In response to yesterday’s post by Dimitri K., Fellow Peacekeeper, our long-time Latvian commenter and fellow blogger, has left a comment in which he “take[s] issue with the grotesque untruths that Mr. K. assumes” about the nature of Soviet hegemony. It’s worth reproducing in its entirety:
… our Russian correspondent. It’s gratifying to be able to present an account of Russian history from an entirely Russian perspective.
Indeed, it is entirely a Russian perspective, and at a guess from a privileged big city (Moscow/Leningrad) perspective.
There are several different explanations for the sudden collapse of what used to be one of two superpowers of the 20th century… none of them can explain why the country, not too poor and seemingly stable, broke apart so fast. Many countries have experienced worse problems in their history and yet did not collapse.
The USSR was poor, and only seemed stable. Total state control of the media can do that, doubly when combined with arrests of anyone who dared to claim otherwise. Few other countries survived on lies so much as the USSR, big lies, little lies. Lies everywhere. To question the lies was to invite an “interview”, and thereby lies became a direct means of control. Even science became perverted by the lies, since the truth one can see with ones own eyes is not the most important truth.
Economists blame the weakness of the Soviet economy.
If a city shop had a stock of sausage, which was somewhat greasy and already going green, a line would form around the block of people eager to purchase it. We are talking about a country were people carefully washed and ironed plastic shopping bags, because a good plastic bag (as was handed out with every pair of shoes or trousers in the outside world) would have to last for years.
Americans believe it is due to the Afghan war and Ronald Reagan, who called the USSR the “Evil Empire”.
The Afghan war exposed the complete moral bankruptcy of the USSR and spoiled the taste of foreign military adventures, which directly led to declining to intervene in the collapse of the wall period in Eastern Europe in 1989. This is rather important considering the usual Soviet brand of occupation tactics (discussed below).
Russians blame Mikhail Gorbachev.
At least partly true — If Andropov (or similar) had lived I believe the USSR would have kept together. Of course as time went on it would more and more resemble North Korea. Gorbachev had the misfortune of not being a bloody-handed tyrant and tried to do they right thing by the USSR and its people. I guess that makes him a naïve fool.
Russians were neither ruthless conquerors nor cruel occupants.
That is a joke, unless we are comparing them to the Mongols of circa 1200…? The Russian Empire and then the USSR invading and occupying nation after nation and raping, robbing , massacring and finally deporting en mass the populations thereof. The key to Soviet control was always unlimited brutality — no matter how bitter the resistance the Russians/Soviets would hammer you until you broke. When you were broken, a mass of secret police would keep the populace in a permanent and justified state of fear.
The Chechens are exhibit no. 1, having been occupied by the Russian empire after over 20 years of fighting and 70 of occupation, deported every single man, woman and child in 1944 for no real good reason, and now bludgeoned into submission by 15 years of mass terror. Incidentally, one of the outcomes of the first war was the conversion of the Chechens to Islam, while the last has driven the secularist proto-Republic of Dudayev into the hands of the radical Islamists.
Some republics of the USSR had once joined Russia voluntarily for political reasons, other were re-captured by Russians from other empires.
Voluntary? From other Empires? Hardly. Let us see: the three Baltics were independent (invaded and annexed 1940); Moldova was annexed from Romania in 1940; as was part of Poland that became most of Belarus; the rest were countries newly independent from the Russian empire that were invaded and reoccupied by the Red Army in 1920/21 (with the usual brutality; for instance Tajikistan has really never recovered), excepting those newly independent from the Ottoman empire which were invaded and occupied by the Red Army in 1920/21.
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Many of those republics were themselves multi-national entities and experienced problems with their own minorities. However, almost nobody doubts the right of those republics to be independent countries, whereas almost everybody claims that USSR was an artificial entity.
Many multiethnic? Problems? Then as now that is quite simply Not True.
Differences in lifestyles were also not the reason for the collapse. Actually, from Ukraine to the Far East, from Lithuania to Georgia, the majority of the population lived a similar life style, understood a common language and did not feel much hatred towards each other.
That is a very Russian opinion. The similar lifestyle (Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, alcohol, soulless make-work, boredom, concrete apartment blocks) and language (And here I must apologise but we are talking about the de facto existing degenerate zek/pidgen modern Russian where every other sentence is punctuated by bljad and virtually every concept can be expressed by a derivation of hui, and not the language of Pushkin and Tolstoy that mostly exists only in books) was forced on non-Russians at gunpoint on pain of deportation or worse. Of course that’s in the cities — older and worthier ways survived out in the countryside at least in the republics. And while it may be news to most Russians, they are almost universally loathed in every country that has had contact with them, and this is nothing new. In the USSR not liking Russian or Russians could get one a “interview”, that just made it easier not to notice.
The Soviet Union rather subsidized its European republics than exploited them.
Oh please. Pull the other leg, it’s got bells on it.
Colleges in large cities had reserved vacancies for minorities.
After enacting de facto mechanisms to exclude non-Russians from all the other non-reserved places. As well as from newly constructed apartments, good jobs, etc etc. 🙂 An artificial shortage as it were.
Suppose that the Soviet people really existed.
Oh but they did! The USSR called them “Russians”, just as we do today. They should not be confused with “Russians” before 1918. The difference between the New Soviet Man and Russians was far wider back in the beginning. Time went on and most Russians were deliberately decultured to became Homo sovieticus, although they were certainly not the New Soviet Man that they was supposed to become (Homo sovieticus was a broken parody of New Soviet Man, caused by the collision of Marxist social engineering with reality). The USSR worked hard to force other people also to become the same, by standardizing housing (concrete tower blocks whether they were appropriate the climate and situation or — as more often — not), enforcing Russian/Soviet language in all education (use of local languages was a sign of nationalism and relegated to the level of quaint local ethnicity, good for museums etc.), enforcing artificial holidays and banning the old ones (like Christmas or Midsummer), enforcing doublethink, conscription into the Red Army and brutalization therein, banning religion.
And propaganda. Lots of it. Everywhere. All the time. 24/7/365. On the TV, in the hospital, at the bus stop, in the newspaper, at work, at school, on the buildings. Indeed, everywhere but the swamps and fields and deep green forest. So they enforced collectivization, to ensure that people could not live alone in the countryside where they might harbour un-Soviet ideas.
Needless to say, the combination of hopelessness and doublethink caused mental dissonance, along with the lack of alternate means of escape, engendered universal alcoholism on a massive scale. It is also said that the real reason the USSR fell is that Gorbachev naïvely restricted the supply of vodka and people sobered up enough to see what was really happening :).
Communism and political correctness are branches that spring from one root. While they differ in focus, the basal assumptions are similar, and therefore the results when applied to other branches of human endeavour are likely to similar. I suggest that much of what is observed about the USSR is where political correctness must inevitably lead if it comes to power.