviks put a certain value in texts; there was something dangerous about the existence and presence of subversive texts. Nothing said this more than the obsession over the existence of the Riutin Platform (1932). Take for example, S. V. Kosior’s speech to the December 1936 Central Committee Plenum:
Kosior: Take for instance, the decree and the [Riutin] platform. You know, no matter how much you try to prove it by saying that you were shown the platform and that you didn’t read it, no one will believe you.
Bukharin: I didn’t read it.
Kosior: That’s just talk. At the time the matter [of the Riutin Platform] came up, it was clear to all of us what was going on.
Bukharin: Comrade Kosior, I was not in Moscow at the time.
Kosior: Nothing is proven by that. This doesn’t prove that he didn’t read the platform. That’s no argument, either. Do you want us to believe now, after all that’s happened, do you want us to believe that Bukharin is such an honest devoted party worker, that he knows nothing?(J. Arch Getty, The Road to Terror, 317)
In my own research, I’ve found transcripts of Komsomol purge commissions questioning members about the presence of Trotsky’s New Course at “oppositionist” meetings. There were few questions about what members talked about. Questions focused only on whether the text was present, who was at the meeting, and if the defendant saw or read it.
Perhaps something was similar about Khrushchev’s speech. If there was no printed copy it was like it never existed. Khrushchev’s denunciation existed for as long as it took for it to be read aloud. After that it only existed in citizens’ memory and never in a form that could be read, reread, analyzed, discussed, or questioned.Post Views: 717