Empty Days

Saturday, May 14, 2005



Far away in the past.

Today many russians regret that perestroika ever happened and USSR was made to collapse - they want past glory back and prefer to blame the whole debacle on american intrigues. But it is helpful to remember (as few of the younger generation do) that in the early 80's Moscow the capital was actually on ration cards - yes, just like in WWII - because of a near-dead state of the soviet economy that has been mismanaged practically to extinction. This is why party bosses initiated perestroika - because there was no other way out, and the usual lethargy was not going to help while it away either.

USSR went bankrupt - economically as much as ideologically. "American intrigues" must have helped but it can hardly count as the primary cause of death.

But few of the american-dreams materialized in that new post-soviet world - so today russians hate everything american almost as much as they used to long for it only a generation ago. And of course they tend to idealize the now safely gone and burried USSR - oh what a wonderful fair idealistic society it has been!

Yes of course. There is always a paradise lurking somewhere in the misty past. But USSR up to its last days actually closely resembled the USA of the 1950's - self-conglaturatory, officially optimistic, and thoroughly rotten on the inside. It carried on almost solely on the force of its propaganda and public mythology - but it also tried to keep up appearances, even despite those embarassing ration-cards... The 1950's ended in a cultural revolution in the USA for a reason - the myth got too far removed from reality, nobody could keep up with the goddam american-dream anymore. Just like nobody in USSR could keep up anymore with the soviet myth of fast approaching communist dream of happiness.

Of course there was another solution beside perestroika - just pretend that nothing is happening and slowly starve the whole country until it collapses of its own - which is the solution adopted by North Korea at the moment. But for this a truly dictatorial regime is needed, with enough fear of purges inside the ruling party to eliminate all sensible protests. Russia didn't have a dictatorial regime in the mid-80's - it had a senile group of men at the helm and a lot of people in power who believed in nothing due to a life-time of personal experience in corruption. So it's really very unfair to blame the collapse of USSR on extremely clever american intrigues imagined by the sly mind of the polish-catholic Brezinzski - rather it should be blamed on those people who believed in nothing, which would be about 99% of russian population including those in the upper crust who actually tried to reform the system.

The big problem with post-soviet russians is that they think themselves superior to all other nations just because they're so desillusioned with their past-future-present that they can't put any faith in anything - yet for some reason they tend to believe that this utter moral shoddiness is somehow a sign of intelligence and even wisdom. But the depth of their pessimism is examplified by almost universal desire in Russia to see "a strong leader" come to power that would bend them all over with an iron hand and straighten out all their national woes - no matter at what cost. Which is an admission of helplessness and hopelessness. Russians are a weak people by nature - but they have a big idea of themselves and are able to create pretty impressive mythologies and seem very strong and powerful as a result. Which is about enough as far as international relations are concerned. So right now they're badly in need of some such mythology and they naturally regret the passing of USSR - it was a huge scarecrow indeed.

Interestingly enough younger people are particularly big on these ideas - going so far as to claim resurrection of Stalin and his time - and I am going to meet some manifestations of that on my trip to Russia. Revising history in the anti-democratic anti-liberal vein is all the rage at this point. I hope I won't get into arguments over these things - self-righteous pessimism is not something one can argue against.





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