Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about Russian History => The Russian Revolution => Topic started by: Elisabeth on September 05, 2006, 12:42:16 PM

Title: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 05, 2006, 12:42:16 PM
I like reading thrillers. Right now I am reading Robert Harris' novel about Stalin's "lost notebook," Archangel. (I don't recommend it as highly as I do his first novel about Nazi Germany in the 1960s if Hitler had won the war, Fatherland - which is superb. But the action in this novel rather drags.) However, there's an interesting passage in which a character summarizes the demographic changes that took place under the Soviets:

"Professor I. A. Kaganov estimates that some 66 million people were killed in the USSR between 1917 and 1953 - shot, tortured, starved mostly, frozen or worked to death. Others say the true figure is a mere 45 million. Who knows?

"Neither estimate, by the way, includes the 30 million now known to have been killed in the Second World War.

"To put this loss in context: The Russian Federation today has a population of roughly 150 million. Assuming the ravages inflicted by Communism had never occurred and assuming normal demographic trends, the actual population should be about 300 million."

(p. 155, Archangel, Robert Harris, 1998)

Taking into account these horrific numerical figures, what do you think the history of the Soviet Union was? Obviously a major mistake, but what kind of mistake in the larger historical context? Necessary or unnecesary? Avoidable or unavoidable? Criminal or non-criminal? How does it compare to the history of the Russian empire under the tsars? Or is that an unfair comparison? What's your opinion and why?   
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 06, 2006, 07:01:08 AM
I had always thought the death toll was about 50 million but I was usually laughed to scorn.  Now to know that it was 60 million, or the equivalent of 10 holocausts, is almost incomprehensible.  No wonder the 20th century is now referred to by some historians as the Century of Blood.   Given the tragic logic of events, the Soviet rule may have been inevitable, but I will never believe that it was necessary.   
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 06, 2006, 10:39:43 AM
60 million seems far too high, and I don't think it's generally accepted by historians. In my opinion, 45 million also seems rather high for the entire Soviet period, since most historians agree that 20 million were killed under Stalin, and that would then leave another 25 million victims between 1917 and Stalin’s rise to power (roughly 1928), and from Stalin’s death (1953)  to 1991.

Orlando Figes says that from 1917 to 1922 the Revolution, the Civil War, the Red and White Terrors, famine and disease claimed the lives of roughly 10 million people (p. 772, A People’s Tragedy). The figure of 10 million does NOT include the numbers lost to emigration (2 million) and the demographic effects of a drastically reduced birth rate (an estimated 10 million children who should have been born but weren’t).

But if you add these 10 million victims killed from 1917 to 1922 and the 20 million victims under Stalin, you arrive at a total of 30 million victims, which is surely horrific beyond any reckoning.

Granted, this total does not include the number of people who perished in Soviet concentration camps and prisons under Lenin, or under any of Stalin’s heirs. I have never seen any estimates of these numbers, but it seems impossible to me that they could have amounted to anything even remotely approaching 15 million victims.

Therefore something in the region of 30 million victims for the entire Soviet period seems like the most reasonable number to me. (This number of course excludes the tens of millions who perished in World War II.)
Title: I know how angry people become if someone
Post by: Bev on September 06, 2006, 10:45:31 AM
questions or offers contrary opinion regarding the murderous, evil Soviet pigs regime and any question or contrary opinion is taken as support or promotion of them ( and let me hasten to say I do neither) but you are saying in essence, that between 1917 and 1953, in 36 years 75 to 93 million people  (including WW II) were killed by the Soviets.  Is that correct?

If you take the figure of 66 mil (the higher figure) that means that on average the Soviets were murdering 5022.45 people per day over a 36 year period.  

Using the lower figure of 45 mil, it would mean that the Soviets were killing an average of 3424.40 per day over a 36 year period.

According to the Imperial census of the Russian Empire in 1911 the population stood at 167 mil.  The studies done by Androv, Maksudov and Anderson and Silvers whose studies include the years 1920 to 1991, (and who published their studies in 1993) the population of the Soviet Union went from 137 mil. in 1920 (which includes the loss of the 30 mil people in territories ceded) to 293 mil in 1991 considered the last year of the Soviet Union.

All three demographic studies published in peer review journals arrived at their figures independently, with variations in thousands.  Anderson and Silver put the loss 3.5 mil to 5 mil in "excess deaths" in the Soviet Union between the years 1926 - 1939.  Maksudov puts the loss at 3.5 mil and Androv at 4.5 mil to 5 mil.  All studies included Ukraine and Siberia.  All studies exclude WW II deaths.  

I am not doubting that the Soviets murdered millions, I am asking where the figures of 45 mil to 66 mil came from.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 06, 2006, 11:51:26 AM
Bev, once again you have leaped before you looked. Yes, I brought up the 60 million and 45 million figures, but in my next post I went into an extended explanation of why I dispute both numbers. By my own estimate the number of victims in the Soviet period must have been in the region of 30 million, excluding deaths in WWII (another 20 to 30 million, I've seen both numbers given).

I do wonder why there is so much confusion amongst historians about the number of unnatural deaths under the Soviet regime. It seems to be a product of 1) poorly kept Bolshevik records of the number of the politically repressed; 2) disputed and in some cases highly dubious Soviet census reports; 3) massive demographic dislocations in present-day Russia that cannot be accounted for by any other means (even leaving out the havoc wreaked by WWII; the successive large waves of emigration from the Soviet Union; and possibly even unborn children, not born because of democide and/or world war).

As far as the figure of 10 million goes for the period between 1917 and 1922, you may well argue that the Soviets weren't guilty of the White Terror, and you're right. Nor did they start the great famine of the early 1920s, although their policies certainly made it worse. However, I do blame the Bolsheviks for the Civil War that enabled the White (and Red) Terror and the famine to happen, since it was the Bolsheviks who forcibly disbanded the Constituent Assembly in January 1918, thereby ensuring that there would be a civil war, with all its attendant population dislocations, disease and starvation.

Robert, if you're tired of reading stuff written by old "windbags" like myself, then do yourself a favor and go to another thread. Personally I could do without your arrogant remarks, which have nothing to do with the questions I posed in my topic post. I mean, do you even have an opinion? Do you think that the Soviet period could have been avoided all together if, for example, Nicholas II had been a good or even brilliant ruler as opposed to a terrible one? Or do you think Bolshevik rule was inevitable and unavoidable, given the social conditions existing in Russia in the early twentieth century? Was it the best of all possible outcomes or the worst or somewhere in between? (And BTW, no, the Russian autocracy was not totalitarian, unless you want to redefine completely the term "totalitarian" as it is used by most political scientists.)

I'm just trying to provoke a dialogue here. My own views on these questions have evolved a great deal in the last year.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Robert_Hall on September 06, 2006, 12:19:10 PM
Elisabeth, I apologise unconditionally for the windbag remark. It was no means aimed at you.
 Actually, that post was meant as a PM tobBev.
 I agree with your assessment on the death totals and think you are indeed quite  objective in your conclusions.
 I do not know who is actually moderating this thread, but I ask him/her to remove my previous post. It indeed was uncalled for as a public opinion on my part.
 Sorry,
 Robert
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 06, 2006, 12:29:31 PM
Robert, apology accepted and then some. Please - whoa! - don't leave the discussion over this misunderstanding (everybody says stuff like that in PMs). And despite my curtness in my last post, I do value your point of view (as I value Bev's, even though we disagree all the time), and I think it would be a pity if you didn't share it at this point... because as I said before you really haven't commented upon the questions I consider of most interest in this thread.

I guess I'm intensely curious about what other people think, because I'm rereading Orlando Figes' history of the revolution and he is so elusive on this question of whether or not the October Revolution was inevitable... at times I think he is leaning towards saying yes, it was, because of the peasant "problem" (insatiable hunger for land, and the revolution on the land that followed as a result in both 1905 and 1917); at other times, no, he seems to be saying that a strong and progressive ruler on the lines of Alexander II could have made a real difference to the outcome. In short, I'm trying to canvass everyone's views for my own selfish research purposes...

So my apologies to everybody if I was too provocative in naming this thread but at the time it seemed like a good idea!
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on September 06, 2006, 02:37:09 PM
Robert,

When a family or family members, friends, community, and more than a handful of human beings have been repressed, tortured, killed, beyond understanding, used as slave labor, and left to die in the most terrible of conditions, should one not speak out ?

In civilized societies, where a person has committed terrible crimes, people will and do speak out and against such brutual repression. Why should condemnation of Soviet rule bring about protection that it was such an embracing one. It was totalitarian, and far greater in loss of life than Imperial rule. The numbers of crushed and broken bodies, mentally and physically remain as a hard fact. It was far more extensive in loss of life than the holocaust, and further there were not trials to catch these blood thirsty maniacs.

I am far from an 'old windbag', and am not closed minded. If you need to address me, and call me names, be man enough to write to me directly, and not hide behind a public posting ! If others feel the sameness, post to me directly. I don't know where the FA has or is on postings as this but it does not warm an average readers day to read this kind of address to any member, known or unknown...

I also believe I have a right to state my thoughts, being that my family did and family members still today live in Russia. They suffered directly before, duringg and after the years of Soviet rule. Many killed by the Soviet regieme !

If you want to cheer the rule of Soviet rule and be supportive of it that is your right, but as free people, from a free country, i would imagine even on this forum within the scope of being civil and without being attacked, we may offer our input. I hope that the forum administrator would concur ?

Tatiana+

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 06, 2006, 03:21:58 PM
Tania, Robert has already apologized profusely for his post, as indeed I have apologized for my hasty response to same, so I think we should, in a manner of speaking, just let it go...

The topic itself might have been couched in terms that were too provocational. Nevertheless I am hoping that we can overcome this, in the interests of having a civilized discussion of the issues at hand.

Could we now return to those issues, please, everybody?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 06, 2006, 10:41:06 PM
The topic is interesting.  However, with estimates of deaths ranging from 3.5 million to 60+ million -- and even the more "solid" numbers covering a range from 20 to 30 million -- it seems unlikely that the numbers will provide much of a clue.

Sources about 20th century population figures in Russia are all over the place.  Looking at one source that was careful to compare the reported populations of late tsarist Russia with the populations of the same territories during the Soviet era, one sees numbers that make no sense whatsoever.  According to that source, the population of Russia in 1910 was 160.7 million.  By 1917 it had grown to 184.6 million, despite World War I.  Then by 1926 it had dropped to 147.0 million . . . but shot up to 161.0 million by 1931.  Then it jumped over 20 million in a single year from 1939 to 1940 and grew another 25 million from 1940 to 1960 . . . a period covering the losses of World War II that some people claim topped 20 million.

In other words, the data are so unreliable as to be utterly useless for assessing the nature of Soviet rule.  If one still wants to look at population data as a proxy for measuring the nature of Soviet rule, the more reliable data are to be found in Russia's current demographics, including fertility and mortality rates.  (Check out http://www.census.gov/ipc/prod/ib96-2.pdf#search=%22population%20russia%22.)  We will probably never know how many people died due to what causes during the Soviet era.  However, we know for a certainty that today Russian deaths exceed births, that mortality rates are abyssmal, that fertility is in a prolonged decline.  To me, these incontestable numbers speak volumes about the Lebensanschau of Russians after three generations of Soviet rule.  It was a social and political order that sucked the desire to progress out of an entire nation.

I am of the view (expressed on other threads) that Russia's road to soviet rule was paved by the tsars, with Peter the Great, Nicholas I, and Alexander III being the heavy lifters.  But that buys the Soviets no forgiveness in my book for the depredations they exacted on their own people.  The tsars trained Russians to bow under the yoke of monsters.  But the monsters made their own choices.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Belochka on September 06, 2006, 11:21:10 PM
I am of the view (expressed on other threads) that Russia's road to soviet rule was paved by the tsars, with Peter the Great, Nicholas I, and Alexander III being the heavy lifters.  But that buys the Soviets no forgiveness in my book for the depredations they exacted on their own people.  The tsars trained Russians to bow under the yoke of monsters.  But the monsters made their own choices.

The Emperors, not unlike other Royal Houses, accepted and sought respect from the nation, it was not a matter of training.

The Soviet Union was the yoke that subjugated the Russian people, who had few choices.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 07, 2006, 07:00:43 AM
The Emperors, not unlike other Royal Houses, accepted and sought respect from the nation, it was not a matter of training.

The Soviet Union was the yoke that subjugated the Russian people, who had few choices.

This question has been debated at length on another thread, and we're already veering off topic.  But, with an apology, I cannot resist a retort.

The tsars demanded obedience from their subjects.  Ask anyone who objected to Peter's westernization campaign.  Ask anyone who wanted to publish opposing political views under Nicholas I.  Ask anyone who wanted to be taught in the native language of their locale under Alexander's russification program.

There have been some very interesting debates on this board recently about the psychology of Lenin, Stalin, and others of their ilk.  However, revolutions against royal authority often bring unrestrained zealots to the fore.  Consider Cromwell's attempt to impose a Puritan theocracy in England.  Consider the French Terror.  And, although the causal line from the overthrow of the Hohenzollerns to the rise of Hitler is meandering, it is still there.

The reach and the longevity of the zealotry in each case was roughly inversely proportional to each nation's political heritage of individual freedom.  England had the most-developed sense of the balance between individual initiative and central power.  And Cromwell was the most limited in how far he could impose his views and how much horror he could wreak on the population in doing so.  France had a heritage of absolutist political theory that was watered down in practice by an intricate web of feudal rights that seriously attenuated the reach of central authority into local affairs.  Hence the Terror was largely an urban affair that waxed and waned with the mood of the Paris mob.  Germany (or, more exactly, Prussia) was a highly militarized state that was smart enough to realize that allowing private enterprise to develop freely was the most efficient way to build a strong economic base to support an outsized military machine.  Hence Hitler's need for a sophisticated propaganda effort to seize and consolidate power and the constant pressure on Speer and others to maintain the production of butter alongside the guns.  And hence Hitler's circumspection in taking on the regular army and the industrial magnates.

Only in Russia could zealots seize power by a small urban coup and within a few years impose collectivization on the entire nation's agriculture and impose central planning on all industrial and scientific activity -- with precious little need to worry about first preparing the soil with propaganda or with bribing the populace into complacency with a steady supply of butter.

None of the tsars -- not even Peter, a sadist who personally took part in torture and executions and who was willing to murder his own son to consolidate his political aspirations -- approached the monstrosity of Stalin, at least in scale of depredation.  But all of the tsars tilled the soil of unquestioned central authority vested in a single person and a single ideology (be it Orthodox Autocracy or Communism) that gave the soviets their singular 70-year run.

There is a reason that Lenin and Stalin succeeded in reordering the entire political, social, and economic structure of their nation with a speed and to an extent realized nowhere else in the West.  Their ideological zeal, their personal savvy, their extreme goals, their murderous determination were not unique to them.  Those traits are stocks in trade among totalitarian maniacs.

The reason they succeeded where others failed was the legacy of autocracy bequethed them by the tsars.  To argue otherwise is to say that the legions of Russians who implemented the orders of Lenin and Stalin were making their own choices in forcing their compatriots into collectives and gulags, in reordering the notion of personal property . . . and in killing their compatriots by the millions or the tens of millions.  That's much scarier than the thought of an autocratic legacy that unintentionally provided a few individuals the means of imposing their demonic will.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on September 07, 2006, 11:43:45 AM
In regard to how it compares to the Russian Empire under the Tsars:

I always thought the Tsars believed they were answerable only to God; I think they expected the subjects to respect them no matter what they did. 

On the other hand, it's hard to think that any of the Tsars could have done what Stalin did and gotten away with it.  In practice, crazy or unwanted Tsars could be replaced -- as happend a number of times.  There doesn't seem to have been any break on Stalin, however.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 07, 2006, 12:22:00 PM
I think it cuts both ways and was largely a function of the indivdual despot, not of the political system.

Ivan the Terrible, despite descending into a murderous madness, died a natural death.  The same for Peter the Great, whose policies alienated large and influential segments of his subjects.  On the other hand, Nikita Kruschev was removed by a quiet coup and lived the last few years of his life under house arrest.  Neither system proved capable of removing their most brutal despots, and both proved capable of removing their more restrained leaders.

Certainly the tsars considered themselves answerable only to God . . . which was not terribly inconvenient, at least after Peter I subordinated the Church to state control.  Lenin and Stalin held themselves as answerable solely to their Marxist ideology which, taking a cue from the tsars, they claimed the sole right to interpret.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 07, 2006, 01:05:26 PM
I think it cuts both ways and was largely a function of the indivdual despot, not of the political system.

Ivan the Terrible, despite descending into a murderous madness, died a natural death.  The same for Peter the Great, whose policies alienated large and influential segments of his subjects.  On the other hand, Nikita Kruschev was removed by a quiet coup and lived the last few years of his life under house arrest.  Neither system proved capable of removing their most brutal despots, and both proved capable of removing their more restrained leaders.

However, both Peter III and Paul were removed by palace coups, supported by the Russian nobility. And there was that very awkward episode of the succession to the throne of Anna, when the nobility tried and failed to assert its civil rights as a class. I guess my point is that in modern times at least, under the Romanovs (as opposed to the Rurikovichi like Ivan the Terrible), the throne was always answerable to its most powerful interest group, i.e., the nobility. Even Peter the Great, for all his Westernizing measures, didn't impinge on their landowning privileges and their so-called rights over their serfs.

As for the Soviets, by the time Stalin died, his lesser minions were exhausted and demoralized by the Great Man's ongoing party purges, and only too eager to see an end to it all. They just wanted to lie back on their laurels, relax, and enjoy the fruits of their success. So after Stalin's death (which they speeded along considerably by not seeking medical advice for some days after his stroke!), they made quick work of Beria and his secret files (since he had files on all of them, as they all well knew). And years later, when they wanted to get rid of Stalin's successor, Khrushchev, they did so in a "civilized" manner, thus reassuring themselves (and any future leaders) that if they should ever fall from grace, they would not end their days in the Gulag, but rather, as Khrushchev did, in a relatively luxurious apartment in the center of Moscow, surrounded by family and friends. 

So: whereas the Romanovs always had to answer to the nobility, if not immediately, then within the next reign or two, the Soviet leadership only ever answered to itself, and then only when those "other," lesser leaders got up the nerve to make a stand (as it happened, they never got up the nerve with Stalin until he was on his deathbed and beyond punishing them for it). 

Certainly the tsars considered themselves answerable only to God . . . which was not terribly inconvenient, at least after Peter I subordinated the Church to state control.  Lenin and Stalin held themselves as answerable solely to their Marxist ideology which, taking a cue from the tsars, they claimed the sole right to interpret.

I agree that both approaches to power are more than convenient, but Orthodoxy, whatever its flaws, was never as theoretically all-encompassing and intense a lifestyle ideology as Marxism-Leninism. Orthodoxy seeks to regulate human souls; while, how does that famous saying go, Marxism-Leninism seeks to engineer the human soul. Orthodoxy recognizes the imperfection in humankind; whereas Marxism-Leninism seeks to eradicate that imperfection, and build man in its own idealized image, by any means at its disposal.

That said, I don't disagree with the main argument of your first post. Don't fall off your chair in surprise, Tsarfan, but I do now see a linkage between autocracy and the Soviets. A linkage - not an equivalency. But as I said, my views have evolved a lot in the last several months, in no small part thanks to your own contributions to this forum.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 07, 2006, 01:27:33 PM
You're right, of course, Elisabeth on the above points.  And, as is often the case, my tongue was a bit in my cheek on the point of Othodoxy vs communism.

As I wrote in an earlier discussion on this topic, I really do not mean to imply that autocracy and bolshevik rule were simply the same phenomenon under different ideological rubrics.

I simply view certain aspects of autocracy -- in particular, its elevation of a single unquestionable central authority as the arbiter of all matters both secular and religious -- as something that created the conditions under which the Lenin and Stalin terrors could occur.  This is not to say that autocracy was a form of government by terror (although it had close scrapes with it in a few instances).  It is simply to say that when all limits on authority are deliberately suppressed, anything can happen.  History seems to suggest that a system that can be run by a madman eventually will be run by one.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 07, 2006, 01:54:09 PM
I simply view certain aspects of autocracy -- in particular, its elevation of a single unquestionable central authority as the arbiter of all matters both secular and religious -- as something that created the conditions under which the Lenin and Stalin terrors could occur.  This is not to say that autocracy was a form of government by terror (although it had close scrapes with it in a few instances).  It is simply to say that when all limits on authority are deliberately suppressed, anything can happen.  History seems to suggest that a system that can be run by a madman eventually will be run by one.

Again, I don't disagree. What's interesting about my current reading of Figes is his view of the effects of such arbitrary autocratic rule on the peasantry, who, as we all remember, constituted over 80 per cent of the total population of the Russian empire under the tsars. He thinks (and I see no reason to disagree with him) that these longterm effects were dire: an insatiable hunger for the land forbidden to it; an inclination towards lawlessness and anarchy (since the entire concept of the law was unknown to the peasantry, who were deliberately kept outside its jurisdiction); lack of identification with state and country, again because of social, civil, and judicial marginalization; and last but not least, a childlike obedience to any overwhelming outside force that could quell their own lawlessness. Thus, during the height of the land revolution in 1918, the Bolsheviks received from the heartland of Russia repeated appeals to establish a new "autocracy" - literally, an "autocracy" - over the Russian people. Shades of the ancient Rus', at a loss to maintain order amongst themselves, begging the ragtag Scandinavian band called the Varangians to "come and rule over us." And thus the founding of the Rurikovichi dynasty and the beginning of Russian autocracy as we know it!

This is why I wonder if the last hope for sustaining the old regime actually died on Bloody Sunday, 1905, as opposed to that dark day in September 1911 when the great reformer Petr Stolypin died in a Kiev hospital of the wounds he had recieved from an assassin's bullets.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on September 07, 2006, 02:32:14 PM
Stolypin would have made a great deal of difference, in and throughout Russia, had he lived !

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 07, 2006, 03:50:57 PM
But according to Figes, Stolypin's reforms were already failing before his death. His land reforms had met intransigent opposition not only from the landed gentry but also from the majority of the very class they were designed to help, the peasantry. As a result, despite unprecedented aid and encouragement from the central government and bureaucracy, by 1914 less than a third of peasant households in the Russian empire were freehold properties held in hereditary tenure (see Figes, p. 238). Most peasants chose to stay in the commune and pressured their neighbors to do the same, especially in central Russia proper - the very region where, as Figes notes, the land revolution would take off with a vengeance in spring 1917.

Moreover, by 1911 Stolypin had lost the support of the tsar. He was an isolated figure, without even a political party of his own to fall back on. When he lost Nicholas' favor, he lost everything. On some level he seems to have recognized this. The first sentence of his will read, "When I am assassinated..." and during his last visit to Kiev he refused to travel with bodyguards or even to wear a bulletproof vest. He seems to have known that he, like his life's mission, was doomed. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 07, 2006, 03:55:51 PM
This is why I wonder if the last hope for sustaining the old regime actually died on Bloody Sunday, 1905, as opposed to that dark day in September 1911 when the great reformer Petr Stolypin died in a Kiev hospital of the wounds he had recieved from an assassin's bullets.

I think 1905 was a watershed year on two counts.  Certainly Bloody Sunday was a tipping point signalling to ordinary Russians that the mystical pact between them and their father-tsar was perhaps not the relationship they had imagined.  (It is hard today to realize how deep and broad was the breaking of faith that occurred on that one day.  I posted elsewhere that years ago I spent an afternoon in front of a microfiche reader looking at contemporary international press and editorial coverage of Bloody Sunday in papers from New York to Berlin.  The vilification of the Russian regime was immediate, extreme, and universal.  The epithet "Bloody Nicholas" gained instant currency not just in revolutionary ranks, but in diplomatic salons across the monarchies and democracies of western Europe.  And I think England's decision twelve years later to deny a safe haven to Nicholas and his family was actually foreordained on that day.)

However, I think 1905/06 was significant on an even more fundamental level.  The paradox of Russian politics was that any successful move toward participatory government could only come from the top.  The organs and instincts of self-government were so stunted after centuries of autocracy that any forced attempt to gain influence from below seems to me almost fated to veer into anarchy and from there into a new dictatorship . . . all of which actually happened in 1917.

I think your point, Elisabeth, about the peasants' single-minded craving for land is significant here.  In order for a revolutionary regime to muster the force required to stave off the anarchy their quest would unleash, a new regime would have to create a monster that would be extremely dangerous for anyone new to power to wield.

Russia could only have made a peaceful transition to some form of participatory government under the sponshorship of and management by monarchical institutions.  Had Nicholas not instead mounted a series of rear-guard actions meant to recover as much of his autonomy as possible from 1906 forward, Russia might have been able to evolve a workable approach to constitutional monarchy.  It perhaps would not have looked like its English counterpart, nor would it have needed to.

To me, many more of the crossroads of Russia's lost opportunities intersected in 1905 than in 1911, 1914, or 1917.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 07, 2006, 04:43:48 PM
I think 1905 was a watershed year on two counts.  Certainly Bloody Sunday was a tipping point signalling to ordinary Russians that the mystical pact between them and their father-tsar was perhaps not the relationship they had imagined. 

I think this is very true. The Englishman Bernard Pares talked to a peasant in 1907 who told him that the "biggest change in [Russia] the last five years" was that "five years ago there was a belief [in the Tsar] as well as fear. Now the belief is all gone and only the fear remains."

A landowner remarked of the peasants in his village after the disturbances of 1905-06: "instead of the peasants' previous courtesy, their friendliness and humility, there was only hatred on their faces, and the manner of their greetings was such as to underline their rudeness." (Figes, p. 203-6)

However, I think 1905/06 was significant on an even more fundamental level.  The paradox of Russian politics was that any successful move toward participatory government could only come from the top.  The organs and instincts of self-government were so stunted after centuries of autocracy that any forced attempt to gain influence from below seems to me almost fated to veer into anarchy and from there into a new dictatorship . . . all of which actually happened in 1917.

This is why 1905 also seems to me the watershed year, after which fundamental change for the better was less and less likely. Pre-1905 at least most of the educated classes seem to have evinced a willingness to work with the tsar toward social and institutional reform. If the tsar had only shown himself willing to lead society in this regard a permanent compromise satisfactory to all (or at least to most) might have been reached. But after the Revolution of 1905-06, and the simultaneous revolution on the land, the gentry by and large became increasingly conservative and bent on retaining its privileges (the gentry had a deathwish, if you ask me), while the workers and many of their fellow peasants in the villages became increasingly radicalized, turning away from moderate political parties like the Mensheviks towards groups demanding immediate, drastic land redistirbution like the Trudoviks, or immediate, drastic revolution, i.e. the SRs and the Bolsheviks.

Stolypin attempted to reform local government at the volost (township?) level by allowing for peasant representation but the landed gentry blocked this reform, fearful that if peasants achieved equal representation in local government their own power in the countryside would wane. Stolypin also wanted to get rid of anachronistic institutions like the noble land captains but again, was blocked by gentry interests.

But if Stolypin's local governmental reforms had succeeded (a big if), this would have gone some way toward preparing ordinary Russians to govern themselves (rather than seeking big government to do it for them). Local authority in the countryside might not have collapsed so dramatically in the spring of 1917, leaving a power vacuum for the Bolsheviks to fill. And even if  this is all mere speculation and wishful thinking... it nevertheless shows that some officials in the tsarist government were aware of the dangers of leaving the peasant out of local administrative affairs.

I think your point, Elisabeth, about the peasants' single-minded craving for land is significant here.  In order for a revolutionary regime to muster the force required to stave off the anarchy their quest would unleash, a new regime would have to create a monster that would be extremely dangerous for anyone new to power to wield.

Russia could only have made a peaceful transition to some form of participatory government under the sponshorship of and management by monarchical institutions.  Had Nicholas not instead mounted a series of rear-guard actions meant to recover as much of his autonomy as possible from 1906 forward, Russia might have been able to evolve a workable approach to constitutional monarchy.  It perhaps would not have looked like its English counterpart, nor would it have needed to.

To me, many more of the crossroads of Russia's lost opportunities intersected in 1905 than in 1911, 1914, or 1917.

Yes, very well put as always. I also tend to think that 1905 was the fateful year for the tsarist regime. Ordinarily we view 1905 as the year of great reforms signalling promise and hope for Russia, but in fact all the reforms seem to been too little, too late.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on September 08, 2006, 12:54:45 AM
I like reading thrillers. Right now I am reading Robert Harris' novel about Stalin's "lost notebook," Archangel. (I don't recommend it as highly as I do his first novel about Nazi Germany in the 1960s if Hitler had won the war, Fatherland - which is superb. But the action in this novel rather drags.) However, there's an interesting passage in which a character summarizes the demographic changes that took place under the Soviets:

"Professor I. A. Kaganov estimates that some 66 million people were killed in the USSR between 1917 and 1953 - shot, tortured, starved mostly, frozen or worked to death. Others say the true figure is a mere 45 million. Who knows?

"Neither estimate, by the way, includes the 30 million now known to have been killed in the Second World War.

"To put this loss in context: The Russian Federation today has a population of roughly 150 million. Assuming the ravages inflicted by Communism had never occurred and assuming normal demographic trends, the actual population should be about 300 million."

(p. 155, Archangel, Robert Harris, 1998)

Taking into account these horrific numerical figures, what do you think the history of the Soviet Union was? Obviously a major mistake, but what kind of mistake in the larger historical context? Necessary or unnecesary? Avoidable or unavoidable? Criminal or non-criminal? How does it compare to the history of the Russian empire under the tsars? Or is that an unfair comparison? What's your opinion and why?   

1. I think the history of the Soviet Union is a realistic representation of what happens when criminals seize a legitimate government. This regime continuously lied to its people, mass murdered millions, stole the property of its citizens, and adhered to no known moral standard. The fact that Russia has refused over the last decade and a half to honestly face the criminality of the Soviet Union means that its recovery will be slow if not non existent.

2. As to what kind of mistake it was, it was a triumph of criminals over decent people. It was completely unnecessary and it was surely avoidable. If lying, murdering, theft and no morals are not criminal, I don't know what you would consider moral (or non criminal).

3. In terms of comparison to the tsarist regime, the autocracy was a legitimate government which adhered to accepted standards of conduct. For this reason alone, it is rather strange to compare it to a criminal regime. However, since the question has been posed, the tsars were for the most part well intentioned towards the country - unlike Lenin, who really hated Russia as his writings show us. This does not mean that everything they did was benevolent and beneficial. All were Orthodox and were not proud of lying if and when they did it. None engaged in the type of mass murder that the Bolsheviks did. Private property was respected for the most part - property was not stolen.

4. In short, my opinion is that while the tsarist regime undoubtedly had serious failings, these failings were addressed by the February Revolution. The government lost power because it lost the support of its citizens. However, none of its failings were on the magnitude of that of the Soviet government. Decent people everywhere should revile the criminal behavior of the Bolsheviks. They were truly the face of evil on this earth - anti-Christs in every sense of the word.

By the way - everyone is welcome to agree or to disagree with my opinions or anyone else's. But, if I see any more personal attacks on anyone on this thread, they will be immediately deleted by me. This is my first and only warning.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 08, 2006, 06:58:50 AM
In terms of comparison to the tsarist regime, the autocracy was a legitimate government which adhered to accepted standards of conduct. For this reason alone, it is rather strange to compare it to a criminal regime.

I don't quite understand why a government cannot be compared to its predecessor or what the definition is of a "criminal regime".

If a regime is "criminal" because it seized power from a "legitimate" regime, then the American revolutionary government was a criminal regime.  So was the Napoleonic government, as was the rule of the Roman emperors . . . and so was the rule of the tsars over every non-Muscovite territory they conquered over the centuries.

Consider Catherine the Great.  If she did not give prior approval to the murder of her husband -- the legitimate tsar -- she certainly sanctioned it afterward.  Moreover, after his murder, the legitimate successor was Peter's son, whose throne she usurped.  Why, then, isn't Catherine's reign a "criminal regime"?

I think I can speak for Elisabeth as well as myself in saying that comparing the soviet regime to the tsarist regime by no means implies they were equivalent in morals (whatever that means in the context of government), in good or evil, or in outcomes.  The discussion has rather been about whether the tsarist government created the conditions in which a small group of radicals could within a very few years command the people and resources of an entire nation to restructure every aspect of its political, social, and economic life.

Regardless of the origins of their power, both the tsars and the bolshevik dictators ruled the Russian empire and its peoples.  What is wrong with comparing the records of each in doing so?

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on September 08, 2006, 06:15:20 PM
In terms of comparison to the tsarist regime, the autocracy was a legitimate government which adhered to accepted standards of conduct. For this reason alone, it is rather strange to compare it to a criminal regime.

I don't quite understand why a government cannot be compared to its predecessor or what the definition is of a "criminal regime".

If a regime is "criminal" because it seized power from a "legitimate" regime, then the American revolutionary government was a criminal regime.  So was the Napoleonic government, as was the rule of the Roman emperors . . . and so was the rule of the tsars over every non-Muscovite territory they conquered over the centuries.

Consider Catherine the Great.  If she did not give prior approval to the murder of her husband -- the legitimate tsar -- she certainly sanctioned it afterward.  Moreover, after his murder, the legitimate successor was Peter's son, whose throne she usurped.  Why, then, isn't Catherine's reign a "criminal regime"?

I think I can speak for Elisabeth as well as myself in saying that comparing the soviet regime to the tsarist regime by no means implies they were equivalent in morals (whatever that means in the context of government), in good or evil, or in outcomes.  The discussion has rather been about whether the tsarist government created the conditions in which a small group of radicals could within a very few years command the people and resources of an entire nation to restructure every aspect of its political, social, and economic life.

Regardless of the origins of their power, both the tsars and the bolshevik dictators ruled the Russian empire and its peoples.  What is wrong with comparing the records of each in doing so?



I don't recall saying I had the opinion that the two regimes could not be compared. Rather, I think such comparisons are problematic due to the criminal conduct of so many members of the Bolshevik Party. Let's put it this way - if a group of pirates took over a monastery, could you then compare that monastery to other religious houses? Well, I suppose you could, but do you see the problem?

Allow me to illustrate. It is normal in revolutionary situations for the overthrown to either leave the country or be killed. But, when Grand Duke Michael was murdered, there was no trial, no proper burial, and the murderer went to Moscow with the watch he stole from Michael's corpse. Contrast that with what happened in revolutionary France. Louis XVI lost his life, to be sure, but he had a trial, he was buried, and his executioner did not pilfer his valuables.

To me, a criminal regime is one where any pretence to morality is abandoned, and that was certainly the case of Soviet Russia. The United States is certainly not a criminal regime, nor was Napoleon's, nor any of the others you have cited. Revolution is part of the political process and is not in itself criminal, in my opinion.

I think Catherine II was a usurper. She pushed aside her husband and her son. She probably had her husband murdered. Of course this was a criminal act, but as she was sovereign, was never prosecuted for it. Once in power, Catherine endeavored to be an enlightened ruler. Was hers a criminal regime? No, she exercised power often brutally, but her regime itself was certainly not criminal.

I answered Elisabeth's questions with my own opinions, as did you. I believe your opinion is that tsarism is largely responsible for what occured under the Bolsheviks. While I disagree with you, I absolutely support your right to hold it and discuss it and to continue to debate it.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 08, 2006, 08:34:09 PM
First off Tania I am right with you about Stolypin.  His political fatique and the partial fullfillment of his land reforms still created the Siberian farmers who lasted until Stalin mass murdered them.  In spite of the fact that Stolypin found himself between a rock and a hard place in 1911 does not make him a failure.  The very fact that Stolypin was one of the first Russian statesmen to be studied by the Russian Government in the 1990's indicates that he has a valuable contribution to make.  What is your take Elizabeth in connection with the Soviet farmers.  Were they called Kolcaks?  I am ashamed to say that I cannot think of their name as I keep getting it confused with the White Army Officer.  There goes my credibility right down the drain. 

I also wanted to say that while posting my new chronology for 1916 where this tendency to demean Nicholas first appeared, outside Revolutionary propaganda, from the public statements of Woodrow Wilson.  I ended my chonology with Churchill’s point of view which speaks to Tsarfan's question about comparing Nicholas reign with Lenin and the rest:


I don't quite understand why a government cannot be compared to its predecessor or what the definition is of a "criminal regime".

If a regime is "criminal" because it seized power from a "legitimate" regime, then the American revolutionary government was a criminal regime. 

I think the answer is found in the character of the rulers: 

“It is the shallow fashion of these times to dismiss the Tsarist regime as a purblind, corrupt, incompetent tyranny.  But a survey of its thirty months’ war with Germany and Austria should correct there loose impressions and expose the dominant facts.  We may measure the strength of the Russian Empire by the battering it had endured, by the disasters it had survived, by the inexhaustible forces it had developed, and by the recovery it had made.  In the governments of states, when great events are afoot, the leader of the nation, whoever he be, is held accountable for failure and vindicated by success.  No matter who wrought the toil, who planned the struggle, to the supreme responsible authority belongs the blame or credit.

Why should this stern test be denied to Nicholas II?  He had made many mistakes, what ruler had not?  He was neither a great captain nor a great prince.  He was only a true, simple man of average ability, of merciful disposition, upheld in all his daily life by his faith in God.  But the brunt of supreme decisions centered on him.  At the summit where all problems are reduced to Yea or Nay, where events transcend the faculties of man and where all is inscrutable, he had to give answers.  His was the function of the compass needle.  War or no war?  Advance or retreat? Right or Left?  Democratise or hold firm? Quit or persevere?  These were the battlefields of Nicholas II.  Why should he reap no honor for them?  The devoted onset of the Russian armies which saved Paris in 1914; the mastered agony of the munitionless retreat; the slowly regathered forces; the victories of Brusilov; The Russian entry upon the campaign of 1917, unconquered, stronger than ever; has he no share in these?  In spite of the errors vast and terrible, the regime he personified, over which he presided, to which his personal character gave the vital spark, had at this moment won the war for Russia.

He is about to be struck down.  A dark hand, gloved at first in folly, now intervenes.  Exit Tsar.  Deliver him and all he loved to wounds and death.  Belittle his efforts, asperse his conduct, insult his memory; but pause then to tell us who else was found capable.  Who or what could guide the Russian state?  Men gifted and daring; men ambitious and fierce; spirits audacious and commanding—of these there was no lack.  But none could answer the few plain questions on which the life and fame of Russia turned.”
 
Tsarfan I know that answer is probably not acceptable to you but I think it captures the entire point and shows the heart of the matter at hand. 

 



 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 09, 2006, 07:10:16 AM
I think Catherine II was a usurper. She pushed aside her husband and her son. She probably had her husband murdered. Of course this was a criminal act, but as she was sovereign, was never prosecuted for it. Once in power, Catherine endeavored to be an enlightened ruler. Was hers a criminal regime? No, she exercised power often brutally, but her regime itself was certainly not criminal.

I guess my fundamental problem, Lisa, is that I cannot find a coherent application for the term "criminal" in discussing the legitimacy of a regime.  Consider Hitler, for example.  He was legitimately appointed Chancellor under the laws of the Weimar Republic.  Then he obtained a vote from the Reichstag conferring martial powers on him.  Then, using those powers, he assembled the machinery of Nazi rule.  In a strictly legal sense, his was a "legitimate" government . . . but one that plunged all of Europe into a war of conquest, that murdered millions of political opponents and "undesireables" in and out of concentration camps, and that caused the deaths of tens of millions beyond that.

Even with Catherine II (of whom I'm a big fan, by the way), I have trouble with the use of the terms "legitimate" versus "criminal."  In an autocracy, all power is vested in one person.  If that person obtained power illegally (an illegal act being the very definition of a crime), isn't her government by definition "criminal" . . . since she is the government?


To me, a criminal regime is one where any pretence to morality is abandoned, and that was certainly the case of Soviet Russia. The United States is certainly not a criminal regime, nor was Napoleon's, nor any of the others you have cited. Revolution is part of the political process and is not in itself criminal, in my opinion.

All governments abandon any pretence to morality -- or legality -- when the stakes get high enough.  Take the United States when gold was discovered in the Black Hills in the last half of the 19th century.  Those lands had been granted by treaty to an Indian nation.  When gold was discovered, the U.S. attempted to purchase the land from the Indians.  When they refused, the U.S. unceremoniously tossed the treaty aside, seized the lands, and triggered a war in which the Indians were almost annihilated.  Or take Great Britain.  When the tide was running against them in the Boer War, they created the world's first concentration camps, in which upwards of 20,000 people -- many of them non-combatant women and children -- died from disease, starvation, and mistreatment.

So this definition of a "criminal regime" to distinguish the Bolsheviks from others doesn't quite work for me, either.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 09, 2006, 07:14:59 AM
Allow me to illustrate. It is normal in revolutionary situations for the overthrown to either leave the country or be killed. But, when Grand Duke Michael was murdered, there was no trial, no proper burial, and the murderer went to Moscow with the watch he stole from Michael's corpse. Contrast that with what happened in revolutionary France. Louis XVI lost his life, to be sure, but he had a trial, he was buried, and his executioner did not pilfer his valuables.

The Bolshevik regime committed untold horrors for which it will never be held to account.  Those horrors should be discussed for what they were.  But I do not see the utility of trying to heighten the contrast between Bolshevik bad deeds and the bad deeds of other governments by mischaracterizing those other deeds.

Let's look at the fate of Louis XVI and his family.  They were held in a prison.  In the latter stages of their imprisonment, Louis was separated from the family, and finally the children were separated from Marie Antoinette, to her great anguish.  Yes, Louis was put on trial.  But it was a stage-managed farce known to be such by all participants.  And Marie Antoinette's trial was even worse, both for knowing that such a proceeding had already sent her husband to the guillotine and for her young son being put on the stand to testify to a jeering crowd that she had committed incest with him.  Both Louis and Marie were hauled in open carts to public executions in front of cheering crowds, having spent months of imprisonment specifically engineered to cause them maximum psychological torment.  Their young son -- having been separated from his parents and then brainwashed by his captors -- then later disappeared from history, almost certainly to die either by outright murder or by gross abuse.

Contrast that with the Bolshevik period of the imprisonment of Nicholas and his family.  Even in Ekaterinburg, they were housed in one of the town's finest residences instead of the local prison.  They were allowed to keep their retainers with them.  Instead of putting them on public display for entertainment or ridicule, the local soviet actually quelled occasional demonstrations that demanded Romanov blood.  Until very late in the imprisonment, they were given access to Orthodox clerics (despite the rabid anti-clericism of the Bolshevik regime).  The family was kept together, allowed reading material, given limited exercise, and provided with substantial meals.  All indications are that they went to their deaths calmly and buying the pretense that they were about to be relocated.  Yes, it was nevertheless an imprisonment that certainly exacted its torments.  But it was not the stage-managed feast of building horrors that the imprisonment of Louis and Marie was sadisctically engineered to be.

None of this makes any of the murders all right.  However, I really don't see the point of contrasting the treatment of the Romanovs with the treatment of the Bourbons for the purpose of portraying the Bolsheviks as something worse than their French counterparts.  If one really wanted to go there, I think the French take first prize for biggest evil-doers in terms of how they handled the elimination of their former rulers.

(By the way, the reason Michael's valuables were pilfered is that he had been left with valuables to be pilfered.  Louis had been stripped of all worldly goods long before his execution, as opposed to the Romanovs who were sent to Ekaterinburg accompanied by several trunks of personal belongings.  Again . . . I'm not saying the Bolsheviks were nice guys.  I'm just saying that comparisons only work when both sides of the comparison are accurately represented.)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on September 09, 2006, 10:21:06 AM
Not to nitpick, but Louis Charles did not testify in an open court; his words were quoted at his mother's trial (bad enough, she heard them). Louis XVI was taken to his death in a closed coach, although Marie Antoinette did travel in a tumbril. She objected to it on the grounds that her husband had not suffered this indignity.

But Tsarfan is spot on in his description of the travails suffered by the French Royal Family as compared to the Imperials. Moreover, of the five French Royals imprisoned together, only one --- Marie Therese --- escaped violent death, and that only thanks to the overthrow of Robespierre. The Romanovs' captivity was physically much easier.

Griffth, I'm not sure that your description of Nicholas II's government (let alone him, if you intended that) as responsible for three years grim resistance to the Germans is enough to make him a competent, moral leader. Stalin and his boys did pretty well in 1941 and are (justly) stigmatized as criminals.

Tsarfan makes a good point, I think. There are very few governments throughout history that make a tenable claim to operating on conventionally moral grounds. The worst cloak their actions with an appeal to a higher, newer morality than conventional Judeo-Christian (the Nazis, the Bolsheviks), and most simply operate according to enlightened self-interest (most Western powers, and certainly Tsarist Russia). Catherine II was an effective ruler, not a moral one. Had she failed, she might be labelled a criminal because of the murder of Peter III. If Nicholas II had succeeded, he would not bear the onus for the stupid political decisions he made (the Russo-Japanese War, the entry of Russia into World War I, the inability to support his own ministers --- ex. Stolypin). Nicholas II is not being held to a higher standard than any American President.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 09, 2006, 11:17:26 AM
First off Tania I am right with you about Stolypin.  His political fatique and the partial fullfillment of his land reforms still created the Siberian farmers who lasted until Stalin mass murdered them.  In spite of the fact that Stolypin found himself between a rock and a hard place in 1911 does not make him a failure.  The very fact that Stolypin was one of the first Russian statesmen to be studied by the Russian Government in the 1990's indicates that he has a valuable contribution to make.  What is your take Elizabeth in connection with the Soviet farmers.  Were they called Kolcaks?  I am ashamed to say that I cannot think of their name as I keep getting it confused with the White Army Officer. 

Nothing to be ashamed of, Griff. Everybody makes mistakes when it comes to the kulaks. That's because the term itself is terribly misleading. Who constituted a kulak depends to a large extent on the period of Russian history you’re discussing. There were prerevolutionary kulaks, and there were post-revolutionary kulaks, and there’s a world of difference between the two.

In prerevolutionary Russia, long before Stolypin's reforms, a kulak was a rich peasant. ("Kulak" literally means "fist" in Russian and probably originally referred to the so-called tightfistedness of this class of people. And yes, there were rich peasants even before Stolypin.) To be honest I don’t know how many new kulaks were created by Stolypin’s land reforms. However, judging from the overall lack of success of these reforms, especially in central Russia, it seems reasonable to assume that the number was not great, at least, not relative to the overall size of the peasant population. (And remember, just because a peasant chose to take advantage of Stolypin’s land reforms to leave the commune and establish his own farm does not mean that he became a successful, much less a rich, peasant as a result. Probably – I’m going out on a limb here – most of these people became "middle" peasants, neither rich nor poor.) 

After the Revolution, the term "kulak" took on a much broader meaning. During Stalin’s collectivization campaign, which forced the peasantry into collective farms, a kulak was redefined to mean any peasant of means who owned, say, two cows. In other words a kulak was any peasant, "high" or "middle," who had a good reason to resist collectivization and therefore, the state determined, had either to be shot or deported to Siberia.

For this very reason, most historians in my experience do not use the term "kulaks" to describe Stalin’s peasant victims. To do so is, intentionally or unintentionally, to mislead the reader as to the true extent and nature of the crimes committed against the peasantry by the Soviet regime.  But you're quite right, Griff, that the new class of peasant farmers created by Stolypin's reforms was wiped out by Stalin's collectivization program.

And speaking of the peasants... I get tired of always hearing about the Bolshevik regime's crimes against the imperial family (much as I sympathize with OTMA and Alexei in particular). I would define the Bolshevik regime criminal not only because it seized power illegally from the freely elected Constituent Assembly (which it forcibly disbanded) but also because from its very earliest days it had to spill oceans of blood to keep its new government afloat. I refer not to the purges directed against the IF and the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, but precisely to those workers and peasants who rebelled against Communist power in the early 1920s and brought the new regime almost to its knees. The peasant rebellions against War Communism (i.e., grain requisitions and collective farms) swept virtually the entire country, and paralyzed Soviet power in various regions. Lenin said the peasant rebellions were "far more dangerous than all the Denikins, Yudeniches, and Kolchaks put together."  Meanwhile the Soviet workers who had supported the new regime in its infancy turned against it as its true coercive nature began to be known. Lenin's government had to respond with terror to both the workers' (the Kronstadt Rebellion) and to an even greater extent to the peasants' rebellions (which were not entirely put down until 1923). I don't think anyone knows exactly how many people died as a result, but it was easily in the tens of thousands. To me, a regime that can only maintain its power through a campaign of terror directed against the entire population (with the sole exception of the ruling party itself) is a criminal regime.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on September 09, 2006, 12:01:08 PM
Dear Elisabeth,

I agree with your definition of a criminal regime up to a point. But can such a regime acquire legitimacy? By the 1950s, is the Sovet government "legitimate", i.e. it handles power transitions without violence?

I think the question at the head of this thread is a little dicey: okay, the Soviet Union was a moral mistake. It abused its' citizens. But it also succeeded in many of the foreign policy aims of Tsarist Russia. She became a feared world power, she excercised enormous influence over central and eastern Europe, and she survived the destruction of France, Germany, England and Austria as imperial powers. In a Realpolitik sense, the Soviet Union experienced some success.

Simon

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on September 09, 2006, 12:11:54 PM
[]

In prerevolutionary Russia, long before Stolypin's reforms, a kulak was a rich peasant. ("Kulak" literally means "fist" in Russian and probably originally referred to the so-called tightfistedness of this class of people. And yes, there were rich peasants even before Stolypin.) To be honest I don’t know how many new kulaks were created by Stolypin’s land reforms. However, judging from the overall lack of success of these reforms, especially in central Russia, it seems reasonable to assume that the number was not great, at least, not relative to the overall size of the peasant population. (And remember, just because a peasant chose to take advantage of Stolypin’s land reforms to leave the commune and establish his own farm does not mean that he became a successful, much less a rich, peasant as a result. Probably – I’m going out on a limb here – most of these people became "middle" peasants, neither rich nor poor.) 

After the Revolution, the term "kulak" took on a much broader meaning. During Stalin’s collectivization campaign, which forced the peasantry into collective farms, a kulak was redefined to mean any peasant of means who owned, say, two cows. In other words a kulak was any peasant, "high" or "middle," who had a good reason to resist collectivization and therefore, the state determined, had either to be shot or deported to Siberia.

For this very reason, most historians in my experience do not use the term "kulaks" to describe Stalin’s peasant victims. To do so is, intentionally or unintentionally, to mislead the reader as to the true extent and nature of the crimes committed against the peasantry by the Soviet regime.  But you're quite right, Griff, that the new class of peasant farmers created by Stolypin's reforms was wiped out by Stalin's collectivization program.

And speaking of the peasants... I get tired of always hearing about the Bolshevik regime's crimes against the imperial family (much as I sympathize with OTMA and Alexei in particular). I would define the Bolshevik regime criminal not only because it seized power illegally from the freely elected Constituent Assembly (which it forcibly disbanded) but also because from its very earliest days it had to spill oceans of blood to keep its new government afloat. I refer not to the purges directed against the IF and the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, but precisely to those workers and peasants who rebelled against Communist power in the early 1920s and brought the new regime almost to its knees. The peasant rebellions against War Communism (i.e., grain requisitions and collective farms) swept virtually the entire country, and paralyzed Soviet power in various regions. Lenin said the peasant rebellions were "far more dangerous than all the Denikins, Yudeniches, and Kolchaks put together."  Meanwhile the Soviet workers who had supported the new regime in its infancy turned against it as its true coercive nature began to be known. Lenin's government had to respond with terror to both the workers' (the Kronstadt Rebellion) and to an even greater extent to the peasants' rebellions (which were not entirely put down until 1923). I don't think anyone knows exactly how many people died as a result, but it was easily in the tens of thousands. To me, a regime that can only maintain its power through a campaign of terror directed against the entire population (with the sole exception of the ruling party itself) is a criminal regime.


Brava. That's me clapping in the background. You have made my point so much better than I did.

I was reading through the other posts on this thread thinking, it's really too bad I can't explain myself better about how insidiously criminal Soviet Russia was. I was thinking about Cambodia under the Rhmer Rouge as an analogy to how evil the Bolsheviks were. And, I think you've hit the nail on the head. "A regime that can only maintain its power through a campaign of terror directed against the entire population is a criminal regime".

Yes it is. I abhor what the murder of so many members of the Romanov dynasty. I no less revile the suppression of the Navy in the Kronstadt Rebellion. Equally despise the destruction of the Ukrainian agricultural system via collectivization and a man made famine. Am livid beyond belief over the murder of so many Russians under Stalin. And I get steamed as heck with bickering about how many tens of millions of people he killed. I mean, pick a number - he's still the most prolific mass murderer in the history of the world. Grasp that idea, if you will.

Yes, many governments and rulers commit criminal acts in governing. No disagreement there. And, there were many things that were wrong about Tsarist Russia. But, it never sought the anihilation of its subjects on a mass scale or the destruction of the ability of the country to feed itself. What happened to the Imperial Family was horrible, but I think after studying them for so long, that what they would have wanted us to focus on was not them, but on what these criminals did to their country. If I may be pardoned for my presumption in speaking for them, they loved Russia above nearly everything after God, and it was a travesty that the Bolsheviks brought to their beloved country.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 09, 2006, 01:21:39 PM
Thank you, Lisa! Your opinion means so much to me. I suppose everyone here in the forum, including you, probably shares my innermost fears when posting: sometimes I think I'm sending my posts off into a black hole - perhaps no one reads them - or if they do, no one understands them - or (worse yet) no one cares. So it's always a particular pleasure to get positive feedback from someone who is so empathetic and kind in their remarks. Spasibo!

But (sigh!) back to business...

Dear Elisabeth,

I agree with your definition of a criminal regime up to a point. But can such a regime acquire legitimacy? By the 1950s, is the Sovet government "legitimate", i.e. it handles power transitions without violence?

I think the question at the head of this thread is a little dicey: okay, the Soviet Union was a moral mistake. It abused its' citizens. But it also succeeded in many of the foreign policy aims of Tsarist Russia. She became a feared world power, she excercised enormous influence over central and eastern Europe, and she survived the destruction of France, Germany, England and Austria as imperial powers. In a Realpolitik sense, the Soviet Union experienced some success.

Simon

Hi, Simon. Even in the 1950s, after Stalin’s death, the Soviet government was still shooting down in cold blood ordinary striking workers (this happened in Siberia, and was kept a top state secret, so almost no one knew about it until Solzhenitsyn published Gulag Archipelago illegally in the West). At the same time the Soviets were also putting down various revolts in the Gulag with equally bloody impunity (again, it took Solzhenitsyn to publicize this almost two decades later). By my definition, the Soviet Union of this era was still a criminal regime, and had only gained spurious international legitimacy from the fact that 1) it was less obviously a threat to international peace than Nazi Germany and Hirohito’s Japan and 2) as a result Stalin’s Soviet Union had emerged as an Allied victor in World War II.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Western world had any choice but to deal with the Soviet Union as a coequal nation, at least once Hitler was defeated and Stalin had taken over eastern Europe and got the atomic bomb. On the other hand, there’s no question in my mind but that his regime and that of his successors retained their power through coercion and force, and remained totalitarian until the era of glasnost’, when Gorbachev decided (mistakenly, as it turned out) that such a system, built and sustained as it was by obvious evil, could somehow be redeemed and thereby salvaged by internal reform. And the result of that misjudgment was and is plain for all to see… the Soviet Union was dust by the start of the new decade. As indeed  Hitler’s Germany would have been dust, if it had somehow managed to win the war, last until the 1980s, and then sought to reform itself under a new generation of new and more enlightened rulers. But how can you reform absolute evil?

Also consider the fact that the Soviet empire only lasted a wee bit longer than seventy years. That’s pretty pathetic when you compare it to other empires… How long did the Roman Empire hang around? Four centuries or more? The empire of the ancient Egyptians? Several thousand years? For that matter, the Chinese empire of so many dynasties, stretching back from antiquity and well into the modern era? Some people even claim the United States is an empire, and here we’ve lasted two hundred years and counting. I think 70 odd years is a rather dismal record for an empire, all things considered! That’s only the lifespan of one person (well, okay, somewhat more, if you’re talking about the lifespan of the average Russian male). But clearly the rulers of the Soviet empire were shortsighted, to say the least: not only ethically but ethnically, demographically, technologically, economically, politically, and so on and so forth.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: David_Pritchard on September 09, 2006, 01:26:05 PM
While I have not spent a great deal of time thinking about the topic of this thread, I do want all of those participating to know that their posts have been very interesting and thought provoking to read. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, opinions and facts with the forum. Let the debate continue!

David
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on September 09, 2006, 02:00:22 PM
Dear Elisabeth,

The story of my life: when people turn to speak with me, they sigh!  ;D

Of course I agree with you about the horrors of the Soviet system; Reagan was right on the money in referring to them as an "evil empire".

That being said: ask an Indian about the Raj, ask a native American about manifest destiny, ask the people of Zaire about Belgium. I'm not just being a snotty kneejerk liberal, either. There are some good things to say about Great Britain, the United States and Belgium. And I doubt that in the end this kind of moral relativism is at all useful.

The Tsars believed that God put them in place; the Bolsheviks, that the dialectic of history. The Soviet regime was overthrown, but significant remnants survive under Putin --- most especially the role of Russia as a Great Power in the 21st century, albeit a staggering one. And in many respects the autocracy of imperial Russia foreshadowed the autocracy of Stalinist times.

But Stalin was aware that he was opportunistic? Alright, say he was. If the Tsars cloaked opportunism behind religion and the divine right they believed that they had, what difference does it make as far as the results were concerned? An aggressive Rus seized and held a large empire through force.

I think I hear you sighing!

Simon

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 09, 2006, 02:12:01 PM
I think I hear you sighing!

Simon

No, Simon, if you could only hear me now - I'm laughing! :D Your great good humor has in fact given me my first genuine moment of lightheartedness today. All I ask is that you give me a little while (maybe several hours in fact) to recover myself and to think of an appropriately serious response to your thoughtful and thought-provoking observations. At the moment I'm just too lighthearted, lightheaded, and, to be totally honest, exhausted... I have spent the entire day painting the house and trying to respond intelligently to all the brainteasers posed in this thread... I badly need a break... and am now reaching for my favorite opium of the masses... not religion but vodka on the rocks. Na zdorov'e! 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on September 09, 2006, 03:30:36 PM
Dearest Elizabeth,

For you, indeed Spasibo, and most appreciatively, Na zdorov'e !
You are terrific, and thanks for all the hard work.
Those in the great beyond thank you !!!!

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 10, 2006, 02:08:54 AM
Griffth, I'm not sure that your description of Nicholas II's government (let alone him, if you intended that) as responsible for three years grim resistance to the Germans is enough to make him a competent, moral leader. Stalin and his boys did pretty well in 1941 and are (justly) stigmatized as criminals.



Louis_Charles I was probably pursuing my own agenda and therefore was not really responding to this question of what makes a leader moral and what makes a leader criminal.  Is it impossible to define evil because every leader is responsible for something evil, i.e. big government’s treatment of minority populations; or to define a good leader by might; i.e. the ability to win wars and wield international power?  

I think that you can discern the character of a leader and that there are a number of very clear judgments that can be made about what makes a leader moral and what makes a leader criminal.  

I am sure this is going to sound really off, but one of the most outstanding examples that I know of was George Washington and this is not about the Apple tree.   Napoleon watched Washington, who he considered one of the most modern and one of the greatest military strategists of his time, during a very crucial time in American history.

Washington had made many public statements about civil freedom and a government of the people to explain why the Revolution was necessary.  All the while Napoleon was looking to see what Washington would do when, through a series of unexpected events,  all the power landed in his own hands.  

This occurred several years after the Revolutionary War when Washington’s troops, who had not been paid for the war wanted him to lead them in an open rebellion.  Napoleon knew that Washington had the power to become king at that moment.  In order to restore the spirit of his troops and to turn their loyalty back to the American government, Washington rode out to his troops and with a message to read to them about not rebelling and assured them that they would be paid.  As I recall he really did not know how they would respond to him.  Before reading his message, he took out a pair of glasses and put them on.  His men had only known him from years before as their fierce Commander who had lead them to victory.  It broke their hearts to see Washington wearing glasses and that broke the rebellion.  Napoleon could not believe that Washington had not taken that opportunity to take over the country and be it’s military dictator.  That is a moral leader and it was Napoleon’s judgment of Washington as well.

Nothing to be ashamed of, Griff. Everybody makes mistakes when it comes to the kulaks. That's because the term itself is terribly misleading. Who constituted a kulak depends to a large extent on the period of Russian history you’re discussing. There were prerevolutionary kulaks, and there were post-revolutionary kulaks, and there’s a world of difference between the two.

In prerevolutionary Russia, long before Stolypin's reforms, a kulak was a rich peasant. ("Kulak" literally means "fist" in Russian and probably originally referred to the so-called tightfistedness of this class of people. And yes, there were rich peasants even before Stolypin.) To be honest I don’t know how many new kulaks were created by Stolypin’s land reforms. However, judging from the overall lack of success of these reforms, especially in central Russia, it seems reasonable to assume that the number was not great, at least, not relative to the overall size of the peasant population. (And remember, just because a peasant chose to take advantage of Stolypin’s land reforms to leave the commune and establish his own farm does not mean that he became a successful, much less a rich, peasant as a result. Probably – I’m going out on a limb here – most of these people became "middle" peasants, neither rich nor poor.)  

After the Revolution, the term "kulak" took on a much broader meaning. During Stalin’s collectivization campaign, which forced the peasantry into collective farms, a kulak was redefined to mean any peasant of means who owned, say, two cows. In other words a kulak was any peasant, "high" or "middle," who had a good reason to resist collectivization and therefore, the state determined, had either to be shot or deported to Siberia.

For this very reason, most historians in my experience do not use the term "kulaks" to describe Stalin’s peasant victims. To do so is, intentionally or unintentionally, to mislead the reader as to the true extent and nature of the crimes committed against the peasantry by the Soviet regime.  But you're quite right, Griff, that the new class of peasant farmers created by Stolypin's reforms was wiped out by Stalin's collectivization program.


Thank you Elizabeth for explaining to me all of those historic facts so clearly and I join in with Lisa and Tatiania, and everyone in expressing my admiration for your incredible ability to speak to the heart of this matter.  
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 10, 2006, 12:50:50 PM
The following is from Andrew Gregoovitch, I will post his site later:

THIS GREAT CRIME OF GENOCIDE AGAINST the Ukrainian people has not been completely ignored by the history books of the world. Any history of the Soviet Union will mention the triumph of "Collectivization" in which the Kulaks, or well-off farmers, were "liquidated as a class." Collectivized farming, which is today the most inefficient agricultural system in existence, had to be instituted for Marxist reasons. The Kulaks (Kurkulsin Ukrainian) constituted only 4 to 5% of the peasantry -- yet they endangered the success of Communism!

The Communist Party on January 5, 1930, as part of the first Five Year Plan, started the machinery of Collectivization rolling. Collective is, incidentally Kolkhoz in Russian and Kolhosp in Ukrainian. The Russian peasantry demonstrated little opposition to Moscow because of their past tradition of communal farming. The Russian mir, or village commune, where the land is owned by the village and not by the individual, had for centuries prepared the Russians psychologically for Collectivization. On July 30, 1930 the first RSFSR decree abolishing the mir was passed to make way for the Collectives.

The Ukrainians, on the other hand, had an independent, individualistic farming tradition of private ownershp of land. The Russian communal spirit was comething completely foreign to the farmers of Ukraine and so they opposed Moscow bitterly. While the collectivization in the Russian Republic (RSFSR) went on schedule, the stubborn resistance of the Ukrainians slowed it down to such a standstill that Moscow even had to retreat temporarily...

WHY DID THE FAMINE TAKE PLACE?
OPPOSlTlON TO COLLECTIVIZATION is only half the story why Moscow created the famine in Ukraine. The Ukrainian opposition was not only ideological, that is against Communism, but also political. Russian nationalism reared its ugly head at this time. The Kremlin used the famine as a political weapon to destroy Ukrainian aspirations for independence. At the same time as the famine (1932-34) a wave of persecutions of thousands of Ukrainian intellectuals, writers and leaders took place. Plots for liberating Ukraine were discovered not only in the smallest villages but even in the top ranks of the Ukrainian Communist Party itself. Purges took hundreds of Ukrainians. Suicide was the escape of many. In 1933 the famous writer Mykola Khvylovy and the veteran Ukrainian Communist, Mykola Skrypnyk, both chose suidde.

"This famine," says the American authority William H. Chamberlin, "may fairly be called political because it was not the result of any overwhelming natural catastrophe or of ... a complete exhaustion of the country's resources... "

THE STRANGEST WAR IN HISTORY
THE DEATH AND DESOLATION caused by the famine is likened to war by many of the eyewitnesses. And in fact, the unequal struggle between the peasants of Ukraine and the agent of the Russian Kremlin certainly may be accurately called a "war". This Ukrainian-Russian "war" between peasants armed with pitchforks and the Red Army and Secret Police, was carried out mercilessly with no pity for the aged or young, nor for women and children. According to Bertram D. Wolfe: "Villages were surrounded and laid waste, set to the torch, attacked by tanks and artillery and bombs from the air. A Secret Police Colonel, almost sobbing, told the writer Isaac Deutscher:


"I am an old Bolshevik. I worked in the underground against the Tsar and then I fought in the civil war. Did I do all that in order that I should now surround villages with machine-guns and order my men to fire indiscriminately into crowds of peasants? Oh no, no!"

One Moscow agent, mighty Hatayevich, in reprimanding Comrade Victor Kravchenko, one of 100,000 men "selected by the Central Committee of the Party" to help in Collectivization said:


"... I'm not sure that you understand what has been happening. A ruthless struggle is going on between the peasantry and our regime. It's a struggle to the death. This year (1933) was a test of our strength and their endurance. It took a famine to show them who is master here. It has cost millions of lives, but the collective farm system is here to stay, We've won the war."

Hatayevich, Secretary of the Regional Committee of the Dnipropetrovsk Communist Party and one of the foremost Communist in the Ukrainian SSR reveals here that the famine was intentional, that it took millions of lives, and that he considered it a "war" aganst the Ukrainian farmers.

One woman in Poltava said, "No war ever took from us so many people." This was true, since Ukraine's losses in 1932-33 were greater than that of any nation that fought in the First World War. It should be emphasized that the main weapon in this struggle was not tanks, machine guns or bullets -- but hunger. Famine, a man-made "Collectivized" famine, was the main cause of the loss of life in this "war," one of the strangest in history."

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 10, 2006, 01:15:15 PM
Griff, while I think it's only just to publicize the Ukrainian famine to as large an extent as possible, and while I agree that Stalin's Soviet Union was guilty of attempted genocide in this instance, nevertheless, a lot of the information this fellow Andrew Gregorovich presents as facts are nothing of the kind.

As I stated before, the term "kulak" in Stalin's Soviet Union did not refer to merely "well off" peasants. It referred to peasants of any means whatsoever, even those who only owned two cows (in other words, peasants who would be considered practically indigent by Western standards). These so-called kulaks could not have made up a mere 4-5 per cent of the total peasant population. They must have accounted for a considerably larger percentage of it. But as far as I know, no one has yet really accurately calculated how many millions were involved. But rest assured it was in the millions.

As far as I know, central Russia was no more prepared than the Ukraine for the trauma of collectivization. Large sections of the Russian peasantry had revolted en masse in the early 1920s when the Soviet government first attempted to impose collective farms as a measure of War Communism. It's simply not fair to draw these comparisons between Russia and the Ukraine. Both populations suffered intensely under Stalin's collectivization campaign, although the Ukrainian peasants seem to have demonstrated more sustained and stalwart resistance to it (but maybe because they were farther away from Moscow they could afford to?). And of course the Ukrainians suffered the consequences under the later, punitive government-enforced famine. But then so did areas of the Russian Caucasus, which had also shown unusually high levels of resistance to enforced collectivization.

It seems to me that a certain measure of Ukrainian nationalism vs. Russian nationalism is being played out in Andrew Gregorovich's presentation of the Great Famine, which is unfortunate because it is so unnecessary.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 10, 2006, 01:35:11 PM
I would define the Bolshevik regime criminal not only because it seized power illegally from the freely elected Constituent Assembly (which it forcibly disbanded) but also because from its very earliest days it had to spill oceans of blood to keep its new government afloat.

First, I want to be absolutely clear.  I am not one who thinks that the Bolshevik regime had both its good points and its bad points.  I think it was a complete abomination . . . in its origins, its ideology, its policies, and its outcomes.

But I am still troubled by applying a term to it using definitions that encompass other governments as well which are not generally thought to be criminal.

The American Civil War was launched when almost half the states of the union decided they wanted to throw off the yoke of a government they decided was onerous to them and intent on pursuing policies that were destined to destroy their economies and their political rights to make certain choices locally.  From a strictly legal standpoint, the law was on their side.  (And one must also remember that the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the southern viewpoint more often than not on questions of states rights before the Civil War.)  The United States had originated as a voluntary association that contained no stated compulsion that all its members remain conjoined.  Lincoln, in his determination to hold together a federal authority (and many even in the north disputed the right and wisdom of his policy) over a group of unwilling state legislatures, engaged in a war that remains to this day the costliest in American lives, both in absolute numbers and relative to the size of the population.

If the standard of criminality is using force to maintain authority over large groups of citizens who, though once willing suppliants to that authority, have now changed their minds, then wasn't Lincoln's administration a "criminal" government.  Having been raised in the south, I know most southerners still take this point very seriously (even though they are finally starting to get over their spleen that Lincoln got it his way).

I guess my real problem is that, to me at least, a "crime" is defined as the violation of law, and government -- be it good or bad -- is the source of laws.  And any government or ruler that has succeeded -- by forceful means or other -- in gathering the power to make laws cannot be deemed "criminal".  Otherwise, the list of "criminal" governments encompasses those of William the Conqueror, the Roman Republic and Empire, Catherine the Great . . . to name but a very few.

Also, using "criminal" to define governments has another pitfall.  For instance, Hitler was already re-arming Germany in clear violation of the Treaty of Versailles and international law by 1936 when he hosted the 1936 Olympics.  The world that beat a path to attend this propaganda fest would have been loathe to use the term "criminal" to describe his government at that point, although it clearly was by any literal definition of the term.  So, when talking about governments, people tend to use the term "criminal" relativistically.  They are criminal when we don't like them, and not criminal when we do.

If one wants to discuss the evil, the immorality, or the ineffectiveness of a government, why not just carry out the discussion on those very terms.  Using "criminal" as a proxy for all of the above requires that we ignore the fact that many "good" governments were nevertheless "criminal" in a literal sense, or that many governments that are "criminal" only acquire the lable when we start not to like the outcomes.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 10, 2006, 01:53:44 PM
Not to nitpick, but Louis Charles did not testify in an open court; his words were quoted at his mother's trial (bad enough, she heard them). Louis XVI was taken to his death in a closed coach, although Marie Antoinette did travel in a tumbril. She objected to it on the grounds that her husband had not suffered this indignity.

This is when I get really frustrated with myself.  I can read a half dozen books on a historical topic . . . but then let me watch one cheesy black-and-white melodrama, and that's what sticks.

Thanks for the catch, Simon.

And sorry for the sloppiness, folks.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 10, 2006, 02:08:38 PM
Tsarfan, you’re still missing the point, I think, which is that the Bolshevik government almost from its very inception had to carry out mass terror against virtually the entire population of the Soviet Union in order to stay in power… I can't imagine a government in the early modern age or the medieval period or for that matter even antiquity being able to accomplish such a thing, since even if they might have possessed the will to do so, they didn't have the technology to carry out such a diabolical scheme!

So, big surprise, your comparison of Lenin's Soviet Union with the US in the Civil War period doesn’t exactly convince me... Even if Abraham Lincoln was a pretty unpopular president, his government was supported by at least half of the population of the United States during the war period – more than half of the population, in fact, since as far as I remember the North was more heavily populated than the South and in turn the South was heavily populated by black slaves, many or most of whom were not supporters of the Confederacy but themselves "traitors" to that government in spirit if not in deed.

At any rate Lincoln was not rounding up random members of the bourgeoisie and having them shot "as an example," or for that matter, rounding up and shooting citizens born in the South and now relocated to the North who therefore were "probably" confederate agents, by virtue of their birth and social background… You just don’t see this concentration on possible crimes of intent (based on birth, social background, class) rather than actual commission, as you do see very early on in the Soviet Union. There’s a world of difference between the two, and frankly, I don’t see why you can’t see it!
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 10, 2006, 05:15:25 PM
Griffh, I believe your definition of kulak is similar to Solzhenitsyn's - "In Russian a kulak is a miserly, dishonest rural trader who grows rich not by his own labour but through someone else's, through usury and operating as a middleman...subsequently, after 1917, by a transfer of meaning, the name kulak began to be applied to all those who in any way hired workers..."  Of course the term grew exponentially to encompass anyone perceived as an enemy of the state.  Sergei Maksudov, who undertook a study of Ukhraine and the period, claimed that of the 3.5 million Ukrainians who died during that period 700,000 died of starvation and the rest of related diseases. 

Tsarfan, the correct answer is that the Soviet Union was a criminal enterprise unique in the history of the world and any comparison to any other country is invalid.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 10, 2006, 05:52:52 PM
Tsarfan, the correct answer is that the Soviet Union was a criminal enterprise unique in the history of the world and any comparison to any other country is invalid.

Well, I'm sure that Mao and Pol Pot will be glad to hear they're off the hook.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 10, 2006, 06:14:22 PM
We were discussing a subject similar to this on another forum - everything within living memory is always worse than what preceded it - and everyone's suffering is always more intense than the other person's suffering.  Just human nature, I suppose...
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 10, 2006, 06:43:44 PM
I think that a couple of centuries from now, historians will be discussing the 20th century primarily in two dimensions:  how did a racist regime such as Hitler's emerge in Western Europe, and what caused the eruption of a set of ideologies onto the world stage that, for the first time literally in thousands of years, attacked the fundamental notions of personal property.

The history of the preceeding centuries (at least in the developed world) up until the 18th had largely revolved around questions of who sat at the top of which monarchical system and how that system related to religious authority.  The 18th century introduced the issue of the rights of larger populations to have a say in their government.  And the twentieth century opened up the question of whether private property rights should exist at all.

The soviet regime will play an enormous role -- maybe even a central one -- in this historical examination.  But I do not feel it will be viewed as uniquely criminal, uniquely murderous, or uniquely fated to doom.  The twentieth century just seethed with competition on all those scores.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 10, 2006, 07:01:04 PM
Elizabeth that website did sound a bit dicey but then I am certainly not knowledgeable in this historic period.  I have to admit that I start waking up in 1848, am fully awake by 1885-1917, but when I go beyond 1921-1922 I start to get awfully sleepy and by 1928 I am out like a light!   I love learning more by being apart of this discussion. 

Bev that is an interesting distinction about the suffering in our immediate past.

However, Tsarfan, I believe the last century is already being compared by historians [Barbara Tuchman] to some aspects of the "Dark Ages" and in that context I do agree that the accomplishments of Soviet Union will stand out.  I apologize if my remark sounds sarcastic but it is almost unbearable to study slaughter-house Russia became under Lenin and Stalin, to paraphrase an American diplomat, I would rather study the history of the Chicago stockyards.  Perhaps if one has grown up under all that abuse one eventually becomes dumb. 

In discussing the Soviet’s control of Russia, I would like to paraphrase Dijkstra. It "...is like entering into an insane asylum in which the inmates have written all the rules...[they] tended to pronounce...goals of civilization so catastrophically anithumanistic and heartless that it is an immense relief to come across Freud's belated recognition, in 1930, the  "if the development of civilization has such a far-reaching similarity to the development of the individual and if it employs the same methods, may we not be justified in reaching the diagnosis that, under the influence of cultural urges, some civilizations, or some epochs of civilization--possibly the whole of mankind--have become 'neurotic.'   

I know that we have been around the block more than once about neurotic and psychotic behavior, so I hope I am not opening that door again as I think we explored that topic in detail. 

Just to say that I found a book about Russian/American relations in the 1860's which might supply some interesting perspectives on this discussion of Lincoln; it is written by a Ukrainian scholar….only kidding! 

I will try to get to it tomorrow.  But I will quickly add just one quote as it might prove helpful about in terms of the value of a strong Union.  This period in America was one of the severest tests of the strength of the American Union that it has ever faced.  Pressure to destroy the Union was being brought to bear by Britain and France.  Britain tried to turn the tide with its support of the South and France was gambling on the destruction of the American Union by setting up its Austrian Puppet-King, Maximilian, in Mexico. 

Anyway here is the quote:  "At the outbreak of the Civil War, a considerable number of young Russians offered their military services to Lincoln and the Union.  Among them was Prince Alexander Eristov...  Prince Eristov, whose English was imperfect, when called upon to explain why he had chosen to fight with the Union forces, took a peach between his fingers; "Like this the peach is so beautiful," he said, "and its skin with all those little hairs is protection in the severest weather."  Breaking the peach in half, he added, holding the two pieces far apart, "But like this, it can withstand nothing!" 

Poor Russia was torn open twice in the twentieth century; the first time, 1917-1921, and again when the Communist Regime collapsed at the end of the last century.  Tsarfan it is difficult for me to understand why, with your love of Soviet Russia you don't seem particulary interested in defending its Union which is a far more comprehensive question that would unite most Russians from the White Russian exiles to the Communists.   

Just as an aside, I always knew that there was no color-line in Russia because of my familiarity with the honors bestowed on the expatriate Black American Shakespearian Actor, Ira Aldridge, who became a honorary member of the Imperial Dramatic Society of Riga and was decorated by Alexander II.  Aldridge eventually married Countess Amanda Pauline Brandt. 

And I was aware that, as one source states;  “(Black) circus and cabaret performers, actors, boxers, jockeys and trainers, all from America, flocked to Russia, flourished there, and left numerous…descendants.” 

The thing that really took me by surprise was the owner of the famous restaurant in Moscow, the Yar, which Rasputin disrupted every now and then with his drunken antics, was owned by Mr. Thomas, a Black man from America who had married a Russian lady.  He also owned the equally famous Aquarium. 

Now every time I read a description of one of Rasputin’s drunken scenes in the Yar, I will have to include Mr. Thomas in that picture.   Well anyway I will post some interesting perspectives.     
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 10, 2006, 11:51:12 PM
Tsarfan it is difficult for me to understand why, with your love of Soviet Russia . . . .

My "love of Soviet Russia" . . . ????  Did you miss my post where I called it an abomination in its origins, its ideology, its policies, and its outcomes?

For some reason, every time a discussion about the Bolshevik period comes up on this board, a coterie develops that asserts that the Soviet regime was absolutely without parallel in every aspect of its behavior.  The way they handled their deposed royals was the absolute worst in history . . . notwithstanding the fact that the French were at least equally cruel with theirs.  The Soviets killed more of their own citizenry than any other regime in history . . . despite the fact that new studies put deaths in Communist China in the 70-80 million range.  The Soviets were uniquely criminal . . . despite the fact that history has been peppered with criminal regimes (if the term even makes sense when applied to sovereign governments).

If one argues that these events were unique in Russia, I guess one doesn't have to confront the larger historical questions of why a runaway ideology anywhere (be it 18th century France or 20th century Russia) seems to result in runaway horrors.  One doesn't have to confront why totalitarian regimes anywhere (be it Germany, Russia, China, Uganda, Cambodia) seem inevitably to wind up committing mass murder.

Let's just all join the chorus to rehearse the horrors of soviet Russia over and over and over again without asking how they arose or how they fit into a larger picture.  And for good measure, let's deliberately mischaracterize the views of anyone who attempts to do so.

The original topic was "The Soviet Union:  What Kind of Mistake Was It?"  Well, I guess we now all know what the only allowable answer is.  It was a uniquely criminal regime that committed horrors never matched anywhere else.

See how easy history can be when one can ordain the facts to be whatever one wants them to be?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on September 11, 2006, 09:10:56 AM
Certain things can be accepted as a given: the Soviet Union was an extremely cruel, despotic state that killed millions of its' own citizens. We all understand that, and it should not be necessary to re-list our anti-Soviet credentials everytime we post lest we be called "lovers of the Soviet Union". That being said, was it "uniquely" evil or despotic? I can't even imagine what the word "unique" means in that context.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . . it has always seemed to me that the USSR was successful in carrying out Tsarist foreign policy through its' domination of eastern Europe, destruction of Germany as a military power in World War II and positioning of Russia as a "superpower" in the second half of the 20th century. Of course, it also demonstrated the limits of that foreign policy, as the Soviet Union was unable to sustain itself as a military power, break the inherent nationalism of the eastern European states and continue its status as a superpower without ruining its economy. If I had to choose what kind of "mistake" the Soviet Union was, I would say that it tried to do too much too soon; that its' leadership was short-sighted in the extreme, and that it took Russia in directions that it could not implement. Instead of carefully husbanding resources and avoiding extra-national "adventures" (as, say, Stolypin would have advised Nicholas II to do), the Soviet Union found itself entrapped in the maintainence of an empire which could not be sustained.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on September 11, 2006, 10:35:34 AM
I also don't think anyone has suggested that Soviet Russia was uniquely criminal. I believe it has been established that many governments have committed criminal acts. The magnitude of the criminality of the Bolsheviks seems to be debatable amongst the members of the Forum contributing here - everything from committing criminal acts to being a criminal regime.

Should we start a list in answer to the original question?

1. Bolsheviks were basically criminals who killed millions of people and destroyed the agricultural infrastructure of the Ukraine.

Corrections and additions welcome.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on September 11, 2006, 11:09:13 AM
2. Bolsheviks were basically the heirs to the Imperial State insofar as foreign policy was concerned, achieved limited success and then collapsed because of an inability to balance a military dictatorship with the needs of a domestic economy.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 11, 2006, 11:21:58 AM
3.  Bolsheviks supressed the intellectual life of Russia, forcing its literature, art, and music to serve the interests of the state, thereby forcing the literate life of the country underground or into exile.   
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 11, 2006, 11:27:00 AM
1. Bolsheviks were basically criminals who killed millions of people and destroyed the agricultural infrastructure of the Ukraine.

Lisa, the Bolsheviks also destroyed the agricultural infrastructure of Russia proper, to the extent that it has yet, to this day, properly if at all recovered. As plenty of people here no doubt remember, throughout the 1970s and 80s the Soviet Union had to import grain from the West in order to make up for its deficient crop yields…The total collapse of the agricultural system throughout the country was one of the many factors leading Gorbachev to introduce radical new reforms in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.

Indeed, a lot of analysts believe that Gorbachev would have been far better off if he had followed the Chinese Communist model of beginning with gradual, incremental reforms of the agricultural system (privatizing land, encouraging small farmers in entrepeneurship), rather than starting, as Gorbachev no doubt unwisely did, with initiating free criticism of the Party and even free speech in general (glasnost), as well as the restructuring of the entire administrative system of the Party (perestroika).

By contrast, the Chinese Communists spent years reforming their disastrous (Mao-ruined) agricultural system without benefit of glasnost’ or perestroika. Arguably, they managed to hang on to power as a result, despite the growing democratization movement in the cities. This is because the peasantry by and large decided to support the Communist regime, so that the government could still rely on its army, largely made up of peasant recruits, to do the same. Such was not the case in the former Soviet Union, as we all know from the example of the August days of 1991, when Soviet troops for the most part refused to fire on the crowds protesting the recent coup by party and military hardliners.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 11, 2006, 11:34:28 AM
Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . . it has always seemed to me that the USSR was successful in carrying out Tsarist foreign policy through its' domination of eastern Europe, destruction of Germany as a military power in World War II and positioning of Russia as a "superpower" in the second half of the 20th century. Of course, it also demonstrated the limits of that foreign policy, as the Soviet Union was unable to sustain itself as a military power, break the inherent nationalism of the eastern European states and continue its status as a superpower without ruining its economy.

Simon, I don’t disagree with you. Russia faced a hard decision in the summer of 1914: either to become the dominant power in eastern Europe, or to become an economic if not necessarily a political satellite of a greater Germany.

In this sense the successor to the tsarist empire, the Soviet Union, in its domination of eastern Europe, and its division of Germany into East and West, was merely fulfilling, as you say, the old imperial Russian program, albeit with much, much greater coercive force and severity (for whereas countries like Czechoslovakia and Bulgaria to a large extent welcomed Soviet leadership, countries like Poland and East Germany certainly did not!).

The Soviets instigated purges on an unprecedented scale in the new satellite nations. Thousands of people in various eastern European states, Communists and non-Communists alike, fell victim to Stalin’s various paranoias during the late 1940s. I admit I don’t know this period of eastern European history at all well. But it seems to me significant that Stalin always took his lead not only from Marxism-Leninism but also from the great rulers of Russia’s past, and most particularly Ivan the Terrible, Russia’s first truly imperial tsar (remember, he conquered the khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan, fought the Livonian War, etc.). For example, across Eisenstein’s screenplay for his famous film about Ivan, Stalin scribbled, repeatedly, "Uchitel'" – "Teacher." He even told Eisenstein that Ivan was the greatest ruler Russia had ever known, his only failing being that "God interfered with him." By this he meant that Ivan was prey to bouts of Christian remorse for his victims. Stalin, needless to say, never let God interfere with him!
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 11, 2006, 12:05:46 PM
Lisa, I have to agree with Tsarfan.  It is really diffficult to discuss the Soviet Union without being accused  at one time or another of supporting them if you don't agree that they're all as a group the worst criminal element in the history of the world.  I don't think that all bolsheviki were criminals.  I believe that some thought that what they were attempting would "save" Russia and make Russia a better nation.  As Solzhenitsyn pointed out, all of the institutions of terror were there, the Soviets employed them on a grander and more methodical scale.  I don't think that all Russians are evil people and anyone who participated in the Soviet government was a criminal.

When you state that "bolsheviks were basically criminals who killed millions of people and destroyed the agricultural infrastructure of the Ukraine" who can disagree with that?  Yes, that happened, there is no doubt about that, so what is there to correct or add?  I just don't know what you're expecting - if it's a list of Soviet crimes, then it's very easy to participate, if, however, you questions the basic premise; "bolsheviki were basically criminals"  then any comments made in opposition to this claim is considered support of the regime.  This isn't personal criticism of anyone, I'm trying to gauge the rules of debate as they apply to those who might dissent from the claim.  If critiques of claims and arguments are unwelcome, it would be easier to know that from the beginning of the thread, rather than to receive the arctic blast after posting.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on September 11, 2006, 12:30:21 PM
Lisa, I have to agree with Tsarfan.  It is really diffficult to discuss the Soviet Union without being accused  at one time or another of supporting them if you don't agree that they're all as a group the worst criminal element in the history of the world.  I don't think that all bolsheviki were criminals.  I believe that some thought that what they were attempting would "save" Russia and make Russia a better nation.  As Solzhenitsyn pointed out, all of the institutions of terror were there, the Soviets employed them on a grander and more methodical scale.  I don't think that all Russians are evil people and anyone who participated in the Soviet government was a criminal.

When you state that "bolsheviks were basically criminals who killed millions of people and destroyed the agricultural infrastructure of the Ukraine" who can disagree with that?  Yes, that happened, there is no doubt about that, so what is there to correct or add?  I just don't know what you're expecting - if it's a list of Soviet crimes, then it's very easy to participate, if, however, you questions the basic premise; "bolsheviki were basically criminals"  then any comments made in opposition to this claim is considered support of the regime.  This isn't personal criticism of anyone, I'm trying to gauge the rules of debate as they apply to those who might dissent from the claim.  If critiques of claims and arguments are unwelcome, it would be easier to know that from the beginning of the thread, rather than to receive the arctic blast after posting.

Hi Bev - I have been trying to avoid directing any postings directly to anyone person because I feel it can limit a free exchange of ideas and puts us in the position of agreeing/disagreeing with every post. I also don't want anyone to feel they have to defend their ideas. So, you are most welcome to agree/disagree with Tsarfan or anyone else for that matter.

What I did suggest was that we commence discussing the mistakes that the Soviet Union made rather than getting hung up on the degree of criminality of that regime. So, if you would like to suggest a wording change to mistake #1, please feel free.

Or, you are also free to disregard my suggestion and we can resume what I was seeing was a possibly non-productive discussion that led some to the erroneous conclusion that Tsarfan was pro-Soviet. I would really prefer to discuss this particular topic, which is, what kind of mistake was it?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 11, 2006, 01:12:06 PM
Dear Bev and anyone else who feels similar concerns,

I deliberately phrased the topic line of this thread as "What Kind of Mistake Was It?" because I recognize that on some very profound level it was all one big gigantic mistake. In other words, I believe that Lenin's party, the Bolsheviks, set out with the most noble of intentions: those of saving not only Russia but also the entire world from injustice and inequality. So, where did they go wrong? Was it in the overall grandiosity or over-ambition of their vision (was their vision in itself somewhat messianic and for that very reason perhaps a mistake?) Or were they predestined to go wrong, given the heritage of Russian autocracy? For that matter, was any other alternative history ever possible, had the Romanov dynasty produced a few more progressive and liberal tsars on the lines of Alexander II (instead of the reactionary Alexander III and the timorous Nicholas II)? Was there a realistic historical alternative to the Bolsheviks? In short, was Russia predestined for the Bolshevik mistake? Or not? And exactly what kind of mistake was it? Where and when did the Bolsheviks go wrong and why?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 11, 2006, 01:47:22 PM
Thanks, Lisa, I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.  I suppose my answer would then be that it was a bad mistake since we know the outcome.  I don't think that the Bolsheviki understood that a philosophy of government may be inspirational to that government  but it is not a substitute for government.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 11, 2006, 01:53:23 PM
That was truly my fault and I apologize Lisa and I especially apologize to you Tzarfan.  I wasn't using the word love in a negative way it came out. I didn't mean to say that you "loved the Soviet Union."  Clealy you present ideas that indicate that you have a very balanced approach to the question.  

I am also really sorry Elizabeth that I interuped what was a delightful well balanced sharing of ideas.  

Having said this, I think the thing that so difficult about the Soviets, is that even though other revolutions such as the French, who used equally strong measures (given their period); they relaxed those measures in a relatively short time and the exiled intelligence and creative spirit of the former regime were allowed to re-enter the national life of France and adjust to the changes in a relavtively short period of time.  Therefore no enourmous groups of exiled French people accumulated for very long in Europe and America.    

However exiled Russians have had a wait as long as the Babylonian exile.  As a result a highly intelligent and literate exiled community of Russia's has grown up over the last 80 years in many countrys and now, they are speaking out.  When the Wall fell it gave the exiled Russian communitys as much polarity as it gave progressive Russian citizens.  This website is such a wonderful example and possibly the first time that both groups can interface and discuss these issues together.  

I am so sorrry that I have inteferred with that process.  Once again Liz, Elizabeth, Louis_Charles, and especially Tsarfan please forgive me.    


  


  
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Richard_Cullen on September 11, 2006, 02:38:12 PM
To answer Elizabeth's question, yes there was an alternative but the problem is power corrupts and absolute power corrupts completely.  I have said elsewhere in the AP that I think too many in Russia wish to put the past behind them but it is now part of their inheritamce.  James Blair Lovell tells us that Anna Anderson said to him "You are my heir, to you alone I leave these truths, how you tell the world about them will be for you to decide, but you will do so in my name."

Whether using the quote of a person who lived a lie is appropriate or not I think it sums up how Russia should deal with its history.  It is hard for us, except through the pages of biographies and history books to understand the true archaic nature of the latter elements of the Romanov dynasty.  Had the reforming work of Alexander II continued there may well have been a different future, but it didn't, a mere fact of history but a history that could in my view have been changed by Nicholas II.

Had the revolution been led differently, had it in those early months moved in another direction they may well have been no need for the violence of the Civil War or Stalin's purges. Lenin may never have been able to seize power.  Yet we have to reflect on what the 'Whites' would have done, no one would have happily stood by and watch there wealth dismantled.  Russia was a land of two extremes at one end the wealth of the IF and families such as the Yusupov's at at the bottom end the peasant working the land, or in the factories of the great cities.

I suppose Lenin, Stalin and their successors, their policies, strategies and tactics could be regarded as a 'mistake' but it wasn't a mistake for them or their supporters at the time.  It was a concious decision and one which had tremendous consequences for Russia and the rest of the world.  It is only by the application of the magnificent science of hindsight that we can say something was a mistake because at the time I am sure they were convinced it was the right decision.

I reflected in a bi-lateral (Great Britain and Russia) conference in St Petersburg that when I had first met the Lt General in charge of the St Petersburg Police Academy (we were the same age) how easily he and I could have faced each other over the battlefields of Germany had the cold war gone hot.  So the mistake could have been even greater and many more of us could have given our lives in the quest to defeat Lenin's dream and maybe the world would have entered that dreaded nuclear winter.

What does history say of any regime once it has faded?  This is an interesting question and so often it leads to a dumbing down of the regime and its processes.  So much of what one now reads by liberal historians about the old British Empire is negative and fails to acknowledge any good.  A recent book I have read re thinks the events of the 'Black Hole of Calcutta' I found it lacking in anything other than its condemnation of Empire.

This dumbing down extends to individuals such as Robert Falcon Scott and many others in an attempt to politicise the world of empire. There have always been empires - big ones and small ones and there is likely that there alawys will be, but the masters of those empires are changing.

So a mistake in hindsight yes but it was advoidable had the Romanovs been able to scan the political environment and responded to it.  And even once revolution had broken out and the Tsar abdicated it was in the gift of Kerensky and others, if they had the ability to do it to achieve another future for Russia.  I am sure someone will tell me that Russia post 1917 was a social experiment just like the colelctive farms.

So a few philosphical thoughts for a Monday night.

Richard
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on September 11, 2006, 02:46:20 PM
Quote
What does history say of any regime once it has faded?  This is an interesting question and so often it leads to a dumbing down of the regime and its processes.

Exactly right.

I am painting my house, and climbing back down as things strike me about this discussion. Does anyone else think that any ideological state is bound to founder eventually, or at least be lead in the direction of the excesses which we have condemned on this thread? All of the "--isms" of the past century seem to share cruelty in the name of "necessary means".



Okay, back up the ladder I go.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 11, 2006, 03:12:41 PM
...I have said elsewhere in the AP that I think too many in Russia wish to put the past behind them but it is now part of their inheritamce.  James Blair Lovell tells us that Anna Anderson said to him "You are my heir, to you alone I leave these truths, how you tell the world about them will be for you to decide, but you will do so in my name."

Thank you Richard for that remark as that was the point I was trying to make in my last post.  The past is not the study of events that happened a long time ago, it is only by understanding the past that we can answer the present question, "Who am I?" by understanding where we came from. 

...I suppose Lenin, Stalin and their successors, their policies, strategies and tactics could be regarded as a 'mistake' but it wasn't a mistake for them or their supporters at the time.  It was a concious decision and one which had tremendous consequences for Russia and the rest of the world.  It is only by the application of the magnificent science of hindsight that we can say something was a mistake because at the time I am sure they were convinced it was the right decision.

...So a mistake in hindsight yes but it was advoidable had the Romanovs been able to scan the political environment and responded to it.  And even once revolution had broken out and the Tsar abdicated it was in the gift of Kerensky and others, if they had the ability to do it to achieve another future for Russia.  I am sure someone will tell me that Russia post 1917 was a social experiment just like the colelctive farms.

What a wonderful historic perspective.  You know the strange thing that comes to mind as I ponder that point is how the Young Empress, in urging her husband through her 600+ letters during the war to move faster and employ more authority, albiet in the wrong direction, telling him that Russia only responded to the "whip" or the "knot" has alwasys created the uncanny impression to me that she was almost unconsciously calling for a Lenin or a Stalin.  I am sure we all realize that I am not sharing this impression to cast down any aspersion on the late Empress as I am a great defender of hers, but non-the-less it is uncanny. 

I know that the skills that I was taught, early on, as to how to defend myself in a drawing room have proved to have a disasterous effect in the democratic processes of a free discussion.  Having said that, I must add that I am not trying to add anything to the discussion here, I am just pondering the impact of Richards heart-felt assessment.   
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 11, 2006, 04:23:50 PM
Richard, those are two very odd comments for an historian to make.  Anna Anderson's comment ranks along side George Constanza's comment, "it's not a lie if people believe it," as two of the most self-serving, rationalizing excuses of all time.  As to whether the Russian revolution was 'avoidable" it is impossible to say, it was a convergence of events, not any one event that pushed Russia into the abyss.  I don't understand where you're going with this line of argument.  Could you explain it, please?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on September 11, 2006, 05:27:28 PM
Quote
What does history say of any regime once it has faded?  This is an interesting question and so often it leads to a dumbing down of the regime and its processes.

Exactly right.

I am painting my house, and climbing back down as things strike me about this discussion. Does anyone else think that any ideological state is bound to founder eventually, or at least be lead in the direction of the excesses which we have condemned on this thread? All of the "--isms" of the past century seem to share cruelty in the name of "necessary means".



Okay, back up the ladder I go.

Be safe. I suppose it depends on the definition of "ideological state". I recall a country founded on the revolutionary ideology of separation of church and state, along with all men having the right of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". Over the years, there are those who have had their issues with that country, and some have accused it of certain excessess, but in no way does the United States of America resemble the former USSR - at least IMHO.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 11, 2006, 08:10:35 PM
I've always wondered if the Russian people were not in such a state of physical and emotional exhaustion, that any government seemed preferable to chaos.

One difference between American revolutionaries and Russian revolutionaries, is that Americans understood that government has to adapt to the people, where the Russians thought the people should adapt to the government.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 11, 2006, 11:45:53 PM
You know I spend a lot of time apologizing to everyone, which I do need to do a great deal of the time and one of the gifts of self-immolation is that it give one a quiet time to re-think things.  I have searched and searched through my sources to try and get at what kind of a mistake I feel was made by the Soviets and I must say that it was not limited to the Soviets but is something we are all facing today. 

The idea that State can successfully replace family as the guide and guardian of it's children is one of the basic mistakes of the Soviets.  Reform Educator Frank Gatto feels that America has made the same kind of mistake.  He says in his essay:

"The Cathedral of Rheims is the best symbol I know of what a community can do and why we lose a lot when we don't know the difference between these human miracles and the social machinery we call networks. Rheims was built without power tools by people working day and night for 100 years. Everybody worked willingly, nobody was slave labor. No school taught cathedral building as a subject.
 
What possessed people to work together for a hundred years? Whatever it was looks like something worth educating ourselves about. We know the workers were profoundly united as families of friends, and as friends they knew what they really wanted in the way of a church. Popes and archbishops had nothing to do with it; Gothic architecture itself was invented out of sheer aspiration, the Gothic cathedral stands like a lighthouse illuminating what is possible in the way of uncoerced human union. It provides a benchmark against which our own lives can be measured.
 
At Rheims, the serfs and farmers and peasants filled gigantic spaces with the most incredible stained glass windows in the world but they never bothered to sign even one of them. Neither Harvard nor anybody else knows who designed them or made them because our modern form of institutional boasting did not yet exist as a corruption of communitarian feeling. After all these centuries they still announce what being human really means.
 
Communities are collections of families and friends who find major meaning in extending the family association to a band of honorary brothers and sisters, they are complex relationships of mutual job and obligation which generalize to others beyond the perimeter of the homestead.
 
When the integration of life that comes from being part of a family in a community is unattainable, the only alternative, apart from accepting a life in isolation, is to search for an artificial integration into one of the many expressions of network currently available. It's a bad trade and we should begin thinking about school reform by stopping these places from functioning like cysts, impenetrable, insular bodies that take our money, our children, and our time and give nothing back.
 
Artificial integration that controls human associations - think of those college dorms or fraternities - appears strong but is actually quite weak; seems close-knit but in reality its bonds are loose; suggests durability but is usually transient. And it is most often badly adjusted to what people need although it masquerades as being exactly what they need."

That is the nature of the beast to me.  Russia under Soviet rule was just an extreme example.  By 1926 Bertram Russell observed the same artifical experiment going on in America.     
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 11, 2006, 11:56:18 PM
Gatto continues:  "Mass-education cannot work to produce a fair society because its daily practice is practice in rigged competition, suppression and intimidation. The schools we've allowed to happen can't work to teach non-material values, the values which give meaning to everyone's life, rich or poor, because the structure of schooling is held together by a Byzantine tapestry of reward and threat, of carrots and sticks. Those things have no connection with education - working for official favor, grades, or other trinkets of subordination, that is - they are the paraphernalia of servitude, not freedom.
 
Mass-schooling damages children."   Again Gatto is taking the American education system but it is interesting that he started his reform efforts just as the Wall was going down.  I love his quote from DOROTHY LAW NOLTE about children:

CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE..
 
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH CRITICISM,
HE LEARNS TO CONDEMN.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH HOSTILITY,
HE LEARNS TO FIGHT.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH RIDICULE,
HE LEARNS TO BE SHY.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH SHAME,
HE LEARNS TO FEEL GUILTY.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH TOLERANCE,
HE LEARNS TO BE PATIENT.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH ENCOURAGEMENT,
HE LEARNS CONFIDENCE.
I F A CHILD LIVES WITH PRAISE,
HE LEARNS TO APPRECIATE.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH FAIRNESS,
HE LEARNS JUSTICE.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH SECURITY,
HE LEARNS TO HAVE FAITH.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH APPROVAL,
HE LEARNS TO LIKE HIMSELF.
IF A CHILD LIVES WITH ACCEPTANCE AND FRIENDSHIP,
HE LEARNS TO FIND LOVE IN THE WORLD.


Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 12, 2006, 12:44:27 AM
I found the other quote from Gatto about Russell's observations.  When I read it all I can see is scenes out of Max Reinhardt's "Metropolis."  What I am attempting to do is to broaden the mistakes that the Soviets made by showing the same kind of mistakes in other countries.

"Sixty-five years ago Bertrand Russell, the greatest mathematician of this century (20th), its greatest philosopher, and a close relation of the King of England to boot, saw that mass- schooling in the United States had a radically anti-democratic intent, that it was a scheme to artificially deliver national unity by eliminating human variation, and by eliminating the forge that produces variation: the Family. According to Lord Russell, mass-schooling produced a recognizably American student: anti-intellectual, superstitious, lacking self confidence; with less of what Russell called "inner freedom" than in the citizens of any other nation he knew of, past or present. These schooled children become citizens, he said, with a thin "mass character", holding excellence and aesthetics equally in contempt, inadequate to the personal crises of their lives. He wrote that in 1926."

Gatto is a very strong critic of American schooling but he touches on much bigger issues that give me a vocabulary to address what I believe to be the basic flaw of the Soviet rule, a flaw that is not just confined to the Soviet rule.  I don't think that the thread is "bashing" a fallen government, so much as it pointing out the dangers of such social and political assumptions. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Richard_Cullen on September 12, 2006, 12:54:46 AM
Bev,

I should have added a paragraph - I think the Anna Anderson quote says a lot (although in her case not the truth) but the Russian people are the heirs of what happened in 1917 and to the end of the Communist regime. We now know thw truths of what happened and it is for them to tell the world about them.  For me it means you have to accept what has gone before and acknowledge it acordingly, the spin you put on it is up to the storyteller.

Richard
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Belochka on September 12, 2006, 02:39:16 AM
Bev,

I should have added a paragraph - I think the Anna Anderson quote says a lot (although in her case not the truth) but the Russian people are the heirs of what happened in 1917 and to the end of the Communist regime. We now know thw truths of what happened and it is for them to tell the world about them.  For me it means you have to accept what has gone before and acknowledge it acordingly, the spin you put on it is up to the storyteller.

Richard

I would tender that the soviet system was a deleterious mutation  rather than a horizontal inheritance. Heirs assume the characteristics of their predecessor.

Margarita
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on September 12, 2006, 09:46:25 AM
Surely if that were always true, Nicholas II would have been a more successful Tsar?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 12, 2006, 11:19:45 AM
I'm not sure I understand what you mean by a "deleterious mutation" - are you saying that bolshevism was a mutation of autocracy?  That is an interesting concept.  Are all governments mutations of their ancestors?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 12, 2006, 11:30:31 AM
Surely if that were always true, Nicholas II would have been a more successful Tsar?

K. P. Pobyedonostseff's "Reflections of a Russian Stateman," was published in 1898.  His book gives us a clear sense of what Nicholas faced when he broke with the autocratic rule of his father and established a Duma and civil liberties for his people in 1905, as I have said, making Russia the youngest constitutional government to fight in WWI.

Pobyedonostseff wrote "Reflections of a Russian Stateman" just just 8 years before 1905.  1997 isn't that far away from 2006, Just so, "Reflections" still formed the basis of the right's oppostion to Nicholas's move in 1905.  

Pobyedonostseff states:

"...It is evident, then, that unanimity of opinion has little influence, and that the pretended solicitude for the public welfare serves as the concealment of motives and instincts in no way related to it.  This is the ideal of parliamentary government!  It is a gross delusion to regard it as a guarantee of freedom.  The absolute power of the sovereign is replaced by the absolute power of Parliament, with this difference only, that the person of the sovereign may embody a rational will, while in Parliament all depends upon accident, as the decisions of Parliament are brought about by the majority.  But as, by the side of the majority consitituted under the influence of party gambling, a powerful minority exists, the will of the majority is in no way the will of the Parliament.  Still less can it be regarded as the will of the people, the healthy mass of which abstains from participation in the comedy of parties, and turns away from it with abhorrence.  On the other hand, the corrupt part of the population mingles willingly in politics, and thereby is driven to a worse corruption, for the chief motive of this comedy is appetitie for power and plunder.  Political freedom becomes a fiction maintained on paper by paragraphs and phrases of the constitution; the principles of monarchial power disappear; the Liberal Democracy triumphs, bringing society disorder and violence with the principles of infidelity and materialism, and proclaiming Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity--where there is place neither Liberty nor for Equality.  Such conditions inevitalby lead to anarchy, from which society can be saved alone by dictatorship--that is, by the rehabilitation of autocracy in the government of the world."

The heirs of Nicholas II would have continued the constitutional momentum instead of destroying it.  Therefore I tend to agree with Margarita "I would tender that the soviet system was a deleterious mutation rather than a horizontal inheritance. Heirs assume the characteristics of their predecessor."



        
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 12, 2006, 11:36:03 AM
Or on reflection, perhaps the Soviet rule was the final triumph of K. P. Pobyedonostseff, that is with the exception of his God.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 12, 2006, 02:03:14 PM

Pobyedonostseff states:

"...It is evident, then, that unanimity of opinion has little influence, and that the pretended solicitude for the public welfare serves as the concealment of motives and instincts in no way related to it.  This is the ideal of parliamentary government!  It is a gross delusion to regard it as a guarantee of freedom.  The absolute power of the sovereign is replaced by the absolute power of Parliament, with this difference only, that the person of the sovereign may embody a rational will, while in Parliament all depends upon accident, as the decisions of Parliament are brought about by the majority.  But as, by the side of the majority consitituted under the influence of party gambling, a powerful minority exists, the will of the majority is in no way the will of the Parliament.  Still less can it be regarded as the will of the people, the healthy mass of which abstains from participation in the comedy of parties, and turns away from it with abhorrence.  On the other hand, the corrupt part of the population mingles willingly in politics, and thereby is driven to a worse corruption, for the chief motive of this comedy is appetitie for power and plunder.  Political freedom becomes a fiction maintained on paper by paragraphs and phrases of the constitution; the principles of monarchial power disappear; the Liberal Democracy triumphs, bringing society disorder and violence with the principles of infidelity and materialism, and proclaiming Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity--where there is place neither Liberty nor for Equality.  Such conditions inevitalby lead to anarchy, from which society can be saved alone by dictatorship--that is, by the rehabilitation of autocracy in the government of the world."


First, griffh, thanks for your earlier apology, and please don't worry about it.  My style of argumentation and writing sometimes makes me seem more exercised than I am.  Since I enjoy sparring (just ask Elisabeth), I have to be ready to take punches as well.

The Pobyedonostseff quote sheds quite a disturbing light on the mind of a man who so influenced Nicholas' (and his father's) thinking.  First, it ignores the fact that constitutional systems (either republics or constitutional monarchies) in the 19th century were wracking up considerable successes.  England was at the forefront of the industrial revolution and engaged in serious soul-searching about rectifying the horrors into which early industrialization had plunged its burgeoning working classes.  The U.S. system had recently produced a civil war fuelled in part by a determination to tackle the issue of slavery.  And more recently the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 was proof that representative systems were capable of tackling monopolies and the excesses of capitalism.

Pobyedonostseff tags representative government as particularly prone to corruption.  This ignores the fact that one of the reasons given for England's early emergence as a strong commercial and martime power was the fact that her constitutional system produced a series of laws and a cadre of civil servants that were remarkably resistant to corruption and provided the legal stability and sense of fair play that encouraged people to commit capital to new enterprises.  And it ignores the fact that the Russian civil service was riddled with corruption to the point that the tsar himself could seldom be sure his will was being carried out at the local level.  This lack of effective central control resulted in things such as the government's inability to reign in local police during the pogroms that were to embarrass Russia diplomatically in 1905/06 and in the breakdown of supply lines to the troops and the cities that was the final catalyst that triggered the March revolution.

Finally, his claim that constitutional government is really just a philosophical ruse by the few to grab power and plunder is actually a very good description of the history of autocracy.  Had he taken a recent count of the number of palaces the Romanovs had at their disposal or a look at the distribution of wealth in Imperial Russia?  It was by far the most extreme case of concentration in the hands of the few that existed among the major nations.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 12, 2006, 02:04:29 PM
Continuation of above post . . .


I must admit there is some prescience in Pobyedonostseff's prediction that anarchy would emerge from the brew of forces that were developing in Russia at the time he wrote this.

However, I disagree with the contention that Nicholas' heirs would continue the constitutional momentum . . . because there was no momentum after 1906.  Nicholas immediately began a subtle but determined campaign to undo as much as he could of what he had been forced to do to quell the 1905 revolution.  He recast the franchise, he unilaterally created an upper house to block legislation, he dissolved Dumas whose policies he did not like, he failed to put his weight behind land reform and to support his ministers who were willing to work with a Duma constructively.

There is an interesting anecdote I read recently of an event in a provincial city that Nicholas and Alexandra attended to celebrate the centenniel of the Battle of Borodino in 1912.  In his remarks welcoming the imperial couple, a local dignitary thanked Nicholas for his institution of constitutional government.  Nicholas responded with a sharp retort, Alexandra stiffened visibly, and they cut short their scheduled participation in a subsequent reception.  Such public displays, combined with Gilliard's recollections of Alexandra's dark mood prior to the opening of the Duma, the demeanor of the imperial family at the opening ceremonies (including Marie Feodorovna's open weeping), and Nicholas' and Alexandra's obsession that their son inherit an intact autocracy just as Nicholas received it from his father and from God does not indicate much constitutional momentum to me.

This is why I feel 1905/06 sealed the fate of Russia and -- perhaps -- elevated Pobyedonostseff's prediction of anarchy from the venting of spleen by a reactionary using very selective history to a prescient vision of the future of Russia.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 12, 2006, 02:10:54 PM
I just wanted to say that my above remarks are perhaps a bit oversimplified and that from reading K. P. Pobyedonostseff's "Reflections of a Russian Stateman" his ideal appears to me to be, in spite of his abhorence of western democratic institutions, closer to John Taylor Gatto's (I don't know why I keep calling him Frank) vision of famliy and community and education that Gatto expressed in his piece on the building of Rheims Cathedral.      
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 12, 2006, 03:19:38 PM
First off, thank you so much Tsarfan for accepting my apology.   

I am right there with you on all your observations, especially about how difficult it was for the Young Empress to accept a limited future for her son and how haltingly Nicholas stepped forward with his constitutional government.  In spite of his embarrassment and inner struggles, as Pobyedonostseff was also one of Nicholas' strongest advisors prior to 1905, the late Emperor only dissolved the first two Dumas, 1906 and 1907.  Bev and I discussed this in another thread I can't remember where it is. 

But briefly Paul P. Gronsky, a former member of the Duma wrote in the book, "The War and the Russian Government" he co-authored with Nicholas J. Astrov, Former Mayor of Moscow and Chairman of the Committee of the All-Russian Union of Towns, that while the Emperor had the right to dissolve Dumas prior to the expiration of their term, Article 105 of the Fundamental Laws, required "that the decree of dissolution should also contain an order for new elections to the Duma and state the time of its convocation."  Gronsky goes on to state that, "As the sessions of the Duma were to be held every year, the period of time within which new elections should be ordered was by implication laid down; the elections were to be held in such a way as to enable the new Duma to assemble in the following year."

I love your point about K. P. Pobyedonostseff.  I will try to find his remarks about Socialism which is why I altered my remarks about his absolutism being something the Soviets inherited. The interesting thing about Pobyedonosteff is that he was so sincere he gained the respect of almost everyone he encountered, including the American Ambassador to Russia, Andrew D. White, who while he could not agree with anything Pobyedonosteff said, he still found him a truly fascinating man and a brilliant thinker.  I am always shocked that Podyedonosteff was a close friend of Dostoyesvsky who I was told used his friend Podyedonosteff for the role of the husband of Anna K. I can't remember how to spell Karenina and I don't want to run out of time and loose my whole post.     

I really begin to wonder if the late Emperor was fatalistic, or was just a very good student of Pobyedonostseff, after reading the man’s thoughts on death:

“The ancients, we are told, were accustomed to place a skeleton or a skull in the midst of their banquet halls that they might be reminded of the proximity of death.  This custom had decayed: we feast and make merry and strive to banish all thoughts of death, and his threatening face at any moment may appear before us…” 

…Or this choice piece of Pobyedonostseff’s, which was also prophetic as you pointed out Tzarfan about his earlier statement, on sacrifice in the fifth section of his chapter “The Malady of Our Time:

 “In ancient Rome an abyss appeared which threatened to engulf the whole city.  All efforts to remedy the disaster were in vain.  The people appealed to the oracle, which answered that the abyss would be closed when Rome gave up in sacrifice its greatest treasure.  We know the sequel.  Curtius, the first citizen of Rome, the bravest of the brave, flung himself into the gulf, which closed for ever.

Among us, also, in the modern world a terrible chasm has appeared, the chasm of pauperism, which separates the poor from the rich by an impassable gulf.  What have we not sacrificed to fill it up?  Mountains of gold, and wealth of every kind, masses of sermons and instructive works, floods of enthusiasm, a hundred social institutions organized expressly, all swallowed up, yet the gulf yawns open as before.  We too, have invoked the oracle to reveal to us a certain remedy.  The word of this oracle has long been spoken, and is well known to all.  “A new commandment I give unto you that ye also love one another: as I have loved you that yea also love one another.”  Could we find the true meaning of this precept, could we rise to its height, could we cast into the gulf all that is most precious to us—the theories, the prejudices, the practices which are bound with our respective callings, and confirmed in the hearts if each, we should sacrifice ourselves to the abyss and close it forever.”

I think that this desire to be a Christian version of the Roman Curtius, comes the closest to anything I have ever read about what may have motivated the late Emperor to abdicate his throne.   
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 12, 2006, 04:11:05 PM
Griffh, Nicholas would have agreed with P.  The only reason he agreed to a monarchy is because his back was up against the wall.  

Secondly, Gatto doesn't know what he's talking about.  His description of the building of the Notre Dame Cathedral as some sort of "community project" is about as wrong as anyone can get.  Skilled craftsmen, engineers and stone masons were paid to build it, and this idea that the community rallied around and built that cathedral is just plain wrong.    France had the same system of apprenticeship, journeyman and master as other countries and apprenticeships started at age 7 and continued to age 21.  No one worked at that site for nothing and the workmen were well trained.  If anyone reminds me of the Soviet fools, it's Gatto with his delusions and ignorance of how the real world works.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 12, 2006, 04:46:43 PM
Bev, Gatto does rather undermine some of the cherished concepts of the American academic world.  Whether or not he got it right about Rheims or not he does offer an interesting perspective on public instruction that in some respects parallel Pobyedonostseff's concerns about an institutional approach.   

I finally found my post in which I quote Nicholas' letter to his mother about the steps he took to establish freedom for his people.  This letter from the late Emperor was written at Peterhof and addressed to his mother in Denmark.

“…You remember, no doubt, those January days…I am going to try to describe the position here as briefly as possible…Petersburg and Moscow were entirely cut off from the interior…  When at various [revolutionary] meetings…it was openly decided to proclaim an armed uprising, and I heard about it, I immediately gave the command of all troops in the Petersburg district to Trepoff…  Trepoff made it quite plain to the populace by his proclamations that any disorder would be ruthlessly put down; and, of course, everybody believed that.  So the ominous quiet days began…  Everybody was on edge and extremely nervous, and, of course, that sort of strain could not go on for long.  Through all those horrible days, I constantly met with Witte.  We very often met in the early morning to part only in the evening, when night fell.  There were only two ways open: to find an energetic soldier and crush the rebellion by sheer force.  There would be time to breathe then but, as likely as not, one would have to use force again in a few months; and that would mean rivers of blood, and in the end we should be where we had started.  I mean to say, government authority would be vindicated, but there would be no positive result and no possibility of progress achieved.  The other way out would be to give the people their civil rights, freedom of speech and the press, also to have all laws confirmed by a State Duma—that, of course, would be a constitution. …My dear Mama, you can’t imagine what I went through before that moment…My only consolation is that such is the will of God, and this grave decision will lead my dear Russia out of the intolerable chaos she has been in for nearly a year.” 

These were my comments at the time of my post:

To me these are the words of a man of deep personal integrity struggling to do the highest right for his country; a man who was in deep conflict over upholding the honor of his House and at the same time wanting to free his beloved country from the destructive chaos that threatened to consume his people. 

This valiant young man, in spite of being handicapped by his youth and inexperience (having only recently turned 37 and therefore almost ten years younger than the youngest American President) was the first Russian ruler to have the courage and foresight to complete the momentum started by his grandfather, the Czar Liberator Alexander II, but stalled by his own father, Alexander III. 

Nicholas letter to his mother reveals the deep spiritual ordeal he passed through in order to find the morale courage to go against everything his beloved father had stood for and to go against his own sacred coronation vows.  There is no indication in his deeply moving letter to his mother that he did not know what he was doing or that it took that momentous step in a half-hearted way, or that he did not fully understand that he was changing the character of his own position, that of his House, and that of his government for the betterment of his people.  In a sense he was taking new vows when he signed the Imperial manifesto.   

I don’t find anything in this man’s thoughts that indicate weakness or insincerity or that this man was simply yielding to pressure.  But I am taking us way off course here by discussing the merits or demerits of the late Empreror...   

 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 12, 2006, 05:10:43 PM
Griffh, you've posted that paragraph from that letter before as proof that N II was predisposed to the granting of a constitution and was just waiting for the right time.    It seems to me that he was considering the two ways out of his dilemma and chose the path of least resistance. 

Gatto's schtick isn't anything new - it's A.P. Neil's "Summerhill" - this is Gatto's teaching philosophy - (a direct quote) "you can learn what you need even the technical stuff at the moment you need it or shortly before."  It's a philosophy as stupid and unrealistic as marxism.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 12, 2006, 06:22:18 PM
Just to say my point is not that Nicholas was predisposed to grant a constitution, (I think  David Pritchard might point out, that techically it was revising the Fundamental Laws rather than granting a Constitution) but to me Nicholas clearly reasoned that a military dictatorship, while creating prestige for the Crown, would not be a lasting solution for his people nor would it be a step forward.  The fact that he acknowledged that the revision of the Fundamental Laws was "progress" for his people is significant to me.  If Nicholas had been forced against his will to take these steps, he would have never used the word progress.  I feel his letter, written within weeks of his decision was an intelligent assessment of the two paths laying open to him.  It is, to me, a soul-searching letter.

 But as you have pointed out before, the honor I hold for the late Emperor calls into serious question my credibility.  Hey Bev, what do you think, should we start a thread on Nicholas II/1905, so that we can continue our discussion?  I would love to argue my point of view with you, but it is just that I don't want to take Elizabeth's thread off course.



Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 12, 2006, 09:04:51 PM
Griffh, it isn't the honour you hold for the emperor that calls into question your credibility - I don't question your credibility at all.  Sure, start another thread sounds like fun.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on September 12, 2006, 10:59:33 PM



I am always shocked that Podyedonosteff was a close friend of Dostoyesvsky who I was told used his friend Podyedonosteff for the role of the husband of Anna K. I can't remember how to spell Karenina and I don't want to run out of time and loose my whole post.     




Hello,

I just wanted to point out that Anna Karenina was written by Tolstoy, not Dostoyevsky.  The character of Alexei Alexandrovich Karenin is supposedly based on Pobedenotsev himself or someone in his family.

There was no love-lost between Tolstoy and Pobedonotsev.  In fact I think that Pobedonotsev instigated Tolstoy's expulsion from the Orthodox church -- although it hardly mattered to Tolstoy by that time.

I also wish to point out the damage to Russia's culture which was wrought by the Bolsheviks.  During Nicholas' reign Russia was in the midst of a cultural explosion -- a lot of this (but not all) was suffocated by the revolution.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 12, 2006, 11:33:22 PM
OOPS!  Big, Big  Blunder! 

I am grateful for confirmation about Pod. and Anna K., even if I got the authors mixed up.  Poor little Pod. with his horn rimmed glasses.  I think he was a great friend of Dostoyevsky.

The international press, especially the Protestant world, certainly embraced Tolstoy after his excommunication.  Cleverly enough in her Preface for, "Reflections of a Russian Statesman," Olga Novikofff enlists Tolstoy on Pobyedonostseff's side:

"Mr. Pobyedonosteff is the critic in the stalls.  To him, as to all us Russians, the parliamentary theatre of the Western world performs a long tragi-comedy, which occasionally ascends to tragedy and sometimes sinks into farce.  We can observe it dispassionately, critically, and sometimes even sympathetically.

However you may deplore the fact, we are outside of it, and have never shown less disposition that to-day to enrol ourselves in the Democratic troupe.

Even Count Leon Tolstoi, who may, perhaps, be regarded as the most extreme and privileged critic in Russia, treates Consitutionalism with the same supercilious contempt as all the other forms of government."

Just imagine what Russia would have given the 20th century culturally if there had been no Bolshevik revolution.  Russia had already blown away Paris in 1909 with its modern ballet, set/ costume designs, and music, reshaping the west and splashing Leon Baskt's brilliant colors over the canvas of Europe and America. 

One of the first things one of my relatives did after Diaghilev hit Paris was to tear down her heavy velvet drapes, white-wash her dark carved furniture and paint her drawing room persimmon, not that this information proves anything.         
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 15, 2006, 10:12:56 AM
A new book is just hitting the shelves.  It's called "The J Curve:  A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall" and was written by Dr. Ian Bremmer, a former Stanford professor of political science and now head of the Eurasia Group, the world's largest political risk consultancy.  My firm uses the Eurasia Group heavily, and Dr. Bremmer opened his six-week book tour with a talk to our colleagues last evening.  It immediately struck me that his thinking about how nations evolve stability and how they lose it bears on the question of why the Soviet Union became the type of state it did.

Basically, Dr. Bremmer argues that stability is a function of openness in modern societies.  Open societies have an inherent stability that allows them to weather a wide range of events, as well as many economic and political blunders by government.  As openness diminishes, force becomes more and more the necessary means of maintaining stability.  I won't get into the technicalities of why plotting the experiences of various governments throughout history on x/y axes of stability vs openness yields a j-shaped curve, but suffice it to say that when stability is maintained by force, the loss of stability can be triggered by a wider range of events -- and events of less seeming consequence -- than in an open society.  When a closed society destabilizes, the fall into instability is more precipitous.  And stability is most likely recoverable only by the re-imposition of force.

Dr. Bremmer discussed Russia more in the context of what has happened there since Kiriyenko destabilized the country in 1998 with the devaluation of the ruble and the default on foreign-held debt.  The attempt to restore stability to a nation that had not yet matured into a fully open society is most likely to result in just what Russia is experiencing today -- the consolidation of power by Putin.  Bremmer describes today's Russia as having a President, but no Presidency;  parliamentarians but no Parliament; and many laws without the rule of law.

Applying this approach to the European powers at the end of WWI, one sees England and France (the most open socieities) still on their feet politically despite massive losses of life and economic dislocations, and one sees the three eastern monarchies overthrown.  And in Russia, arguably the least open of those three societies, the political destabilization was accompanied by social anarchy on a scale not approached in Germany or Austro-Hungary.

Althrough Bremmer speaks very little of Russia in 1917, his model predicts that any nation which had maintained stability by force rather than openness will descend quickly into anarchy at the hands of events that are less destabilizing to open societies . . . and that they can only reattain stability through the massive imposition of force.  This sounds like a pretty good recipe for the brew that was the October Revolution.  An autocratic state was more destabilized by WWI than its more open neighbors.  And its attempts to restore order through the "open society" policies of the Provisional Government were insufficient.  Bolshevism, with its ideological bent toward dictatorship and indiscriminate use of force, was alone up to the task.

The tsars and their aristocrats.  The Bolsheviks and their KGB.  And now Putin and his oligarchs.

What kind of mistake was the Soviet Union?  Maybe no mistake.  Maybe just the most extreme and evil incarnation of the form of government to which Russia seems doomed.  Will she ever get off this treadmill?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Richard_Cullen on September 17, 2006, 02:26:52 PM
Griff

Just catching up on this but I think I take a very different view of the last Tsar.  I do sincerely believe that he had the gift to prevent the revolution had he been anywhere near the quality of the Tsar Liberator.  I often give presentations on leadreship and when I want an example of a poor leader I use Nicholas II.

I think he was a man of limited ability (most hereditary monarches are), he was sheltered by his arents and was almost a toy soldier. He was thrust into his role as Tsar by the untimely death of his father.  But what experience did he have of life, seeing his grandfather dying from an assaaian's bomb.  The clamp down of his father and then a total lack of experience in politics and the politics of being Tsar.

He was the supreme autocrat, and I thin the evidence weighs heavily against him being a reformer.  I don't think his position was helped by the Tsarita.

I personally have no problems with anyone being a supporter of the last Tsar many of my senior Russian friends are.  I certainly don't subscribe to the criticism of you in one of threads that you are blind to anyhting that is critical of te Romanovs.  The richness of this web-site is that people (providing they are sensible) can put their views, thoughts and feelings about Russian history and long may it be so.  I don't dislike Nicholas he was a product of avery fuedal Russia, he did not, nor did his family, deserve to die in the way they did.

Very few historians have a balanced view and if an individual is fortunate enough to have a number of biographies written about them you rarely find them saying the same thing.  Historians sometimes have hidden agendas - although they would deny it, I am sure.  The application of precise hindsight to historical events is not to be recommended.  An example is that I am currently researching the three battles of Ypres in World War I and in particular the leadership of the three generals.  So many books so many different views and a real minefield of information (excuse the pun).

As an aside which First World War I General was present during the defeat of part of Lord Chelmsford's column in the First Zulu War and died mysteriously many years later in a car crash?

Regards

Richard
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 17, 2006, 05:33:35 PM
To a man I certainly respect you as much as I do the late Emperor....Richard....I so respect your point of view.  But Richard listen to the man’s words to his own mother.  This is a man in crisis, a man that only has God as his guide. 

I suppose I can say this from my perspective, here above the Easter feast that I seem to be nailed to, and yes, once again I must yield to your view.   But my-well-respected-Richard; there are other perspectives that are equally important in our assessment of Nicholas II. 

I hope to be able to engage you in a thread on Nicholas, however, I yield to your assessment as I do not want to interrupt the flow of your very valuable perspective. 

And then there is the upcoming trial of Rasputin.     

Oh how I wish that I did not have British blood flowing in my German/Russian veins.  What a terrible admission!!!!   Was it not?   Still, have I not, by my admission, been made into a half-sovereign? 

Richard, my British Granny told me, when I was but a wee child, that trying to win an argument with a British peer was an impossibility.  And like a true Slav, I yield, but I do not give up.  Passive resistance is perhaps as powerful a political tool of the true Slav as intellect is to the West. 

Regardless, my point is that you possess a depth of perspective on historic issues that I simply do not possess and I hope to learn from your wonderful point of view.  I am humbled by your kindness to me. 

After all I am but a remnant of a court that once was and my claim to entrée is even questionable.  Americans, even ex-patriot Americans, have no right to claim Imperial immunity.  Alas, I will never possess that smart apartment in St. Petersburg.   

Well this is all just to say, putting aside our differing point of view, Richard; please do get on with that wonderful trial of yours.  My British nephew was connected with Radcliffe’s in London, but I believe he is only involved in corporate law; otherwise I would try to involve him in your venture. 

Richard, I believe you have it right and I am most anxious to hear the truth; and forgive me Elizabeth for diverting this thread to Richard’s impeding trial

Elizabeth you should be apart of this trial as should you Tsarfan…and so many more hearts…..we need to fill the jury….plus perhaps Elizabeth has a legal background?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 17, 2006, 06:20:30 PM
My other point, while trying to rally individuals to the trial of Rasputin, is that we must make exceptions for the the late Emperor, Nicholas II.  It is important to remember that he was the only member of his House to actually engage in constitutional government.  Alexander II, who I totally respect, in spite of his domestic tragedy, never engaged in the actual activity of a constitutional monarch.  Who on earth can judge Nicholas II?  He was alone without a mentor.  Look at the man in 1905.  His country was in revolt.  Choas threatened to envelope the nation.  His beautiful young wife, who had just produced his heir, and closeted with her boon companion, Stansa of Montenegro, and both woment wre fighting the reform.  His Prime Minister, Witte, towered over him and overwhelmed him.  His diva Romanoff Uncles threatened and shouted at him.  And yet Nicholas pursued a course of his own and he was able to define his ideal to his mother in a letter written just days after his ordeal. 

By his own will, Nicholas established a Duma that he could not be paralyze by his wil, and he established civil liberites for his people that he could not recall.  Even though he promulgated the first two Duma's, the third Duma lasted it's five year majority, and the Fourth Duma was dissolved by the Provisional Government just as it concluded it’s five year rule in October, 1917. 

It is also important to remember that Konstantin Pobedonotsev (1827-1907), educator to both Nicholas II and his father, Alexander III (and the man who Alexander III had appointed in 1880 as procurator of the Holy Synod) was retired in 1905. 

From then on Nicholas II was on his own.  He is not credited for his courage or his fortitude.  Who of us, on having decided to talk a new and hazzardous step forward, has not taken three steps backward?  But as I have said, let us take up this topic in another thread. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 17, 2006, 09:13:26 PM
I certainly hope that remark about being "blinded to anything critical of the Romanovs" was not for my benefit, Richard Cullen.  I didn't say it, and for you to imply that I said it is wrong.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 17, 2006, 09:50:39 PM
Hi Bev.  I am sure that Richard was not being personal. 

By-the-by I was just re-reading my two posts.  I believe my first post was almost incoherent, so other than promoting Rasputin's trial, I don't believe it is worthy of discussion. 

I think I did a better job with my second post, and I must admitt that my point of view is flawed by the fact that Nicholas did not actively promote the reforms he agreed to.  I believe that even Stolypin's rise to power set the Duma back.  And apparently Nicholas did use the Fundamental law 87 to restore the old legislative machinery which had existed under the autocratic regime during those periods when the Duma was not in session.  Even though the Duma, once in session, did have the right to abrogate any of those temporary laws passed by the Emperor, if they were not submitted to the Duma for approval, apparently practically speaking it became an almost impossible task.  And it is clear that the third and fourth Dumas, because of the introduction of a "Chambre Introuvable," did not represent the interests of the entire country, but only those of the landowning classes. 

Then there is Tsarfan's remark about how defensive Nicholas II was in 1911 when someone mentioned his constitutional government. 

Having said that, I question the motivation of men like Rodzianko.  What was that man really up to?  When Rodzianko was given a taste of real power by being involved the Special Councils that Nicholas established in the summer of 1915 as an emergency measure to meet the demands that arose from the retreat of his armies, what effect did that have on Rodzianko?  And why does Gronsky date the discontent of the Progressive bloc with both the government and the Special councls from the summer of 1915 even before the late Emperor took over command of the army? 

It seems to me that the Progressive Bloc started plotting the revolution the minute that the reverses in the summer of 1915 occurred.  This is what I am curious about.  By then the Duma had found a way to work with their reluctant Emperor.  They knew his strengths and they knew his weakness.  The fact that they started plotting during the war is something I find abhorrent.  Their betrayal started even before Nicholas assumed Command of his Army. 

 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Richard_Cullen on September 18, 2006, 07:54:31 AM
Griff

I think the plotters had been working long before 1915 not that this in itself justifies their actions.  I suppose if you consider over the years the imprisonement and deaths of those considered to be revolutionaries and anarchist you start to build up a pot of collaborators who work for the daownfall of the regime.

The concept of terrorism seems in those relatively early days to have been well established in russia with many exiled from teh country plotting from afar.  Lenin leaves me cold, let someone else do the risky workk and then come in and take over.

Millions of Russians were uprooted from their daily life to fight in a war, a war different from anyhting experienced before and one for which the Russian Army was not prepared or equipped to fight.

I recall reaading some papers that sugegsted that after Jpanaese/Russian war an estimation was given that Russia would require until at least 1920 to have effective armed forces.  World War I came far too early.

Lots of dead, lots of suffering, away from home the peasants who formed the bulk of the Army lost their belief the divine power of the autocracy and thus dissent and eventually revolution.

Richard
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 18, 2006, 12:59:05 PM
I am right with you Richard that the revolution's orgins dating far before 1915 as Radzinsky points out in his new book on Alexander II, which actually should have been called, "Alexander II/A Brief History of Nihilism," as there was at least as much information about the Revolutionist and their transformation from libreals to terrorists in the 1870s as there was on Alexander II life.  Perhaps the two are so closely inter-connected that the biography of one becomes the biography of the other.

And I am right with you about the reforms in the Russian Army not being completed by 1914.  As a matter of fact I have read that this is one of the reasons Germany went to war in 1914 as they knew if they waited even four more years the Russian Army would have been too strong for them to fight a war on two fronts. 

But I am less interested in the International Socialists and the exiled Russian terrorists who by their own admission had given up their hope of seeing a Revolution in Russia.  I am interested in the men that comprised the Progressive Bloc in the Duma.  It was the agenda of these men liberals in the summer of 1915, working within the apparatus of this very young dualistic constitutional government, that I am focused on and who I believe betrayed Nicholas.  These were the men that had worked with him from 1907 on and who started to take the government apart from within at the worst possible time.  Their judgement and timing made them terrible blunderers.  Nicholas' Special Councils had solved the problems that faced Russian arms as Winston Churchill states.   

I am not trying to discredit the Progressive movement or its strong desire to continue the war or their frustration with the slow and haulting steps of Nicholas' government.  Clearly we can see their liberal intent in the wonderful advances that they made for Russians in the increased civil liberties that they granted once the Provisional Government was in power.  Again, I think they are responsible for a very serious lack of judgement and I believe that they seek to hide their weakness and failure to hold the government from the terrorists by tearing down the late Emperor.  Everyone knew that Nicholas took one big step forward and ten small steps backward, but everyone who worked with Nicholas also knew that he wanted the progress and prosperity of his people just as much as the progressive bloc. 

I believe that Nicholas was weighing the liberties he granted with the chaos they might create.  I do see the connection with the hopelessly fuedal state that the Emperor inherited and it is clear that Alexander III shortly before his death realized that he was leaving his son a "pressure cooker" about to explode (I wish I could find the quote) but the generalizations about the late Emperor's intentions or his character are things I can not find any proof for when you read his words.

But had they remained loyal to the Emperor there is every indication that those liberties would have been granted in time.  When push came to shove even the Young Empress was encouraging her husband to grant a popular government and increase civil liberties in Feb. 1917 (old style). 

I agree that the Emperor Nicholas is not the kind of man that one can use as a model for a Leader and that he did not have that animal courage the inspires followers.  But the Emperor somehow was the glue that kept the nation together as Winston Churchill pointed out.  When he dissappeared the entire national life of Russia dissappeared with him.  The crisis was not leadership or a lack of leadership, to me the crisis was the destruction of the Emperor's stamina.   

If you read, as I know you have, the letters of the Emperor a man with independent ideas appears, ideas that often run counter to his wife and mother and even his ministers.  I see this very young man with an independent mind, clearly a gentleman, just reaching maturity, when he is surgically removed at the worst possible time for his nation.  Well anyway I will try to start a thread so we can continue to weigh this question of the Emperor's rule.     




     
     
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Richard_Cullen on September 18, 2006, 02:02:32 PM
Griff

I don't know your heritage but it is obviously very closely connected with Russia and the Romanovs.  If you get the time e-mail your details I think it is fascinating.  We may not agree on a whole range of issues but debate is important as none of us were there when it all happened. I don't think Nicholas could change, it was agreta pity and much of this inflexibility I put down to his wife.  Even if she was a duaghter of Queen Victoria she was through her father of a minor Royal dynasty and I believe that was the problem.

Great to debate issues and there is never a right or wrong, unless there is forensic evidence to prove or disprove an issue that is.  Griff I wish I had time to be a historian, I don't.

Richard
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 18, 2006, 04:49:38 PM
Wow Richard, wonderful insights about some of the complexity of the Young Empress.  That tension between the German/English heritage is very thought provoking.  I am hoping to start a thread on the Empress too and I look forward to your comments. 

But the most important consideration of all, to me, is your impending Rasputin trial.  I am praying that it doesn't get torn apart before it even begins. 

As for your remarks about not being an historian.  You are one!!!!  Plus you remind me so much of the well bred nature of the late Emperor, and because of that it is a joy to discuss opposing points of view with you. 

You know I took a test with my mother when I was 16 that was supposed to determine one's age.  My mother turned out to be 20 years younger than her actual age and I turned out to be 90 years older!  My mother never let me forget that and always used to say my tomb stone would read the same.   

As to my connection with the IF, as Bob and Rob can tell you I am simply one of the up-stairs maids holding my feather duster in Czarskoe Selo and listening in anguish to the tears of the Young Empress. 

I can't wait to see what your trial on Rasputin reveals.  I am hoping that it will uncover what on earth caused the motivation of the far right, in the person of Purishkevich, to attack the throne through the murder of Rasputin. 

That enigmatic Purishkevich, wearing a carnation in his fly when the Duma was in session, not to mention his anti-semetic frenzy that even extended to the cinema, was such a strange accomplice!  What in heavens name motivated the Far Right to join with the Progressive bloc to tear down the prestige of the throne?

Richard you know I feel very guilty.  I asked Bev to withhold this discussion until I started a thread on Nicholas, and here I broke my word to her and have discussed it with you.  Plus I do so much want Elizabeth to continue her thread.  I so wish I had hidden reserves of special information on Nicholas II to offer you in an email, but alas it is your wonderful insights that force me back into my books to find something worthy.  I wish with all my heart that I was like your friend that emails you with all that wonderful information on Rasputin.  Regardless, I am so looking forward to the trial.   


 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 19, 2006, 10:19:50 AM

What in heavens name motivated the Far Right to join with the Progressive bloc to tear down the prestige of the throne?


I think this is one of the most revealing questions about the demise of the monarchy.  As I have said on other threads, I do not think Nicholas fell by the actions of revolutionaries, but rather by the tacit withdrawal of support by the classes on which the monarchy had historically relied.  It was only in this vacuum of support for the throne that the revolutionaries began to gain the upper hand.  (Even up until early 1917 Lenin himself felt that revolution was still a distant dream in Russia.)

Just think what was going on in Russia in the twilight months of the monarchy.  A Romanov and a man married to a Romanov killed Rasputin, in full knowledge that he enjoyed the protection of the emperor and empress.  Grandduchess Ella, who supported Dimitry's action against Rasputin, later wrote that she did not try to visit Nicholas and Alexandra during their Tsarskoye Selo imprisonment because she was so bitter in the view that they had brought their fates upon themselves and Russia.  Diplomatic and aristocratic memoires from the years immediately preceding WWI are rife with reports of conversations in the salons of St. Petersburg that indicated despair with Nicholas' competence to rule.  These memoires also mention a fatalistic malaise that seemed to settle over the upper classes, many of whom sensed that some sort of reckoning was coming.  There are even some indications that the Romanovs themselves were planning to force Alexandra into withdrawal from the scene, including forcing Nicholas to step down if his defense of Alexandra was insurmountable.  No matter what they thought of Alexandra themselves (and there was some softening of their views in some quarters), they knew full well the damage her presence was doing to the dynasty's reputation.

And, of course, the final step into the abyss was precipitated not when revolutionaries stormed the bastions of government, but when Nicholas' own generals and ministers simply felt the government had lost its latitude to act and Nicholas had to go.  Remember that the demand for Nicholas to abdicate was not initially a demand that the monarchy be dismantled, but that a regency be established until the heir came of age.

Why, then, did Nicholas find himself so bereft of support in the very quarters where his actions should have been best known and understood?  I can only conclude that the people standing at close quarters to Nicholas' decision-making were seeing things only dimly-remembered today (if known at all) that caused them to lose confidence in his ability to make sound decisions.  These were not people whose views were occluded by mystical visions of the power God vested in His annointed.  These were people who knew that power, no matter how it is packaged and marketed to the masses, is really in the hands of ordinary mortals whose missteps could lead to disastrous consequences.

Remember that the upper echelons of Russian society were not unmindful of their own history.  They had a collective remembrance that the Romanovs were first raised to power by the boyars, not by the hand of God.  And my guess is that many of the aristocracy knew that the true Romanov bloodline may well have ended with Empress Elizabeth.  So, while it was in their interest to pretend to share the popular belief that Nicholas had some mystical ability to rule effectively and some mystical right to rule without challenge, my guess is that the senior aristocracy and officials knew full well their fates were in the hands of a mortal . . . and a very ordinary one at that.

Highly-placed Russians had lost confidence in their leaders before and taken matters into their own hands.  Anna, Peter III, and Paul are only some of the examples.  The only problem was that the 20th century, almost a century of revolutionary ferment (going back to the Decembrists), and the depredations of WWI created a different stage on which the deposition of a monarch would play out this time around.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 19, 2006, 09:17:55 PM
TsarFan, these are very interesting comments about the Romanov family.  I'm paraphrasing, but Victoria Melita wrote in a letter that she and her husband "were leading the revolution" which I believe is indicative of how foolish and deluded the Romanov family really was.  They remind me of Keat's poem -
"Things fall apart; the center cannot hold,
  Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
  The blood dimm'd tide is loosed, and everywhere,
  The ceremony of innocence in drowned;
  The best lack all conviction, while the worst
  Are full of passionate intensity."
especially the last line...
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 20, 2006, 04:02:01 PM
Oh my gosh what beautiful insights, Tsarfan....honestly they touch on the heart of the whole matter...  What did those men on the far right see that caused them to abandon the throne?

That is truly the question that has been hidden by the short duration of the Provisional Government and it's violent overthrow by the Bolshis. 

Bev you never cease to amaze me.  You have this wonderful forth-right engery that will not be defeated; and then all of the sudden you share this deeply moving poem that indicates such a tenderness. 

Hey Bev the only reason I am adding this last post to Elizabeth's thread is to try and balance my broken promise to you.     

And Bev, what a provoctive quote from G.D. Victoria!!!  You know the G.D. Cyril's were so progressive that it makes one wonder if they had not been prompted in their ambitions by certain secret elements of foriegn dipolmacy.     

Just to say I will not start my thread on the Emperor Nicholas until after Rasputin's trial, or my thread on the Young Empress.  I have signed up with Margarita.  Hey Bev and Tsarfan jump on board....

Again Elizabeth forgive my intrusion on this fascinating thread.

Griff
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 23, 2006, 12:33:30 PM
Sorry for the long absence, folks, I've been terribly busy. Bev, the poem you quoted is actually by Yeats, not Keats, although everybody I know including myself always makes the same darned mistake, so please forgive me for the correction.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the real problem in March 1917 was not with the Duma or the generals, whatever they were plotting amongst themselves (although here I must ask: why wouldn't they be trying to envision a provisional government, with themselves in power, since the tsarist one was clearly lurching towards disaster and they were in fact the only people in authority capable of taking command of the country and the army? indeed, wouldn't that be the responsible thing to do, if you were a true patriot? As there's no question but that people like Prince Lvov and General Alexeev were). No, the real problem was that the generals knew that most of their troops were on the brink of mutiny.

There had been an unprecedented number of desertions from the largely peasant army during the fall and winter of 1916-17 - something like a million men. An unprecedented number also let themselves be captured by enemy forces during the Russian retreat rather than face going home and being forced to take up arms again. According to Figes, there had already been a mutiny in one of the northern garrisons even before the mutinies started happening in the Petrograd garrison (under the direction, often, of junior officers like Sgt. Linde). After the March Revolution broke out, General Alexeev actually called back General Ivanov's expeditionary force to Petrograd for fear that once the troops reached the capital city, they would be carried away by the mutinous spirit of the soldiers already stationed there. I put it to you, griffh and everybody, that the tsar could simply no longer command the loyalty of his own army, from the generals on down, and that this is what made the crucial difference between the Revolution of 1905 and the March Revolution of 1917.

Of course, as it turned out, the provisional government couldn't command that sort of loyalty either, and the consequences were equally dire. Only Lenin had the bright idea that maybe World War I wasn't worth fighting, since the Russian people were so determinedly against it. I mean, think about it, 4 million casualties... what kind of effect did that have on everyday existence in the Russian villages?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 24, 2006, 08:48:54 AM
Oh excuse me, thanks for pointing that out.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: AGRBear on September 24, 2006, 04:35:20 PM
I remember somewhere  around this forum we talked about Nicholas II and his generals who often times ended up blaming the Tsar for their loses and claimed the Tsar hadn't prepared Russia for war.  This was not true,  if I remember correctly,  Nicholas II loved "new toys" and this included weapons.  He had build up his guns, cannon etc. to that which equaled Germany  at the opening of WWI [Great War].  BUT when he tried to get his generals and the admirals to change their methods of attack  they shook their heads and didn't use what was given  or suggested.  Instead,  they sent waves of  cavalry toward  machines guns, tanks  and "Big Berthas"  [huge Krupp cannons].  This more than frustated Nicholas II who had always been excellent in tactics of war.

When he took the reins of his uncle' N. s divisons it was because the Germans had pushed the Russian lines into retreat....

Nicholas II was caught between a rock and a hard spot.

I have no idea how many  Russians deserted when comparing them to the Germans and the French.

Not to long ago I remember reading a  book (which becmae a movie; can't recall the name of either) where a man was said to have deserted the French army trenches.  It was about that time the French and the Germans stopped firing at each other.  This alarmed the French generals.  So the French arrested some men, convicted them of desertion and their  penalty was to be pushed up out of the trenches and toward the German lines with the knowledge if they would be fired upon after given some time so tey could  move toward the German trenches.  This caused  the war to restart since French bullets w fired toward these  so-called desesrts which of course ws toward the  Germans  and what seemed like French headed toward the Germans.

WW I / Great War was an ugly brutal  war for all sides.

Another problem was the revolutionaries who on purpose stopped the train cars filled with supplies for the troops on the front  with the intent of causing more horror so more Russians would think their Tsar and Generals had deserted them and turn toward the revolutionaries who were  claiming the war was stupid and that they'd end the war and give every  Russian land, bread and a job.

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 25, 2006, 10:50:40 AM

I remember somewhere  around this forum we talked about Nicholas II and his generals who often times ended up blaming the Tsar for their loses and claimed the Tsar hadn't prepared Russia for war.  This was not true,  if I remember correctly,  Nicholas II loved "new toys" and this included weapons.  He had build up his guns, cannon etc. to that which equaled Germany  at the opening of WWI [Great War].


At the outset of the war, individual Russian soldiers were armed on a par with their German counterparts, both in terms of number and quality of weapons, and Russian field artillery (some of which was used in WWII and remained in reserve stores until the 1980's) was viewed as a match to Germany's.  However, this was only the thin veneer of military preparedness.  Russia had neither the transport system (in terms of hardware or management efficiency) to keep the front consistently supplied nor the manufacturing capacity to replace arms once losses began to mount.

As astute military observers had known since the American Civil War, the underlying industrial and economic infrastructures of the warring nations were likely to be the ultimate determinants of who would win future wars.  This is why many in 1914 thought Russia was still some years away from being able to prevail in a prolonged military conflict . . . and why some cynics in Germany wanted to goad Russia into war over the Serbian crisis rather than giving her the time for her inexorable industrial expansion to begin to solidify her war capabilities.

If Nicholas really thought that arming his first wave of soldiers on a par with Germany -- without the capacity to keep the following waves similarly supplied -- was what modern war was about, then his military strategy was as flawed as that of his more traditional generals.

The greatest strategic error of Russian foreign policy in the latter 19th-century had been pan-Slavism, which moved Russia onto a course that drew her into the well-known morass of Balkan conflicts and put her on a collision course with Austria and Germany.  By pursing this policy, Nicholas wed himself to a powder keg to which others held the fuse.  While many might say we only perceive all this today with the benefit of hindsight, it was patently clear to many of the era's foreign offices . . . and was tacitly recognized by both him and his father in realigning Russia with Britain and France in the late 19th centry against Russia's traditional allies in the eastern monarchies.

True, Nicholas was fascinated by cars, planes, ships, advanced weaponry, movie projectors, and the like.  But what was notably absent was the underlying economic system to enable Russia to take a dominant position as producer of any of these things.  There are some indicators that time was on Russia's side in curing this problem.  But, unfortunately, time was the very thing that Nicholas gave away by allying himself with Slavs in the Balkans.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: AGRBear on September 25, 2006, 11:36:22 AM
Do you have any idea of how many miles of train tracks were laid under the reign of Nicholas II?

Yes, the main tracks from Moscow to the east had been started by Alex. III, however, this wasn't the only tracks laid.

For example,  there were tracks laid from Moscow southward and northward....

All this was done with a great deal of effort and resistence of those around Nicholas II.

And,  it was not the fact that there weren't any tracks headed to the Russian eastern front that stopped the flow of supplies,  it was the revolutionaries and their strikes.....  They even stopped the trains filled with the wounded from reaching the hospitals in the cities.

It was Nicholas II who established medical tents close to the front lines to care for the wounded which had never been accomplished until WWI.

And,  yes,  Germany pushed the war when they did knowing full well what would occur in Russia as the war drew into years of battles....  And,  they helped it along by supplying the revolutionaries with funds to do what they did to disrupt supplies, etc. within Russia.  They sent Lenin back to Russia with a train load of gold....

But this thead isn't about Nicholas II,  I believe it's about the mistake of Russia having fallen under the leadership of the Bolshesviks/ communists.

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 25, 2006, 12:55:59 PM
I don't know exactly how much trackage was laid during Nicholas' reign, but here are the figures for Europe in 1900 (in kilometers):

Austria-Hungary - 36,330
France - 38,109
Germany - 51,678
Great Britain - 30, 079
Russia - 53,234

Russia's trackage was expanding faster than any other European country in the years immediately prior to WWI.  However, it tended to work off a hub system with tracks radiating from St. Petersburg and Moscow rather than the German system (which had been developed privately), which was less Berlin-centric and created a network of direct links between numerous German cities and manufacturing centers.  Also, much Russian track headed westward with terminuses that made sense only for a future military purpose . . . which was one of the reasons Germany became so anxious to deliver Russia a knock-out blow before she could fill those tracks with Russian military production.

Now . . . back to the topic of this thread:

As Simon said earlier, much of soviet foreign policy was a carry-over from the tsarist era.  I would add a twist to that.  I think much of soviet economic policy was an attempt – especially during the Stalin era – to correct what were seen as the shortcomings of tsarist economic policy in its inability to support Russian military objectives.  (This goes back to an earlier debate on this board about whether Stalin was actually a Russian ultra-nationalist rather than a Marxist internationalist.)

The tsarist answer to hasten the economic strengthening of Russia was to experiment with different sets of central policies which, under Stolypin, were showing some successes with industrialization, if less so with land reform.  The soviet answer was to centralize control even further . . . and to push it to hideously extreme means.  In this sense, soviet economic policy – despite its Marxist marketing veneer – was really almost a parody of a tsarist approach that goes back at least to Peter the Great.

The paradox of the perceived Marxist / capitalist dichotomy is that Marxism and capitalism actually shared a common tenet.  Marx felt that individual self-determination would, through a convoluted process which he rather tediously expounded, result in an equitable distribution of wealth.  Capitalism works off a similar notion of self-determination, although in the case of capitalism the predicted result is more wealth, but not necessarily equitably-distributed wealth.  (Most capitalists grudgingly concede that government must rein in the excess of wealth concentration in order to keep capitalism “healthy”.)

I find it ironic that Lenin and the “Marxist” regime he spawned were so utterly hostile to even the Marxist version of self-determination.  In my view, soviet economic policy was neither Marxist nor the often-said “state capitalism”.  I think it was, instead, an obscene version of tsarist central control placed in the hands of men who had no framework but ideological zealotry for metering their own actions.

So, what kind of “mistake” was soviet Russia?  I think it was the mistake of thinking that the whips of the tsars had been too light on the backs of Russians, not too harsh . . . and that Russia’s true path to greatness lay in more lashings.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 25, 2006, 07:41:47 PM
I can't agree with the claim that the soviet economic policy of the Lenin/Stalin era was a reactionary policy.  If that were true, the Soviets would have made every attempt at building an army, rather than following a deliberate policy of underfunding it.  I believe that the Soviets saw the military as a threat, and a very effective one at that, considering the fact that they utliized the very same one.  Stalin spent a great deal of his time as leader, sorting out various plots, coups and mutinies in the army.  (And in his fear imagining more than a few.)  Yes, it became reactionary after WW II, but it was reactionary to the superpower status of the United States.  In my opinion, the arms race kept the Soviet Union alive longer than it would have lived, had it not been for the rivalry.

Your assessment that the mistake was in the ability to recognize human nature, is spot on.  Countries with a history of absolutist or totalitarian governments tend to use fear as the great human motivator and whether this was under tsarism or bolshevism, this seems to be very true of Russia.  Democracies tend to be meritocracies (at least in theory) and reward is the great human motivator in these societies.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: griffh on September 25, 2006, 09:50:22 PM
Hey Guys, (I don't really know why I call this group, who are mostly women "Guys", maybe I am still really guilty about being so abusive to Tsarfan!)  Anyway what a truly wonderful discussion.

Yeah Elizabeth, leave it to you to come up with an incredible point that is broadly supported by Bev and all, not to mention some really good historic facts......but that Bear also makes a compelling point......Oh gosh, just to say that I am presently working as hard as I can on the Rasputin trial so I will not be contributing to this incredible thread or any other thread for awhile. 

Having said that, I can't wait for all of us to engage in my Alexandra Thread or my Nicholas thread after the trial.... It is sooooooo cool having friends, brilliant friends with differing points of view!!!!......toodle pip for now....Griff  P.S. Don't have too much fun without me.......
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 26, 2006, 06:51:46 AM

I can't agree with the claim that the soviet economic policy of the Lenin/Stalin era was a reactionary policy.  If that were true, the Soviets would have made every attempt at building an army, rather than following a deliberate policy of underfunding it.  I believe that the Soviets saw the military as a threat, and a very effective one at that, considering the fact that they utliized the very same one.  Stalin spent a great deal of his time as leader, sorting out various plots, coups and mutinies in the army.  (And in his fear imagining more than a few.)  Yes, it became reactionary after WW II, but it was reactionary to the superpower status of the United States.  In my opinion, the arms race kept the Soviet Union alive longer than it would have lived, had it not been for the rivalry.


The following is from a U.S. military assessment of the history of Soviet military policy:

"While Lenin as a result of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, had a poilcy of peaceful coexistence, Stalin on the other hand argued that the Soviet Union had no choice but to become as strong as possible, arm, and await the next war . . . .  Stalin declared, 'the Soviet Union must never be toothless and groveling before the west again.'  To ensure the Soviet Union was . . . prepared for total and decisive war, Stalin in 1926 adapted the rationale originally put forth by M. V. Frunze in 1920 of 'socialism in one country.'  With the approval of Stalin the military began to advocate the mobilization of the entire economy to support the military and its role of diplomacy in positioning the Red Army for military success."

In keeping with the above view, most historians think one of the primary goals of the economic policies that were instituted in 1929 were to build the industrial base necessary to support soviet military aspirations.

It is true that, as Stalin descended into paranoia, he began to eradicate the upper echelons of the military.  Yet during those same years well before the outbreak of WWII, soviet military expenditure tripled.  Stalin understood, as did Hitler, that the military was a dangerous tool to wield . . . but an indispensible one in pursuit of aims on the scale of theirs.

Even Lenin, who was not in an economic position to prepare Russia to take on the West militarily, expanded the role of the military in Russian affairs, creating five military organizations where one had existed before -- two of which were deployed internally against the Russian population under the direction of the Interior Ministry and the KGB.  Perhaps a traditional military did not figure centrally in Lenin's political thinking about socialist revolution before 1918, but I think the Civil War and the Red Army's failed attempts to expand soviet reach westward as it quelled the internal resistance left even Lenin with a different understanding of the necessity of a strong military.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 26, 2006, 03:27:57 PM
Well here's my question then about your claim.  What is your meaning of Soviet military aims?  My understanding was that Stalin's policy of "Socialism in One Country" was a deliberate turning away from Trotsky and Lenin's policy of exporting revolution to advance a "United States of Europe" and towards an isolationist Russia.  While Stalin's policy of industrialization was at the beginning part and parcel of the new soviet army strategy of  multiple-armament during war, then why did he turn away from that strategy in the early thirties?  Yes, I agree that military expenditures tripled, but spending per soldier actually decreased as the soviets moved towards a mechanized army which is always more costly.  Also, the army procurement system was centralized into one department, instead of spread among many, which in my opinion, gave the impression of a gross expenditure in military spending which realistically doesn't appear to be so.  And of course, there's the funding and exportation of military epuipment that went to countries such as Spain and China, without materially improving the soviet army. 

What always struck me as odd about the Soviet Union, was despite the five year plans and the state directed economic policy, was their utter lack of planning a truly comprehensive budget.   
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 26, 2006, 04:32:49 PM

Yes, I agree that military expenditures tripled, but spending per soldier actually decreased as the soviets moved towards a mechanized army which is always more costly.


But wasn't the very purpose of a more mechanized army to strengthen Russian's military capability?



Well here's my question then about your claim.  What is your meaning of Soviet military aims?  My understanding was that Stalin's policy of "Socialism in One Country" was a deliberate turning away from Trotsky and Lenin's policy of exporting revolution to advance a "United States of Europe" and towards an isolationist Russia.
   

Aye . . . there's the rub.  This question goes back to a very long debate several of us had on the old AP board about whether Stalin was really an ultra-nationalist in Marxist internationalist clothing.  As you might surmise, I tended toward the view that Stalin was in his deepest core an ultra-nationalist who thought Russia should be at the forefront of world affairs.  My view is that to Stalin, in a youth where the dreams of beating the West at its own game seemed unrealizable, putting Russia at the forefront of an international communist revolution was the next best means of creating a space for Russia on the world stage.  But, once he was at the helm of Russia, he began to envision a Russia he led asserting herself on the world stage as Russia, not as the vanguard of a Marxist world order in which nation states would ultimately dissolve.

This view is highly psychological, perhaps insupportably so.  But I put much stock in the notion that the three great self-aggrandizers of modern Europe -- Napoleon the Corsican, Hitler the Austrian, and Stalin the Georgian -- all grew up on the cultural and political periphery of the nations they aspired to lead to greatness . . . and that this compulsion of the outsider to become the ultimate insider is part of what drove all three of them on a very deep-seated level. 

So, what were "Soviet military aims?"  I think the clue lies in Russia's approach to eastern Europe after WWII.  Granted, Russia had an understandable desire to establish a buffer zone against future German encroachments.  But that goal could have been accomplished by eradicating all national boundaries within Russia's new sphere and fully integrated the whole region into a unified bolshevik state.  That is what Marx would have posited as the logical approach.  Instead, Stalin set up a ring of puppet states, with the tsar's old empire at the helm . . . maintaining its separate nationhood.



What always struck me as odd about the Soviet Union, was despite the five year plans and the state directed economic policy, was their utter lack of planning a truly comprehensive budget.
   

But wouldn't that have made it awfully hard to keep the myriad nests of private bureaucratic fiefdoms properly feathered?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 26, 2006, 05:56:50 PM
The last, first - thanks for the laugh - yes, stealing money is always harder if you have to account for it.  Apropos to that, it has always been my contention that the soviets didn't end the class system in Russia, they merely replaced it.  The same corruption, favouritism and privilege still prevailed, just the pay masters changed.

After consideration, I would agree that the change in the soviet economy was geared towards supporting a military, but my contention is that the change was abruptly overturned in 1933, when the military purge began, and those officers that supported the strategy of gearing the economy to the military lost support. 

As to your psychological assessment of Stalin et al, I would agree although I think Hitler and Stalin were unique in their sociopathology (and I'd rather chew rusty nails than get into that again) so much so, that it's difficult to say where the differential was between them and their nations. 

In my opinion, the reason Russia set up satellite states was their ostensible agreement at Yalta and Potsdam to self-determination of those states - to the soviets, appearance was everything, even the name of their country was about appearances. 

(Don't you wonder why these so-called intellectuals of the revolution were so incapable of understanding and implementing real change?)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 27, 2006, 06:43:46 AM

. . . it has always been my contention that the soviets didn't end the class system in Russia, they merely replaced it.  The same corruption, favouritism and privilege still prevailed, just the pay masters changed.


Exactly.  The private stores where only high party officials could shop, the reservation of the best apartments and dachas for those same officials, the broader range of study available to their families, the lighter restrictions on their movement.

I have always felt that soviet propaganda about the blissful state of the worker in their socialist paradise was just a reprise of Nicholas' and Alexandra's dreamy notions about their mystical bonds with the loyal, satisfied Russian peasants who wanted nothing more than for the tsar to remain on his throne to care for their interests.  Perhaps Nicholas and Alexandra were more sincere in their views . . . but I have never thought self-serving obtuseness was an appealing alternative to cynicism when it comes to running a nation.



In my opinion, the reason Russia set up satellite states was their ostensible agreement at Yalta and Potsdam to self-determination of those states - to the soviets, appearance was everything, even the name of their country was about appearances. 


But when the stakes got big enough, the soviets were willing to throw appearances out the door if it got in the way of their core objectives.  For instance, they blatantly violated the post-war accords when they cut off land route access to Berlin in 1948.  If Stalin truly believed Marx provided the roadmap for ordering the world's affairs, he would have handled central and eastern Europe differently. 



(Don't you wonder why these so-called intellectuals of the revolution were so incapable of understanding and implementing real change?)


Yes, I do.  My view is that history is a much stronger current than most people realize, and leaders who can swim against it for any period of time are very few and far between.  No matter how the Soviet Union started, by the time it fell it looked eerily like its tsarist forebearer:  an entrenched class system, an aggrandizing and nationalist foreign policy, embedded anti-semitism, lack of individual rights and guards against arbitrary state action, an abyssmal living standard for the masses, an empire held together by force, a sense that central government should ordain all affairs secular and spiritual (since I view enforced state atheism as much a state religion as Orthodoxy) and, ultimately, an atrophy that caused the existing order to collapse with little more than a sigh.

To me, only the intense gravitational pull of history could have exerted the forces required to morph Marxism into something that looked so much like autocracy.  True, the soviet version was far bleaker, having been stripped of the artistic and intellectual richness of old Russia and having left millions of corpses in its wake.  But directionally so very, very little had changed.

What an utter waste of an entire century for Russia.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 27, 2006, 08:20:14 AM
While it’s true that there are historical continuities between autocratic Russia and the Soviet Union, I don’t think we should exaggerate them. Remember that Communism has been tried in many different countries with their own quite different histories, with virtually identical results. There must be something in Marxism itself that is attractive to totalitarian regimes. It is a very elegant, universalizing ideology that purports to explain everything and requires a certain degree of education and intellectual sophistication to understand (indeed there are different gradations of understanding or “initiation” into the mysteries of Marxism). Both qualities have always had a tremendous appeal to a certain type of intellectual intoxicated by power or the potential for power. Someone like Lenin, for example, thought that he had all the answers by virtue of having the “right” worldview and that almost everyone who disagreed with him was just plainly wrong or “unscientific” (Marxism being a “science,” you see!). Even Stalin, pragmatist and cynic, believed in Marxism as a methodology if not perhaps as an ideology (we don’t need to get into that debate again, Tsarfan!), which probably explains why he so frequently misread people and events.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 27, 2006, 09:41:24 AM

While it’s true that there are historical continuities between autocratic Russia and the Soviet Union, I don’t think we should exaggerate them. Remember that Communism has been tried in many different countries with their own quite different histories, with virtually identical results.


Ten years ago I would have agreed with this assessment.  However, I think the path that communism has turned onto in China is fascinating.  If things continue on this trajectory, they're going to wind up with a communist political system hybridized with a healthy, reasonably non-corrupt capitalist economy that apportions wealth over a wide range of the population.  I have no idea what the proper label would be for such a chimera . . . but it's going to leave China looking very, very different from the society Mao uprooted and from the society he attempted to create.

China and Russia travelled through the same dark tunnel of mass murder and brutal social engineering in the name of their Marxist aspirations.  China might actually emerge into a new order that creates a mix of material well-being and political control that the Chinese people will accept as a fair deal, despite the sour taste it leaves on western palates.  Russia, on the other hand, seems to be coming out of the tunnel depressingly near to where she entered.




There must be something in Marxism itself that is attractive to totalitarian regimes. It is a very elegant, universalizing ideology that purports to explain everything and requires a certain degree of education and intellectual sophistication to understand (indeed there are different gradations of understanding or “initiation” into the mysteries of Marxism). Both qualities have always had a tremendous appeal to a certain type of intellectual intoxicated by power or the potential for power.


Spot on.  I think you clearly state exactly what it is that makes Marxism attractive to totalitarian regimes.

I have never liked the notion that communism and capitalism were competing ideologies.  I think communism is an ideology, delivered up fully baked.  But I think capitalism is just the label attached after the fact to a series of organic developments as relatively open socieities evolved increasingly efficient means to organize themselves economically.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: AGRBear on September 27, 2006, 05:01:39 PM
Tsarfan wrote in part:
Quote
It is true that, as Stalin descended into paranoia, he began to eradicate the upper echelons of the military.  Yet during those same years well before the outbreak of WWII, soviet military expenditure tripled.  Stalin understood, as did Hitler, that the military was a dangerous tool to wield . . . but an indispensible one in pursuit of aims on the scale of theirs.

Stalin managed to kill off many of his political rivals in the military and other high places long before Lenin's death and he continued to do so throughout his life.

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: AGRBear on September 27, 2006, 05:07:02 PM
tsarfan quote in part:
Quote
But I think capitalism is just the label attached after the fact to a series of organic developments as relatively open socieities evolved increasingly efficient means to organize themselves economically.

After the  first group of captialists  were born and people were forced to take notice,  people had to give them some kind of surname  ;)

AGRBear
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on September 28, 2006, 07:02:10 AM
I would have to say that capitalism has become an ideology for many, but it is an economic policy.  Most successful democracies have a combination of socialism and capitalism which seems to have had its genesis in the earliest sociieties of humankind.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on September 28, 2006, 09:30:48 AM
Oddly enough, I think capitalism began to be thought of as an ideology largely because of the writings of Karl Marx.  Marx, in order to set up the contrast between the communist order he was proposing as inevitable and the older order it was to displace, talked about "capitalists" as people who owned the means of production, as opposed to the "proletariat" who slaved in the capitalists' factories.

Before Marx anthropomorphized the concept by labelling people as "capitalists", the concept of capitalism really was understood as a system for pooling money from various sources for financial ventures larger than one person would or could undertake.  I doubt if any of the people who put money into these pools thought of themselves as "capitalists" the way Marx' adherents were later to label themselves "Marxists" or "communists" or "socialists".  And most historians think that system of pooling money arose from the development of banking techniques in Renaissance Italy.  (Our word "bank" derives from the Italian word for bench -- "banco" -- and refers to the fact that early "bankers" worked off designated benches in market plazas where people could deposit money for transport, transfer, or safekeeping, or where they could borrow money or discuss other financial arrangements.)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on September 29, 2006, 11:45:44 AM

While it’s true that there are historical continuities between autocratic Russia and the Soviet Union, I don’t think we should exaggerate them. Remember that Communism has been tried in many different countries with their own quite different histories, with virtually identical results.


Ten years ago I would have agreed with this assessment.  However, I think the path that communism has turned onto in China is fascinating.  If things continue on this trajectory, they're going to wind up with a communist political system hybridized with a healthy, reasonably non-corrupt capitalist economy that apportions wealth over a wide range of the population.  I have no idea what the proper label would be for such a chimera . . . but it's going to leave China looking very, very different from the society Mao uprooted and from the society he attempted to create.

China and Russia travelled through the same dark tunnel of mass murder and brutal social engineering in the name of their Marxist aspirations.  China might actually emerge into a new order that creates a mix of material well-being and political control that the Chinese people will accept as a fair deal, despite the sour taste it leaves on western palates.  Russia, on the other hand, seems to be coming out of the tunnel depressingly near to where she entered.

But it's precisely the "society Mao uprooted...and attempted to create" that I was referring to. I don't think we can dismiss Maoism simply because the current Chinese leaders have turned their back on it. After all, 30 million peasants died during the Great Leap Forward alone, and another several million Chinese perished during the Cultural Revolution. So the short-term results of Communism in China were, as I said before, "virtually identical" to the results of Communism in the Soviet Union.

That said, I don't disagree that China's very different historical and cultural heritage has had a huge impact on recent developments in that country. For thousands of years, long before Communism was ever thought of, the Chinese had a large, flourishing middle class, unlike tsarist Russia; perhaps as a result, there has never been in China that peculiar disdain, even contempt for "trade" and other mercantile activities that was (although hopefully no longer is?) characteristic of Russia throughout the ages, whether we are discussing imperial or Soviet times. Moreover, the Chinese Communists were very wise and began their series of reforms not with glasnost' or perestroika but with agriculture. The Soviets would have been much smarter to have done the same. But I think in general the Chinese leadership learned a lot from the mistakes made by their counterparts in the Soviet Union.

It's interesting to note that according to at least one Cuba expert, it's possible that Cuba will eventually follow China's example in permitting both a wider development of capitalism in the country and further foreign investment under the aegis of Fidel's brother, Raoul, whilst at the same time preserving the Communist leadership and party. Again, though, I think that Communist leaders like Raoul Castro are learning from the mistakes of the Soviet leadership and their dire consequences for the ruling party.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 01, 2006, 08:27:17 AM

So the short-term results of Communism in China were, as I said before, "virtually identical" to the results of Communism in the Soviet Union.


I agree that the short-term results were the same.  In fact, I think the early stages of communism played out pretty much the same everywhere it actually seized control of governments -- with massive violent attacks on the institutions, attitidues, and lives of people that were thought to represent any holdover from the old order.  It strikes me as something akin to what is called the "first fervor" of people who make sudden conversions to a new religious belief.  "First fervor" is maked by uncompromising dogmatism and a sense that one's mission is to bring light into everyone else's darkness . . . and so it was with the early leaders of all communist governments.

However, communism eventually lost credibility in Russia as a means of ordering any part of society, whereas in China it has evolved into a system that retains many hallmarks of communist dogma.  In essence, I think communism in China forged a compromise with that robust middle-class heritage you pointed out.  Communism says to the population, "I let you choose to behave as capitalists in the arena of micro-economics, if you let me retain state control of some elements of macro-economics."  And the population says, "we can buy our cars, TV, and designer clothes quicker if we don't waste any energy fighting with you about political theory.  So, as long your answer is to give us a free hand to chase these things, we'll let you think you can control everything else."  I can think of fewer people today destined for more frustration than Chinese human-rights activists.

Maoism may not have survived any more than did Stalinism, but few people think communism is an entirely spent force in a China that is exponentially growing its economy, its standard of living, and its political clout almost two decades after communism drove the Soviet Union over a cliff.  Over the long haul, it does appear capable of generating different outcomes . . . although certainly at the price of losing its ideological purity.  (However, I would then argue that neither Mao nor Lenin stuck very close to Marx' ideological playbook, either.)


Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Alixz on October 01, 2006, 10:43:28 AM
I seriously doubt that Marx ever contemplated "Communisim" as a political party.  As we in the 20th century have called it the Communist Party.

It was to be a utopean way of life.  Just as those "hippies" of the 1960s believed in communal living.

No hoarding of wealth or material things.  Apportionment to all.

Socialism on the other hand has a central "state" that "takes care" of its citizens.  FD Roosevelt was a socialist and proceeded to bring socialism to the US with his "New Deal" policies.  He created more "big government" than any other president. And more dependency on that governemnt.  His "entitlement" programs gave the citizens of the US the idea that no problem should be solved by the individual, but should be laid at the foot of government and solved by that same government with the passing of even more laws and entitlements.

And I am late to this discussion and no where near as educated in the subject as many of you. But I agree that transition from Imperial to Soviet rule made no difference in practical everyday terms.  Just new oppressors with different titles.

The blend of Socialism and Capitalism has worked in most of the Eurpoean countries since the end of WWII.  Great Britain, France, Germany, etc. all have that blend.

And I think it is true that a population who is allowed to persue its wealth attainment will ultmately allow its government to govern in any mannor just as long as that government doesn't interfere with attaining that personal wealth.

I am new to this thread because I didn't truly understand what was being asked.  "What kind of mistake was it?"  I'm still not sure I understand the question.  I think though that it was a mistake in the application and understanding of Marx.

Each country that has tried to impliment Marx's theories from Das Kapital has done so in its own way based on its own past and its own cultural coloring of the theories.

Perhaps that is why China and Cuba may evolve and remain "Comminist"  (but not purely in a Marxist way) and the Soviet Union (because of Stalin and his personality flaws and the oppression that followed even with successive leaders) fell.  The Russian way of life had been oppression under the Tsars for so long that the application of Marx was colored by oppression.  I have said in other threads that things might have been much different had Lenin not died so soon after the "revolution".

I worked with a woman who had recently imigrated to the US from Russia in the 1990s,  While I called it "the fall of the Soviet Union", she called it "the disolution of the Soviet state".  Interesting, isn't it?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 02, 2006, 10:09:06 AM
FDR wasn't a socialist, he was a Keynesian, and not all that much of one.  Keynes advocated the economic policy of government spending in times of economic downturns that would put people to work.  FDR agreed with Keynes, but did not believe that big deficits were beneficial in the long run - Keynes thought that the U.S. government could afford to run very big deficits, which could easily be paid back when the economy turned upwards again.  Every program implemented by his administration created jobs which directly benefited the economy and the citizens of the United States.  FDR didn't socialize, centralize or create any "entitlement" programs, contrary to conservative rhetoric.

A rhetoric that by the way, obscures and distorts the facts.  The greatest expansion and growth of government came under Richard Nixon (of whose administration the bitterly humorous remark was made, "we're all Keynesians now.") and Ronald Reagan, both of whom even managed to outspend Johnson ( per capita)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Alixz on October 02, 2006, 07:00:58 PM
The Social Security that we are just about running out of isn't an entitlement program?  Just anyone who has to pay taxes on it because they make more than the taxable threshold.  Everyone one of them will say, "We are entitled to it."

And most of those people were fooled into thinking that "Social Security" was going to fund them in their old age.

Also, Roosevelt doubled or tripled the size of the government and created more agencies and sub agencies than anyone before him. 

Nixon ad Regan may have "spent more" but Roosevelt created the agencies that needed the money to spend.  I wasn't talking about spending up large defecits, I meant the actual government employed body count rose under Roosevelt.  Those people who are employed by the government.  We now have the descendents of Roosevelt's agencies and their lateral and vertical offspring.

And the idea that the government should be in charge of our 'security' in our old age is a Socialist notion.  The idea that the government in any way should be responsible for our financial well being is socialistic.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 03, 2006, 01:37:57 AM
No, social security isn't an "entitlement" program, it's an insured pension fund and along with medicare are the two most efficiently run government or private programs in the U.S.  No one is  being tricked into believing anything.  It's the best, most reliable investment most people in this country will ever make, and is better administered then any program of its kind, private or public.

Did FDR increase and expand government?  No.  The first thing he did was cut benefits for 500,000 veterans and spouses.  FDR certainly proposed much legislation to promote jobs and career training, but unfortunately, the supremes saw it differently.

Roosevelt didn't "triple or double" the size of the government.  Every single program,  promoted was funded by the appropriate government department.  Of all the successful legislation, regulations and programs created by FDR/Truman, the greatest was the Montgomery G.I bill, the Federal Housing Authority and social security - those three programs brought more wealth, economic growth and freedom than the world has ever known.

I wasn't "talking about Nixon and Reagan having spent more" (George W. Bush has that dubious honour) I was informing you that the greatest expansion of the government by creating whole new agencies and departments, was Nixon, who by the way, was the president who first used the phrase "entitlement programs"  (of which there is nothing inherently wrong with entitlements such as providing a decent pension for our parents and grandparents, who sacrificed so much to make this country a good place to live, or providing an education to a young person who has served in our military and has shown a willingness to die for our country.)   Government employment peaked during the Reagan years.  And guess what president contracted government more than any other president?  Bill Clinton, who also spent less than any other president with the exception of Eisenhower.

Of course, maybe it's me, but I see nothing wrong with Grandma collecting her benefits that she and her employer paid to the fund all the years she worked.  Why shouldn't we honour our elderly, pay our respect to them, thank them for their contribution to the world?  On the other hand, we could treat them in the same manner as they do in socialist countries - they can stand outside in freezing or burning weather shoveling and sweeping the sidewalks and roads.  That's the way the socialists "take care of everyone" - I must say I prefer our government's insurance program.

Now as to the claim that Roosevelt passed more laws and entitlements - how about s&ls and banks insuring their deposits, keeping enough cash on hand to handle rushes, or government audits which expose malfeasance or misfeasance in office?  Any of those laws an "entitlement" we need to get rid of?  Or maybe the building regulations - do we really need stairways AND elevators, insulation, inspected plumbing?  Which of these regulations/laws are "socialistic"?  Do we really need for all of us to pay for a navy?  Perhaps that cost should be borne by those entreprenuers who use the sea lanes and need them patrolled.  If your house caught on fire, would you want the community fire dept to rescue you, or do it yourself? 

Everyone is a socialist, because we all live in societies.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 03, 2006, 06:39:53 AM

The Social Security that we are just about running out of isn't an entitlement program?  Just anyone who has to pay taxes on it because they make more than the taxable threshold.  Everyone one of them will say, "We are entitled to it."


In modern political parlance, the term "entitlement" program carries the connotation of a program where people are perceived to get something for nothing, such as Medicaid or social welfare programs.

Social Security is paid for by a tax of 15.3% (half from the employee and half from the employer) on all earnings up to around $90,000 per year.  Medicare is paid for by an additional tax of 1.45% on all earnings, with no cap.  These are essentially programs designed to pool risks, just as private insurance programs do.

At the time the Social Security system was created and the age of retirement set at 65, the average worker died at age 67.  So Social Security was initially funded on the assumption that the average payout period would be only two years.  One has to remember the climate in which this system was created.  There was massive unemployment.  Legions of working children who traditionally took care of their aged parents were themselves unemployed and unable to care for anyone.  Social Security was part of a comprehensive plan to create job generation programs to put the young and healthy back to work and to tax their earnings to create a risk pool that would fund at least a minimal retirement income for those who were too old to participate in job generation programs.

If that's socialism, it is no more so than the first Worker Compensation program that Bismarck created in imperial Germany to keep injured workers from either dying of poverty or living on the public dole.

The U.S. Social Security system was never touted by the government as a full income stream for a decades-long retirement of golfing and cruises.  The people who chose to rely on it as their only retirement plan find themselves with no more than it was ever intended to provide -- a subsistence level of income.  In fact, the plethora of defined benefit pension plans that unions began to demand in the 1940's and that became ubiquitous in American industry were created on the widely-understood premise that social security was nothing more than a subsistence plan and never would be.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 03, 2006, 01:24:56 PM
I am new to this thread because I didn't truly understand what was being asked.  "What kind of mistake was it?"  I'm still not sure I understand the question.  I think though that it was a mistake in the application and understanding of Marx.

If you don't understand the question, Alix, that's quite understandable, haha, because I deliberately phrased it as vaguely and as broadly as possible, hoping to stimulate an interesting discussion amongst our members, who, it seems to me, have not been participating with the usual enthusiasm and frequency of late!

I disagree, though, that Lenin and Mao necessarily "misunderstood"  Marx. Rather, should I say, they understood Engels, who supposedly in his later years said that Russia (China was not yet an option) could skip the capitalist stage and try immediately for socialism, because capitalism in Russia was in its infancy, therefore immature and easy to disregard. As I recall the Russian "mir" or commune (as evidence of Russia's so-called uniquely socialist traditions amongst its people) played a significant role in his logic, although it's been some years since I studied this question, so please correct me, someone, if I'm wrong.

However, I have to say that even if we ignore Engels' dying words on the Marxist fate of Russia, we're still left with Marxist-inspired, if not technically "pure" Marxist states that led to an absolutely monstrous and unprecedented number of victims amongst their populations. This seems to me a very good argument that Marxism, whether pure or "impure," when applied to reality, that is, to real governments, institutions, and economies, without any saving admixture of capitalism and democracy, has horrific results in human terms. Or, to put it another way, how many more of these disastrous experiments is humanity supposed to endure before we decide that Marxism, taken on its own, simply doesn't work?

For that matter, is there realistically speaking any sign at all that capitalism is dying off, as Marx assured us it would?   

I have said in other threads that things might have been much different had Lenin not died so soon after the "revolution".

I doubt that things would have been so very much different. There were already concentration camps under Lenin; not only members of the aristocracy and the White army were arrested in droves by Lenin's Cheka, but even (and especially) members of other political parties, and that included members of other revolutionary parties, like the Mensheviks and the SRs. There's no reason to believe that Lenin was any more tolerant of dissent than Stalin was - Stalin was just more paranoid, more sweeping in his crackdowns. When you think of Lenin, though, and his death, whether early or not, you should think of his heirs. Who were they? Stalin, bloodthirsty, and Trotsky, arguably almost as bloodthirsty. There's no reason, as far as I'm concerned, to think that the Soviet Union would have been much different under Lenin, Trotsky, or Stalin. Terror has its own imperative,a tendency to escalate and become ever increasingly more all-encompassing.  And there was already a Terror under Lenin, not only during the Civil War but also even during the so-called benevolent NEP period.

I worked with a woman who had recently imigrated to the US from Russia in the 1990s,  While I called it "the fall of the Soviet Union", she called it "the disolution of the Soviet state".  Interesting, isn't it?

I think it's only natural that many Russians regret the "dissolution" of the Soviet empire. It's a kinder, gentler way of saying that the Soviet Union simply fell apart.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Alixz on October 06, 2006, 09:41:51 AM
For the time being, since I have to go back and check my sources, I will stand corrected about FD Roosevelt.  I still don't think that increasing government is always about who spends the most money or creates the biggest national debt.  It is about the increase in government employees and their salaries and their pensions and other "perks".

And Social Security is hardly "sound" if you listen to any news broadcast.  It may have been years ago, but not now.  I too see no reason for Grandma, not to collect against the money she and the government paid in over the years, but the amount that is paid out often exceeds the amount paid in and many who never worked collect for other reasons, such as the adult child of a person already on Social Security.

I think I dislike Roosevelt because he intended to be president forever.  And I am eternally grateful that the laws were changed to prevent that from ever happening again.  I have read many biographies of Eleanor and Franklin (I find Eleanor facsinating) but for some reason, I dislike Franklin and his policies and his obssessive possessive stranglehold on the presidency.  I think the man would have liked to be "king".  Just my humble opinion.

And while all of the programs you mentioned (elderly,veterans,children) etc are very important, what is it about us that thinks that our government and not ourselves should be responsible for our wellfare.

I just love to hear that the "state" or the "federal" government should send more money to a certain project.  Where on eath does anyone think that money comes from?  Thin air?  It comes from our pockets in the form of taxes.

At least the colonists had somewhere to go and someone to fight to ge rid of the "taxation" that they objected to.  We have nothing. 

And I never said that the government intentionally "fooled" people about Social Security, but people by nature hear only what they want to hear.  And to the virtually uneducated masses of the twenties and thirties who had no concept of retirement income and who usually died before they ever retired, it was their income and they would be able to live on it and the government was providing it.

This discussion has gone in so many different ways.  I have truly enjoyed all of the differing opinions.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 08, 2006, 10:34:55 AM
Alix2, I know exactly what you mean by "increasing government" and the answer is still the same - Nixon. 

Social security is sound, it has always taken in more than it has paid out and will continue to do so for years.  When it stops taking more in than paying out, the solution is to raise the retirement age to 67 and/or take the salary cap off.  Adult children of persons on social security do not collect social security unless they have lifelong disabilities.  Secondly, people in the 20s/30s lived as long as we do - in fact, once adulthood is reached, the average lifespan of 72 years hasn't changed since the turn of the 20th C.

I think that what really troubles me is your statement  "the government and not ourselves" - we are the government.  There isn't a government and "us", because our government is for, by and of the people.  In my opinion, this is Russia's greatest problem - the inability to see government as part of themselves for which they hold the responsibility and unfortunately, that's becoming a pervasive view in this country along with the inability to compromise which has always been the genius of America.

As to getting rid of taxes, I hear this quite often and my question would be which taxes?  The taxes that fund fire departments, ems services, highways, roads, bridges, public schools, the army, the navy, the air force, building inspection, food and drug safety, water supplies, sewage treatment, a national park system, research and development of cancer drugs, river navigation, power dams and hundreds of other "projects" that make life not only bearable for all of us, but good for most people or just those direct welfare payments which are less than 1% of the entire national budget?

The reason we are responsible for each other, is because we're not animals.  We're human beings, and if our species is to evolve and survive, then we must protect those who are weak and vulnerable.  We're not wolves who abandon the less productive, we care for them, and try to keep in mind, "there but for the grace of God, go I."
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 08, 2006, 10:59:39 AM
"The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?" A satanic mistake, like all socialism and communism: "The origin of Marxism is within a satanic mystery cult - something which very few Marxists are aware."  ("Karl Marx?" by Georgi Marchenko (http://forerunner.com/predvestnik/X0013_Karl_Marx.html))
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 08, 2006, 12:01:48 PM

Secondly, people in the 20s/30s lived as long as we do - in fact, once adulthood is reached, the average lifespan of 72 years hasn't changed since the turn of the 20th C.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age at death for a person born in 1900 was 47.3 years; for a person born in 1950 it will be 68.2 years; and for a person born in 1991 in will be 75.5 years.

Paradoxically, the longer one lives, the longer one is likely to live.  A person who attained age 65 in 1900 was likely to live another 11.9 years; a person who attained age 65 in 1950 was likely to live another 13.9 years; and a person who attained age 65 in 1991 is likely to live another 17.4 years.

Since Social Security was funded by a tax on all workers, the combination of the fact that workers who reached age 65 were likely to live just over another decade with the fact that many people who entered the workforce by age 20 would not be alive by age 65 resulted in the average length of retirement for all people whose wages funded Social Security being around 2 years in the mid-1930's.  The increase in length of retirements that is now burdening the Social Security system results more from the fact that fewer people die during their working years and less from the fact that people who make it to age 65 are living longer.

I don't know what any of this has to do with the topic of this thread . . . but it's interesting, huh?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 08, 2006, 01:05:15 PM

"The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?" A satanic mistake, like all socialism and communism: "The origin of Marxism is within a satanic mystery cult - something which very few Marxists are aware."  ("Karl Marx?" by Georgi Marchenko (http://forerunner.com/predvestnik/X0013_Karl_Marx.html))


Book edited by Jay Rogers . . . the same guy whose website has a link for ordering a "Satan Ringtone" for your phone.  Jeez.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 09, 2006, 01:50:53 PM
Satanic Ringtones?   Sign me UP!
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on October 09, 2006, 01:58:16 PM
The Satanic Ringtones.  Sounds like a rock group.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 09, 2006, 02:43:45 PM
Just as an aside, it's interesting to me that as a culture we have no problem identifying Hitler and Nazi Germany with the Satanic, but when it's a question of Lenin and Stalin's Soviet Union, well, then it's all a big joke, haha. I think there are many different reasons for this - the primary one being that Marxism-Leninism to this day hides beneath a cloak of egalitarianism and social justice. But it's also a matter of art. Hitler himself was no mean artist, contrary to popular belief; he was at the very least attuned to the artistic talents of contemporaries like the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and the architect Albert Speer. Riefenstahl's film  Triumph of the Will continues to exert its uncanny, dreadful glamour to this day, an entire half-century after it was made. By contrast the Soviets under Lenin and Stalin seem unconscionably drab and dreary. Those bulky figures and unflattering grey uniforms - so unlike the muscular style and stylish black of the SS in uniform. Watch a film of the Nazi army goosestepping its way to victory - almost inevitably, a shiver of fear will go up your spine, even now, all these decades later; watch a similar film of the Soviets and their annual martial parade in Red Square and it's hard not to laugh!   
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 09, 2006, 02:58:47 PM
I have no trouble identifying either collection of people as "evil", and if asked "how evil?", my response would be "evil enough". "Satanic" may be useful if you believe in a "Satan", but it doesn't mean anything to some people (myself included).
You are certainly correct about the impact of Triumph des Willes, though; when I was in high school it was screened for my political science class (screened being the operative word in those pre-DVD, video days) and I can still remember classmates admitting that they had found the images of Nazism so powerful that they fell under the spell of Riefenstahl for the length of the film. She was an artist, albeit an immoral one. Was there anyone in the Soviet Union working at that level? Everything I have seen runs to the standard of those boring propaganda posters exhorting the peasants to get working for Uncle Joe.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 09, 2006, 03:43:53 PM
I would say that in Stalin's Soviet Union, in terms of filmmakers, Eisenstein was working at the same level as Riefenstahl in Nazi Germany, but as far as I know his filmmaking was restricted to historical epics, e.g., his film based on the life of Ivan the Terrible. For some odd reason the Bolsheviks never cottoned on to the propaganda value of having their own party rallies filmed by a genius like Eisenstein.

Stalin strongly identified with (and influenced) Eisenstein's favorable depiction of Ivan the Terrible, but IMHO most Soviet citizens themselves would not necessarily have made the connection between the two leaders, at least not on the conscious level. On the subconscious level - well, that's a whole different ballgame, anything is possible.

I think the Satanic is a useful descriptive term, whether or not you believe in Satan, because it evokes the uncanny, at least in the Western context. There is in fact an entire literary and artistic tradition of the Satanic in Western culture which is very different from the portrayal of Satan in Russia. In the West Satan is traditionally a magnificent figure, a Danteesque and Miltonian fallen angel, too proud and vainglorious to remain a mere servant of God. In this tradition Satan is as glamorous as he is evil. Whereas in Russian culture Satan and demons in general are small, petty creatures - dismal, drab, and nondescript - rather like Soviet apparatchiks, as a matter of fact!



Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 09, 2006, 03:58:07 PM

"The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?" A satanic mistake, like all socialism and communism: "The origin of Marxism is within a satanic mystery cult - something which very few Marxists are aware."  ("Karl Marx?" by Georgi Marchenko (http://forerunner.com/predvestnik/X0013_Karl_Marx.html))


Book edited by Jay Rogers . . . the same guy whose website has a link for ordering a "Satan Ringtone" for your phone.  Jeez.

You are mistaken: it is not the editor's fault that random ads were posted on his free website. Such is the price paid by anybody to have a free website - random ads word-matched to the website content. This is a very, very cheap shot at demeaning some most disturbing pieces of evidence: that communism is satanic in origins and purposes.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 09, 2006, 04:44:18 PM

I think the Satanic is a useful descriptive term, whether or not you believe in Satan, because it evokes the uncanny, at least in the Western context.


It might be usefully descriptive in a metophorical sense, but I don't think it is particularly helpful in a literal sense.  If you read many of Borbon Fan's other posts, in which he maintains that the key to understanding Russia's history and predicting its future lies in mystical, ancient Orthodox prophecies, you might consider looking at the book he cites as authority for this particular proposition.  I know how much you like to read interesting things.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 09, 2006, 04:48:30 PM
Whenever a book promises to reveal the secret cabal that caused terrible things to happen, my internal DAVINCI CODE transponder goes off. And it is beeping right now. Why do you just know that there is going to be some kind of centuries-old plot involved in this one?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 09, 2006, 05:00:52 PM
Whenever a book promises to reveal the secret cabal that caused terrible things to happen, my internal DAVINCI CODE transponder goes off. And it is beeping right now. Why do you just know that there is going to be some kind of centuries-old plot involved in this one?

For the same reason I know I'd be bored silly if I looked at this nonsense. Tsarfan is wrong, I don't consider this sort of conspiracy tripe interesting. I haven't read The DaVinci Code and don't plan to. Ho hum. I'd just as soon read an agronomy textbook - only that would at least be informative. I'm sorry if I misled anyone with my discussion of the metaphorical "Satanic." I was only trying to switch the discussion to a less tedious plane! The differences between the Western and the Russian conceptions of the devil are indeed quite enthralling, but I can understand it if others don't share my particular fascination with this subject.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 09, 2006, 05:02:23 PM
Okay, this is taken from the website Borbon-Fan cited:

Quote
But this is not the end of the Satanic altar story. The Swedish paper "Swenska Dagbladet" reported the following on January 27, 1948:

1. After capturing Berlin, the Soviet Army removed the original Satanic altar to Moscow. (Strange, but for a long time the altar was not shown in any Soviet museum. Why it was necessary to remove it to Moscow? I mentioned earlier that some higher leaders of the Soviet hierarchy practiced satanic rituals. Possibly they wanted to keep the altar of Pergamos for their personal usage? There are many dark spots here. Even fragments of such precious archeological rarities don't disappear.)

2. Architect Schusev, who built Lenin's tomb, took the Pergamos altar as the project prototype. This was in 1924. It's a known fact that Schusev received all the needed information from Frederic Paulsen - an acknowledged authority in archeology.

Satan's altar of Pergamos was only one of a kind. Why did Christ point to it? Perhaps because it was to play a leading role. His words were prophetic


Not exactly what you would call your typical academic source, no?

Also, I went ahead and signed up for the Satan Ring Tone. The only problem was that my desk caught fire when little Damien called . . .
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 09, 2006, 05:03:37 PM
And again, ho hum, Simon. Could we get back on topic, please, before I fall asleep?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 09, 2006, 05:04:41 PM
Whenever a book promises to reveal the secret cabal that caused terrible things to happen, my internal DAVINCI CODE transponder goes off. And it is beeping right now. Why do you just know that there is going to be some kind of centuries-old plot involved in this one?

For the same reason I know I'd be bored silly if I looked at this nonsense. Tsarfan is wrong, I don't consider this sort of conspiracy tripe interesting. I haven't read The DaVinci Code and don't plan to. Ho hum. I'd just as soon read an agronomy textbook - only that would at least be informative. I'm sorry if I misled anyone with my discussion of the metaphorical "Satanic." I was only trying to switch the discussion to a less tedious plane! The differences between the Western and the Russian conceptions of the devil are indeed quite enthralling, but I can understand it if others don't share my particular fascination with this subject.

Actually, the differences are fascinating; my problem with the use of the word is with Borbon-Fan's source, who seem to think that Beelzebub had a hand in the Russian Revolution. Demon altars aside, this is simply not something that can be demonstrated.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 09, 2006, 05:05:04 PM

Tsarfan is wrong, I don't consider this sort of conspiracy tripe interesting.


Oh, dear, Elisabeth.  This is the price of our losing touch for so long . . . you forget that I often speak with my (forked) tongue in my cheek.  I was just kidding.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 09, 2006, 05:19:12 PM
Actually, the differences are fascinating; my problem with the use of the word is with Borbon-Fan's source, who seem to think that Beelzebub had a hand in the Russian Revolution. Demon altars aside, this is simply not something that can be demonstrated.

Heck, Simon, haven't you read Mikhail Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita? If you had, you'd know that Beelzebub was directly involved in the fate of Russia in the twentieth century. (Yes, Tsarfan, as you might have guessed, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek as I write this.) But seriously, it is a great book. And it's all about the Devil coming to Stalin's Moscow. It even inspired a song by the Rolling Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil." (And that's my trivia contribution for the week!)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 09, 2006, 05:52:47 PM
Tsarfan - the age changes after a person reaches adulthood.  Yes, from birth to 21, the age was 47, but from adulthood on, it jumped to the low 70s.  The same method is used today to measure average lifespan - the difference is the lower infant mortality rate and the death from childhood disease rate.  Now the average life expectancy from birth to 21, is 71/72 and if a person survives from 21 through adulthood the rate changes to 74.

Of course it is even far more detailed a measurement than this - everything is thrown into the equation to come up with the two numbers.  It's a confusing method, and most people do not know that there are two time spans.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 09, 2006, 06:26:15 PM
Whenever a book promises to reveal the secret cabal that caused terrible things to happen, my internal DAVINCI CODE transponder goes off. And it is beeping right now. Why do you just know that there is going to be some kind of centuries-old plot involved in this one?

For the same reason I know I'd be bored silly if I looked at this nonsense. Tsarfan is wrong, I don't consider this sort of conspiracy tripe interesting. I haven't read The DaVinci Code and don't plan to. Ho hum. I'd just as soon read an agronomy textbook - only that would at least be informative. I'm sorry if I misled anyone with my discussion of the metaphorical "Satanic." I was only trying to switch the discussion to a less tedious plane! The differences between the Western and the Russian conceptions of the devil are indeed quite enthralling, but I can understand it if others don't share my particular fascination with this subject.

Actually, the differences are fascinating; my problem with the use of the word is with Borbon-Fan's source, who seem to think that Beelzebub had a hand in the Russian Revolution. Demon altars aside, this is simply not something that can be demonstrated.

I never claimed that the Devil had a hand in the Russian revolution, but that Marx and Lenin and the highest communist elites were satanists. And this is demonstrated in the material you, as any good atheists, take in derision. Your loss, nobody else's.

Also, there is no conspiracy theory in the book I quoted from, only facts about satanism backed up by sources. Of course you, as any good atheists, are going to slander the sources as "non-academic" (as if a large circulation newspaper isn't a trustworthy source). Again your loss, nobody else's.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 09, 2006, 07:43:02 PM
Uh, just how does not believing a bunch of satanist claptrap published in a hare-brained book that is marketed on lunatic internet sites make one an atheist?

Are you seriously saying that if one does not believe communists conducted satanic masses one cannot believe in God?  And that anything that finds its way into print must be true?

This is indeed scary logic to find on a prominent internet site that hopes to encourage young people in the study of history.  The internet abounds with sites that host discussions about fringe theories on all kinds of topics.  Wouldn't a discussion about satanic masses as a form of government find a more suitable home there?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 09, 2006, 11:32:13 PM
Uh, just how does not believing a bunch of satanist claptrap published in a hare-brained book that is marketed on lunatic internet sites make one an atheist?

Are you seriously saying that if one does not believe communists conducted satanic masses one cannot believe in God?  And that anything that finds its way into print must be true?

This is indeed scary logic to find on a prominent internet site that hopes to encourage young people in the study of history.  The internet abounds with sites that host discussions about fringe theories on all kinds of topics.  Wouldn't a discussion about satanic masses as a form of government find a more suitable home there?


Nobody asked you to believe it, only to read and consider the arguments, something you failed to do. Instead, you launched yourself into slanderous attacks on the credibility of the website and book without having read them and without any germaine proofs whatsoever.

Also, you mock the idea of satanism, of Satan's existence and influence in the world. Thus, by denying the existence of Satan you also deny the existence of God, for one cannot exist without the other (at least for a Christian, Jew, or Muslim). Hence you are very likely an atheist. And along with you all those who deny these things.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 09, 2006, 11:35:55 PM
Quote

I never claimed that the Devil had a hand in the Russian revolution, but that Marx and Lenin and the highest communist elites were satanists. And this is demonstrated in the material you, as any good atheists, take in derision. Your loss, nobody else's.

Also, there is no conspiracy theory in the book I quoted from, only facts about satanism backed up by sources. Of course you, as any good atheists, are going to slander the sources as "non-academic" (as if a large circulation newspaper isn't a trustworthy source). Again your loss, nobody else's.

The premise of the book is that Marxist Bolshevism is the work of a conspiracy of satanists according to the source you yourself put on this thread. And the "source" is silly, not merely non-academic. The size of a newspaper is not a barometer of its' trustworthiness (think of Izvestia and the Volkische Beobachter, let alone the National Enquirer). Nor am I an atheist.

But all things considered, I can live with "my loss".

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 09, 2006, 11:42:48 PM
Quote

I never claimed that the Devil had a hand in the Russian revolution, but that Marx and Lenin and the highest communist elites were satanists. And this is demonstrated in the material you, as any good atheists, take in derision. Your loss, nobody else's.

Also, there is no conspiracy theory in the book I quoted from, only facts about satanism backed up by sources. Of course you, as any good atheists, are going to slander the sources as "non-academic" (as if a large circulation newspaper isn't a trustworthy source). Again your loss, nobody else's.

The premise of the book is that Marxist Bolshevism is the work of a conspiracy of satanist according to the source you yourself put on this thread. And the "source" is silly, not merely non-academic. The size of a newspaper is not a barometer of its' trustworthiness (think of Izvestia and the Volkische Beobachter, let alone the National Enquirer). Nor am I an atheist.

But all things considered, I can live with "my loss".



I dare you to prove with quotes your slanderous accusations that the book supports a conspiracy theory.

I dare you to prove that the sources of this book are not trustworthy.

How can you claim you believe in God's existence and influence if you don't believe in Satan's?!

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 10, 2006, 07:09:28 AM
Borbon Fan, the following remarks are not directed at you, because you are apparently beyond the reach of all critical thinking.  They are instead directed at young readers who are still trying to learn something about the historical method.

First point . . . when someone makes new or extraordinary claims (such as "high communists" conducted satanic masses) that run against the weight of current authority, the burden is on him or her to prove the credibility of the sources, not on those who doubt such sources.

Second point . . . the fact that someone doubts that members of the soviet government conducted satanic masses does not necessarily imply and certainly does not prove that the person does not believe either specifically in Satan or more generally in the presence of an evil spiritual force in the affairs of mankind.

Third point . . . there are some religious sects that believe in the existence of God but not in the countervailing existence of Satan.  They instead attribute the presence of evil in the world to the operation of human free will.  So even the denial of Satan does not prove the denial of God, except by reference to a particular religious belief. 

Fourth point . . . religious belief is a matter of faith and largely unamenable to the types of proof required for a disciplined discourse on history.  Trying to explain history by resorting to tenets of faith is akin to trying to determine the nature of the solar system by consulting medieval philosophers.  It can lead to untestable and utterly incorrect conclusions.

Fifth point . . . virtually every noteworthy event of the twentieth century is surrounded by a haze of bizarre conspiracy theories.  Kennedy's assassination was ordered by Lyndon Johnson or the military or the mafia.  ("Sources" differ.)  Hitler did not commit suicide and escaped.  Pan Am Flight 700 was shot down by an errant military missile.  Jesus spawned the Merovingian dynasty in France.  Anastasia rode a dog cart out of Russia and wound up in Virginia, or she and the other females of her family were put on a train to Perm, or she and the rest of her family set sail on a mystery ship.  ("Sources" differ).  Communists conducted satanic masses.  Elvis lives.

Critical thought is the only vaccine for all the madness.  Good luck.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 10, 2006, 07:24:48 AM
Borbon Fan, the following remarks are not directed at you, because you are apparently beyond the reach of all critical thinking. (...) Critical thought is the only vaccine for all the madness.  Good luck.

"Thank you" for calling me in such clever words a mentally retarded and mad person, but I don't need your lectures on "critical thinking," which you claim is beyond my reach. Nor do I need your lectures on random sects which believe in God, but not Satan, since I was (in a manner obvious to everybody except you) talking of mainstream Christians, Jews, and Muslims when I was saying "by denying the existence of Satan you also deny the existence of God, for one cannot exist without the other (at least for a Christian, Jew, or Muslim)."

I was hoping for some civilized discussion on the arguments presented in the book, yet you have not produced a single on-topic commentary on a single quote from it.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 10, 2006, 09:32:37 AM
The "most reputable" think tank?

The Mises Institute was set up in Alabama by Mises' widow.  It has none of the research or consulting contracts with businesses or other enterprises that are typically the staple income for such institutes.  Instead, it gets its funding from unspecified private donations.  (This is very odd marketing.  Most think tanks trumpet the sources of their income in order to establish their bona fides as credible research institutions.)

Throughout his career Mises was denied the university teaching posts he sought in both Austria and the United Stated.  The institute's website says he taught at New York University for many years but then goes on to say the university would only accord him the title of "visiting professor" and that "his salary had to be paid" by others.  That's a very odd arrangement in academia . . . especially for someone of Mises' claimed prominence.

The institute's website also prominently features F. A. Hayek as a "follower" of Mises who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Economics.  It is true that Hayek studied with Mises in his youth and won the Nobel Prize in 1974.  What the website fails to mention is that in his 1939 book Profits, Interest and Investment, Hayek distanced himself from Mises and then continued to sail a course of divergent thinking right up to his Nobel Prize thirty-five years later.  In fact, Hayek specifically noted that his economic model could not be reconciled with the "Austrian school" of which Mises claimed to be the leader.

The "most reputable" think tank?  I don't think so.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 10, 2006, 09:54:42 AM
I spent a couple of hours looking around the Mises site as well. Sorry, I stand by my original criticism of the source.

That would be the SOURCE, Borbon-Fan. No one is calling you "retarded". You do need critical skills, but that's not a character flaw or a mental abnormality. Try to resist the temptation to hurl anathema sints.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 10, 2006, 10:04:00 AM
I spent a couple of hours looking around the Mises site as well. Sorry, I stand by my original criticism of the source.

That would be the SOURCE, Borbon-Fan. No one is calling you "retarded". You do need critical skills, but that's not a character flaw or a mental abnormality. Try to resist the temptation to hurl anathema sints.



You continue to comment only off-topic (e.g. source credibility) rather than on-topic (i.e. the satanic nature of communism). Just like Tsarfan. However, unlike him, who most arrogantly and libelously labeled me as void of any critical thinking - i.e. idiotic, retarded - as well as a pray of mad conspirationalist theories - i.e. mad -, you are respectful. Therefore, it will be my pleasure to debate any topic with you, unlike with him.

I would be curious to know what you have to say about the arguments in favor of the anti-christian satanic nature of communism of the article from von Mises Institute, whose credibility you did not question (unlike that of the first editor/author).
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 10, 2006, 10:37:16 AM
Uh, Borbon Fan . . . you labelled us atheists (and falsely, by the way) for refusing to agree with you about satanic masses.  Same rules for everyone, bucko.

And since when did this topic become "the satanic nature of communism" other than by your say-so?

Want to make an extreme claim?  Fine.  But expect to have your sources challenged.  It's not my fault that your sources attract links to "Satan Ringtones" or that they misleadingly take credit for Nobel Prize work.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 10, 2006, 10:44:46 AM
Uh, Borbon Fan . . . you labelled us atheists (and falsely, by the way) for refusing to agree with you about satanic masses.  Same rules for everyone, bucko.

And since when did this topic become "the satanic nature of communism" other than by your say-so?

Want to make an extreme claim?  Fine.  But expect to have your sources challenged.  It's not my fault that your sources attract links to "Satan Ringtones" or that they misleadingly take credit for Nobel Prize work.


Calling somebody an atheist is not an insult. Calling somebody (in clever words) mad and retarded is.

Let me remind you that the topic of this thread is not some random ads about some ringtones posted by a company without the control of the owner to keep his website free, but rather "What Kind of Mistake Was USSR?"

I support the claim that it was a satanic mistake, just as communism is, with arguments. You only keep hurling insults and making off-topic false* remarks, failing to address any of the arguments.

--------
* You falsely claim the Von Mises Institute "misleadingly takes credit for Nobel Prize work." Here is what the Institute website says about this issue: "Yet, as Hayek (1978a) noted, he was from the beginning always something less than a pure follower: "Although I do owe [Mises] a decisive stimulus at a crucial point of my intellectual development, and continuous inspiration through a decade, I have perhaps most profited from his teaching because I was not initially his student at the university, an innocent young man who took his word for gospel, but came to him as a trained economist, versed in a parallel branch of Austrian economics [the Wieser branch] from which he gradually, but never completely, won me over." (Biography F. A. Hayek (http://www.mises.org/content/hayekbio.asp)) 
 

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 10, 2006, 11:34:10 AM

You falsely claim the Von Mises Institute "misleadingly takes credit for Nobel Prize work." Here is what the Institute website says about this issue: "Yet, as Hayek (1978a) noted, he was from the beginning always something less than a pure follower: "Although I do owe [Mises] a decisive stimulus at a crucial point of my intellectual development, and continuous inspiration through a decade, I have perhaps most profited from his teaching because I was not initially his student at the university, an innocent young man who took his word for gospel, but came to him as a trained economist, versed in a parallel branch of Austrian economics [the Wieser branch] from which he gradually, but never completely, won me over." (Biography F. A. Hayek (http://www.mises.org/content/hayekbio.asp)) 
 

For starters, I cannot find this passage anywhere on the Mises Institute website (http://www.mises.org).  Even your post seems to suggest it comes from a biography of Hayek.

What I do find on the Mises website is this passage:

"Since Mises's death in New York City on October 10, 1973 at the age of 92, Misesian doctrine and influence has experienced a renaissance.  The following year saw not only Hayek's Nobel Prize for Misesian cycle theory, but also the first of many Austrian School conferences in the United States."

So I thought I'd check out the official Nobel Prize website.  Here's what it says about Hayek (who shared his award with another economist):

"The Functional Efficiency of Economic Systems:

von Hayek's contributions in the field of economic theory are both profound and original. His scientific books and articles in the twenties and thirties aroused widespread and lively debate. Particularly, his theory of business cycles and his conception of the effects of monetary and credit policies attracted attention and evoked animated discussion. He tried to penetrate more deeply into the business cycle mechanism than was usual at that time. Perhaps, partly due to this more profound analysis, he was one of the few economists who gave warning of the possibility of a major economic crisis before the great crash came in the autumn of 1929.

von Hayek showed how monetary expansion, accompanied by lending which exceeded the rate of voluntary saving, could lead to a misallocation of resources, particularly affecting the structure of capital. This type of business cycle theory with links to monetary expansion has fundamental features in common with the postwar monetary discussion.

The Academy is of the opinion that von Hayek's analysis of the functional efficiency of different economic systems is one of his most significant contributions to economic research in the broader sense. From the mid-thirties he embarked on penetrating studies of the problems of centralized planning. As in all areas where von Hayek has carried out research, he gave a profound historical exposé of the history of doctrines and opinions in this field. He presented new ideas with regard to basic difficulties in "socialistic calculating", and investigated the possibilities of achieving effective results by decentralized "market socialism" in various forms. His guiding principle when comparing various systems is to study how efficiently all the knowledge and all the information dispersed among individuals and enterprises is utilized. His conclusion is that only by far-reaching decentralization in a market system with competition and free price-fixing is it possible to make full use of knowledge and information.

von Hayek's ideas and his analysis of the competence of economic systems were published in a number of works during the forties and fifties and have, without doubt, provided significant impulses to this extensive and growing field of research in "comparative economic systems". For him it is not a matter of a simple defence of a liberal system of society as may sometimes appear from the popularized versions of his thinking."


Hmmm . . . not a single reference there to "Misesian cycle theory." In fact, the Nobel Prize committee specifically credited Hayek with something for which Mises elsewhere claimed credit -- the prediction of the economic crash of 1929.  Of course, the Mises website also claims that Mises was "single-handedly able to slow down Austrian inflation" in the 1920's.  That's quite a feat.  It's a shame he wasn't willing to help the Weimar Republic.  We might have been spared all that nasty Hitler and World War II business.

Sorry, Borbon Fan . . . but I just cannot shake the feeling that the Mises Institute and its website are one big puff piece instead of a "most reputable" think tank.  It certainly doesn't leave me ready to accept their voucher that Lenin and his crowd conducted satanic masses. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 10, 2006, 11:55:11 AM

You falsely claim the Von Mises Institute "misleadingly takes credit for Nobel Prize work." Here is what the Institute website says about this issue: "Yet, as Hayek (1978a) noted, he was from the beginning always something less than a pure follower: "Although I do owe [Mises] a decisive stimulus at a crucial point of my intellectual development, and continuous inspiration through a decade, I have perhaps most profited from his teaching because I was not initially his student at the university, an innocent young man who took his word for gospel, but came to him as a trained economist, versed in a parallel branch of Austrian economics [the Wieser branch] from which he gradually, but never completely, won me over." (Biography F. A. Hayek (http://www.mises.org/content/hayekbio.asp)) 
 

For starters, I cannot find this passage anywhere on the Mises Institute website (http://www.mises.org). 

Sorry, your claim remains false, despite the lengthy quote from the Nobel committee which neither supports, nor denies your false claim. I am most surprised you couldn't find my quote, since the link was included in brackets as the underlined source. All you had to do was to click on it. Here it is again: Biography F. A. Hayek (http://www.mises.org/content/hayekbio.asp)

As to "the most reputable," the Institute is certainly the most reputable Austrian-American libertarian think-tank. I never said it is the most reputable of all libertarian institutes in the whole world. Regardless, it is very well reputed and, most importantly, doesn't make false claims. So there is no issue of credibility.

Therefore, I can say that Karl Marx and communism are rooted in satanism. To what degree, this is open to debate, and I invite you to join it respectful of others. Personal insults have no place on this forum.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 10, 2006, 12:35:20 PM
Sorry I missed the link, as my machine did not highlight it as such.  Having now read it, I find it describes the relationship between Hayek and Mises as far less linear than that implied on the main Mises website.  Basically, it describes Hayek as having come under Mises' sway early in his career and then launching onto a divergent track which ultimately left him a much brighter intellectual luminary than Mises.

No matter where one lands on that arcane debate, it makes the main website's claim that Hayek's Nobel Prize was for his work on the "Misesian cycle" something of a reach, to say the very least.  In fact, the Nobel Prize announcement stressed the fact that Hayek's work was "original" -- despite the fact that the committee traditionally acknowledges when a prize is given for work that builds on foundations laid by another.

I am completely mystified how any of this substantiates your claim that, "Karl Marx and communism are rooted in satanism" or that "high communists" conducted satanic masses.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 10, 2006, 12:45:54 PM
Sorry I missed the link, as my machine did not highlight it as such.  Having now read it, I find it describes the relationship between Hayek and Mises as far less linear than that implied on the main Mises website.  Basically, it describes Hayek as having come under Mises' sway early in his career and then launching onto a divergent track which ultimately left him a much brighter intellectual luminary than Mises.

No matter where one lands on that arcane debate, it makes the main website's claim that Hayek's Nobel Prize was for his work on the "Misesian cycle" something of a reach, to say the very least.  In fact, the Nobel Prize announcement stressed the fact that Hayek's work was "original" -- despite the fact that the committee traditionally acknowledges when a prize is given for work that builds on foundations laid by another.

I am completely mystified how any of this substantiates your claim that, "Karl Marx and communism are rooted in satanism" or that "high communists" conducted satanic masses.

There is no reach in the website's claim that "Hayek's Nobel Prize was for his work on the "Misesian cycle"", except perhaps for an amateur in economics, as you yourself undoubtedly are. The Nobel prize was awarded to Hayek, according to the Nobel committe from which you quoted, for showing that "This type of business cycle theory with links to monetary expansion has fundamental features in common with the postwar monetary discussion." Which type of business cycle are they talking about? The Mises' business cycle, as explained in "Monetary Central Planning and the State" (http://www.fff.org/freedom/1097b.asp) by Richard M. Ebeling: "In the 1920s, as we have seen, Ludwig von Mises had demonstrated the fundamental weakness in all attempts to stabilize an economy through price-level stabilization by explaining the inherent non-neutrality of money. (...) But it was Mises's young Austrian colleague, Friedrich A. Hayek, who detailed why stabilizing the price level could distort the structure of relative prices in such a manner that a business cycle was likely to be set in motion. In Monetary Theory and the Trade Cycle (1929), Hayek argued that the role of the rate of interest in a market economy was to ensure that the amount and the time horizons of investment activities were kept in balance with the available savings in the economy."

Hence, there are no credibility issues with the Institute, reason for which its article about the satanic origins of communism is also very credible.

Note, please, that I never supported the idea that the USSR communist elites took part in satanic masses. This was only a hypothesis in relationship with the Pergamos Altar, not a fact, and was explained as such in the first (and much contested) article, while not mentioned at all in the latter one of the Institute.

Source credibility, thus, not being an issue with the Institute paper, I expect your as well as others' views on rather than off-topic, about the proofs presented in the latter article.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 10, 2006, 01:32:18 PM

Source credibility, thus, not being an issue with the Institute paper . . .
 

I guess credibility is in the eye of the beholder, Borbon Fan.  Here is some news about the Mises Institute and its leader, Llewelyn Rockwell, from a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the neo-Confederate movement in the south:

"Headed up by Llewelyn Rockwell Jr., the Ludwig von Mises Institute is devoted to a radical libertarian view of government and economics inspired by the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, whom the institute says "showed that government intervention is always destructive."

Indeed, the institute aims to "undermine statism in all its forms," and its recent interest in neo-Confederate themes reflects that.

Rockwell recently argued that the Civil War "transformed the American regime from a federalist system based on freedom to a centralized state that circumscribed liberty in the name of public order."

Desegregation in the civil rights era, he says, resulted in the "involuntary servitude" of (presumably white) business owners. In the past, Rockwell has praised the electoral success of European neofascists like Joerg Haider in Austria and Christoph Blocher in Switzerland.

Both Rockwell and institute research director Jeffrey Tucker are listed on the racist League of the South's Web page as founding members — and both men deny their membership. Tucker has written for League publications, and many League members have taught at the institute's seminars and given presentations at its conferences.

At the recent Austrian Scholars Conference, the F.A. Hayek Memorial Lecture was delivered by Donald Livingston, director of the League's Summer Institute. In 1994, Thomas Fleming, a founding League member and the editor of Chronicles magazine, spoke on neo-Confederate ideas to an institute conference.

Rockwell, who is also vice president of the Center for Libertarian Studies, runs his own daily news Web site that often features articles by League members."



Hmmmm . . .  desegregation as "involuntary servitude" . . . close ties with the League of the South . . . praise of neo-fascists.

Yep, these are high recommendations for the Institute, indeed.

I had already read that the Institute located itself in Alabama because Auburn University was one of the few places that would tolerate contacts with Austrian School economics.  Now I guess we know the other reason for choosing the deep South as a site -- a nice mesh with local politics.  (I'm from Georgia, by the way, and two of my best friends are a married couple who are Professors of Development Psychology at Auburn University.  I know something about the place and its attitudes.)

Okay . . . you've convinced me, Borbon Fan.  If this crowd of nutjobs says the communists were satanists, I just have to believe them.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 10, 2006, 01:46:31 PM
You have a very perverse way of distorting the truth: about the retarded mad me, about the "nutjobs" at the Institute, etc. The fact that the Institute is supported by a couple of controversial figures (on whom your evidence is flimsy and denied by those in question) does not make the Institute racist or fascist. I would invite you to prove your libellous generalization with racist quotes from the Institute's works (if you can find any!), but I know it is in vain, because you have proven yourself totally incapable of any serious debate on-topic while constantly resorting to off-topic libellous attacks, generalizations, and distortions of the truth.

Therefore, please, do not bother to reply to my messages: they will not be addressed to you, but only to the rest of the Forum's members. Be the bigger person of the two of us and leave the retarded mad me with my "nutjobs" alone!

Thank you in advance!
Borbon Fan
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 10, 2006, 03:41:46 PM
You may not care for the tone of his remarks, BorbonFan, but in fact he is as on topic as you are. You offered the theory (whether your own or the source) that the leadership of the Soviet Union were satanic. Not satanic as Elisabeth used the word; you actually suggested that Black Masses were offered. Did you seriously think that a suggestion as non-mainstream as that would go unchallenged?

In fact, your argumentation contains serious flaws if you assume that one must needs believe in a "Satan" (and I am sure you are aware that there are several different interpretations of that figure even within the three Abrahamic religions you cite --- the Satan of Job is not the serpent of Eden, for example). The task is not to demonstrate the existence of Satan, in any case. The task is to demonstrate the fact that the leadership of the Soviet Union participated in Black Masses. So far the source for this seems to be a 1948 article in a Swedish newspaper. Hello? How did newspapers like the London Times, Le Monde, Osservatore Romano and the New York Times miss that story?

I once opened a student's assignment and read "George Washington was a member of the oppressor class as a slave owner in Virginia, and during the War for American Independence fought to maintain the bourgeois status quo." There are several things that you can say about George Washington, but these would probably not be the first, unless you were using the Great Soviet Encyclopedia as your primary source. In fact, source material is critically important.

The Miser Institute offers a libertarian message (this is not the time or place, but you are surely aware that orthodox Christianity regards libertarianism as heretical? Start with Rerum Novarum). It is clear from even a cursory reading of the Miser site that it offers Miser as the chief savant of the 20th century. Tsarfan has raised legitimate problems with that in terms of his reputation away from the site that is self-admittedly founded to foster his cultus. And yes, I do regard the source as suspect simply because it is fringe. While there have been successful conspiracies throughout history, the idea that every event can be explained by one is difficult to accept. Whatever kind of mistake the Soviet Union was, it is more complicated that undocumented Black Masses.

 I would also suggest that to have racists as strongly-present contributors, unrebuked, is compromising the integrity of the material.




Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on October 10, 2006, 03:58:36 PM
(Blowing a virtual whistle)

Okay, enough. Everyone back on topic. No exceptions. All off topic posts on this thread will be deleted regardless of what damage they do to continuity if this does not stop NOW and yes, I am shouting.

You are welcome to start other threads on critical thinking, Mises, Moses, or whomever you wish, but this topic is reserved for discussion of "The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was it".

Thank you very much.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 10, 2006, 04:15:29 PM
USSR was a satanic mistake (not "conspiracy" as others twisted it to render it less believable, for whatever reason they have). This is my position supported by the article (http://www.mises.org/journals/rae/pdf/rae4_1_5.pdf#search=%22satan%22) from Ludwig von Mises Institute. I do not claim satanic masses were celebrated by the USSR elites, I never did, as it is not supported by this paper.
 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on October 10, 2006, 09:08:13 PM
Just as an aside, it's interesting to me that as a culture we have no problem identifying Hitler and Nazi Germany with the Satanic, but when it's a question of Lenin and Stalin's Soviet Union, well, then it's all a big joke, haha. I think there are many different reasons for this - the primary one being that Marxism-Leninism to this day hides beneath a cloak of egalitarianism and social justice. But it's also a matter of art. Hitler himself was no mean artist, contrary to popular belief; he was at the very least attuned to the artistic talents of contemporaries like the filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl and the architect Albert Speer. Riefenstahl's film  Triumph of the Will continues to exert its uncanny, dreadful glamour to this day, an entire half-century after it was made. By contrast the Soviets under Lenin and Stalin seem unconscionably drab and dreary. Those bulky figures and unflattering grey uniforms - so unlike the muscular style and stylish black of the SS in uniform. Watch a film of the Nazi army goosestepping its way to victory - almost inevitably, a shiver of fear will go up your spine, even now, all these decades later; watch a similar film of the Soviets and their annual martial parade in Red Square and it's hard not to laugh!   

I understand and agree with you, Elisabeth, that most people would more readily equate Hitler and Nazi Germany with the "Satanic" than they would Lenin & Stalin's Soviet Russia.  But I'm not sure the reason lies (at least not primarily) in the "siren song" of Marxist ideology.  I don't think most Westerners are educated enough to know much about Marxism anyway.  In addition, Soviet Russia was seen as the arch-enemy of the West for decades.  In the 1980's President Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil" empire.  That comment resonated with a lot of ordinary people and made headlines.  So, there have been some important attempts to equate the Soviet Union with "evil".  This idea is not unknown.

I think that most Westerners think that their country has much more in common with Germany than Russia.  I don't think Russia is really thought of as a Western nation by most people.  Even before 1917 I think most Westerners thought of Russia as a semi-developed, semi-barbaric country where the Tsar's troops thought nothing of shooting innocent people if they even thought of getting out of line.  Who can imagine anything like the Khodynka Meadow disaster happening anywhere in Western Europe at the coronation of some King or Queen?  Or at some presidential inauguration?  And look at all those troops who went to the front (sent by the Tsar) completely unprepared for battle.  No other country was as poorly prepared to fight in 1914, but Nicholas went ahead anyway.

The rise of someone like Hitler in Germany, of all places, is hard for Westerners to accept, I think.  He didn't come from the Mid-East or Africa or somewhere in Asia; he came from our backyard.  So, it's easy to say he came from hell to explain why he was allowed to rise to power in the first place.

But for Russia, I think there's a perception (a quite widespread one) that a life is not worth much to them, even today.  In otherwords for Germany, Hitler's barbarism was an abberation, but for Russia it's typical.  I'm not saying it's true, but that's the perception. 



Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 10, 2006, 10:31:32 PM
As usual RichC, you are always on target. You know the history of the Russian peoples very well, and understand considerably, Thanks always for your positive thoughts.

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: BorbonFan on October 10, 2006, 10:37:57 PM
I agree 100% with all RichC's well argued reasons as to why this difference in public perception between Hitler and Nazism as satanic and Communism/Stalinism as just laughable. I would also add to them the fact that in terms of economic, scientific, and organizational advances, the Nazis were much more evolved and, therefore, much more fearsome than the bumbling Communists were.

Besides these logical arguments, I think the image difference owes a lot to the mass-media, which shapes public opinion. While there have been tons of movies, press articles, documentaries, monuments even dedicated in the West to the condemnation of the horrors and victims of Nazism, there have been infinitely far fewer ones condemning Communism and its many, many more victims. And not surprisingly so, since the vast majority of the Western media and movie making companies are owned by leftists.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 10, 2006, 11:43:46 PM
I would normally avoid discussions as to which regime was more "evil", but there are certain statements in the above post that are questionable.

1. The Nazis were more evolved? More fearsome? This flies in the face of work by authors such as Ian Kershaw, who have taken the Nazi administration apart and exposed the deeply flawed nature of its court structure. In fact, it resembled nothing so much as a dysfunctional autocracy, with redundant subordinates preventing effective development of national plans as they engaged in infighting around Hitler. Stalin's court may have functioned in the same manner, but it was surely no less effective. Moreover, how about a little credit? The Soviet Union defeated Nazi Germany; Nazi Germany lasted twelve years, and for the last five years of its existence did nothing for its people other than kill them, either in war or through extermination camps. The Soviet Union lasted for 70 years, and was fearsome for much of that time to the world at large, and for all of that time to its own hapless citizens. If they (the Soviets)  were "bumbling", what does that say about the Nazis, who couldn't hold it together for much more than a decade?

2. The media are controlled by "leftists"? I am challenging this statement not simply to be contrary but because I would like to see a little proof offered for these kinds of statements. I certainly don't accept them as self-evident, and it is unfair to those reading these threads for information to let them stand as though they are. What do you mean by "leftist"? That isn't a word that allows for uniformity of interpretation. In Hitler's Germany, a sensible and decent person would have been classified by the regime as a leftist; many were, and carted off to camps. To someone that supports the ancien regime, Ann Coulter is probably a leftist. Can we have a definition of the word "leftist" as it was used in the post?

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 11, 2006, 06:24:07 AM

2. Leftist values are contrary to conservative (i.e. religious) values, which include a restraint of sexuality and other urges, rights of religious expression in public, condemnation of abnormal sexuality (sodomy, adultery, etc.) and of murder (anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia), non-interventionalism in the economy, etc. As to the little proof about media ownership that you wanted: look around at the values promoted by most of the mass-media. What do you see most? A flood of abnormal sexuality, of violence and murder on tv, an active encouragement of lack of any restraint of any urges (not just sexual, but also of eating, of spending, of speaking/yaking, etc. etc.)



Moderator:

I thought this thread was to be restricted to discussions about the Soviet Union, not to be used as a podium for ultra-right, gay-bashing sermonizing . . . or as a veiled advertisement for that fascist "think tank" hyped earlier on this thread.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Forum Admin on October 11, 2006, 09:52:00 AM
Borbon Fan has been suspended for 30 days for failure to stay on topic despite requests from a moderator, and for continuing personal attacks on other users.


FA
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 11, 2006, 11:10:24 AM
The problem with labeling any government "satanic" is that then the opposite must be true - governments are godlike.  Some think they are, but I've never found that to be true.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on October 11, 2006, 12:04:01 PM

2. Leftist values are contrary to conservative (i.e. religious) values, which include a restraint of sexuality and other urges, rights of religious expression in public, condemnation of abnormal sexuality (sodomy, adultery, etc.) and of murder (anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia), non-interventionalism in the economy, etc. As to the little proof about media ownership that you wanted: look around at the values promoted by most of the mass-media. What do you see most? A flood of abnormal sexuality, of violence and murder on tv, an active encouragement of lack of any restraint of any urges (not just sexual, but also of eating, of spending, of speaking/yaking, etc. etc.)


Moderator:

I thought this thread was to be restricted to discussions about the Soviet Union, not to be used as a podium for ultra-right, gay-bashing sermonizing . . . or as a veiled advertisement for that fascist "think tank" hyped earlier on this thread.

I see that the FA has stepped in and suspended the Member for failure to follow my direction amongst other things, and I thank him for it. You are entirely correct that BF again went OT so I will follow through on my earlier committment to you and the other posters.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Eddie_uk on October 15, 2006, 01:52:40 PM
Thank you FA and Lisa, am so pleased. How dare he judge other sexualitys as abnormal.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 15, 2006, 02:21:24 PM
The problem with labeling any government "satanic" is that then the opposite must be true - governments are godlike.  Some think they are, but I've never found that to be true.

Good point, Bev. Not to mention the fact that when, discussing political matters, you label a government "satanic" or its leader the "Anti-Christ" then you sound absolutely medieval (especially when simultaneously bashing someone's sexual preference - please, everyone, forfend from doing this, it's immoral and moreover, in such bad taste). True, in the West it was customary as late as the Renaissance to label one's political opponents as instruments of Satan. Even in late seventeenth-century and early eighteenth-century Russia there was a sizeable segment of the population who considered Peter the Great to be the Anti-Christ. Perhaps it was natural in those bygone days, when kings and tsars were believed to be God's representatives on earth, that they would also come to be identified with the flip-side of God's glory, that is, Satan's glory. At least this was true when one disagreed with their policies and/or personal habits.

In terms of twentieth-century Russian literature, though, it's interesting that Mikhail Bulgakov in his brilliant, classic novel The Master and Margarita tried to work out some sort of theodicy to explain the enigmatic, all-powerful hold that Stalin exerted not only over the Soviet government but also over Russian history and the Russian people as a whole. It's common in the West to identify Hitler with Satan but I don't know that many of us in the West are aware that a similar comparison has been made in Russia regarding Stalin and his cohorts. And this cannot simply be dismissed out of hand as "medieval" and anachronistic, since it comes from the pen of one of Russia's greatest writers. How do we explain absolute evil? By recourse to old Christian models, interpreted through the legend of Faust, as in the case of Bulgakov, or by recourse to the new psychiatric ones? I would argue that both approaches have their own validity, their own time and place.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 15, 2006, 04:28:24 PM

It's common in the West to identify Hitler with Satan but I don't know that many of us in the West are aware that a similar comparison has been made in Russia regarding Stalin and his cohorts.


As I'm sure you remember, Elisabeth, we had a very long and rousing discussion on another old thread about why people in the west both know more about Hitler's regime and attribute more foul consequences to it than to Stalin's regime.  There were many reasons proposed:  more information came out of Nazi Germany than out of Stalinist Russia; the west was flooded with film footage of liberated concentration camps, but there was no equivalent footage coming out Russia; there was funding for Holocaust studies in the west that was lacking for studies of Stalin's purges; Russia was an ally in WWII, while Germany was an enemy, so there was less interest in demonizing Russia, at least before the Cold War; etc.

However, though I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in German history, I have no specific recollections of ever encountering any mainstream views that identified Hitler with Satan.  Sure, he was viewed as a madman, a mass murdered, a man who unleashed horror on the world.  But identity with Satan specifically?  The closest I ever came to hearing such views were in some rather arcane tracts drawing a thread forward from Faustian literature to Naziism . . . hardly something that got discussed around many dinner tables.

As several of us who grew up in the U.S. during the height of the Cold War maintained on that old thread, it was the dirty commies whom we were taught to fear and loathe.  They were the ones who were intent on snuffing out freedom and light in the world, who sent us scurrying under our school desks during bomb drills, who caused our fathers to haul us around to bomb shelter demonstrations at local malls.  In the 1950's and 1960's, we all heard far more -- at least in the U.S. -- about the evil Soviet Union than we heard about Hitler and Naziism.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 15, 2006, 09:51:38 PM
As I remember from reading history in my school days, and from inter-related family members whose families and dear friends had fled first from Russia prior 1917, and after 1917, many Jews had gone to Germany, fleeing, and fearing the Communists take-over of Russia. Then came the pogroms in Germany, then the concentration camps, then the freeing of the concentration camps. In each of these exoduses, countless thousands of Jewish peoples, and the families who could, were applying to come to many parts of the world, and news was fast behind their heels of the atrocities that had befallen them. Of those who sought asylum, countless thousands sought refuge here in the United States. In the news releases, many of course were vehemently against both the communists, and later the Nazis, and not enough could be said about how dastardly they had been treated. A large undertaking was underway that took to the airwaves to tell not only the American public about these political issues, but that their human rights had been robbed. One heard more about the Jewish atrocities, than even that of the Armenian Genocide of 1915 up till 1923, in the western press than any other atrocity that transpired in any given geographical area globally. You must also remember that the countless thousands of Jews, still had relatives, friends who still lived in either Russia, Germany, Europe, etc., and could not escape these monstors of evil. I remember that after the war, the newspapers were filled about the concentration camps, their victims, and that mostly those who were Jewish, were the ones who had suffered the greatest of loss, etc. We even discussed it in our schools, but never were we given understanding to the greater loss of life suffered in the Soviet Union, or that of the Armenian Genocide, who were not Jewish. You have to remember, also when Armenians came to the United States, they were received and called the worst names, and equated at times with the American Black Communities and peoples, of which, of course, neither deserved to be labeled, or dashed and equated as garbage, and worse. But this is going away somewhat from the subject at hand, but I need to express at least what I learned and from others at the time. We here in America, and especially in my recollection in the old south, were told & virtually brainwashed into believeing that Stalin, and communism was work of the devil. So it does matter from what part of the globe, country, state, city, one is taught, and whom is teaching.

Even today on PBS, you still hear more about Germany and the Nazis, then you hear about any other global leader who had done an equivalent of almost the samness of genocide. You don't hear about other world leaders who were madmen, who decimated their own peoples as you hear, read, and have a global resonnance of remembering what Nazism did to the Jews, as you do here especially and remembered yearly across all news networks, etc.. So I think it has a lot to do with who and how much emphasis is raised in awareness by a peoples, before something becomes equated to the point it has to date in how we here in the West, who still remember and bring up what is the most horrendous issue of loss of human life in that equate.

The bottom line in all of this is that we all are responsible in addressing these issues even to date, and making sure that it does not transpire again. Unfortunately, because there was not 'enough information that came out of Stalinist Russia', there was still enough in due time for a global understanding to comprehend of the loss of life in both Armenia, and in Russia, but to date, what most in the west are taught 'to remember' in the press, and in history books, is to that of Nazism, and a bit of Soviet history, but not the atrocities to the extent of what was done in the millions upon millions of lives lost from 1917 to the fall of Soviet rule.

Again, if you take notice, in one of the main threads on 'genocide' on the AP thread, even there, more is offered in picture form, than that of 'real historians' being involved in that of what human tragedy transpired for the Armenians, but little if any even now about how many learned anything of that genocide. But then again, it may be because in terms of history, and teachers in the western world, they are offered what it is that the schools think is of importance, and those wishing, but insist as to what our history books should contain for their wants and needs. I don't know why it is this way, but it remains as it is presently.

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 16, 2006, 09:47:13 AM

It's common in the West to identify Hitler with Satan but I don't know that many of us in the West are aware that a similar comparison has been made in Russia regarding Stalin and his cohorts.


As I'm sure you remember, Elisabeth, we had a very long and rousing discussion on another old thread about why people in the west both know more about Hitler's regime and attribute more foul consequences to it than to Stalin's regime.  There were many reasons proposed:  more information came out of Nazi Germany than out of Stalinist Russia; the west was flooded with film footage of liberated concentration camps, but there was no equivalent footage coming out Russia; there was funding for Holocaust studies in the west that was lacking for studies of Stalin's purges; Russia was an ally in WWII, while Germany was an enemy, so there was less interest in demonizing Russia, at least before the Cold War; etc.

However, though I have undergraduate and graduate degrees in German history, I have no specific recollections of ever encountering any mainstream views that identified Hitler with Satan.  Sure, he was viewed as a madman, a mass murdered, a man who unleashed horror on the world.  But identity with Satan specifically?  The closest I ever came to hearing such views were in some rather arcane tracts drawing a thread forward from Faustian literature to Naziism . . . hardly something that got discussed around many dinner tables.

I was being rather imprecise, Tsarfan - I was remembering how Claus von Stauffenberg, before he became involved in the German Resistance, decided from what he had witnessed on the eastern front that Hitler was Anti-Christ and therefore it would be no sin to kill him. Satan and Anti-Christ are not technically interchangeable, but close enough for the purposes of this discussion.

As several of us who grew up in the U.S. during the height of the Cold War maintained on that old thread, it was the dirty commies whom we were taught to fear and loathe.  They were the ones who were intent on snuffing out freedom and light in the world, who sent us scurrying under our school desks during bomb drills, who caused our fathers to haul us around to bomb shelter demonstrations at local malls.  In the 1950's and 1960's, we all heard far more -- at least in the U.S. -- about the evil Soviet Union than we heard about Hitler and Naziism.

Well, that's the same era when we were sheltering wanted Nazi war criminals because our intelligence services thought they would be useful in our fight against Soviet communism. There wasn't a lot of awareness of either Nazi or Soviet genocides in the U.S. at the time. Most of those teachers lecturing you about the evils of Communism probably had very little idea if any of the Gulag or its murderous nature. But I have to tell you, Tsarfan, that IMHO they were right to teach you and your schoolmates that the Soviet Union was intent on "snuffing out freedom" in the world. After all, the Berlin Wall was still standing!
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 16, 2006, 09:59:19 AM
I agree that religious imagery is always lurking in the shadows of political rhetoric.  Look at the resurgence in fundamentalism that has gripped the world in the last few decades and the direction politics has taken in the U.S.  Candidates for pollitical office must now declare that they are persons of faith, a really frightening swing of the pendulum for American politics.

Tsarfan makes a very good point - the U.S. spent decades labeling the USSR as godless commies intent upon taking over the world and making us slaves to the government.  There was a concerted effort made by our government to convince of that communism was evil and the work of the devil.    "We will bury you" was seen as a very real threat by many Americans.

One reason why nazis became the personification of evil in popular culture, is because they're so easy to caricature - no subtlety, no nuance, no thinking  - just in your face evil.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 16, 2006, 10:26:37 AM
I agree that religious imagery is always lurking in the shadows of political rhetoric.  Look at the resurgence in fundamentalism that has gripped the world in the last few decades and the direction politics has taken in the U.S.  Candidates for pollitical office must now declare that they are persons of faith, a really frightening swing of the pendulum for American politics.

Did you happen to see Andrew Sullivan on Booknotes last night? He was discussing his new book about recovering the soul of American conservatism from the religious fundamentalists. It was really interesting. But I admit I'm a big fan of Andrew Sullivan. Even when I don't agree with him I find his ideas worthy of further thought.

Tsarfan makes a very good point - the U.S. spent decades labeling the USSR as godless commies intent upon taking over the world and making us slaves to the government.  There was a concerted effort made by our government to convince of that communism was evil and the work of the devil.    "We will bury you" was seen as a very real threat by many Americans.

At the same time I should point out that Soviet Communism was demonstrably evil and that Khrushchev's threat "we will bury you," especially in the light of the Cuban missile crisis, had to be taken seriously by Americans in the early 1960s. They didn't have the benefit of our hindsight - they didn't know that the entire Soviet economy was already in negative growth and the arms race would turn out to be a very costly red herring.

One reason why nazis became the personification of evil in popular culture, is because they're so easy to caricature - no subtlety, no nuance, no thinking  - just in your face evil.

That's true, if you think of Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator or even that execrable old TV series, Hogan's Heroes. I can't think of any comedies about Stalin. As far as I know the closest he comes to parody in Western pop culture or the arts is in the film Europa, Europa when in a dream sequence he dances arm in arm with Hitler.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 16, 2006, 10:30:23 AM

Well, that's the same era when we were sheltering wanted Nazi war criminals because our intelligence services thought they would be useful in our fight against Soviet communism. There wasn't a lot of awareness of either Nazi or Soviet genocides in the U.S. at the time. Most of those teachers lecturing you about the evils of Communism probably had very little idea if any of the Gulag or its murderous nature. But I have to tell you, Tsarfan, that IMHO they were right to teach you and your schoolmates that the Soviet Union was intent on "snuffing out freedom" in the world. After all, the Berlin Wall was still standing!


What amazes me about American political culture is how quickly we can switch views of where evil lies in the world and how exclusive those views are at any one time.  In the early 1940's, Japan and Germany were viewed as evil incarnate, and we were allied with the Soviet Union.  In the 1950's and early 1960's, it was the Soviet Union that monopolized our view of evil, while we helped rebuild Japan and Germany and ignored abhorrent regimes in Latin America.  In the 1970's it was Red China and its satellites.  Now it is fundamentalist Islam, the hatred and fear of which dilutes our focus on budding threats in Korea and to virtually ignore Darfur.

When it comes to enemies, we Americans just do not multi-task very well.  And we have very short memories.  Nothing like the centuries-long antipathy between France and England that pre-dates the Hundred Years War.  And certainly nothing to hold a candle to the Islamic world's ability to set current policy as if the Crusaders had just pulled up stakes in Palestine last year.

However, I can assure you I agree that my teachers were right about the Soviet Union.  In fact, I lived in West Berlin in the 1970's and was a frequent visitor to East Berlin, where I got a snoot full of the Orwellian world on that side of the wall. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 16, 2006, 10:51:16 AM
What amazes me about American political culture is how quickly we can switch views of where evil lies in the world and how exclusive those views are at any one time.  In the early 1940's, Japan and Germany were viewed as evil incarnate, and we were allied with the Soviet Union.  In the 1950's and early 1960's, it was the Soviet Union that monopolized our view of evil, while we helped rebuild Japan and Germany and ignored abhorrent regimes in Latin America.  In the 1970's it was Red China and its satellites.  Now it is fundamentalist Islam, the hatred and fear of which dilutes our focus on budding threats in Korea and to virtually ignore Darfur.

When it comes to enemies, we Americans just do not multi-task very well.  And we have very short memories.  Nothing like the centuries-long antipathy between France and England that pre-dates the Hundred Years War.  And certainly nothing to hold a candle to the Islamic world's ability to set current policy as if the Crusaders had just pulled up stakes in Palestine last year.

There are always plenty of evil regimes in the world to choose from. The real question is whether we formulate our foreign policy on an idealistic, moral basis, or if we only concern ourselves with other countries in so far as it serves our own best interests. The former approach was a success in Kosovo but arguably it has been a resounding failure in Iraq. That war has also left us with very little room in which to maneuver in our negotiations with North Korea and Iran, since we're militarily overstretched and can't realistically threaten military action against rogue nations such as these (even if we have no intention of carrying out that threat in reality, it still should be an option available to us). I hate to say it, but self-interest seems to be the most practical route. Or, to put it another way, if we're going to err on one side or the other, we should err on the side of self-interest.

For that matter I think it's actually healthy that we don't have age-old grudges against other countries. But that's undoubtedly one of the many enormous benefits of being a truly multicultural society.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on October 16, 2006, 11:24:11 AM
I think it's clear by now that there was a definite attempt to associate the Russian communists with "evil" during the cold war.  Reagan's "evil empire" comments definitely had an effect. 

But the association of Nazism and evil is still much stronger and longer-lasting in the public imagination than it is with the former Soviet regime.  Note the outcry over Prince Harry's Nazi outfit for a costume party or the furor over the Hitler Cafe in India.  I doubt there would have been much furor if these had been Soviet themed.  Partially, I think the Nazi's courted this association themselves while the communists did not.  The swastika itself has its origins in mysticism.  Many top Nazi's dabbled in mysticism and the occult.  Didn't Hitler have an astrologer?

I remember a widely reported case of a German woman who died during an exorcism; she was supposedly possessed by Hitler, if I remember correctly.

What about the Indiana Jones films which depict the Nazi's as attempting to steal the ark in order to achieve world domination?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 16, 2006, 11:47:51 AM
Hi Rich,

But Rich, why to date has there been lack of a civilized group of journalists, to bring to the forefront of the many ills, the loss of life suffered in Russia, as was done in the public address on Nazism. What makes the Nazi era that more important, and in the loss of life rather than the extreme loss of life suffered in Russia. That really is something that has escaped the historians books, on a mass market value...Nazism was evil, but imho, the Soviet regime was evil incarnate and then some...

The reason I think that Nazism stays in the public mind is the amassed information used to show again what it did to a peoples, and that their homeland had yet to be put in place, permanently, which finally became an independent state in 1949. The war of words, placed on the Nazi's during and after it had fallen, was pushed in the press more than any other public story that had been played in history. It was also offered so that there would be less attacks forthcoming in the Middle East.

But I still think that the Soviet regieme was the worst that the world has seen to date. Over 30 million peoples lost their lives as to the loss of life under the Nazis. The Nazis were brought to trial thank goodness, but those under the old Soviet regieme were never brought to trial. As a distant side note; I think that it has to do with the political end of things and who thinks what is important for a peoples to focus on, or not.  For us here presently in the U.S., I certainly don't think at this time, we are centered, let alone focused. I think we need to clean house, with Mr. Rumsfield going out first. Oh boy talk about multi-tasking

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 16, 2006, 11:50:12 AM
I think it's clear by now that there was a definite attempt to associate the Russian communists with "evil" during the cold war.  Reagan's "evil empire" comments definitely had an effect. 

But the association of Nazism and evil is still much stronger and longer-lasting in the public imagination than it is with the former Soviet regime.  Note the outcry over Prince Harry's Nazi outfit for a costume party or the furor over the Hitler Cafe in India.  I doubt there would have been much furor if these had been Soviet themed.  Partially, I think the Nazi's courted this association themselves while the communists did not.  The swastika itself has its origins in mysticism.  Many top Nazi's dabbled in mysticism and the occult.  Didn't Hitler have an astrologer?

I remember a widely reported case of a German woman who died during an exorcism; she was supposedly possessed by Hitler, if I remember correctly.

You know, you bring up several very good points, RichC. I myself must be a total hypocrite, because I display in my bathroom (well, that's the most appropriate place) a Socialist Realist colored print of Stalin at some sort of formal reception (he's being presented with flowers by a buxom peasant lass) and an old, red Soviet banner with Lenin's face on it in gold and the emblem, "To the Victory of Communism!" For that matter, for years my husband had in his study a real old Soviet flag, every inch of which was covered with those souvenir Soviet "znachki" or medals, which depict everything from Lenin as a child to various events in the Soviet Olympics of 1980. And yet I can't imagine us ever having the bad taste to display Nazi prints, flags, and emblems! Yet what truly is the moral difference between the two regimes?

Maybe it's that, contrary to what Bev said above, the Soviet regime does lend itself all too readily to parody, at least for those who grew up in the former Soviet Union, as my husband did, or who spent their formative years studying that regime, as I did. I never looked at the question this way before but I think there is actually a very healthy cult of parodying the Bolsheviks in the former Soviet Union at least, as witnessed by the art of the Conceptualists - to give the most obvious example. The Soviets seem to have embodied a very traditionally Russian form of evil - petty, grey, squalid, banal - no less murderous for all that but all the same the stuff of comedy as much as - or perhaps even much more so than the Nazis were.

I'll give another example. In Bulgaria last year we went to a peasant market where they were selling Nazi souvenirs. There was even a clock with Hitler's picture in it. (The Bulgarians have a complicated attitude to the Nazi past. Since the Nazis occupied their country, they don't feel particularly benevolent towards them, but since they also didn't kill any of their Jews, they also on some level don't see what all the fuss is about.) My husband said, don't even touch that, it's bad luck. Whereas if it had been a clock with Lenin's portrait in it he might actually have considered buying it as a souvenir.

But this is why I think the traditional Western reading of the demonic hangs more heavily over the Nazis than over the Soviets. Maybe, as you suggest RichC, this is because the Nazis in large part courted this image. I for one don't think those black SS uniforms with skulls and crossbones were just an accident. There was a willful attempt to evoke the uncanny, the pagan, the dreadful, by Hitler and his regime.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 16, 2006, 12:17:38 PM
I think we have to remember that the western world went to war to stop Hitler and his allies.  Most Americans of my generation have fathers and uncles who were in combat against Germany or Japan and mothers and aunts whose lives and careers were changed by the war economy.  And these experiences have worked their way into America's collective memory in a way that the Cold War -- which was mostly a war fought on the evening news -- never did.  Just watch The History Channel, which some wags dub "All World War II, All the Time".

Even though it is not an objectively balanced view of history -- either in terms of numbers of dead, of ideological assault on western liberalism, or even of potential physical threat to the U.S. -- Naziism is a more forceful presence in the personal recollections of most Americans than Bolshevism.  Consequently, it is overweighted in Americans' estimations of where evil lay in the 20th century.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on October 16, 2006, 12:36:14 PM
Hi Rich,

But Rich, why to date has there been lack of a civilized group of journalists, to bring to the forefront of the many ills, the loss of life suffered in Russia, as was done in the public address on Nazism. What makes the Nazi era that more important, and in the loss of life rather than the extreme loss of life suffered in Russia. That really is something that has escaped the historians books, on a mass market value...Nazism was evil, but imho, the Soviet regime was evil incarnate and then some...

The reason I think that Nazism stays in the public mind is the amassed information used to show again what it did to a peoples, and that their homeland had yet to be put in place, permanently, which finally became an independent state in 1949. The war of words, placed on the Nazi's during and after it had fallen, was pushed in the press more than any other public story that had been played in history. It was also offered so that there would be less attacks forthcoming in the Middle East.

But I still think that the Soviet regieme was the worst that the world has seen to date. Over 30 million peoples lost their lives as to the loss of life under the Nazis. The Nazis were brought to trial thank goodness, but those under the old Soviet regieme were never brought to trial. As a distant side note; I think that it has to do with the political end of things and who thinks what is important for a peoples to focus on, or not.  For us here presently in the U.S., I certainly don't think at this time, we are centered, let alone focused. I think we need to clean house, with Mr. Rumsfield going out first. Oh boy talk about multi-tasking

Tatiana+

Well, it seems to me, Tatiana, that it's mostly up to the Russian people themselves to spearhead a national discussion about the Soviet regime; what it really was, and what it's legacy is.  If something like that took place, wouldn't journalists report it?  For God's sake, they can't even get their act together to move Lenin out of Red Square and demolish the mausouleum.  Remember Bitburg (where President Reagan visited a German cemetary which contained the graves of some SS troops)?  Well, I'm sorry to be so harsh about it, but the Russians have a Bitburg right in Red Square!  Isn't Stalin buried nearby? 

You claim that these people were responsible for the worst regime ever.  If so, why are they still buried in places of honor, 15 years after the fall of the Soviet Union?

I will add, however, that some Russian journalists have worked to expose the ills of present regime in Russia -- and they wind up getting shot, don't they?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 16, 2006, 12:58:41 PM
Well, it seems to me, Tatiana, that it's mostly up to the Russian people themselves to spearhead a national discussion about the Soviet regime; what it really was, and what it's legacy is.  If something like that took place, wouldn't journalists report it?  For God's sake, they can't even get their act together to move Lenin out of Red Square and demolish the mausouleum.  Remember Bitburg (where President Reagan visited a German cemetary which contained the graves of some SS troops)?  Well, I'm sorry to be so harsh about it, but the Russians have a Bitburg right in Red Square!  Isn't Stalin buried nearby? 

You claim that these people were responsible for the worst regime ever.  If so, why are they still buried in places of honor, 15 years after the fall of the Soviet Union?

I will add, however, that some Russian journalists have worked to expose the ills of present regime in Russia -- and they wind up getting shot, don't they?

Something of a national discussion about the atrocities perpetrated under the Communists did start around 1990-1991, during perestroika but before the Communist regime and the Soviet empire itself collapsed. I was in the Soviet Union during the summer of 1991 and there were almost endless documentaries about Soviet concentration camps that were shown on television. I think such media scrutiny on the crimes of the Soviet regime was actually a major factor in the collapse of the Communist party in the former Soviet Union. To this date, let us note, it has never recovered its former strength in numbers and certainly not in influence. Today the Communist party's supporters in the Soviet Union are generally old-age pensioners and very young neo-fascists or trendy followers of the writer Limonov (the so-called Red-Brown coalition, which is only natural, since the two extremes of the political spectrum are but opposite sides of the same coin).

Right now it's an entirely different story with the writing of Russian history because the current president of Russia, Putin, glorifies his KGB past and indeed even the past of the KGB's predecessors, the murderous revolutionary secret police organization called the Cheka. It's no surprise that Lenin's tomb has not yet been removed from Red Square. Putin and his cohorts celebrate every victory of the Russian past, whether it belonged to Lenin, Stalin, or Peter the Great. During the last election his party's propaganda posters showed all these historical figures side by side with such anti-Soviet writers as Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn. My husband calls it the fragmentation of the Russian national consciousness. He thinks it's a definite warning of worse yet to come. And as long as Russia's economy remains propped up by artificially high oil prices, it is indeed difficult to see how any national reawakening to the real lessons of history can take place.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on October 16, 2006, 01:47:18 PM
Would you agree, though, Elisabeth, that the failure to keep up the drum beat against the Soviet past is really not the fault of the journalists (in the West or the East)?  I guess I just don't think that journalists, or the "media" are to blame here.  They're too convenient a scapegoat, if you ask me.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 16, 2006, 01:56:48 PM
Oh, definitely, RichC, I don't think the Russian media is to blame. It's almost entirely government-controlled at this point, anyway. Those brave Russian journalists who have dared to buck the system have had and are continuing to pay the ultimate price - death at the hands of professional hit-squads, some of whom might be linked, directly or indirectly, to the government itself.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 16, 2006, 02:06:29 PM
Rich,

Allow me to clarify my thoughts. I did not mean that the Russian Media were at fault, I am stating that of the press in the West, not much has really been shared about the concentration camps, etc., major loss of life, etc., in the old USSR, as was shared by journalists in the West about the Nazis. I think the present press in the Russian Federation are trying to get their facts together and work towards freeing the truth, but unfortunately, those hired in the professional hit squads and death squads don't want it.

One would think by now, that there would be a national discusssion of the Russian peoples themselves spear heading a rational discussion on the old Soviet regieme, and decidingly involved into pressing their thoughts and will on the future will be. This evidently is not on the table, and neither will the allowance of journalists being able to bring the truth home to the peoples of the Russian Federation. I guess the people they have buried in Moscow's Red Square, is a reminder to all, that that particular bit of history may not be over with. It seems to me, if nothing is stated, somethings are left for the most of visual and psychological impact.

How else to bring and employ freedoms to Russia, is still waiting in the wings to evidence itself. Thanks again RichC !

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 16, 2006, 02:14:09 PM
The way the Soviets obscured their history, few people outside of the USSR had any idea of what was going on.  The first time I remember any kind of popular awareness of the cruelty and secrecy of the USSR was when Solzhenitsyn's work made it to the west in 1973.

Another thought that occurred to me is that there is no particular group demanding justice with enough of a political constituency to be heard.

Frankly, too, I don't think that people want to know about it.  I don't know why (although I have a few ideas about that) but one reason is that it is too much to comprehend and too difficult to understand.  Think of it this way - in this age of instant communication and awareness how many people do you know that are interested in the latest genocide in Africa?  Look at how quickly the Abu Graib atrocities were buried and it gives us an inkling of what peoples' priorities are. (And I'm not making a moral judgement, most people in this world are just trying to get through today.)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 17, 2006, 12:48:34 PM
The way the Soviets obscured their history, few people outside of the USSR had any idea of what was going on.  The first time I remember any kind of popular awareness of the cruelty and secrecy of the USSR was when Solzhenitsyn's work made it to the west in 1973.

Yes, this was the major breakthrough because word of what Solzhenitsyn had published even penetrated Western popular culture, via the media. And we also have to remember that much of what Solzhenitsyn revealed about the camps in the Gulag was not even well known in the Soviet Union. I think it's true that Solzhenitsyn's monumental work The Gulag Archipelago was the second significant crack in the armor of the Soviet regime, after Khrushchev's address to the Twentieth Party Congress denouncing Stalin's crimes. From then on it was all downhill for the Soviet Union.

Another thought that occurred to me is that there is no particular group demanding justice with enough of a political constituency to be heard.

This is also true. I think part of the reason for this is that the Soviet terror swept over so many different ethnic groups, not just Russians. Therefore any collective demand for recognition and remembrance is unrealistic in so far as these different groups are not likely to come together and demand that the U.S. Congress erect a monument to the victims of Soviet communism. Also I suspect that Russian cultural attitudes to remembrance are very different than those of Jews who survived the Holocaust. The Jews have a very important historical and cultural understanding of the significance of their suffering down the ages to their sense of religious and even national identity (if we are talking about Israel). With the Russians, and other ethnic peoples persecuted by the Soviet regime, I don't think there's any such cohesive sense of national identity borne out of suffering. On the contrary, plenty of Russians believed in the Soviet dream and only woke up to the deception when they found themselves in Siberian concentration camps. Indeed, some of them even remained convinced of the ultimate rightness of Marxism-Leninism despite being incarcerated in the camps. So I think the very act of remembrance is much, much more fraught with moral ambiguity for survivors of the Soviet terror than it is for survivors of the Holocaust.

Frankly, too, I don't think that people want to know about it.  I don't know why (although I have a few ideas about that) but one reason is that it is too much to comprehend and too difficult to understand.  Think of it this way - in this age of instant communication and awareness how many people do you know that are interested in the latest genocide in Africa?  Look at how quickly the Abu Graib atrocities were buried and it gives us an inkling of what peoples' priorities are. (And I'm not making a moral judgement, most people in this world are just trying to get through today.)

It's my experience that when most people hear the word "Darfur" they throw up their hands in despair. It's much more comfortable to wax self-righteously indignant about genocides that took place in the past than about those taking place in the here and now. For one thing, it's never clear what the average citizen is supposed to do about Darfur or Rwanda or Bosnia-Herzegovina, particularly when even the United Nations itself never seems to have a clear stategy formulated for fighting modern-day genocides. That's why I have to laugh - bitterly - when I hear politicians and popes piously intone the phrase "Never again" after laying a wreath at the site of one of the former Nazi concentration camps. How many genocides have there been since 1945? It would be interesting to actually count them. IMHO, with a few rare exceptions, like George Clooney and Mia Farrow, we're all hypocrites in this matter.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 17, 2006, 01:29:01 PM
Elizabeth,
As i have stated earlier, I belivee Solzhenitsyn to have been the main person to have broken through the Soviet armor protecting the cruelty and secrecy of the USSR, and that of the gulags. For Russia, he allowed truth to ring loud and clear.

But I again want to bring focus to your second paragraph in that on terror of the Soviets. Before the Soviets came to power, in the mid 1800's, there abouts, Armenians had come to the Tsars and asked for protection from the Ottoman Empire, primarily the Turks who were murdering and torturing their kinsmen. As you know in 1915 came the terrible purge of the Armenian nation by the Turks, please also refer to the AP Website Thread : Imperial Russian History, and the thread 'Armenian Genocide'. The Russians knew of the Holocaust of the Armenians, but continued to murder their own as well. So when you say, The Jews have a very important historical and cultural understanding of the significance of their suffering down through the ages, to their sense of religious and even national identity, you can be sure that the Armenians, and yes even the Greeks have the same in identifical significance !

The Armenians not only went through the first Holocaust of the 20th Century, but had to endure the Russian Revolution, and the ongoing difficulties as the Jews in Russia. There was no separation when it came to suffering! There were countless numbers who suffered and died in these awful concentration camps of both Lenin and Stalin's. But to be sure the Armenians to date have had no real acknowledgement, nor compensation for their immense losses from before the 1900's. The loss of life, property, religious houses and clericks were immense. The people or of those who survived, and were not tortured, murdered savagely, were scattered to the four corners of the earth. Despair does not even begin to express the issues they continue to address till today. As you stated about the Soviet Terror, for the Armenians, from the Turks to the Soviet Terror, they remain long lasting, irresable for all historians.

How do i know, my in-laws family did not escape the Holocaust, nor Lenin's and Stalins Gulags, and prisons. So it is why we today are able to address these issues, and speak out in and on behalf of their many trials. We speak not only from historical documents, but from the lips of those themselves who were taken in their youth, their prime of life, their old age, their golden years.

You can be sure that ethnic peoples persecuted by the Soviet regime have an assured cohesive sense of identity in that Soviet suffering. I don't know whom you have reached out to, or whom you know, but as sure as you and i live they surely identify in term of suffering. There is no ambiguity in the above for anyone, believe me.

Tatiana+

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 17, 2006, 01:50:37 PM
Beautifully written, Eliz., and sadly I must agree.  A few days ago, I watched a film called "Lords of War" with Nicholas Cage (I believe that's the name) - it's not a new film, it's been out for awhile, but it speaks of the hypocrisy of all the people in the world that we're willing to overlook crimes against humanity if there is something in it for ourselves. 

No, I don't think the Soviet Union was a "mistake."  I think it was the deliberate infliction of one group's will upon another.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 17, 2006, 02:56:13 PM
The Soviet Union was not only a mistake, because it deliberately inflicted untold suffering on it's own peoples, but also to the extreme degree to other countless countries and peoples. It insisted to dominate over all groups, peoples, ethnicities, and to close off any and all connects to political and religious affiliations.

The word 'Mistake' does not begin to explain what it has left many nations and peoples. It was not only to Russia that this tragedy happened to, but to a whole group of countries. In many languages the story goes out, and the insistence that it will never happen again. But then again, right here under the our very eyes, that of Dafur....and never again comes too soon, and globally who responds ? .....

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 21, 2006, 12:42:32 PM
You can be sure that ethnic peoples persecuted by the Soviet regime have an assured cohesive sense of identity in that Soviet suffering. I don't know whom you have reached out to, or whom you know, but as sure as you and i live they surely identify in term of suffering. There is no ambiguity in the above for anyone, believe me.

Tatiana+

Dear Tatiana, I wasn't saying that there was any moral ambiguity whatsoever in the suffering of myriad peoples under the Soviet yoke. Millions of people suffered and died under Stalin and it was wrong. Period. I was merely suggesting that for some Russians (not very large in number, but all the same they do figure in camp memoirs), there was an ambiguity about how they felt towards Stalin's regime. Some of these people, you have to remember, were true believers in Marxism-Leninism and even in Stalinism. Remember, the Great Terror of 1937 was primarily directed at Soviet citizens who belonged to the Communist party - the very same people who tended to believe, upon their arrest, that they must have done something wrong to deserve such treatment at the hands of the state they themselves had helped to build.

Of course there were many brave souls, like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, arrested in 1945, who rightly believed, heart and soul, in their own innocence and who felt nothing but hatred and bitterness toward the regime that persecuted them. But for every Solzhenitsyn there was someone like his dear friend Lev Kopelev (who appears as Rubin in Solzhenitsyn's novel The First Circle), who believed that they had been wrongly convicted but nevertheless the system itself was ultimately right. This is one reason why I think it is harder for Russian survivors of the Stalinist terror to make themselves heard as a cohesive lobbying block. Some of them, small in number but significant nonetheless, still believe in the Soviet dream...The other reason is that Russians of course are ethnically distinct from Armenians, Kazakhs, Crimean Tartars, etc. All these groups have their own individual stories of suffering to tell (and I'm sure you are right that for some of these groups, such as the Armenians, the suffering under the Soviet regime was an experience of national bonding). We shouldn't leave out the Chechens, either. Their story of suffering continues to this day. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 21, 2006, 12:52:36 PM
Beautifully written, Eliz., and sadly I must agree.  A few days ago, I watched a film called "Lords of War" with Nicholas Cage (I believe that's the name) - it's not a new film, it's been out for awhile, but it speaks of the hypocrisy of all the people in the world that we're willing to overlook crimes against humanity if there is something in it for ourselves. 

No, I don't think the Soviet Union was a "mistake."  I think it was the deliberate infliction of one group's will upon another.

Many thanks for your kind words, Bev. I haven't seen "Lords of War" yet but on your recommendation I'm planning to look it up.

I suppose I was being too polite when I called the Soviet Union a "mistake." I was trying to take into consideration all those people out there who still hold a residual respect if not affection for dear old Ilych, I mean Vladimir Ilych Lenin. I shouldn't have been so cautious. I don't really believe it was a mistake either. Lenin meant to take power at any cost to the nation and society, and that's what he did. No mistake!

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on October 23, 2006, 08:53:45 PM
I watched a program this evening on the History International channel called Siberia: How the East Was Won.

Here are some topics covered in the program:

The program talks about the Kolyma -- a remote region of Siberia which was populated by slaves.  Millions died, apparently, mining gold in horrific conditions.  According to calculations made at the time, the cost was one life per gram of gold mined. 

One of the goals of the Soviet leadership was the forced relocation of the population across the nation's landmass, which included the building of large cities in places where no sane person would want to live.  The forced relocation of millions of people to these "dead" areas has been a disaster for Russia, both in human and economic terms.  According to Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag, the problem with the communists wasn't that Russia wasn't developed, but that it was mis-developed.  In other words all of the work was for nothing.

According to the program HIV is growing faster in Siberia than anywhere else in the world, due to rampant drug abuse and prostitution.  It is predicted that AIDS deaths in Russia will rise from 500/month today to 21,000/month by 2020.

This is part of the legacy of the Soviet Union.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 23, 2006, 09:21:03 PM
RichC,

I am so grateful that you are presenting understandings to this forum as to what was done under Soviet rule. There are so many terrible tales, and horrid conditions that the population had to endure, that there are not enough of these stories translated, yet alone shared here in the Western communities. I shudder to think and remember all of those who conveyed to me their typical hardships in the gulags, etc. Slave labor was more than rampant, and to be sent to Siberia and endure the extensive hardships and terrors alone of just the environment, and lack of basic needs, is mind boggling.

It is alarming to know that HIV has a foothold of death over a vast area of Siberia today. I know that prostitution and drug abuse was at an alarming rate, but not to the degree that it is taking lives. Was any indication of global health assurance and support offered to the region ? Anything stated of United Nations health support ? Honestly, it is all so sad, and my heart goes out to those who may have not support nor assist what so ever. Thanks for your sharing this information, and God bless !

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on October 24, 2006, 12:12:43 AM

It is alarming to know that HIV has a foothold of death over a vast area of Siberia today. I know that prostitution and drug abuse was at an alarming rate, but not to the degree that it is taking lives. Was any indication of global health assurance and support offered to the region ? Anything stated of United Nations health support ?


They interviewed someone from the World Health Org.  From what I watched, the authorities in Russia are hampering efforts to deal with the problem because they don't want to admit how bad it is.

The biggest problem appears to be lack of understanding that shared needles spread HIV.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 24, 2006, 09:50:40 AM
The program talks about the Kolyma -- a remote region of Siberia which was populated by slaves.  Millions died, apparently, mining gold in horrific conditions.  According to calculations made at the time, the cost was one life per gram of gold mined. 

If you're interested in reading about the Kolyma concentration camps, you might want to look up Varlam Shalamov's famous Kolyma Tales. Shalamov was first arrested in 1929, when only 22 years old, and sent to the Solovki concentration camp. He was arrested again in 1937 and sent to Kolyma. His collection of short stories is based on the time he spent there. These stories are brilliant, very spare and terse in style, and incredibly disturbing. The one that always sticks out in my mind is "Lend-Lease," where the Kolyma camp authorities are presented with a bulldozer from the United States, and the first job they use it for is to dig a mass grave.

According to Anne Applebaum, author of Gulag, the problem with the communists wasn't that Russia wasn't developed, but that it was mis-developed.  In other words all of the work was for nothing.

This was also true of the White Sea-Baltic (Belomor) Canal, the first massive slave-labor project under Stalin. It's estimated that during the first winter of its construction alone (1931-32), 100,000 slave laborers died trying to build it. In fact so many people died during that winter and into the following summer that the disposal of corpses became difficult and by accident many bones became mixed into the concrete and thus were preserved forever in the last lock of the city of Belomorsk... But when the Canal was completed in 1933 it turned out it could only be used for passenger traffic, not for freight, as had been intended, because the planners had screwed up and the Canal was too shallow (only sixteen feet deep). And when Solzhenitsyn visited it in 1966 there wasn't even much passenger traffic traveling on it, because the authorities were afraid of American spies! So all those poor people died for nothing.

According to the program HIV is growing faster in Siberia than anywhere else in the world, due to rampant drug abuse and prostitution.  It is predicted that AIDS deaths in Russia will rise from 500/month today to 21,000/month by 2020.

This is part of the legacy of the Soviet Union.

I read a very scary article in The New Yorker about a year ago, entitled "Is Russia Dying"? According to the world-renowned demographer the writer interviewed, the answer was yes. And this was largely because of the mounting AIDS crisis in Russia, which is being willfully ignored by a government that can donate millions to Africa to combat AIDS but still consistently refuses to deal with the problem at home.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 24, 2006, 12:28:28 PM
The AIDS epidemic is but the symptom of an even more-intractable problem.  These inhospitable regions were not developed only by prison labor that died or disappeared in the process.  They were peopled by millions of workers and their families who were enticed into the regions by attractive economic packages funded by a state economy.  Even by Soviet standards, these were seen as regions that could be exploited only inefficiently.  Workers were paid two to three times the prevailing wages for similar work in other regions, the government provided long vacations at state-run resorts, more consumer goods were made available in local stores, etc.

One of the artifacts of the mis-development that Applebaum described is that millions of Russians now find themselves stranded in cities that today have no economic reason to exist in a free economy.  The reasons that enticed the Soviet regime -- desired secrecy around certain industries, the high-labor extraction of mineral reserves -- do not prevail today.  By virtue of their geographic isolation and brutal climates, these cities offer no prospect for becoming manufacturing centers in a consumer economy.  Unemployment is rife, alcoholism and drug use are endemic, the maintenance of large populations in such extreme environs is economicially and ecologically taxing, and there are neither means nor destinations available for relocating populations of this size.  These people are simply abandoned and left to fend for themselves, mostly by cannibalizing an infrastructure that is rapidly decaying around them.

As is Russia's severely depressed birth rate, this is just one more artifact of Russia's bleak passage through the 20th century that will weigh on her well into the 21st.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on October 24, 2006, 09:31:02 PM

What I feel "nostalgia" for, if that's what you call a bitter regret for something stamped out without mercy, is the promise and potential held out by prerevolutionary, pre-World War I Russia. But I would argue that no one who has studied Russian history can feel anything other than tremendous sorrow at Russia's fate in the twentieth century. I don't understand this apparent need of yours to equate autocratic Russia with the Bolshevik Soviet Union... the two were not equivalent. And  I still do not ascribe to the belief that Russians somehow deserved what happened to them in the twentieth century, or were fated to go through these trials, because of their autocratic past - if you have read Russian literature, heard Russian music, you know there was a great deal more to imperial Russian history than an autocratic government. No, in my humble opinion Russia, in addition to the burdens placed on it by its unfortunate past, also suffered a run of tremendously bad luck in the twentieth century. Everything that could have gone wrong did, and in the worst possible way. I can't blame the Russian people or even autocracy for that.

I hope it's ok, Elisabeth, that I stole this quote from another thread.  I try to avoid the "survivor" threads -- I don't think I have the guts to wade into that!

I agree completely that there is an ocean of difference between the Tsarist state and the Soviet state.  One simply cannot say that the Tsarist government ever managed to bring as much suffering to the Russian people as the Soviet state did.  But one comment made in last night's program struck me; it was the notion among Russians that fear is an inherent component of the idea of power.  In other words, if a leader, or a group of leaders, do not inspire fear, than they are not considered powerful.

It's hard for me to understand how democracy can take root and flourish with that kind of mindset; one that existed even under the Tsars.  Another ingredient in the mix is the idea that democracy itself is somehow "un-Russian".  There was an article in yesterday's NYT about a Russian art gallery in Moscow that was attacked and vandalized in broad daylight by a group of skinheads.  (I'll post the article on the News thread).

A British art dealer who represents the Georgian artist whose art was on exhibt at the gallery (and many of whose works were destroyed in the rampage), said on the radio tonight that what is taking shape in Russia now is an age-old battle between the "Western" liberalizers and the "Slavophiles" -- represented by Putin and his cronies.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 25, 2006, 11:34:43 AM

No, in my humble opinion Russia, in addition to the burdens placed on it by its unfortunate past, also suffered a run of tremendously bad luck in the twentieth century. Everything that could have gone wrong did, and in the worst possible way. I can't blame the Russian people or even autocracy for that.


But one comment made in last night's program struck me; it was the notion among Russians that fear is an inherent component of the idea of power.  In other words, if a leader, or a group of leaders, do not inspire fear, than they are not considered powerful.


It strikes me as odd that most discussions about Russian history -- be they about autocracy or communism -- are premised on the notion that the government of Russia is something fundamentally apart from her people.  I am not pointing fingers here, because I operate from the same premise myself when I opine on what autocracy did to channel Russian history toward the abyss of the soviet era.

In the case of Russia, government seems over and over to be viewed as something done to the people, not something done by them.  I think RichC's astute observation that if Russians do not fear their leaders, they do not consider them powerful is very telling.  It comes very close to the psychology of abuse victims who confuse violence with strength and fear with respect.

People who tolerate abuse are generally people who, from a very early age, have been conditioned to think it their inescapable lot in life.  I think that applies somewhat to Russia's people.  Having been taught in the nursery of the tsars that they were not capable of making their own decisions, when they entered the adulthood of revolutionary Russia and for the first time were confronted with adult choices, they quicky delivered themselves into the hands of another government that said it would make better decisions for them . . . but still make the decisions for them.

One can attempt to cure an individual of abuse syndrome.  I cannot even begin to imagine how one cures an entire nation of it. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 25, 2006, 04:08:53 PM
But one comment made in last night's program struck me; it was the notion among Russians that fear is an inherent component of the idea of power.  In other words, if a leader, or a group of leaders, do not inspire fear, than they are not considered powerful.

I think this is very true and Tsarfan is quite right to take up your idea and expand it into a fully-fledged theory that the entire Russian nation has been suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder for the last several hundred years. This is my own personal opinion. But one has to tread very carefully here because Russians have been so insulted by recent publications in the West regarding their psychiatric state as a nation - one in particular was especially heinous, an actual scholarly work, The Slave Soul of Russia by some glorified Freudian-Lacanian academic practicing armchair psychology. He essentially blames Russians for being what he terms "masochistic" (one of his favorite words, actually). Taking Tsarfan's analogy one step further, it's almost as if the abused wife or child went to the psychologist and was then told, in the latest highfalutin psychobabble, "You asked for it, and not only that, you enjoyed it." 

It's hard for me to understand how democracy can take root and flourish with that kind of mindset; one that existed even under the Tsars.  Another ingredient in the mix is the idea that democracy itself is somehow "un-Russian".  There was an article in yesterday's NYT about a Russian art gallery in Moscow that was attacked and vandalized in broad daylight by a group of skinheads.  (I'll post the article on the News thread).

A British art dealer who represents the Georgian artist whose art was on exhibt at the gallery (and many of whose works were destroyed in the rampage), said on the radio tonight that what is taking shape in Russia now is an age-old battle between the "Western" liberalizers and the "Slavophiles" -- represented by Putin and his cronies.

I wish I could say that this is a gross oversimplification but on second thought, I can't and I won't. I think it's true that Putin and his cronies are set on keeping Russia an entity distinct from the West, with its own somehow "unique" path of development. Sigh. This is indeed a very old and familiar tune... But I will make the proviso that unlike the traditional nineteenth-century Slavophiles, who had very high ideals and a sincere belief in Russia and the Russian people, Putin and Co. are a deeply cynical bunch who are only interested in money and power. They're not ideological, much less philosophical; they're just a bunch of thugs. That's why you can see hard-core pornography on late-night Russian television (not only on cable, but also on the regular networks), something that no doubt has true Slavophiles like Aksakov and Dostoevsky rolling over in their graves. But it's a very cynical ploy to keep potential malcontents off the street and preoccupied with the modern-day equivalent of bread and circuses.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 25, 2006, 05:08:50 PM
I very much agree on what has been stated, in fact I brought this exact statement and understanding up on another of the AP threads, that the Soviet union is going through a post-traumatic stress disorder syndrome for all the traumatic events she has been forced to go through. Being in the field for over 30 years, addressing those who have endured all types of torture, and abuse, it is not that easy to overlook, especially in the incidences offered so in the early postings of RichC and what was done early on in the revolution by the communists, etc., and all through the WW's. When one also remembers the many psychiatric hospitals, clinics set up especially for dissadents, and the terrors that were permitted to run rampant, one can only expect the worst of the worst to continue to run amuck in the society at large. Mental help of course was not the optimum offering when one was sent to these dins of iniquity...

I must say imho, the ninteenth century Slavopiles did have high ideals and did lead in the belief of the Russian peoples. In today's Russia however, it is nothing that any individual or nation can feel that it has the best intentions for all the peoples. I would rather look, and lived in the Russia of 1914, than what is feted to be under the guise of only name value of 'the federation of Russia'. Each member of the AP, and reader, may believe what you wish, and that is how we think here in the West, as individuals, and always hope that lives of people near and far may be with every integrity, and allowance that allows for peoples to be and feel free.

imho, nothing but nothing can match that of the horrors of the endless mistakes the Soviets made then, and never was brought to court on. I can't help but think again about Stalin when you mention the Georgians RichC. How many Georgians spoke up for or against Stalin and his crimes, before, during, and after his demise ? Just looking at any part that the Soviets had control of is a nightmare. Even when one thinks of the buildings they built, and what they used to build, and how these housing needs were short changed, etc. The list is endless of who profited and who really lost...and the losses remain and are endless..the robbing goes on and on...

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 26, 2006, 09:18:57 AM

But one has to tread very carefully here because Russians have been so insulted by recent publications in the West regarding their psychiatric state as a nation - one in particular was especially heinous, an actual scholarly work, The Slave Soul of Russia by some glorified Freudian-Lacanian academic practicing armchair psychology. He essentially blames Russians for being what he terms "masochistic" (one of his favorite words, actually).


I don't take your admonition lightly, Elisabeth, and it is with a bit of trepidation that I write the following.  But I think it bears discussion.

I think there really is something unique about how we separate the Russian people from their government in discussing the soviet era.  It generally does not happen to the same extent in discussions about other governments, be they democracies or more centralized systems.  Take the following examples as cases in point:

The Treaty of Versailles imposed crippling and punitive reparations on Germany after World War I.  The Kaiser had been deposed and his government dismantled.  So these reparations were imposed on the German people, not on the decision-makers who helped trigger the war.  Why?  Because the German people were viewed as answerable for their government's policies and for their participation in giving them effect.

The IRA spent years bombing the civilian British population for the policies of the British government.  No distinction was drawn between Cabinet decisions and the complicity of the British people as a whole, nor did many Britons argue that any such distinction should be drawn.

When terrorists attacked the World Trade Center, it was intended as an attack on American foreign policy, not on the specific policy-makers.  And Americans viewed it as an attack on them, not an attack on their government.

At the Nuremburg trials, the "I-was-just-following-orders" defense was disallowed.  As late as last month, a case was winding through the Wisconsin court system over the U.S. government's attempt to deport an octogenarian who had been a guard in a German concentration camp over six decades ago.  All participants in Nazi atrocities were and still are viewed as being as culpable as their masters.  We don't talk about Hitlerism.  We talk about Naziism and how it enmeshed an entire nation in collective guilt for the actions of their government.

Yet when it comes to the Soviet Union and the participation of vast numbers of Russians in the extermination of millions of their fellow countrymen, in the building and guarding of slave labor camps, in spying on their neighbors, in signing up for the Communist Party to get a better job or a better flat, we make it all about a handful of men.  We talk about "Leninism" and "Stalinism" as if all this evil was their handiwork alone.

I simply cannot believe this entire framework for our thinking about Russia -- and for how Russians think about themselves -- was born out of the ether in October 1917.  I think it rests on a very deep set of shared assumptions that the Russian people, to an extent virtually unique in modern western history, have no responsiblity for the actions of their government.  And I think those assumptions have their roots in the autocratic history of Russia.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 26, 2006, 12:26:18 PM
Yet when it comes to the Soviet Union and the participation of vast numbers of Russians in the extermination of millions of their fellow countrymen, in the building and guarding of slave labor camps, in spying on their neighbors, in signing up for the Communist Party to get a better job or a better flat, we make it all about a handful of men.  We talk about "Leninism" and "Stalinism" as if all this evil was their handiwork alone.

Well, Tsarfan, that's not entirely fair because I have written repeatedly about the need for Russians to take responsibility for their own history - this continues to be one of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's strongest beliefs, by the way, and he was the first Russian to call upon the Russians as a people to seek redemption for their Soviet past. Just because you're a victim doesn't mean you can't also become a victimizer... indeed, all too often the two syndromes are indissolubly linked... and Solzhenitsyn has written far more extensively and eloquently on this subject than any of us could ever hope to do.

Also, please forgive me for pointing this out, but you yourself almost always talk about autocracy as if the Russian people were a completely separate entity from it, that is, the people were continually acted upon by the autocracy but not themselves responsible for the autocratic system. I think this is a bit, well, more than a bit, of a double standard, especially considering how many more millions perished under the Soviets as compared to the tsars. Clearly more was at stake for the average Russian in standing up to the Bolsheviks than in standing up to any nineteenth-century, or even eighteenth-century emperor. 

I simply cannot believe this entire framework for our thinking about Russia -- and for how Russians think about themselves -- was born out of the ether in October 1917.  I think it rests on a very deep set of shared assumptions that the Russian people, to an extent virtually unique in modern western history, have no responsiblity for the actions of their government.  And I think those assumptions have their roots in the autocratic history of Russia.

Obviously they do. But how do you correct the problem, if you say the Russian people's responsibility began in 1917, but not back in the eighteenth century, under Peter the Great, or in the sixteenth century, under Ivan the Terrible? Why not even go back to the very distant past, when the ancient Russian tribes asked the Varangians to "come and rule over us," because they could not keep order amongst themselves... You see the kind of moral quandary all this leads to! Especially when we consider that the Germans and Americans have traditionally had far much more say in their governments than have the Russians, so you could argue that our standards for judging their (or our) behavior are immeasurably higher, and perhaps rightly so.

Frankly I think the Russians people's real responsibility in the twentieth century is not simply for crimes committed against each other but also and perhaps even more importantly for the countless crimes committed by Russians against the minority peoples of the former Soviet Union, as well as against the peoples of Eastern Europe. And it's in this area, where their sins of commission and omission affected other peoples,  that I would really like to see the Russians accept a reasonable share of responsibility and try to make amends for the past.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 26, 2006, 01:13:51 PM
Well, Tsarfan, that's not entirely fair because I have written repeatedly about the need for Russians to take responsibility for their own history - this continues to be one of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's strongest beliefs, by the way, and he was the first Russian to call upon the Russians as a people to seek redemption for their Soviet past.

I by no means meant my post as a challenge to you on this point, as I well remember your comments made elsehwere about responsibility.  I was just trying to get some more discussion going in this vein.


Also, please forgive me for pointing this out, but you yourself almost always talk about autocracy as if the Russian people were a completely separate entity from it, that is, the people were continually acted upon by the autocracy but not themselves responsible for the autocratic system. I think this is a bit, well, more than a bit, of a double standard . . . .

I agree.  In fact, in an earlier post on this page, I said I was not pointing fingers at anyone, "because I operate from the same premise myself when I opine on what autocracy did to channel Russian history toward the abyss of the soviet era."  Part of what I'm trying to do here is to examine my own assumptions about responsibility.


. . .  I would really like to see the Russians accept a reasonable share of responsibility and try to make amends for the past.

I'm less concerned with Russians making amends for the past.  My concern is along the lines of my earlier comment that, while an individual victim of abuse can be put on the analyst's couch, I have no idea how a nation can be cured of abuse syndrome.

Perhaps part of the problem is that Russians remain largely unchallenged in their view that they have no real say in their affairs . . . and therefore no responsibility for them.  Perhaps if they recognize that Lenin and Stalin didn't just "happen" to them . . . but that Lenin and Stalin were able to do what they did because they were operating in a vacuum of public-imposed answerability . . . they just might begin to think about what Putin's current gang is doing to them and begin to stand their ground.  Ask why reporters are getting shot.  Ask why oligarchs are accumulating wealth as fast as court favorites from an earlier era.  Ask why the prerogatives of regional and local government are being systematically subordinated to the Presidency.  Turn off the late-night porn.  Take to the streets.  Demand answers.

These things can still be done . . . at least for now.  Putin is not Stalin or even Bloody Nicholas . . . at least not yet.

I just cannot escape the feeling that a stopwatch is ticking somewhere in the background, counting down the launch of a time machine back to the early 20th century, when Russians almost had democracy in their grasp but then let it go on the promise of a bunch of hooligans to make their lives better for them.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 26, 2006, 01:39:32 PM
I hate to say it, but Putin is already far worse than "Bloody Nicholas," and approaching Stalin-status, given the war crimes Russian troops are committing and have been committing for untold years in Chechnya. I saw the most horrific documentary the other night - rather, I saw part of it because after about a half hour I couldn't take any more. It's a documentary about Chechens currently living in Russia itself, most of them as refugees from the second Russian-Chechnian War. The oldsters were heart-breaking enough. They described being deported as children with their families from Chechnya by Stalin in 1944. They spent 21 days in cattle cars before reaching Kazakhstan. There everyone regarded them as aliens from another planet and didn't want to help them. And people wonder why most of the Chechens hate Russia??? .... Another old man related how a friend of his carried his mother's ashes all the way from the U.S. back to Chechnya in his suitcase. He explained: "We love our motherland so much that even when we are dead we must return to it." But what got me the most was the interviews with very young Chechens, in their teens and early twenties. They had no hope for the future left. They still love their motherland, and wish to return there somehow, someday, but they hold out little faith that their country will someday re-emerge from the ashes. After twenty or thirty minutes of this, as I said, I couldn't take any more and turned the television off.

But this is precisely the area in which Russians should be addressing their guilt. Russian crimes against humanity are still going on, more than a half-century after the death of Stalin.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 26, 2006, 03:21:06 PM
Part of what makes the actions of the Soviet Union more heinous than those of Tsarist Russia is the sheer scale of the atrocities. But the reason for the "scale" being greater may have everything to do with the technology available to a totalitarian state in the 20th century as compared to the 18th in Western Europe, and throughout the 19th as well in Russia. In other words, it wasn't that the Tsarist state lacked the willpower to mistreat large groups of people; they lacked technology and infrastructure to do it. That being said, it may also be true that a state that officially espouses Christianity may have (certainly should have) built-in brakes upon that kind of behavior.

I think that one aspect of the mistake that was the Soviet Union (and Nazi Germany, for that matter) was the widespread use of technology to accomplish ideological aims.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 27, 2006, 06:33:11 AM

But this is precisely the area in which Russians should be addressing their guilt. Russian crimes against humanity are still going on, more than a half-century after the death of Stalin.
 

When Serbia was doing its ethnic cleansing a few years back, I was appalled at the passivity of western Europe -- and Germany in particular -- toward the reignition of genocide in central Europe barely fifty years after the last German concentration camp was emptied out.  And I wondered if part of that passivity arose from the fact that there is no real discussion in post-war Germany about its Nazi past.  They just acknowledge that it happened, agree it was horrible, point out that we're talking about their forebears -- NOT THEM! -- and then quickly change the subject . . . but preferrably not to the skinhead movement or to some inconvenient little rumblings down in Austria.

And look at today's furious international debate about Turkey's conduct at the turn of the 20th century.  Turkey is denying there was a state-sponsored genocide of Armenians, despite some mighty big mass graves.  And the Armenians themselves conveniently skip over the fact that they did their fair share of ethnic cleansing a few decades earlier when Russia's brief hegemony in the region after the last Russo-Turkish War encouraged their aspirations for their own Turk-free state.  The Armenians catalog atrocity after atrocity . . . but conspicuously omit the long list of villages whose Turk and Muslim inhabitants mysteriously "disappeared" in the years after 1878.

Russians are not alone in resisting a confrontation with their past.  And, as the nostrum goes, that's the roadmap to repeating it.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 27, 2006, 09:27:00 AM
An interesting comparison to the Russian view of government is the Chinese view of government.  Historically, the Chinese were apathetic to government, in fact in their philosophy, all governments are "bad governments" and the less one has to do with goverment the more likely one will live and prosper.  Russia has always been more Eastern than Western in thought and philosophy and perhaps this has something to do with their estrangement from government.

Louis Charles' comment that those countries that officially espouse Christianity may have built in brakes, I have never found that to be true.  Ever. 

Tsarfan makes a good point about acknowledgment, but acknowledgment is at least a starting point in recognition of our capacity to hurt each other.  The resistance is to atonement and forgiveness.

It may not be our inability to remember history that condemns us to repeat it, but our inability to forgive history that condemns us.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: lori_c on October 27, 2006, 10:23:36 AM


Tsarfan makes a good point about acknowledgment, but acknowledgment is at least a starting point in recognition of our capacity to hurt each other.  The resistance is to atonement and forgiveness.

It may not be our inability to remember history that condemns us to repeat it, but our inability to forgive history that condemns us.

That is excellent!  I've never thought of it in those terms. As in all world events that prompt the saying "May We Never Forget"  perhaps  we should  offer forgiveness as well. It is so hard to think under those terms as a country though.  Though I never lived in the Soviet Union, or suffered through the Holocaust -  I've witnessed 9/11 and i am a survivor of Hurricane Katrina and it aftermath.  It's  human instinct to want to lash out and point blame and resist forgiveness for those events.  But you are so right Bev, only through forgiveness of the past are we perhaps given a chance not to repeat it.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 27, 2006, 10:36:24 AM
Technology you say ? Yes that's quite possible and then some. Look at our present day's armies, and their wishing to use every excuse to use that technology of new 'toy arments', etc. Who among the modern army does not have blood on their hands, and using these issues to cover their crimes. How about those using phosphorous on civilians and only after they have been forced to leave the given area, then express, that they have used this on civilians, etc. That's no excuse by any means !

But in the genocide of the Armenians, old methods of murder was and were rampant, and no new technology was needed, and even that was not done quickly enough for the Turks. Modern technology however was used by the German Nazis, and ideas galore of how to use mass murder by the very best means.

Forgive history ? One cannot forgive, until one acknowledges their heinous crimes against humanity, in full, and the genocide of the Armenians have not been acknowledged to date. The Nazis did this only partially of acknowledging, but that was because they were brought to trial, and paid heavily for their crimes. The Turks, never did acknoledge, and neither were they brought to justice, as a nation.

Still to this day, neither from their lips do the words of atonment, or I am guilty flo. We have yet to hear that directed to the Armenian nation and peoples, as was offered to the Jews and others who lost their lives in WWII.

The American Indians are still awaiting for the countless Indian tribes that were wiped out by those who invaded their lands, but neither can forgiveness be offered till there is complete acknowledgment....

Now the question is, how were the German Nazis made to pay back for land, monies, etc, that were lost to those of the WWII Holocaust, and also pay for their crimes against humanity, when the American Indians and the Armenians have yet to be considered in their extensive losses to date ?  

I think perspective has a lot to offer, and questions yet to be answered. I don't think you have quite covered everything in such a neat tyed up package.

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 27, 2006, 10:43:31 AM
An interesting comparison to the Russian view of government is the Chinese view of government.  Historically, the Chinese were apathetic to government, in fact in their philosophy, all governments are "bad governments" and the less one has to do with goverment the more likely one will live and prosper.  Russia has always been more Eastern than Western in thought and philosophy and perhaps this has something to do with their estrangement from government.

I'm not sure this is really true, Bev. I know that later religious philosophies that swept across China, like Buddhism and Taoism, were essentially otherworldly and to that degree discouraged participation in a corrupt government. But as far as I recall Confucianism, the most ancient and by far the most influential philosophy in China, did not belong to this category. Confucius was very preoccupied with the here and now, very hierarchical and concerned with paying the proper obeisances to worldly authority. (As an aside, anyone who has ever experimented with the I Ching, that ancient Chinese ritual of forecasting the future, knows that it is obsessed with rendering service to the "great man," i.e., the ruling lord or emperor, or in modern-day terms, perhaps your boss!) China has always had a huge bureaucracy, dating back to antiquity, and since its entrance exams were based entirely on merit (a peasant who scored higher than a nobleman qualified, even if the nobleman didn't), this was one of the most important avenues of social mobility in the pre-Communist empire. The emphasis the Chinese traditionally place on the overriding value of education also dates to this institution of ancient Chinese government.

As far as the Russians are concerned, I think that, contrary to your statement, they actually expect the government to do just about everything for them. Perhaps they see the government as irredeemably corrupt, but it's still the main source of their hopes for reform. (Which might explain why Russian literature to this day is so sad.) Maybe this is the legacy of Communism, or maybe, as Tsarfan would probably argue, it is the legacy of such rulers as Peter the Great and Alexander II. Frankly I think both are true!   

Louis Charles' comment that those countries that officially espouse Christianity may have built in brakes, I have never found that to be true.  Ever.

I agree that it's not true in cases of total fanatics, like Savonarola, Ivan the Terrible or Peter the Great. On the other hand it is quite efficacious with basically well-intentioned but not terribly enlightened rulers like Alexander III and Nicholas II. 

Tsarfan makes a good point about acknowledgment, but acknowledgment is at least a starting point in recognition of our capacity to hurt each other.  The resistance is to atonement and forgiveness.

It may not be our inability to remember history that condemns us to repeat it, but our inability to forgive history that condemns us.

Beautifully put, but I think it's both. One can't realistically expect victims to forgive their enemies until their enemies repent and seek atonement for their crimes (please note, however,  how we have lapsed into Christian discourse here: repentance, atonement, redemption, forgiveness!). I can certainly understand why Koreans are still hostile to the notion of forgiving the Japanese for the war crimes the latter committed during WWII in Korea. The Japanese are still unrepentant, so how can one expect the Koreans to forgive them? It's all well and good to say they should forgive them (and that indeed would be the Christian way), but that's not taking into account human nature.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 27, 2006, 11:34:32 AM

Forgive history ? One cannot forgive, until one acknowledges their heinous crimes against humanity, in full, and the genocide of the Armenians have not been acknowledged to date.


Perhaps if the Armenians' own hands were not bloodied by their attempts at "cleansing" their region of Turks and Muslims in the 1880's the outcry about what happened to them at the hands of the Turks in the early 20th century would not ring so hollow.  Some estimates put the number of Turks and Muslims that died or disappeared in the aftermath of the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish war above a quarter million.

Sadly, in the middle and near east and the Balkans, there is one common element shared by every party to the interminable ethnic disputes:  hatred of people who are not in their ethnic or religious group.  And all their cries for atonement conveniently ignore their own roles in perpetuating this hatred and are tinged by resentment not that ethnic cleansing occurs . . . but that someone else managed to do the job better.

This is why there will never be a sane national discussion anywhere about atonement for a nation's history.  Every party will want to control the facts and put more moral weight behind what they perceive as wrongs than behind what others perceive as wrongs.



Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 27, 2006, 01:11:51 PM
Historically and culturally, the loyalty of the Chinese is to their father, their family, their kinsmen and their clan.  To quote Bloodworth, "the Chinese family is the state."  Confucius codified and streamlined the mechanism of government, but to the Chinese the government philosophy was set by Mo Tsu - agreeing upward.  In other words, the head of the families submitted opinions to the community leader, who in turn submitted them to the regional lords, who then submitted them to the "Son of Heaven".  The emperor's role in Chinese life was to synthesize and unify these opinions as standards of judgement.  Confucius was able to create loyal public servants, by extension of this tradition, not in spite of it.  China has always been concentric in power.  That's not to say that the Chinese don't have expectations of government because they do - the Chinese state has always run basic industries and essential transportation and has been responsible for maintaining social and legal order.

When I say that the Russians are estranged from government as are the Chinese, that doesn't mean that either have no expectations of government, it means they are apathetic to the form of delivery.  They have no history of self-determination or even nationalism as Westerners know it.  When the Han or Manchu or any other foreign invader seized power in China, the overwhelming question of the Chinese was whether the invader would be absorbed by the Chinese.  As long as they conformed to Chinese custom in government administration, most were allowed to rule in somewhat relative harmony.  Like the Russians, it is only when the social order breaks down that the people question the moral authority of the government.

As to Louis Charles' remark, again, I have never known of any so-called "Chiristian country" that wasn't as evil at times as any other nation that was not Christian.  Christian countries don't seem to have any particular lease on morality, and in fact, are usually even more egregious in their infliction of cruelty on others, because they profess to be Christian.  Which of course, brings us to the question of forgiveness - anyone who professes to be Christian and is unable to forgive the transgressions of others, seems to be lacking a basic understanding of the teachings of Christianity - that Christ died so that you would be forgiven, it seems that the very least a professing Christian can do in this world is forgive others.  Without this wholesale, unqualified forgiveness, we cannot break the cycle of violence and revenge.  If Christians can believe that their God sends plagues and disasters to punish human beings, why can't they believe that God sends these tragedies to teach us compassion and empathy for the sufferings of others?  It's the only civilized way to live.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on October 27, 2006, 01:32:45 PM
Wow, i am as many others here on this thread, we are surely being thrown history in a bag. Now, we have understanding about the Chinese, the Russians, the Christians, but why have the Moslems, the Jews, and others not been brought into this as well. I mean, we are talking about social and legal order....might as well give out the whole understanding of these countries as well if your open to education....or are our minds limited only to what those who post want our minds to be limited to ?


Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 27, 2006, 02:02:06 PM
Just as a note, the statement was qualified. Christian states (or Jewish or Islamic) should have brakes imposed by their own beliefs. The fact that these brakes rarely, if ever, operate is also true.

One cannot "atone" for history in anything like a satisfactory way --- witness John Paul II's apologies for the Crusades, for institutional anti-Semitism within the Christian Church. It needed to be said, and I admire him for doing it, but did it make a difference to those who suffered? One can attempt to explain it --- as, for example,  Tsarfan has done by drawing attention to some elements of the "backstory" of the Armenian extermination.  Surely the point of our discussion is to increase our understanding of why these atrocities took place, with an eye to preventing them in the future whenever possible? I do not see the point of "who suffered the most?" debates, either. Atrocities by definition are bad, and should be prevented.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 27, 2006, 02:09:21 PM

. . . please note, however,  how we have lapsed into Christian discourse here: repentance, atonement, redemption, forgiveness


Well, I'm not so sure these concepts are unique to Christianity.  But I do get your point.

In my view, these four things only have practical meaning when applied to the choices and behaviors of individuals.  An individual can choose to turn the other cheek when a blow is struck.  It's not generally a policy I would recommend to a government as a moral imperative.  An individual can repent, because he has personal responsibility for an act.  Again, it is hard to transfer the concept of repentance or redemption into the realm of government activity, where actions seldom are taken by one person acting alone.  Government, even in totalitarian systems, is collective activity.

In fact, I think one of the worst traps a government can fall into is trying to foster a consensus on the meanings of a nation's history.  Even in the relatively benign context of United States history, look at what happens when anyone tries to base a policy stance on the views of the founding fathers.  Someone in short order points out that those founding fathers had slave owners among their ranks and that their stated values are, therefore, the product of cynical hypocrisy.  Or someone pushes for an aggressive policy to stop Serbian genocide, and soon there are factions insisting that, as mass murderers of indigenous native Americans, we have no right as a country to impose our views on the Balkans.

A nation cannot progress by trying to forge a consensus about its past.  The attempt can lead only to acrimony and mutual recriminations.  (Just look at how some threads unfold on this forum.  Can you imagine our rather-inconsequential fights elevated to the level of national debate?)  A nation can only progress when people start to get more interested in their future than in their past.  Today's Americans don't have to resolve moral questions about slavery or native Americans in order to decide domestic or foreign policy questions.  We don't have to have a consensus on the causes of slavery to know that we don't want our children to grow up in a racist society.  We don't have to have a consensus on the meaning of our history as it relates to native Americans to know that we should not sit on the sidelines today while genocide runs amok in Kosovo or Darfur.

The worst thing that could happen to Russia today would be for it to get enmeshed in a soul-searching about the nature of Bolshevism or in a debate about a restoration of monarchy or a return to its Slavic roots.  Russians need hope for their future, not atonement for their past.  As the United States proves every day, you can have a pretty robust nation and economy with a whole heap of skeletons left in closets in which only historians care to spend much time rummaging around for answers.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Bev on October 27, 2006, 03:17:19 PM
I agree, Tsarfan.  Well stated.  The problem with political dialogue in this era is the inability to offer or understand nuanced argument.  Perhaps its our overdependence on one medium to discuss social issues which doesn't lend itself to nuanced thought and in fact, encourages inflammatory rhetoric.  I tend to the "arrested development" theory - "if you're not for ...you must be against..." - fine at high school pep rallies, but not very conducive to building consensus in a diverse society.  Also, people seem not to understand argumentation.  Debate in public is little more than accusation and contradiction.  College debate societies are now "teams" and the team which can speak the fastest, wins.  It's depressing to watch and listen to them... the "Chris Mathews Speed Speaking School of Discourse."  (And by consensus, I mean a solution to a problem using compromise and pragmatism, not consensus as complete agreement.)

Louis Charles, I'm sorry I misunderstood your comment.  I agree that the "who suffered the most syndrome" is destructive to societies and nations.  It only perpetuates the cycle.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on October 27, 2006, 06:00:31 PM
Wow, i am as many others here on this thread, we are surely being thrown history in a bag. Now, we have understanding about the Chinese, the Russians, the Christians, but why have the Moslems, the Jews, and others not been brought into this as well. I mean, we are talking about social and legal order....might as well give out the whole understanding of these countries as well if your open to education....or are our minds limited only to what those who post want our minds to be limited to ?


Tatiana+

Tania,

What does this post mean? I don't mean subtext. I mean, what does it mean?

Simon
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 29, 2006, 08:06:36 AM
The worst thing that could happen to Russia today would be for it to get enmeshed in a soul-searching about the nature of Bolshevism or in a debate about a restoration of monarchy or a return to its Slavic roots.  Russians need hope for their future, not atonement for their past.  As the United States proves every day, you can have a pretty robust nation and economy with a whole heap of skeletons left in closets in which only historians care to spend much time rummaging around for answers.

I disagree. In my opinion the Russian past is only too relevant to the Russian present and future. The Stalinist past is still casting its grim shadow. Look at what the Russians are doing in Chechnya, and have been doing since the 1990s, and honestly tell me that a little soul-searching isn't called for.

The difference between the U.S. and Russia is that in the U.S. there is a free and open debate about American war crimes committed in Iraq. And I would argue that in this debate the spectre of Vietnam and My Lai is always present... Our past does play a significant role in our present conduct, or at least in our wish to amend our present conduct. And while the Pentagon may try, as it has always done, to cover up war crimes committed by American military forces, the American press nevertheless publicizes these crimes and as a result any soldiers who are suspected of such atrocities will be court-martialled and sentenced. Whereas in Russia journalists who try to publicize Russian atrocities committed against the Chechen people are themselves murdered in cold blood. And the war crimes continue unabated, while the world turns a blind eye.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 29, 2006, 12:53:59 PM
I don't disagree with you in principle, Elisabeth.  If Russians could truly come to terms with their past -- why tsars and party chairmen have always had such an easy time with them and why violence has so often been a tool of state policy -- much good could come of it.

My problem is that I cannot divine the practical means by which such a discussion could arrive at a consensus which Russia could convert into a political program.  While I think that coming to terms with their autocratic heritage might help vaccinate them against another outbreak of totalitarianism, there are other forces afoot in Russia that have origins other than in a habit of bending the knee to authority.

Putin and the oligarchs who now drive the economy do not want a free political society.  The Orthodox Church does not want a pluralistic society.  Ethnic Russians have little concern for the plight and aspirations of minorities.  Ultra-nationalists want to reassemble the empire and use all necessary force to that end.  Others want to finish the job of disassembling it.  The tsars and the Bolsheviks did not create every wave of Russian history.  They rode some of them.

I simply cannot imagine the shape of the table at which all these partisans would sit down and hammer out a compromise.  Religious beliefs and political ideology are the least compromising of forces and rely heavily on the vocabulary of moral or intellectual superiority.

In my view, most nations get serious about adopting consensus and compromise as the preferred form of government when they begin to put the pursuit of individual economic well-being above other concerns.  Magna Carta resulted from barons who resented the monarch's assertion of rights over the management of their property, not because of ideological objections to the concept of kingship.  The American colonies sought independence largely because of British tax and tariff policies, not because of a fundamental objection to colonial rule.  The French Revolution erupted not over a desire to remove the Bourbons, but over the attempts of the bankrupt royal government to devise new means to grab a bigger piece of prosperous French commerce and agriculture.  The people and the government of modern China are learning to live in mutual tolerance because the pursuit of mammon has now been put on the front burner.  Germans embraced or accepted Nazi rule not because they craved a dictatorship or wanted to conquer Europe, but because the Weimar government was sullied by hyperinflation and then consumed by the worldwide depression of the early 1930's . . . and because Hitler was very careful not to force them into a choice between guns and butter.

A nation can advance with all sorts of bickering factions in the background, as long as the primary preoccupation of the people is their own wallets.  (Clinton knew what he was doing when he adopted his famous campaign mantra, It's the economy, stupid.)  When people move political ideology and religion to the forefront of national debate, things worsen very quicky.  When they relegate those concerns to the fringes of national life and put pursuit of economic well-being front and center, things move forward again.

I just cannot see any realistic process by which Russians could analyze their past, reach a consensus about its meaning and implications, and then forge a unified national political agenda.  I think the attempt would destroy the troubled balance that is emerging and leave them wide open once again to political chaos . . . which has never produced a good outcome for the Russian people.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 29, 2006, 06:24:18 PM
A nation can advance with all sorts of bickering factions in the background, as long as the primary preoccupation of the people is their own wallets.  (Clinton knew what he was doing when he adopted his famous campaign mantra, It's the economy, stupid.)  When people move political ideology and religion to the forefront of national debate, things worsen very quicky.  When they relegate those concerns to the fringes of national life and put pursuit of economic well-being front and center, things move forward again.

I just cannot see any realistic process by which Russians could analyze their past, reach a consensus about its meaning and implications, and then forge a unified national political agenda.  I think the attempt would destroy the troubled balance that is emerging and leave them wide open once again to political chaos . . . which has never produced a good outcome for the Russian people.

Just because I said I thought Russia should examine its past (and present) crimes against humanity doesn't mean I thought there was any realistic prospect of this happening soon. Tsarfan, IMHO what you're basically saying is that only an authoritarian government (but let's be precise: an authoritarian government even worse than Nicholas II's or for that matter Alexander III's!) can work in Russia right now. I don't disagree. Money does talk, and that's precisely what's ruling Russia right now - oil money, and more specifically Gasprom, the biggest, baddest, meanest mega-oil company in the world, which will no doubt make Putin its CEO the minute he decides to retire from political power. In Russia, oil props up an otherwise faltering economy. In terms of what Russia contributes to the world at present, it's about par with Saudi Arabia. Which is to say, Russia produces oil, and not much else. Were oil prices to fall precipitiously, so would most of Russia's newfound, so-called "stability." But that's not likely to happen any time soon, given the gas-guzzling propensities of China, India, and the United States. All's the more pity for Chechnya (which also has oil, which also might help to explain why Russia is so determined to hold on to this poor beleaguered country).
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on October 29, 2006, 08:52:48 PM
I agree entirely.  Depressing, ain't it?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on October 30, 2006, 12:44:21 PM
I agree entirely.  Depressing, ain't it?

Yes. Sometimes I think we should have discussions of certain African countries, side by side with discussions of Russia, in order to gain some perspective. But then every other article I read is about how Russia is becoming a third world nation, despite its current leaders' illusions of grandeur. So maybe there really is little hope left for Russia after all.

On the other hand, I'm open to anyone who wants to argue the contrary. I love Russia, or at least, what used to be Russia - and I love plenty of people who themselves are Russians by birth. There's no joy in making dire pronouncements about such a once-great and potentially still-great nation's future, or lack thereof. It seems to me that Russia could yet surprise us all, and rise from the ashes yet a third time... To be absolutely clear, I'm counting the October Revolution of 1917, and the death of Stalin in 1953, as the two previous occasions when Russia has surprised the world by its imitation of the mythological Phoenix. That is, you thought she was dead, and she appeared dead, and yet in spite of all expectations to the contrary, she rose in triumph yet again...
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: lexi4 on November 05, 2006, 05:53:33 PM
I agree entirely.  Depressing, ain't it?

Yes. Sometimes I think we should have discussions of certain African countries, side by side with discussions of Russia, in order to gain some perspective. But then every other article I read is about how Russia is becoming a third world nation, despite its current leaders' illusions of grandeur. So maybe there really is little hope left for Russia after all.

On the other hand, I'm open to anyone who wants to argue the contrary. I love Russia, or at least, what used to be Russia - and I love plenty of people who themselves are Russians by birth. There's no joy in making dire pronouncements about such a once-great and potentially still-great nation's future, or lack thereof. It seems to me that Russia could yet surprise us all, and rise from the ashes yet a third time... To be absolutely clear, I'm counting the October Revolution of 1917, and the death of Stalin in 1953, as the two previous occasions when Russia has surprised the world by its imitation of the mythological Phoenix. That is, you thought she was dead, and she appeared dead, and yet in spite of all expectations to the contrary, she rose in triumph yet again...

Wow. That was really well stated, Elisabeth. I think many are watching to see the direction Russia will take. I recently read the Putin has a 77 percent approval rating, according to Yury Levada Analytical Center. I am sure he will maintain and active role once he steps down in 2008. It will be interesting to watch.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on November 05, 2006, 07:51:40 PM
I have been watching of late reports about the Russian Federation, the people, and especially about Putin. I was plesantly surprised that Putin stepped forward to say, he wants to have more internationals in the country, and is against these skin heads, and the terrible beatings of innocent peoples, sometimes murders. To my ears that is a great step forward in terms of offering rights, when one thinks of how it used to be, and where the government was very distanced from making any sort of home based stand.

I also understand that in the schools, they are allowing religion to be incorporated in the classroom curriculium as they did before the revolution. That is a very big change and I don't think many could have anticipated this at all.

Elizabeth, I also agree that Russia is turning the corner, and things are changing slowly. I do think he has the strong vote of the people, and I think as well that as you said, Russia will rise again for good. I also think that Putin even after his retirement, will be strongly involved in framing the future of Russia. I think he will help the people of Russia to understand that they play a greater part in having the say in the country. Yes, I do think that greater changes are transpiring, and will come to pass...

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Zvezda on March 18, 2008, 05:55:10 PM
Quote
After the Revolution, the term "kulak" took on a much broader meaning. During Stalin’s collectivization campaign, which forced the peasantry into collective farms, a kulak was redefined to mean any peasant of means who owned, say, two cows. In other words a kulak was any peasant, "high" or "middle," who had a good reason to resist collectivization and therefore, the state determined, had either to be shot or deported to Siberia.
This is rather disinigenuous. The Soviet Government always regarded kulaks as constituing a small minority of the peasantry. Between 1930-32, some 250,000 families were transferred to distant regions; that number represented one-fourth of the kulak households and less than 1 percent of the total number of peasant households. Some of the kulaks worked in mining and lumbering; others were included in special agricultural artels with an appointed administration. By 1941 there were about 950,000 former kulaks in places of settlement. During the Patriotic War, the majority of the kulaks worked selflessly. Their children fought at the front against the fascist invaders. Many were awarded orders and medals. After the war the last restrictions on kulaks were lifted: they regained the right to leave their place of settlement. Thus, the majority of former kulaks were drawn into socialist construction, reeducated, and transformed into free citizens. Under socialism, those that belonged to the former exploiting classes are given the opportunity by the working people to participate in the national economy and assimilate into the socialist culture.

Quote
Lenin's government had to respond with terror to both the workers' (the Kronstadt Rebellion)
The outbreak of an isolated revolt among a few thousand thousand rebellious soldiers and sailors at a military port need not be overemphasized. The revolt was quickly suppressed because of its small scope. Remember that on 12 March 1917 some 200,000 revolutionary soldiers joined forces with striking workers in Petrograd and quickly took control of the city. Had the Kronstadt revolt been anything analogous to March 1917 in Petrograd then soviet power would have been eliminated in 1921.

The military revolt at Kronstadt should be seen in the context of the dissatisfaction by a portion of the population against the economic dislocation and other hardships caused by the civil war of 1918-20, imposed on Russia by the imperialist forces and their henchmen. Instead of reconciling themselves to the authority of the workers’ soviets, the SR-Menshevik conspirators resorted to organizing a violent revolt in order to set conditions for open activity by the White Guard and the restoration of capitalism. They employed such fallacious slogans as “Soviets without Communists.” A “Provisional Revolutionary Committee” was illegally established consisting of anarchists and SR-Menshevik elements which proceeded to arrest many Communists and workers. Against such bellicose provocations there was no choice except to suppress this violent revolt with the use of force. The SR-Mensheviks initiated this confrontation with the soviet authorities and ended up losing in what was a completely fair fight.

Quote
and to an even greater extent to the peasants' rebellions (which were not entirely put down until 1923).  I don't think anyone knows exactly how many people died as a result, but it was easily in the tens of thousands.

In the two largest cases of revolt against Soviet power, casualties were insignificant.

In Kronstadt, the rebels lost 3000 killed and wounded and the Red Army 4000 killed and wounded.

In Tambov, the bandits lost 5000 killed. Soviet military losses are not known, but no less than 3000 Communists and workers loyal to Moscow were murdered by the bandits.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on March 18, 2008, 07:41:10 PM
Quote
After the Revolution, the term "kulak" took on a much broader meaning. During Stalin’s collectivization campaign, which forced the peasantry into collective farms, a kulak was redefined to mean any peasant of means who owned, say, two cows. In other words a kulak was any peasant, "high" or "middle," who had a good reason to resist collectivization and therefore, the state determined, had either to be shot or deported to Siberia.
This is rather disinigenuous. The Soviet Government always regarded kulaks as constituing a small minority of the peasantry. Between 1930-32, some 250,000 families were transferred to distant regions; that number represented one-fourth of the kulak households and less than 1 percent of the total number of peasant households. Some of the kulaks worked in mining and lumbering; others were included in special agricultural artels with an appointed administration. By 1941 there were about 950,000 former kulaks in places of settlement. During the Patriotic War, the majority of the kulaks worked selflessly. Their children fought at the front against the fascist invaders. Many were awarded orders and medals. After the war the last restrictions on kulaks were lifted: they regained the right to leave their place of settlement. Thus, the majority of former kulaks were drawn into socialist construction, reeducated, and transformed into free citizens. Under socialism, those that belonged to the former exploiting classes are given the opportunity by the working people to participate in the national economy and assimilate into the socialist culture.

Really? I don't think Nicholas II's five children would quite see it that way. Under "socialism" they were executed without trial by the government. The working people had no say in this. And so it was for millions of other young adults and minor children.

Quote
Lenin's government had to respond with terror to both the workers' (the Kronstadt Rebellion)
The outbreak of an isolated revolt among a few thousand thousand rebellious soldiers and sailors at a military port need not be overemphasized. The revolt was quickly suppressed because of its small scope. Remember that on 12 March 1917 some 200,000 revolutionary soldiers joined forces with striking workers in Petrograd and quickly took control of the city. Had the Kronstadt revolt been anything analogous to March 1917 in Petrograd then soviet power would have been eliminated in 1921.
[/quote]

And you say it as if that were a bad thing. I don't think anyone represented that Kronstadt was anything like the February Revolution, and there was no requirement that Lenin use terror. It was a choice and should be presented as such.

[/quote]
The military revolt at Kronstadt should be seen in the context of the dissatisfaction by a portion of the population against the economic dislocation and other hardships caused by the civil war of 1918-20, imposed on Russia by the imperialist forces and their henchmen. Instead of reconciling themselves to the authority of the workers’ soviets, the SR-Menshevik conspirators resorted to organizing a violent revolt in order to set conditions for open activity by the White Guard and the restoration of capitalism. They employed such fallacious slogans as “Soviets without Communists.” A “Provisional Revolutionary Committee” was illegally established consisting of anarchists and SR-Menshevik elements which proceeded to arrest many Communists and workers. Against such bellicose provocations there was no choice except to suppress this violent revolt with the use of force. The SR-Mensheviks initiated this confrontation with the soviet authorities and ended up losing in what was a completely fair fight.

Quote
and to an even greater extent to the peasants' rebellions (which were not entirely put down until 1923).  I don't think anyone knows exactly how many people died as a result, but it was easily in the tens of thousands.

Does anyone else see how a legitimate grievance with governmental authority can get twisted into "SR-Menshivik conspirators"? Does it not occur to you that the sailors who revolted against the Soviets were doing so because the Soviets abused their power and suppressed opposition parties?

[/quote]
In the two largest cases of revolt against Soviet power, casualties were insignificant.

In Kronstadt, the rebels lost 3000 killed and wounded and the Red Army 4000 killed and wounded.

In Tambov, the bandits lost 5000 killed. Soviet military losses are not known, but no less than 3000 Communists and workers loyal to Moscow were murdered by the bandits.
[/quote]

And, again, you refer to those who disagreed with government policy as "bandits". Just what were they stealing?

Please cease with the propaganda, because that can really work both ways, you know.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Zvezda on March 18, 2008, 08:17:17 PM
Quote
Really? I don't think Nicholas II's five children would quite see it that way. Under "socialism" they were executed without trial by the government. The working people had no say in this. And so it was for millions of other young adults and minor children.
The execution of former tsar Nicolai Romanov and his family was the inevitable outcome that followed the invasion of Russian cities e.g. Kazan by Czech troops.

The execution of the Tsar and his family was legal. It was carried out by a decree of the presedium of the Urals oblast soviet. The soviets of on 7 November 1917 established themselves as the state authority in Russia. The precedent for the execution of oppressive, overthrown leaders had been established with Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France.

It was Tsar Nicholas who dispersed the First and Second Dumas, drowned Russia in blood, enslaved Poland and Finland, massacred peaceful demonstrators, terrorized the 1905 revolutionaries, unleashed pogroms against Jews, shot down workers on teh Lena, and ruined the peasants to the point of starvation all over Russia. With or without a trial the former Tsar deserved to pay for his crimes.

Quote
I don't think anyone represented that Kronstadt was anything like the February Revolution, and there was no requirement that Lenin use terror.
I cannot agree. Sailors and soldiers at Kronstadt took arms against the Russian Government. It's the right of a government to suppress illegal revolts.

Quote
And, again, you refer to those who disagreed with government policy as "bandits". Just what were they stealing?
Russian sources from the soviet period say that Antonov's bandits in Tambov plundered some 50 state farms, cut off the southeast railroad line, and killed thousands of state officials and pro-soviet workers.
http://www.cultinfo.ru/fulltext/1/001/008/063/401.htm
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on March 19, 2008, 01:08:08 AM
Quote
Really? I don't think Nicholas II's five children would quite see it that way. Under "socialism" they were executed without trial by the government. The working people had no say in this. And so it was for millions of other young adults and minor children.
The execution of former tsar Nicolai Romanov and his family was the inevitable outcome that followed the invasion of Russian cities e.g. Kazan by Czech troops.

The execution of the Tsar and his family was legal. It was carried out by a decree of the presedium of the Urals oblast soviet. The soviets of on 7 November 1917 established themselves as the state authority in Russia. The precedent for the execution of oppressive, overthrown leaders had been established with Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France.

It was Tsar Nicholas who dispersed the First and Second Dumas, drowned Russia in blood, enslaved Poland and Finland, massacred peaceful demonstrators, terrorized the 1905 revolutionaries, unleashed pogroms against Jews, shot down workers on teh Lena, and ruined the peasants to the point of starvation all over Russia. With or without a trial the former Tsar deserved to pay for his crimes.

Quote
I don't think anyone represented that Kronstadt was anything like the February Revolution, and there was no requirement that Lenin use terror.
I cannot agree. Sailors and soldiers at Kronstadt took arms against the Russian Government. It's the right of a government to suppress illegal revolts.

Quote
And, again, you refer to those who disagreed with government policy as "bandits". Just what were they stealing?
Russian sources from the soviet period say that Antonov's bandits in Tambov plundered some 50 state farms, cut off the southeast railroad line, and killed thousands of state officials and pro-soviet workers.
http://www.cultinfo.ru/fulltext/1/001/008/063/401.htm

You provide the usual Soviet justification for the execution of the Tsar, but that wasn't even my point. I said his children were executed without a trial in response to your contention that "working people" allowed former elites to work within the "socialist" system. Clearly, if you kill someone their ability to participate in your society is nil.

You also said that Lenin had no choice but to use terror with Kronstadt - and now are arguing that a government has a right to suppress "illegal" revolts. And, again, I would say to you, of course Comrade Lenin had a choice - he made the choice - and I was not arguing about whether or not suppression of dissent was correct or not. The thing is, eventually Communists might learn that there are ways other than violence to resolve differences. One can only hope.

And finally, smearing those who disagree with them is a very unfortunate aspect of the political culture of the USSR. I'm not sorry to see it gone, only sorry to hear it repeated here.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Zvezda on March 19, 2008, 04:54:03 PM
Quote
I said his children were executed without a trial in response to your contention that "working people" allowed former elites to work within the "socialist" system.

And I will reiterate that the killing of the former Tsar was legal and was necessitated by Czech aggression against Russian cities.

The killing of the Tsar's children was certainly no less outrageous than the murder of Alexander Ulyanov and countless other revolutionary martyrs. To say nothing of the massacre of miners on the Lena.
Quote
You also said that Lenin had no choice but to use terror with Kronstadt
The term "terror" cannot be used with respect to a suppression of a violent, illegal revolt at a military base. Rebellious soldiers and sailors at Kronstadt initiated a confrontation with the Soviet state and lost in what was a completely fair fight.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Robert_Hall on March 19, 2008, 05:50:45 PM
I have hesitated in  posting on this thread, as so many already consider me "Red" as it is. But just what makes  the Soviet Union a "mistake"?
 It was a revolutionary social experiment.  Communism was an ideal, never achieved,. Revolution is a method to achieve, and, as it happens, there are sad consequences of that process. Although I see the  execution of the Imperial Family, in toto, as excessive, I also see it as a legal act by the powers in charge at that time.  The girls should have been saved, perhaps, but it did not happen that way.  So be it, they are all de facto results.
 All revolutions have excesses, they are unavoidable.  Sometimes they are excusable, justice. Other times, simple  revenge.
 Capitalism has it's excesses as well,  you all know.
 
 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on March 19, 2008, 06:00:30 PM
Quote
Really? I don't think Nicholas II's five children would quite see it that way. Under "socialism" they were executed without trial by the government. The working people had no say in this. And so it was for millions of other young adults and minor children.
The execution of former tsar Nicolai Romanov and his family was the inevitable outcome that followed the invasion of Russian cities e.g. Kazan by Czech troops.

The execution of the Tsar and his family was legal. It was carried out by a decree of the presedium of the Urals oblast soviet. The soviets of on 7 November 1917 established themselves as the state authority in Russia. The precedent for the execution of oppressive, overthrown leaders had been established with Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France.

It was Tsar Nicholas who dispersed the First and Second Dumas, drowned Russia in blood, enslaved Poland and Finland, massacred peaceful demonstrators, terrorized the 1905 revolutionaries, unleashed pogroms against Jews, shot down workers on teh Lena, and ruined the peasants to the point of starvation all over Russia. With or without a trial the former Tsar deserved to pay for his crimes.

Quote
I don't think anyone represented that Kronstadt was anything like the February Revolution, and there was no requirement that Lenin use terror.
I cannot agree. Sailors and soldiers at Kronstadt took arms against the Russian Government. It's the right of a government to suppress illegal revolts.

Quote
And, again, you refer to those who disagreed with government policy as "bandits". Just what were they stealing?
Russian sources from the soviet period say that Antonov's bandits in Tambov plundered some 50 state farms, cut off the southeast railroad line, and killed thousands of state officials and pro-soviet workers.
http://www.cultinfo.ru/fulltext/1/001/008/063/401.htm

You said: Under socialism, those that belonged to the former exploiting classes are given the opportunity by the working people to participate in the national economy and assimilate into the socialist culture.

The truth: Under "socialism", those people were mostly killed. Their deaths made participation in the national economy and eventual "assimilation" impossible. Don't you agree that the dead have a tough time participating?

The topic is what happened to elites under the Soviets, not whether or not killing the Tsar was legal, and not whether the deaths of others under the Tsarist regime was bad/wrong or whatever.

You said; The outbreak of an isolated revolt among a few thousand thousand rebellious soldiers and sailors at a military port need not be overemphasized. The revolt was quickly suppressed because of its small scope. Remember that on 12 March 1917 some 200,000 revolutionary soldiers joined forces with striking workers in Petrograd and quickly took control of the city. Had the Kronstadt revolt been anything analogous to March 1917 in Petrograd then soviet power would have been eliminated in 1921.

The truth: The reason that the February Revolution succeeded is because the uprising was not suppressed by the government. According to you, governments have the right to suppress "illegal" dissent. The revolutionaries were not treated with violence. Kronstadt's rebellion was suppressed by the government using violence.

You said: In the two largest cases of revolt against Soviet power, casualties were insignificant. In Kronstadt, the rebels lost 3000 killed and wounded and the Red Army 4000 killed and wounded.
In Tambov, the bandits lost 5000 killed. Soviet military losses are not known, but no less than 3000 Communists and workers loyal to Moscow were murdered by the bandits.

The truth: The Tambov Uprising happened during the Civil War. Deaths were approximately 250,000 people, mostly women, children, and the elderly. I don't know anyone who could possibly call this "insignificant casualties". This was a callous indifference to life. It was also a brutal suppression of the peasantry outside Moscow (you know, those "working people" that "socialism" was supposed to help?) and yet another demonstration of Soviet willingness to use violence and terror against her own people. The targets included Left SRs who originally supported the October Revolution and the Menshiviks, who were true Socialists.

Ironic, ain't it?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Zvezda on March 19, 2008, 07:36:30 PM
Quote
The truth: Under "socialism", those people were mostly killed. Their deaths made participation in the national economy and eventual "assimilation" impossible. Don't you agree that the dead have a tough time participating?
This claim disregards the fact that restrictions on the resettled kulaks were gradually lifted and that the kulaks were drawn into the national economy and assimilated into Russian society.
Quote
The truth: The Tambov Uprising happened during the Civil War. Deaths were approximately 250,000 people, mostly women, children, and the elderly. I don't know anyone who could possibly call this "insignificant casualties".  It was also a brutal suppression of the peasantry outside Moscow (you know, those "working people" that "socialism" was supposed to help?) and yet another demonstration of Soviet willingness to use violence and terror against her own people.
Casualties during the Antonovshchina in the Tambov area amounted to about 5000 dead bandits and likely an equal number of Red Army troops. There was nothing peaceful about the methods of the bandits. Some 3000 workers and soviet functionaries were murdered and there was extensive material damage in the area. The bandits made use of the tactics and methods of partisan warfare, resorting to ambushes and surprise attacks. Against this violent war of aggression declared by the kulaks against established soviet authority, the working people through the Red Army had no choice but to defend themselves.

With the implementation of the New Economic Policy, the revolt lost any basis for its continuation. When Tukhachevsky, Uborevich, and others were sent to combat the bandits in May 1921, they had orders to finish off the bandits within a month. By July, the size of Antonov’s forces diminished by some 40,000 men, down from a peak of 50,000. By August 1921 the revolt was completely suppressed.

There was not anything extraordinary about a peasant revolt in Russia, for there were thousands of peasant disturbances in 1917 when the land held by the nobility were seized. When measured with the partisan activity against the White Guard and the interventionists, the Tambov revolt seems insignificant. In December 1919, more than 50,000 partisans operated in the rear of Denikin’s troops in Ukraine. Many cities were liberated, including Poltava, Kaztin, and Kremenchug. Around Novorissisk and Tuapse, some 15,000 red and green partisans fought successful battles against the White Guard and disrupted transportation on the Maikop-Tuapse line. The partisan movement in the northern Caucasus diverted a considerable portion of Denikin’s forces and helped Soviet troops the foil the enemy offensive in Astrakhan. The partisan movement attained an even broader scope in Siberia. In the summer of 1919, the partisans in Altai province numbered 25,000. About 100,000 partisans in Siberia liberated vast regions even before the approach of the Red Army. In February 1920, some 20,000 partisans liberated the Amur region.

Quote
The targets included Left SRs who originally supported the October Revolution and the Menshiviks, who were true Socialists
Remember that it were the right-wing SRs and Mensheviks, who were in the minority, that walked out of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets in the fall of 1917. A broad socialist coalition government thus became impossible due to the reactionary attitude of these groups. The Left SRs voted in favor of transferring power to the Soviets and were represented in the new government. They clinged onto social chauvinist positions and then decided to defect after February 1918 when they refused to adapt to the realities of the international situation, insisting on the continuation of the disastrous war with Germany. The Left SRs later that summer then tried to renew a war with Germany by assassinating their ambassador and then proceeded to try and seize power in Moscow, which ended in failure. The Bolsheviks cannot be blamed for the refusal of SRs and the Mensheviks to reconcile themselves to soviet power, which had become the supreme authority in Russia.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Lyss on March 28, 2008, 12:01:37 PM
As a scholar of international politics, I do believe this post is very interesting to discuss. But since I see no documents or footnotes supporting the comments mentioned, I don't see myself participating in it. No offence, but as far as I can tell, everything posted without the mention of sources for these so called "facts", I consider opinions, fiction.
I'm writing this because I would realy enjoy a good source-based discussion. Only, reading this discussion, I see it going on forever. If you use valid sources for your comments, you can actualy come to a conclusion, which would benefit all.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on March 28, 2008, 07:50:39 PM
As a scholar of international politics, I do believe this post is very interesting to discuss. But since I see no documents or footnotes supporting the comments mentioned, I don't see myself participating in it. No offence, but as far as I can tell, everything posted without the mention of sources for these so called "facts", I consider opinions, fiction.
I'm writing this because I would realy enjoy a good source-based discussion. Only, reading this discussion, I see it going on forever. If you use valid sources for your comments, you can actualy come to a conclusion, which would benefit all.

As a poster, you are entirely welcome to start a good source-based discussion. We cannot guarantee, however, that it will remain source based, let alone ensure that the quality will be "good". This is a Forum, so yes, there will be opinions - and this topic is sufficiently broad so that as you say, the discussion could go on forever. That does not necessarily mean that there will be no facts presented. and if you feel a comment is not factual, that you cannot challenge the other posters by asking for sources for items presented as facts.

This is not an academic Forum, no one is publishing papers about what is discussed here, and you are entirely welcome to not participate in this particular thread if it does not meet your standards. I am terribly sorry that you regard opinions as fiction. Life may be dull for you on occasion.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Constantinople on March 29, 2008, 03:04:51 AM
A few comments.  First of all, while the Tsarist regime was not ideal, to hae something like the soviet union replace it was not the sort of justice taht most Russians had in mind.  Secondly whether the death toll from various soviet excesses and purges was 4 million or 60 million, they still rank highly among the world's great tragedies.  The third point is that most of the blame for the Soviet union goes to the communists but I believe that communism may have been avoided if Tsar Nicholas had created a working democracy in his time and had converted his absolute monarchy into a constitutional one.  He had numerous opportunities to do this, most significantly in 1905.  I realize that it is conjecture to say that communism would not have occurred if this had happened but it is my feeling that a lot of blood shed may have been avoided.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Lyss on March 31, 2008, 06:12:31 AM
I am terribly sorry that you regard opinions as fiction. Life may be dull for you on occasion.

I love fiction, I realy do. Maybe I mispresented myself: what is seem to have noticed on this particular tread, is that lot of opinions are being presented as facts, without sources, so I just put a general reply to start using sources. Because if you start using opinions as facts, you start writing fiction. Now, in this last comment I'm particularly sighting Zvezda. So, if you start to comment those posts without sources, you're doing the same as her/him. In that case, the discussion can go on forever. I'm not saying you should make this into an academic forum, just tell us where you get your information from, not only in sake of the discussion, but sometimes I like to look things up (maybe other members do the same, I don't know), or buy the books there are being mentioned. (Thanks to this forum I've already bought Romanov Autumn, Gulag Archipelago and The camera and the tsars)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Constantinople on March 31, 2008, 08:31:03 AM
Well in my case it is based on a knowledge of Russian history that began in university and continued as a interest.  If a democratic Duma had been allowed to emerge just after Tsar Nicholas' coronation in 1896, it would have had enough time to develop by the time 1914 and may have had enough time to overhaul the Russian civil service.  Of course this is conjecture. If you like it is fiction or extrapolation.  The facts are quite clear:
1. this did not happen
2. Russian enterred a disastrous war in 1905 without a modern navy
3. this forced Russia out of its East Asian expansion policy and into the Balkans
4. The Balkans sphere of interest led to friction with Austro Hungarian Empire
5. which led to the First World War
6. This led to the rise of Communism and the revolutions which brought communism into Russia
All of these were the result of autocratic decisions made by the Tsar.  It is highly propbably that any of the chain of decisions would have been made differently after democratic discussion in a Duma.
These are general facts and do not need citing
By the way, I don't see a lot of sources cited in your remonstrations.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Lyss on March 31, 2008, 08:59:51 AM

These are general facts and do not need citing
By the way, I don't see a lot of sources cited in your remonstrations.


So, let me understand this clearly: when you post 'general facts" that are of topic to the subject being discussed, you don't have to cite them, but when I ask for sources  (like where do al those numbers of dead people come from) I have to source my question?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Constantinople on March 31, 2008, 09:42:55 AM
exactly
those are the rules of academic research
obviously you don't need to cite the fact that the Russian Revolution happened but the number of dead from any war is not an accepted truth or is rarely so needs a source
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tsarfan on April 01, 2008, 11:05:26 AM
The facts are quite clear:
. . .
2. Russian enterred a disastrous war in 1905 without a modern navy
3. this forced Russia out of its East Asian expansion policy and into the Balkans
4. The Balkans sphere of interest led to friction with Austro Hungarian Empire
5. which led to the First World War
6. This led to the rise of Communism and the revolutions which brought communism into Russia
All of these were the result of autocratic decisions made by the Tsar.  It is highly propbably that any of the chain of decisions would have been made differently after democratic discussion in a Duma.
These are general facts and do not need citing . . . .

First, Constantinople, I should say that I am in general agreement with your premise that Russia (and its monarchy) missed its greatest opportunity to weather or even thrive in the 20th century when Nicholas turned his back on reform and liberalizing sentiment, be it in 1896 or 1905.

However, I am not quite so sure all your assertions can stand without the citing of some authority.  You seem to be saying that Russia exerted herself only in the Balkans when her eastern expansion hit the shoals at Tsushima.  In other words, you seem to be suggesting that Russia had to keep herself busy at something and -- if not the Pacific rim -- then it must be central Europe by default.

Pan-slavism, which was the real impetus behind Russia's charting a collision course with Austro-Hungary, had both a political and an ideological life largely independent of events in the Pacific.  To suggest that there would have been no active Russian Balkan policy had her failures further eastward not denied her an outlet for her expansionist energies is to overlook a very long strain of Russian history, going back at least to Ivan IV and acquiring renewed energy under Alexander III.

And I don't really think the presence of a Duma would have made much difference.  For starters, Nicholas would have almost certainly maintained unilateral control of foreign policy and the military, even had he voluntarily granted a Duma.  Even when he granted a Duma under the gun in 1906, he successfully reserved these prerogatives to the monarchy.

And I would not look to a quasi-democratic institution anchored in propertied interests -- which is what any voluntarily-conceded Duma would very likely have been -- to be any less jingoistic than a Tsar.  Remember that most of America's 19th-century expansion westward, including the forcible seizure of lands from and the renunciation of treaty obligations to native Americans, was done by legislative fiat or executive action sanctioned and funded by a willing Congress.  In fact, pan-slavism was one of late tsarism's most popular policies, with even significant elements of the intelligentsia signing on with enthusiasm.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Constantinople on April 01, 2008, 12:46:47 PM
Tsarfan
    You make some good points.  My point was not a Duma coexisting with a Tsar who had executive powers but a constitutional monarch and that form of monarch would have no powers to control a Duma.  The reality of a country with a polilty with 90% illiteracy meant that only propertied adults and the middle class would have enough education to cast votes until the education system was revamped.  I am not saying that the Duma would not have made some of the mistakes that the Tsar did but noone will know.  My point was that by 1917, the Duma that existed did not have enough experience to save Russia and the Tsar from the Bolsheviks. 
I will reread a book called The Russian Empire and the World 1700-1917 by John P LeDonne who covers the period of the Balkans in substantial detail.  His contention was the same as mind that Tsarist Russian was continually expanding its borders and that when the Eastern Asian possibilities were cut off and the southern possiblities were restrained by Britain and France (in what is called the Great Game), then the last possibility that Russia had at that time was to increase its political interference and its military presence in the Balkans.  It already had an interst and a presence in this area before 1905 but this increased after 1905 (for example, the Russian Turkish war of 1875).
When I have the time to read that I will post what i find
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 13, 2008, 11:19:00 AM
Zvezda is always arguing that the Soviet Union was not a mistake. But I would urge her to hop on a train, leave Moscow, travel 50, 500, or 5,000 miles into the countryside, alight at any rural station, and imbibe the sights, sounds, and smells of present-day rural Russia, which might best be described as the 17th century with intermittent electricity.

Had the Soviet Union not existed, I suspect that the 21st-century Russian "glubinka" (provinces) would be in no way inferior in terms of economic conditions or living standards - or indeed population density - to, say, the American Midwest.

The current, dire state of Russia - demographically, politically, ecologically - is the direct consequence of 70 odd years of misrule by ideological fanatics and bureaucratic lowbrows, who culled the population of its best and brightest.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Constantinople on May 13, 2008, 11:53:17 AM
Your post sums up my views on communism generally.  The only saving grace I can think of is that the 90% of the population who were illiterate peasants learnt to read and were educated.  They also got somewhat better housing and the medical care for the vast majority got better as did mobility.  That vast majority also paid a very high price for their marginal improvements.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on May 13, 2008, 12:25:07 PM
Your post sums up my views on communism generally.  The only saving grace I can think of is that the 90% of the population who were illiterate peasants learnt to read and were educated.  They also got somewhat better housing and the medical care for the vast majority got better as did mobility.  That vast majority also paid a very high price for their marginal improvements.

Thanks, Constantinople, for your kind remarks. I should, however, point out that mass literacy was already dramatically increasing in Russia well before the October Revolution of 1917. So the idea that the Bolsheviks were completely responsible for the great social mobility of the early decades of the 20th century is probably quite misplaced. If you read any history book about late tsarist, pre-revolutionary Russia, it becomes quite clear that social mobility was on the upswing, and that further progress in that area was NOT by any stretch of the imagination dependent upon Marxism-Leninism and its principle of extirpating class enemies like the bourgeoisie and the so-called "kulaks." Rather, if a constitutional monarchy had continued, further social progress no doubt would have continued with it, as a natural development, and one which, left to its own devices, would have resulted in a far more socially egalitarian and productive society than any that the Soviet Union ever managed to create.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Constantinople on May 13, 2008, 03:04:08 PM
Interesting that you should say that because one of my friends' grandfathers was the last education minister under the Tsar and he quit because he couldn't get his  policies implemented.  Even with the new policies, the illiteracy rate at the end of the Tsarist period was stil about 80%.  You are right about social mobility was somewhat improved but one reason why most of the capitalist and industrialists developing Russia were foreign was that the Tsar didnt trust Russians and wanted to stop them developing a middle class.  Thats why Nobel was in Russia developing the oil industry.
I agree about the constitutional monarchy but Nicholas and Alexander made that an impossibility.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Phil_tomaselli on May 28, 2008, 02:34:29 PM
We all like to think that because we're smug middle class persons in "lliberal" "democracies" that life for us if we'd lived in Russia c 1917 would be worse after the Bolshevik revolution.  Statistically we'd ALL have been either peasants (and not happy peasants singing as we bring in the bounteous harvest by the banks of the Volga) or factory workers doing 14 hour shifts in a pre-Victorian industrial hell hole.

Ponder this then consider that under the Bolsheviks

"90% of the population who were illiterate peasants learnt to read and were educated.  They also got somewhat better housing and the medical care for the vast majority got better as did mobility".

Then ponder why Stalin was incredibly popular (and he was) and why Russia was able to mobilise to defeat Hitler's Germany in 1941/2.  And why Nicholas was incredibly unpopular and Germany won in the East in WW1.

Phil T
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Constantinople on May 28, 2008, 03:10:25 PM
first of all most of the people who post on here are perhaps at the lower fringes of the middle class.  I would hazard a guess that middle class these days would be a college education and a household income upwards of $150,000.  The Russian middle class was perhaps 1% and I suppose most of the people who have pro Tsarist views would have been in a situatiion where they were barely staying alive with a annual income of $50. 
   Having said that, while life was hell under the Tsar it got much worse under the Bol;sheviks with the exception of education.  If you were suicidal you might voice an unfavourable comment about Stalin. I imagine that Lenin had some degree of popularity but I would be surprised if anyone alive at the time had much postive feeling for Stalin.  He was a brutal thug.  He died 4 days after my birthday (he had his fatal stroke on teh day I was born) and I like to think he could read my mind about him.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Tania+ on May 31, 2008, 07:36:04 AM
The Soviet Union was a BIG mistake, but we don't have to worry about them anymore, nohow, noway; they is past history, long gone, fini, kaput, gone, lost souls, dregs, drains, killers of dreams, killers of human kind. May the find no rest in hades. Oh boy I feel better stating that and so does the NEW Russia !   : ) 

Tatiana+
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on June 02, 2008, 04:46:19 PM
The Soviet Union was a BIG mistake, but we don't have to worry about them anymore, nohow, noway; they is past history, long gone, fini, kaput, gone, lost souls, dregs, drains, killers of dreams, killers of human kind. May the find no rest in hades. Oh boy I feel better stating that and so does the NEW Russia !   : ) 

Tatiana+

Well, until the "New Russia" examines and atones for the many wrongs done under the Soviet regime, I am afraid it will all happen again. It's just how it goes. It's sad, and it's unfortunate, but sweeping it under the rug will only create speed bumps.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Zvezda on June 04, 2008, 05:52:05 PM
Quote
Well, until the "New Russia" examines and atones for the many wrongs done under the Soviet regime, I am afraid it will all happen again. It's just how it goes. It's sad, and it's unfortunate, but sweeping it under the rug will only create speed bumps.
Actually, Stalin had been denounced by the Russian Government as far back as 1956. Many of the abuses committed during Stalin such were rectified. Many of those determined to have been unjustly executed in 1937-38 were exonerated and those nationalities deported during the war were rehabilitated and permitted to return to their homeland. Stalin's theoretical and political mistakes, negative character traits, the violation of socialist legality and collective leadership, and the evolution of the cult of personality were all strongly denounced some 50 years ago.
Quote
The Soviet Union was a BIG mistake
The Russian people surely do not agree. Remember that in the referendum of 17 March 1991 the vast majority of the Russian people voted to preserve soviet rule which was later dissolved by corrupt burreaucrats headed by Yeltsin. Yeltsin's counterrevolutionary coup has had catastrophic effects not only on Russia's international prestige but on all facets of economic, political, and social life. It's been nearly 15 years since the establishment of this phony "Russian Federation" and the economy is still below the 1989 level. Russia for the past 15 years or so has been experiencing a profound life-and-death crisis, a new Time of Troubles characterized by economic breakdown, ethnic violence, a surge in crime, and a general moral colapse. If the situation in Russia from 1985-87 was preserved, not only the Russian people but also the world would be far better off.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Constantinople on June 05, 2008, 12:53:23 AM
I was in both Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1991 when they were emerging from communism and the standard of living there was extremely bad except for the nomenclatura, who had scooped up the state assets that could be turned into businesses.  Life in Russia was much worse than in its communist satellites.  Kruschev tried to make life freer for Russians but it was nothing like a normal western country.  The country is now paying for years of communist abuse of the environment for example.  It is true that Boris Yeltsin created a new class of klepto capitalists and that he enriched himself to the point of about 2 to 6 billion dollars, none of whiich was used in a tasteful way (how much vodka do you need anyway) but he at least started to restore neglected state heritage sites like the Kremlin. 
     There is nothing phony about the Russian Federation.  It is internationally accepted as that and with oil sitting at over 120 a barrel and natural gas at a high, Russia is in a good position to distribute wealth more evenly so that it benefits all members of its society.  Russians have short memories if they think that living in a police state with border exit bans is better than a freer state.  Most Russians would not want to go back to the period when you could not even trust family members in terms of being state police spies.
    It is terrible that doctors working in the state health system and other well educated professionals are paid so poorly but at least now they have the option of starting their own businesses.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Zvezda on June 10, 2008, 05:40:38 PM
Quote
But I would urge her to hop on a train, leave Moscow, travel 50, 500, or 5,000 miles into the countryside, alight at any rural station, and imbibe the sights, sounds, and smells of present-day rural Russia, which might best be described as the 17th century with intermittent electricity.
17th century Russia had neither tractors nor motor vehicles. Almost all agricultural work was done manually or with draft animals. Because agriculture was backward and completely dependent on natural conditions, poor harvests and crop failures frequently occurred, leading to famine for millions of peasant farms. Prevolutionary Russia had a technologically backward agricultural system marked by low productivity and small-scale production. None of these conditions existed following post-war Russia.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: LisaDavidson on June 10, 2008, 06:01:04 PM
Quote
But I would urge her to hop on a train, leave Moscow, travel 50, 500, or 5,000 miles into the countryside, alight at any rural station, and imbibe the sights, sounds, and smells of present-day rural Russia, which might best be described as the 17th century with intermittent electricity.
17th century Russia had neither tractors nor motor vehicles. Almost all agricultural work was done manually or with draft animals. Because agriculture was backward and completely dependent on natural conditions, poor harvests and crop failures frequently occurred, leading to famine for millions of peasant farms. Prevolutionary Russia had a technologically backward agricultural system marked by low productivity and small-scale production. None of these conditions existed following post-war Russia.

What you describe was true in most of the world in the 17th century - no motor vehicles, no tractors. The Communists did not invent the tractor, and Henry Ford was not a Red.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Zvezda on June 12, 2008, 02:39:00 PM
While of course conditions in rural areas in Russia are in poor conditions, the same could be said about most other countries. To attribute inferior rural conditions in Russia to Soviet power is not constructive. There exist analagous conditions in areas like Appalachia, southern Italy, Greece, and elsewhere even though the countries of these areas have been ruled by completely different politicians. In almost every country the rural population is considerably worse off than the urban population. Members of my family lived in very poor conditions in Armenia and were forced to leave the country after 1991 because they risked starving to death. But before soviet power there did not exist electricity, literacy or any kind of urban population in that country.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 09, 2008, 04:08:10 AM
Sorry, Zvezda, your arguments make no sense. Even back in the second half of the nineteenth century, during Bulgaria's war of independence from the Ottoman Empire, Russian soldiers sent to aid Bulgaria were heard to remark, "What are we liberating them from?" Because Bulgarian peasant homes, real houses built of brick or stone, were so demonstrably superior to Russian peasant izbas (huts) - and this was just the most outward sign of the general prosperity of the Bulgarian peasantry, as opposed to the Russian peasantry. The same situation continues today. I have traveled through the Bulgarian countryside, in the central and southern regions, and nowhere have I seen anything even remotely approaching the poverty of most Russian peasants.

Furthermore, when the Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov suggested to Khrushchev that Bulgaria be allowed to join the Soviet Union, Khrushchev responded, very pragmatically if a little cynically as well, "Think it over. If you join us, you'll be feeding at the common trough, and there's already not enough to go around." (I am paraphrasing.)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on August 09, 2008, 10:25:11 AM
The school at which I teach has a freshman symposium, a required course for all incoming students. This year the freshmen have been asked to read a memoir written by a man who came of age during the Cultural Revolution in China. We have also hired a new professor who comes to us from the University of St. Petersbrug, and while we were hashing out the book she offered a number of interesting observations.

1) the reason for the bad Sino-Russo relations during the 1960s was due at least in part to Mao's attempt to establish a cult of personality surrounding himself, and his resentment that at the same time he was trying to do this, the post-Stalin Soviet leaders were trying to rid themselves of the cult of personality that Stalin had erected around himself (and Lenin).

2) Svetlana (the professor) thinks that the two regimes should be viewed as asymmetric mirror images --- that the current Chinese government lags about fifty years behind the former Soviet Union in historical terms, but that there are enough similarities in their development and histories as Marxist states that we can predict how the Chinese communist experiment will eventually finish by looking at the events of 1985 -.

It was a fascinating disquisition. Anyone have any thoughts?

Simon
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Alixz on August 10, 2008, 02:18:21 AM
Only that in reference to bringing electricity and autos and mobility to the general public, Stalin just happened to be the man in charge when it happened.

Another leader in the same time period would probably have done much the same and perhaps without the creation of the "cult" image which surrounded Stalin.  And another leader without Stalin's mental outlook and ego might have done the same without the executions and the camps and the repression of the ethnic groups.

I haven't done much research into the years after 1919 in Soviet Russia or the rest of Europe, but I did once speak about this with a Russian emigre who worked for me and I asked her if she thought that Soviet Russia would have developed differently if Lenin had not died so young and Stalin had not taken over when the communist government was still so new and unformed.
 
She told me that no American had ever asked her that question before and that she did think things would have been quite a bit different not only in Soviet Russia but in Russia's dealings with the rest of the world.

Would the Soviet Union have fallen (she called it a dissolution)?  She thought perhaps not, but that the country would have developed in a much different way.  By that she didn't mean that they wouldn't have have attained the "things" that make life easier, but that the whole concept of communism and the way that it was applied to Russia and how it was presented to the rest of the world would have been different.

As for poverty, all countries, including the US has those who live below the "poverty level".  No government of any kind has been able to eradicate poverty and assure that all of its citizens achieve a certain standard of living.  It doesn't matter if the country has a monarchy, a constitutional monarchy, a republic, or a dictatorship.  (Democracy not being the same as a republic.  No country truly has a democracy by strict definition of the word.)


Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 10, 2008, 03:45:12 AM
As for poverty, all countries, including the US has those who live below the "poverty level".  No government of any kind has been able to eradicate poverty and assure that all of its citizens achieve a certain standard of living.  It doesn't matter if the country has a monarchy, a constitutional monarchy, a republic, or a dictatorship.  (Democracy not being the same as a republic.  No country truly has a democracy by strict definition of the word.)

As for poverty being part and parcel of every society, no matter how well off, you are perfectly right, Alixz. However, what I was pointing out in my comparison of Bulgaria and Russia is that Bulgaria has always had a higher standard of living overall than Russia. As far as I know, the vast majority of Bulgarians today do not live below the poverty line, as the majority of Russian citizens do. For that matter, while Russia (whether in the nineteenth century or in the twentieth, under the Soviets) has historically experienced repeated, large scale famines, Bulgaria has never once suffered a famine of any kind in its entire history. I think that's quite remarkable, and therefore noteworthy. Of course, a lot, even most of it has to do with Bulgaria's mild climate and very rich soil, but another factor was that even when Bulgaria was part of the Soviet bloc, it only underwent a relatively benign form of communism. Of course, there were concentration camps and the collectivization of agriculture, but private enterprise was allowed to continue on a very small scale. And because of its temperate climate, Bulgaria remained the font of agricultural wealth in Eastern Europe, in terms of its produce. In fact Bulgaria was feeding the Soviet Union, to a large extent.

But I think it's wrong to argue that the Soviet Union could have persisted for much longer than it did, even if Lenin's rule had given way to Bukharin's, and a benevolent form of the New Economic Policy had been permitted to continue past the 1920s. It's as if you were arguing that Nazi Germany could have persisted. The Soviet system was evil from the outset, and this is clear from its policy of setting up concentration camps for political and class opponents within months of attaining power. No system like this, I would argue, can produce much but more of the same. Stalin was virtually inevitable, and to argue otherwise is to fly in the face of history.

Simon, I don't agree that China is 50 years behind Russia in historical development. It has actually outstripped Russia by at least 50 years, if not more. This is because China's government is far more clever and pragmatic (even more patriotic) than Russia's, and it has its eye on the long term, as opposed to Russia's fixation on short-term profit at the expense of developing the nation as a whole. China is spending millions, even billions, on infrastructure like national highways, while Russia's leaders funnel their oil profits into private bank accounts in Switzerland. It's true that the Chinese leaders are holding on to their totalitarian government, but only for the nonce. They know which way the wind is blowing. What do you want to bet that sometime in the next 10 years they don't rename themselves the Chinese Social Democratic Party and retain power in a more open system of government? Russia is not democratic, by the way. It is thoroughly authoritarian. So how this Russian historian could say that "Russia is 50 years ahead of China historically" just boggles my mind. Russia is losing out to China in the Big Game of power politics, as is easily witnessed by the steady colonization of Siberia by the Chinese. It's happening under the very noses of the Russians, and they can't do anything about it. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Louis_Charles on August 10, 2008, 10:05:21 AM
Elisabeth,

I think I was unclear about what she was actually trying to say. I don't think she meant that Russia was fifty years ahead of China in terms of economic success, but perhaps in terms of political evolution. Russia had ended the cult of personality just as Mao began it, and if your scenario is correct, i.e. that within a decade Chinese communism will evolve (or devolve, I suppose) into an authoritarian socialism, then isn't Svetlana correct?

There was a fascinating series of interviews and pieces this summer on NPR. They had begun a series on China prior to the earthquake, so they were in place to continue once it hit, and the coverage was extremely good. One of the things that struck me was the new accountability that the national government feels for the citizens. Angry parents were demanding to know why shoddy construction had been tolerated upon schools, which collapsed more easily than other buildings (and with far more catastrophic results). The government permitted expressions of anger, since most of the blame lay at the local level, and moreover the leadership engaged in a series of gestures to show solidarity with the suffering populations --- the kind of walkabout Elizabeth II does, and George Bush is unable to bring off. No one is suggesting that China is going to allow free speech, a free press or any of the other trappings of western democracies. But I think you are on to something when you say that they are more patriotic than the Russian leadership. To me, the most interesting part of the situation is the shared border between Russia and China. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the resultant chaos in the Russian military and in the relationships among the former Soviet republics has left China in a unique position to aggrandize Siberia and occupy the leadership role for those nations outside the western sphere, unchallenged by another non-democratic major power. And they are doing it. China is the major prop for the Sudanese government, for example, and cannot be persuaded to stop the aid that is making the Darfur situation possible. They have penetrated places like Angola with foreign aid, and occupy an increasingly influential role vis a vis the Arab world.

Simon
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on August 10, 2008, 11:54:24 AM
It's amazing that no matter what happens in the rest of the world; no matter how things change and progress (think of China), Russia stays the same.  This is so incredibly striking!  As the NYT wrote yesterday, Russia is acting like an expansionist 19th century power while China, "...preaches, and largely practices, the doctrine of “peaceful rise,” avoiding confrontation abroad in order to focus on development at home."

An impoverished country with a poorly trained and poorly equipped, but enormous army.  This description could just as easily apply to the Russia of today, as it could to the Russia of World War II, World War I, the Crimean War or the Napoleonic wars.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Robert_Hall on August 10, 2008, 12:14:41 PM
Russia expansionist?  I do not see that.  Russia divested itself of the former SSRs. While China's influence in Africa is considerable, it is not in it for any territorial gain.
 As for Bulgaria,  I agree with elisabeth, the peasantry is better off than most, but it is a very small country, less mouths to feed. It is certainly not without it's problems however. On my last vist there, I still saw  the farmers  bring thier goods into  Sofia on donkety carts.  And the prejudice against the Romany, in particuler is very much  alive. But that seems be everywhere I guess.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on August 10, 2008, 02:57:06 PM
Russia expansionist?  I do not see that. 

Um...

They just invaded Georgia, which is a sovereign nation. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Robert_Hall on August 10, 2008, 03:13:07 PM
They were provoked and came to  protect the Russian population of that province, which wants to reunite with Russia. As I understand it, they are not planning on staying.  I thought it rich that Bush  complains about invasion of a sovereign nation.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 19, 2008, 09:04:47 AM
They were provoked and came to  protect the Russian population of that province, which wants to reunite with Russia. As I understand it, they are not planning on staying.  I thought it rich that Bush  complains about invasion of a sovereign nation.

I tend to agree with Robert on this issue (advance apologies to Rich and others). While I don't normally sympathize with Russia these days, as I understand it, Georgia's recent actions against South Ossetia, which wants to rejoin with Russia, are what provoked Russian aggression in the first place. And according to my husband, it's very likely that Georgia only undertook such a drastic move because its government was so naive as to think that with Putin away at the Olympics in Beijing, the Russian government would never notice what was happening...

And Rich, BTW, Russia doesn't have a gigantic army. It has a very small and pathetic army made up largely of mercenaries and unwilling conscripts - most of whom are in Chechnia. Granted, Georgia is a much smaller country and has an even smaller and more pathetic army than Russia's, so there's no contest here as to who would ultimately prevail in this conflict, that is, without international pressure for a ceasefire. Still, in this instance at least, if not in many others, I am willing to give Russia the benefit of the doubt. Georgia is being portrayed as an innocent victim by Bush and McCain and the American media, but it is not so innocent, and moreover, its leader is a major blunderer, IMHO, who deserves a considerable amount of blame for how events have played out for his country in the last few weeks.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Phil_tomaselli on August 19, 2008, 02:54:30 PM
The Georgian Government started this one and is now reaping the whirlwind.  But definite lines need to be drawn by both "sides" so that everyone knows where they are - the threats against Poland have been rather ominous, on the other hand NATO seems to quite happily assume it can just march up to Russia's border with impunity & subsume any of Russia's neighbours.  Time we all sat down and established our spheres of influence...................

Phil T
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Ilias_of_John on August 19, 2008, 11:42:52 PM
After the Georgians attacked and invaded  S.O.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Terence on August 20, 2008, 12:26:14 AM
The Georgian Government started this one and is now reaping the whirlwind.  But definite lines need to be drawn by both "sides" so that everyone knows where they are - the threats against Poland have been rather ominous, on the other hand NATO seems to quite happily assume it can just march up to Russia's border with impunity & subsume any of Russia's neighbours.  Time we all sat down and established our spheres of influence...................

Phil T

You seem to take a balanced view of the whole issue re: Georgia.  Would that those involved, w/ their egos could do the same.  Seems like very typical "statesmanship" and to a degree understandable.  It's just that the average folks that suffer in the end.

Everyone does need to know where they stand.  I don't see any former Soviet republics wanting to recreate the USSR.  The countries around Russia today are sovereign nations today, thankfully.  What they choose to do should not be dictated by Russia's desire to establish a "sphere of influence", as much as that can be understood.  Don't you think they've suffered enough oppression?  I understand western associations may be viewed as a threat by the Russians, but can't those countries finally choose their own course at this point in time?

T
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 20, 2008, 06:20:51 AM
They were provoked

They were provoked, but Georgia is a sovereign nation, it's not Chechnya.
As if waiting across the border for this day, they rushed to blast Georgia like
Chechnya because they have never accepted the passing of the Soviet Union.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 20, 2008, 06:23:12 AM
After the Georgians attacked and invaded  S.O.


S.O. is internationally recognized as Georgian territory. Only big bully Russia disagrees.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Ilias_of_John on August 20, 2008, 06:31:41 AM
After the Georgians attacked and invaded  S.O.


S.O. is internationally recognized as Georgian territory. Only big bully Russia disagrees.


And the people of S.O!!
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 20, 2008, 06:35:16 AM
I don't see any former Soviet republics wanting to recreate the USSR.  The countries around Russia today are sovereign nations today, thankfully.  What they choose to do should not be dictated by Russia's desire to establish a "sphere of influence", as much as that can be understood.  Don't you think they've suffered enough oppression?  I understand western associations may be viewed as a threat by the Russians, but can't those countries finally choose their own course at this point in time?

These are my sentiments about the newly free former Soviet republics as well. Furthermore, it is appalling to hear 21st century educated people advocating the establishing spheres of influence, as was applied against China and Iran. The only association between sovereign states in a more enlightened era must be completely voluntary. How pompous and chauvinistic to advocate that certain independent peoples be relegated to someone else's sphere of influence.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 20, 2008, 06:38:11 AM
After the Georgians attacked and invaded  S.O.


S.O. is internationally recognized as Georgian territory. Only big bully Russia disagrees.


And the people of S.O!!


Yes, the ethnic Ossetians and Russia's resident lackeys. But not the ethnic Georgian residents, whose villages, homes and property are being obliterated by Russia's goons.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Ilias_of_John on August 20, 2008, 07:00:10 AM
What exactly is an ethnic Georgian resident?
And whose lackey's are they?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 20, 2008, 07:17:35 AM
What exactly is an ethnic Georgian resident?

If you don't know the answer to that, I cannot help you.

And whose lackey's are they?

Not lackeys at all. -- The ethnic Georgians resident in the region of S.O. are Georgian citizens living within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 20, 2008, 03:45:54 PM
Steven, the vast majority of the citizens of South Ossetia want to rejoin with Russia.

We are once again reaping the whirlwind of Stalin's legacy. HE was the one who divided Ossetia into north and south, granting the former to the Russian republic of the Soviet Union, and the latter to the Georgian republic of same. It is a completely ARTIFICIAL boundary, with no meaning whatsoever except in the minds of Georgian nationalists and their dunderhead president, Saakashvili.

I am not exaggerating when I call Saakashvili a dunderhead, either. Even Georgian taxi drivers, according to an American grad student I know (who up until recently lived in that country, that is, up until war broke out, and even then, he didn't want to leave), characterize Saakashvili as uncommonly stupid. I agree. Because only a very stupid man would have deliberately challenged Russia in this way and at this time. Saakashvili was asking for trouble (although I don't think he was aware of that sad fact) and he got it.

I also believe it's time that the United States, the EU, and NATO especially backed off from expanding their respective spheres of influence in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics. McCain keeps threatening to throw Russia out of the G8 if he becomes president - I honestly don't think this will happen, but the threat in and of itself is worrisome. We don't need to be alienating Russia at the moment. It's not in our best interests. Russia can go her own way, but it should never be said that the West provoked her to take drastic steps in her own "self-defense." IMHO an aggressive policy towards Russia is doomed to failure at the present time.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Robert_Hall on August 20, 2008, 04:14:55 PM
Saaskavilii "democratically elected ? Sure by 96%. Gee that  tops Marcos! Even the evil Mugabe tried to makes his look a bit fairer. Also   He overthrew the previous democraticaly elected president in a coup- the so-called "Rose Revolution".
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Ilias_of_John on August 20, 2008, 06:11:15 PM
StephenL,
I won't bother with your Ethnic Georgian residents anymore,either you have an agenda or you refuse to accept reality,
Anyway to some interesting thoughts on the restoration of the Georgian Monarchy,,

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/gerald_warner/blog/2008/08/20/demoralised_georgia_may_renew_itself_by_restoring_its_monarchy


One point that I have to make, is that this family is Orthodox,have no agenda, and actually want to help their Georgian people, rather than the Ethnic Georgian Residents that solely want to suck the lifeblood out of Georgia and attack Mother Russia.
 ;)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 20, 2008, 06:18:24 PM
Steven, the vast majority of the citizens of South Ossetia want to rejoin with Russia.

No issue with that. Nevertheless, Georgia's present borders, as imperfect as they may be, are internationally recognized. Nothing justifies what Russia did. That's not the way to settle such disputes. Look at the damage to America's credibility for behaving similarly.

Saakashvili was asking for trouble (although I don't think he was aware of that sad fact) and he got it.

100% agree.

I also believe it's time that the United States, the EU, and NATO especially backed off from expanding their respective spheres of influence in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics.

"Speres of influence" are historically something imposed on other countries by bigger countries.

Voluntary membership of a sovereign country in NATO, or any international organization, does not constitute a "sphere of influence."

Steven
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 20, 2008, 06:36:11 PM
this family is Orthodox,have no agenda, and actually want to help their Georgian people

You post here on behalf of an entire family?

Suddenly I feel outnumbered...   : o )

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Ilias_of_John on August 20, 2008, 09:31:29 PM
No I don't, but its obvious they want to do more than chaps from Rhode Island.
 :-X
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on August 20, 2008, 11:00:13 PM
I'm sorry to see some of the folks on this thread seem to be forgetting centuries of history here, in which Russia repeatedly walked all over her neighbors from Paris to the Pacific.  It seems that the folks on Russia's western frontier haven't forgotten.  As the NYT reported today, the American missile defense agreement signed with Poland on Wednesday is widely supported across Poland.  They don't seem to care about the details of who did what in Georgia.  They've dealt with Russia before, haven't they?  Vladimir Putin is referred to as "Adolf Putin".  And the Poles don't happen to see themselves as being within Russia's "sphere of influence" thank you very much...

BTW, Gorbachev weighed in today in the NYT with an Op-Ed piece about the Georgian war.  I think what he said is worth reading.

I agree that the Georgian president acted very foolishly in taunting the Russian Bear.  But please, who are we kidding here?  The Russian's would LOVE to move right back in and reclaim the territory they lost in the 1990's.  Russia is not going to change -- we see that now 18 years after the fall of communism.  It's going right back to being an autocratic regime just like it always was.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Ilias_of_John on August 20, 2008, 11:12:32 PM
Obviously people are forgetting Napoleon, Hitler, Gustav III and others.
By the way, what has Gordon Brown had to say about this all?
Sarkozy has stuck his foot in it, Brown is being VEEEEEERY quiet.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 21, 2008, 06:04:31 AM
No I don't, but its obvious they want to do more than chaps from Rhode Island.

Not al all obvious, at least not by your sentiments above that seem to be very supportive of the recent action against Georgia
by its historic great bully to the north.
This particular chap from Rhode Island, on the other hand, is advocating for respect of internationally recognized borders
until the dispute can be properly resolved.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Ilias_of_John on August 21, 2008, 06:16:11 AM
Resolved by whom and how?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 21, 2008, 07:20:24 AM
Resolved by whom and how?

by whom: the people of Georgia, including the people of the secessionist regions
How: Peacefully, though discussions, compromises, treaties and/or some democratic process.

Models:
Czech Republic and Slovakia
Montenegro and Serbia
Belgium and the Netherlands
The Netherlands and Luxembourg
Quebec and Canada (if it had happened a while ago)
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 21, 2008, 09:03:43 AM
I'm sorry to see some of the folks on this thread seem to be forgetting centuries of history here, in which Russia repeatedly walked all over her neighbors from Paris to the Pacific.  It seems that the folks on Russia's western frontier haven't forgotten.  As the NYT reported today, the American missile defense agreement signed with Poland on Wednesday is widely supported across Poland.  They don't seem to care about the details of who did what in Georgia.  They've dealt with Russia before, haven't they?  Vladimir Putin is referred to as "Adolf Putin".  And the Poles don't happen to see themselves as being within Russia's "sphere of influence" thank you very much...

BTW, Gorbachev weighed in today in the NYT with an Op-Ed piece about the Georgian war.  I think what he said is worth reading.

I agree that the Georgian president acted very foolishly in taunting the Russian Bear.  But please, who are we kidding here?  The Russian's would LOVE to move right back in and reclaim the territory they lost in the 1990's.  Russia is not going to change -- we see that now 18 years after the fall of communism.  It's going right back to being an autocratic regime just like it always was.

Rich, it's my belief that in this particular conflict Russia has actually behaved with an admirable degree of restraint. After all, the Georgians were the ones to provoke this war, and in doing so they wiped out an entire town in South Ossetia, killing hundreds of innocent civilians. The Russians could easily have responded in kind by carpet bombing Tbilisi. They should get some credit for the fact that they didn't.

I am sick and tired of hearing Georgia proclaimed the innocent victim of Russian aggression when quite clearly they have contributed greatly to this latest crisis. Face it, Russia is no longer the "evil empire." Granted, it is still a problem for its immediate neighbors and the West, but for crying out loud, Putin is not Hitler or Stalin by a long shot, heck, he's not even Peter or Catherine the Great.

And IMHO, South Ossetia does belong by all rights to Russia, since it was only given to Georgia by Stalin, and since the overwhelming majority of its citizens want to rejoin with Russia. Whatever happened to the right of individuals to determine their own destiny? And by the way, I bet that Stalin is laughing in hell over all the havoc his legacy continues to wreak a full 55 years after his death.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Ilias_of_John on August 21, 2008, 06:27:16 PM
Resolved by whom and how?

by whom: the people of Georgia, including the people of the secessionist regions
How: Peacefully, though discussions, compromises, treaties and/or some democratic process.

Models:
Czech Republic and Slovakia
Montenegro and Serbia
Belgium and the Netherlands
The Netherlands and Luxembourg
Quebec and Canada (if it had happened a while ago)

It appears to me that people in Georgia have decided that they wan't nothing to do with the current corrupt and imbecilic regime whose interestes and loyalties are more with the Americans than the Nation they represent.
It appears that discussion and compromise is not in their vocabulary, as seen by the invasion and attack on S.O.
It is also obvious, that that the overwhelming majority of Orthdox Georgians, identify more with Russia than with the current goverment,hence the accepting of Russian citizenship and passports offered by Putin.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 21, 2008, 06:42:02 PM
Russians could easily have responded in kind by carpet bombing Tbilisi. They should get some credit for the fact that they didn't.

How absurd. Perhaps we should send them thank you notes with hearts and kisses for not using nuclear weapons and only cluster bombs.

I am sick and tired of hearing Georgia proclaimed the innocent victim of Russian aggression when quite clearly they have contributed greatly to this latest crisis.

Just because some of us are hard on Russia for its over-the-top aggression across internationally recognized borders does not mean we are proclaiming Georgia innocent. You are making the recent debate here more black and white than it is. Whatever Georgia's faults, it is Russia that has shown itself a continued threat to its many neighbors who also have Russian minorities within their borders. In one fell swoop, Russia has just committed serious aggression not only against Georgia, but has also sabotaged economically the other break-away former soviet neighbors in the Caucasus, revealing that Russia is still pining for the Soviet Union.


And IMHO, South Ossetia does belong by all rights to Russia, since it was only given to Georgia by Stalin, and since the overwhelming majority of its citizens want to rejoin with Russia.

Sovereign Georgia's current borders, imperfect as they may be, are internationally recognized. Does that not mean anything to you?

In a world as complex as this, countries, especially big powerful ones, cannot simply act based on what they think is theirs "by all rights."



Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 21, 2008, 06:49:56 PM
It appears to me that people in Georgia have decided that they wan't nothing to do with the current corrupt and imbecilic regime whose interestes and loyalties are more with the Americans than the Nation they represent.
It appears that discussion and compromise is not in their vocabulary, as seen by the invasion and attack on S.O.
It is also obvious, that that the overwhelming majority of Orthdox Georgians, identify more with Russia than with the current goverment,hence the accepting of Russian citizenship and passports offered by Putin

You have now turned from discussion into blathering Russian state propaganda (with all its usual hyperbole) to which there is no intelligent response.
Enjoy the rant.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Ilias_of_John on August 21, 2008, 07:00:43 PM
Now you are getting personal sunshine, tell me, how much humanitarian assistance can a guided missile destroyer transport?

"Two U.S. Navy ships, including a guided missile destroyer USS McFaul, and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter are getting underway to transport humanitarian assistance supplies to Georgia, U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said on August 21.
It said USS McFaul (DDG 74) departed from Souda Bay, Crete, on Wednesday and the cutter Dallas (WHEC 716) will depart later this week.

McFaul and Dallas are scheduled to transit into the Black Sea and arrive in Georgia within a week, according to the U.S. European Command."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_McFaul

I have been on one of them, not very much!! This could get very messy/interesting if she ends up at the wrong spot at the right time.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on August 21, 2008, 07:03:36 PM

Rich, it's my belief that in this particular conflict Russia has actually behaved with an admirable degree of restraint.

You mean, compared to what we are used to seeing.  Right?



Face it, Russia is no longer the "evil empire."


Elisabeth, what do you think the Chechens would say to that?
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 22, 2008, 06:57:50 AM
Face it, Russia is no longer the "evil empire."

Elisabeth, what do you think the Chechens would say to that?

It would not be just the Chechens. The continued sacking, destruction and non-withdrawal in Georgia proper continues long after the Georgian threat to S.O. has been very effectively and thoroughly eliminated.

No doubt several of the former Iron Curtain countries, as well as many former soviet republics with their significant Russian populations, are seeing the current events in Georgia as all too familiar of the bad old days of Soviet imperialism and oppression.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 23, 2008, 03:17:08 PM
Oh, come on folks. You can't say Saakashvili is an intelligent or able statesman, in fact he's no statesman at all. In a single stroke, by bombing the capital city of South Ossetia, he managed to play into the Russians' hands and give them the perfect opportunity to flex their geopolitical muscles in the region, which is something they've been itching to do for the last decade. Saakashvili behaved irresponsibly and impulsively and stupidly, and Georgia is now paying the price. I am not saying that either Georgia or Russia is completely to blame here, I am saying that both of them have blood on their hands. And both of them are trying their best to protect their own national interests, as well they might.

But as long as we keep expanding NATO - how do you think Russia is going to respond, exactly? I mean, what if Georgia IS allowed to join NATO? It has already applied for membership. And NATO members are obliged by treaty to come to the aid of any other NATO member who is attacked by an outside force. Oh, that should work out really well for the United States, then. We can get into a war with Russia over an insignificant, tiny little country like Georgia, which has territorial disputes with Russia not only over South Ossetia but also over Abkhazia. Fantastic. Let's go for it!

Because that is what both McCain and Obama seem to be angling for - NATO membership for Georgia. And they're both so politically naive or starstruck (McCain happens to be a personal friend of Saakashvili, who wined and dined him in Georgia after he became president there) that they don't realize the trap they're walking into - the trap they're walking US, the United States, into. Excuse me for being so cynical, but this is not a case of big evil Russian bear attacking small defenseless Georgian rabbit. I repeat, it's a case of Russia trying to protect its own national interests, and Georgia doing the same - albeit totally incompetently, thanks to its idiotic president.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Helen_Azar on August 23, 2008, 03:34:37 PM
Oh, come on folks. You can't say Saakashvili is an intelligent or able statesman, in fact he's no statesman at all. In a single stroke, by bombing the capital city of South Ossetia, he managed to play into the Russians' hands and give them the perfect opportunity to flex their geopolitical muscles in the region, which is something they've been itching to do for the last decade. Saakashvili behaved irresponsibly and impulsively and stupidly, and Georgia is now paying the price. I am not saying that either Georgia or Russia is completely to blame here, I am saying that both of them have blood on their hands. And both of them are trying their best to protect their own national interests, as well they might.

But as long as we keep expanding NATO - how do you think Russia is going to respond, exactly? I mean, what if Georgia IS allowed to join NATO? It has already applied for membership. And NATO members are obliged by treaty to come to the aid of any other NATO member who is attacked by an outside force. Oh, that should work out really well for the United States, then. We can get into a war with Russia over an insignificant, tiny little country like Georgia, which has territorial disputes with Russia not only over South Ossetia but also over Abkhazia. Fantastic. Let's go for it!

Because that is what both McCain and Obama seem to be angling for - NATO membership for Georgia. And they're both so politically naive or starstruck (McCain happens to be a personal friend of Saakashvili, who wined and dined him in Georgia after he became president there) that they don't realize the trap they're walking into - the trap they're walking US, the United States, into. Excuse me for being so cynical, but this is not a case of big evil Russian bear attacking small defenseless Georgian rabbit. I repeat, it's a case of Russia trying to protect its own national interests, and Georgia doing the same - albeit totally incompetently, thanks to its idiotic president.

I agree with Elisabeth's assessment of this situation. Saakashvili miscalculated - made a dumb mistake is more like it. I am not surprised that Russia attacked - and I'm no politician - but Saakashvili (who is supposedly a politician) seemed to be under the impression that it wouldn't, or he thought that the US would come to his aid? I have no idea what he thought, but what he did was kind of dumb... It is a lot more complicated than poor Georgia being attacked by big old Russia. I just hope we won't get involved in this one!

BTW, did McCain really make a statement to the effect of "in the 21st century civilized nations don't invade other nations" in response to Georgia war, or did I just imagine that one? I can't seem to find where I initially read this, so perhaps I did imagine it!
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Helen_Azar on August 23, 2008, 03:42:30 PM
BTW, what do you guys think of US nuclear missiles in Poland, and how that will effect their relationship with Russia (as well as US relationship with Russia)?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080815/ap_on_re_eu/russia_us_missile_defense
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Robert_Hall on August 23, 2008, 03:58:15 PM
Not a good move. Just where do you think Ruaaian missles are aimed at now? And you know, Helen, I am pro-Russia.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 23, 2008, 04:53:52 PM
Oh, come on folks. You can't say Saakashvili is an intelligent or able statesman, in fact he's no statesman at all.

Who are you debating? Who above has said this?


But as long as we keep expanding NATO - how do you think Russia is going to respond, exactly?

Sovereign states looking after their own best interests should not have to be paralyzed by that question.
Sovereign states have the right to sign treaties and join international organizations.That is partly what
being sovereign means.


Because that is what both McCain and Obama seem to be angling for - NATO membership for Georgia.


Largely counter-posturing in the heat of the moment in response to Russia flexing its muscles in a big way.
While Georgia remains in Russia's grip and while Russia continues to control the major transit routes through the
three Caucasus nations, of course you should not be surprised to find the US and Europe talking tough.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 24, 2008, 07:09:23 AM
Steven, I don't know of many sovereign states that consider it their right to obliterate by bombing the entire capital city of a breakaway enclave. What you are basically saying is that Georgia had the right to wipe out hundreds of South Ossetian lives, the lives of innocent civlians, in the interests of maintaining its so-called territorial integrity. All I can say is, it's no wonder that South Ossetians hate Georgia with a passion, and want to rejoin with North Ossetia, even if it means rejoining Russia in the process.

And can't you see, Steven, that letting Georgia join NATO might not be in the United States's best interests. In fact, it would no doubt run directly counter to our best interests. For a moment, let's talk realpolitik. Russia is still a great power, if no longer a superpower like the United States or China. Whereas Georgia is a minor blip on the radar screen of international politics. Given those particular circumstances, exactly with whom should we stay friendly? What is the point of continuing to expand NATO into Russia's natural sphere of influence, when it obviously gets Russia's dander up and makes even ordinary Russians, not to mention the Russian government, increasingly hostile toward the West? Do we really want another Cold War? Or for that matter, an actual war with Russia? Over Georgia and Abkhazia? Are you joking?

As for the U.S. and Western Europe "talking tough" to Russia - unfortunately all this is probably completely counterproductive. What do we want to do, exactly, alienate Russia completely? Inadvertently give power to all the Russian reactionary nationalist politicians out there who say that the West is determined to humiliate or even destroy their country? In other words, do we want to encourage democratization in Russia, or do we want to take a dubiously "moral" stand on behalf of Georgia and in doing so encourage the Russian government to become ever more authoritarian and belligerent, not only towards former Soviet republics that are now independent, but also towards the United States and the West in general?

I'm sorry to say this, but I think that both Obama and McCain are showing poor judgment and lack of foreign policy skills and experience regarding this latest crisis in Georgia. And it should also be noted in this context that McCain just happens to be a personal friend of the Georgian leader Saakashvili. Perhaps not surprisingly, McCain keeps threatening to throw Russia out of the G8. I tell you, if this happens, it will be an utter disaster for the West. We cannot afford to ignore or ostracize Russia. Russia is a fact of life. It is not going away. WE HAVE TO ACKNOWLEDGE RUSSIA. WE HAVE TO DEAL WITH RUSSIA. Otherwise matters will only get worse - a hundred times worse -  in that particular corner of the world.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 24, 2008, 07:25:37 AM
What you are basically saying
What I am basically saying is what -- I -- said above, not the inflammatory clap-trap found in your second paragraph above which is your own very colorful attempt at paraphrasing my message.

Once more as I asked you above -- with whom are you really debating? Who above has actually said anything --remotely-- like what you have attributed to me above in paragraph 2 of your reply? You seem to prefer to do battle with opinions that no one has expressed. And no need to SHOUT-- a sure sign of someone not on solid ground.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 24, 2008, 07:51:02 AM

Sovereign states looking after their own best interests should not have to be paralyzed by that question.
Sovereign states have the right to sign treaties and join international organizations.That is partly what
being sovereign means.

Largely counter-posturing in the heat of the moment in response to Russia flexing its muscles in a big way.
While Georgia remains in Russia's grip and while Russia continues to control the major transit routes through the
three Caucasus nations, of course you should not be surprised to find the US and Europe talking tough.

These are the two paragraphs I took issue with, Steven. I'm sorry if I misunderstood and still misunderstand your statements. But you seem to be arguing here that Georgia should be able to join NATO. I don't think that's the case, judging from its recent behavior and its current (and past) political and territorial disputes with Russia. Nor do I think that "the US and Europe talking tough" to Russia is the right or necessarily "natural" way to go. Both the US and the EU had the option of remaining neutral in this conflict. They could have reproached both Georgia and Russia for spilling innocent blood. Instead they're "talking tough" to Russia, and making Georgia out to be a martyr to Russian aggression - utter stupidity, as far as I'm concerned, since for once Russia is not primarily to blame for the latest outbreak of hostilities. And, as I said, the West's unfairness towards Russia in this instance will only encourage reactionary nationalists and other anti-Western hardliners in the Russian government.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 24, 2008, 08:26:50 AM

Sovereign states looking after their own best interests should not have to be paralyzed by that question.
Sovereign states have the right to sign treaties and join international organizations.That is partly what
being sovereign means.

Largely counter-posturing in the heat of the moment in response to Russia flexing its muscles in a big way.
While Georgia remains in Russia's grip and while Russia continues to control the major transit routes through the
three Caucasus nations, of course you should not be surprised to find the US and Europe talking tough.

These are the two paragraphs I took issue with, Steven. I'm sorry if I misunderstood and still misunderstand your statements. But you seem to be arguing here that Georgia should be able to join NATO.

I said "Sovereign states have the right to sign treaties and join international organizations.That is partly what being sovereign means." Do you dispute that? Do you dispute with the UN for instance that Georgia is a sovereign nation?


Nor do I think that "the US and Europe talking tough" to Russia is the right or necessarily "natural" way to go.

I did not advocate that talking tough was "the way to go," but it is what happens naturally: Strong actions provoke strong reactions, just as happened with Georgia's initial blunder. Thus I said above "you should not be surprised to find the US and Europe talking tough."

as I said, the West's unfairness towards Russia in this instance


I cannot debate this point with you as because you and I appear to possess fundamentally irreconcilable value systems:

I totally reject the notion that the West must remain hostage to Russia's stubborn refusal to put behind itself
the Soviet Union-era mindset about its "empire" (Eastern Europe and the former Soviet realm).
You appear to accept that mindset and encourage others to work around it, which is to me like enabling an alcoholic.

I reject in this enlightened era the notion of "natural spheres of influence," and all that it
implies for smaller countries in a world already dominated by the larger ones.
You appear comfortable relegating small sovereign nations to the position of pawns on a chessboard,
which to me represents the very worst assumptions underlying imperialism and colonialism.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 24, 2008, 08:35:22 AM
Well, what about those South Ossetians, then, Steven, if you're so gung-ho about the self-determination of smaller nations? The South Ossetians do not want to belong to Georgia, they want to rejoin North Ossetia in Russia. It seems to me your desire to stand up for the rights of smaller nations like Georgia is rather limited - to Georgia. How did you stand on Kosovo, by the way? Don't you think that was a paradigm-shifting moment? After all, if the U.S. can support a breakaway enclave of the Yugoslav Republic in achieving independence, then what is to stop the Russian Federation from supporting a breakaway enclave of Georgia, especially since Russia has both a historical and, it could be argued, a moral claim to this territory (given that the majority of South Ossetians want to be with North Ossetia, even if it means rejoining Russia in the process)?

P.S. What is NATO if not a "sphere of influence"? And is a great power like Russia just supposed to turn a blind eye to the expansion of the Western (and specifically American) sphere of influence into its own region?

There were plenty of people back in the 1990s who said that expanding NATO into Eastern Europe and Transcaucasia would worsen our relationship with Russia, perhaps permanently. The eminent historian and anti-Communist Richard Pipes was one such voice... This has nothing to do with trying to protect Russia's imperial interests. It has everything to do with dealing with the world as it really is - carved into geopolitical spheres of influence, whether you like it or not. And these spheres of interest have to respect one another - otherwise all hell is certain to break loose.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 24, 2008, 09:26:29 AM
Well, what about those South Ossetians, then, Steven, if you're so gung-ho about the self-determination of smaller nations? The South Ossetians do not want to belong to Georgia, they want to rejoin North Ossetia in Russia.

Read way above before --yet again-- ascribing to me words I never spoke, and putting the most inflammatory spin on what I said.

As you will find on this forum I am fine with working toward compromise (I even cited several successful models)
in this dispute and I do not approve of Georgia's action that precipitated the crisis. However, Georgia, unlike S.O.,
is an internationally recognized sovereign nation. S.O. at the moment is not. There is a difference, and there are models in the past
for handling secession which Georgia, the UN, and the West and Russia both should strongly consider after all the posturing and
muscle-flexing dies down.

What is NATO if not a "sphere of influence"? And is a great power like Russia just supposed to turn a blind eye to the expansion of the Western (and specifically American) sphere of influence into its own region?

Again, due to fundamental differences in our core values, I cannot debate this with you. Nowhere in your most recent words is it recognized that NATO is a free and voluntary legitimate association of sovereign nations. That is a far cry from a "sphere of influence," a situation where associations are non-voluntary and where the weaker parties have inferior rights. In your message you also continue to accept Russia as having special rights to a certain "region," i.e., you are "enabling" Russia's tragic and fatal inability to move beyond the now long-defunct Soviet-era reality.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 24, 2008, 09:52:16 AM
Well, what about those South Ossetians, then, Steven, if you're so gung-ho about the self-determination of smaller nations? The South Ossetians do not want to belong to Georgia, they want to rejoin North Ossetia in Russia.

Read way above before --yet again-- ascribing to me words I never spoke, and putting the most inflammatory spin on what I said.

As you will find on this forum I am fine with working toward compromise (I even cited several successful models)
in this dispute and I do not approve of Georgia's action that precipitated the crisis. However, Georgia, unlike S.O.,
is an internationally recognized sovereign nation. S.O. at the moment is not. There is a difference, and there are models in the past
for handling secession which Georgia, the UN, and the West and Russia both should strongly consider after all the posturing and
muscle-flexing dies down.

What is NATO if not a "sphere of influence"? And is a great power like Russia just supposed to turn a blind eye to the expansion of the Western (and specifically American) sphere of influence into its own region?

Again, due to fundamental differences in our core values, I cannot debate this with you. Nowhere in your most recent words is it recognized that NATO is a free and voluntary legitimate association of sovereign nations. That is a far cry from a "sphere of influence," a situation where associations are non-voluntary and where the weaker parties have inferior rights. In your message you also continue to accept Russia as having special rights to a certain "region," i.e., you are "enabling" Russia's tragic and fatal inability to move beyond the now long-defunct Soviet-era reality.

You are avoiding the fundamental question, Steven. What about Kosovo? Wasn't that a radical shift in the geopolitical paradigm? And doesn't it give Russia implicit permission to intervene if it sees that a people wanting to join Russia are being unnecessarily persecuted (well, yes, actually bombed) by the nation they supposedly "legally" belong to (if you can call an arbitrary decision made by Stalin some 50 years ago legal?).

NATO may be a voluntary orgainization but that still doesn't make it any less a sphere of influence, for crying out loud. You seem to make distinctions like this only when it suits your argument. After all, South Ossetia VOLUNTARILY wants to rejoin with North Ossetia and Russia - but somehow that doesn't count in your book. Only Georgia's rights - to be IMPERIALISTIC in South Ossetia - seem to count with you.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 24, 2008, 10:55:05 AM

You are avoiding the fundamental question, Steven. What about Kosovo? Wasn't that a radical shift in the geopolitical paradigm? And doesn't it give Russia implicit permission to intervene if it sees that a people wanting to join Russia are being unnecessarily persecuted (well, yes, actually bombed) by the nation they supposedly "legally" belong to (if you can call an arbitrary decision made by Stalin some 50 years ago legal?).

NATO may be a voluntary orgainization but that still doesn't make it any less a sphere of influence, for crying out loud. You seem to make distinctions like this only when it suits your argument. After all, South Ossetia VOLUNTARILY wants to rejoin with North Ossetia and Russia - but somehow that doesn't count in your book. Only Georgia's rights - to be IMPERIALISTIC in South Ossetia - seem to count with you.

Sorry, your style here way to shrill for my tastes. As I said our core values  and approaches are irreconcilably different, including what you have suddenly introduced here what apparently is for you "the fundamental question" of this debate.

The Soviet world-view is unhealthy as the Soviet Union is no more. Those like you who enable that view and propose that whole nations do the same are free to do so, though in my opinion it is like reinforcing and coddling a friend who lives in an unhealthy state of denial.

In the meantime, Eastern Europe and the break-away republics are moving on, and looking in new directions, such as to the West. As sovereign nations it is their choice. Just as Belarus looks to Russia, Georgia as a sovereign state is completely free to aspire to greater association with the West. Hopefully if it is serious in doing so, Georgia will adopt a more practical path, which will probably include, in time, recognition of the will of the majority in S.O. and Abkhazia.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on August 24, 2008, 11:15:55 AM
Elisabeth, you are not giving enough due consideration to how the Russian invasion of Georgia looks to Russia's erstwhile vassal states of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine, and so forth.  This is the reason the EU and the U.S. are reacting with such strong rhetoric.  Do you know how many ethnic Russians live in Ukraine?  How about Estonia?  What would you say if these people started agitating to again become part of Russia?  What's your position on the Crimea?

If you want to talk realpolitik, let's do it.  The EU will never allow Russia to regain it's lost empire in Europe.  And the response you are seeing to what happened in Georgia is evidence of that.  Perhaps Georgia is the exception, but for the rest of them, the borders have been settled once and for all.  You don't see Germany attempt to reclaim most of Poland, do you?  I mean, most of western Poland was once part of Germany, with Germans living there.  Not anymore. 

It is Russia, not the West, that has to rethink it's attitude here. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 24, 2008, 11:21:57 AM

You are avoiding the fundamental question, Steven. What about Kosovo? Wasn't that a radical shift in the geopolitical paradigm? And doesn't it give Russia implicit permission to intervene if it sees that a people wanting to join Russia are being unnecessarily persecuted (well, yes, actually bombed) by the nation they supposedly "legally" belong to (if you can call an arbitrary decision made by Stalin some 50 years ago legal?).

NATO may be a voluntary orgainization but that still doesn't make it any less a sphere of influence, for crying out loud. You seem to make distinctions like this only when it suits your argument. After all, South Ossetia VOLUNTARILY wants to rejoin with North Ossetia and Russia - but somehow that doesn't count in your book. Only Georgia's rights - to be IMPERIALISTIC in South Ossetia - seem to count with you.

Sorry, your style here way to shrill for my tastes. As I said our core values  and approaches are irreconcilably different, including what you have suddenly introduced here what apparently is for you "the fundamental question" of this debate.

The Soviet world-view is unhealthy as the Soviet Union is no more. Those like you who enable that view and propose that whole nations do the same are free to do so, though in my opinion it is like reinforcing and coddling a friend who lives in an unhealthy state of denial.

In the meantime, Eastern Europe and the break-away republics are moving on, and looking in new directions, such as to the West. As sovereign nations it is their choice. Just as Belarus looks to Russia, Georgia as a sovereign state is completely free to aspire to greater association with the West. Hopefully if it is serious in doing so, Georgia will adopt a more practical path, which will probably include, in time, recognition of the will of the majority in S.O. and Abkhazia.

Georgia is overrun by strong nationalist feelings at present, I seriously doubt it's going to let South Ossetia or Abkhazia go willingly. You seem to forget that Saakashvili was voted into office on a wave of Georgian nationalist feeling. He's fond of calling Putin the "Lilliputin" (Lilliputian, haha, get it, get it?). He's insulted Putin left and right, both publicly and privately, and yet somehow - he believed that Putin and his government wouldn't retaliate when he bombed South Ossetia! The brilliance of the guy!

Excuse me for saying so, Steven, but you can't seem to confront the question of Kosovo, and what it has meant for the world political paradigm. I've asked this question twice in a row now, in two different posts, and you still haven't answered. I think it's because you're honestly stumped. You can't answer, because if you answered, you'd have to admit that South Ossetia, like Kosovo, has the inherent right to go its own way - even if that means, in South Ossetia's case, rejoining Russia!

I am not por-Russia, by the way. I am pro-common sense. We can't keep throwing stones at the Russian bear and not expect it to get annoyed, even angered, in response. Continued NATO expansion into the Russian sphere of influence is a mistake, IMHO. We should not get involved in Russia's territorial disputes with former Soviet republics on its borders. To do so would be to endanger both American and NATO security. Plenty of these former soviet republics are dictatorships, anyway, at least in Central Asia. It's hard to see what we would be fighting for, defending such countries from the so-called Russian threat.






Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 24, 2008, 11:35:39 AM
Elisabeth, you are not giving enough due consideration to how the Russian invasion of Georgia looks to Russia's erstwhile vassal states of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine, and so forth.  This is the reason the EU and the U.S. are reacting with such strong rhetoric.  Do you know how many ethnic Russians live in Ukraine?  How about Estonia?  What would you say if these people started agitating to again become part of Russia?  What's your position on the Crimea?

If you want to talk realpolitik, let's do it.  The EU will never allow Russia to regain it's lost empire in Europe.  And the response you are seeing to what happened in Georgia is evidence of that.  Perhaps Georgia is the exception, but for the rest of them, the borders have been settled once and for all.  You don't see Germany attempt to reclaim most of Poland, do you?  I mean, most of western Poland was once part of Germany, with Germans living there.  Not anymore. 

It is Russia, not the West, that has to rethink it's attitude here. 

Rich, I honestly think you and the western media are being far too simplistic. As far as I can see, Russia does not have designs on Georgia itself, much less the Baltic States (please be reasonable, Russians are a distinct minority there as in the Ukraine!). Russia probably wants to absorb South Ossetia, yes - but South Ossetia is a willing partner in this. The vast majority of the population hate Georgia and want to be rejoined with North Ossetia, which has been part of  Russia since Soviet times. There is no ethnic difference between the North and South Ossetians. This was an arbitrary distinction dreamed up by Stalin, when he divided Ossetia into north and south, giving the former to the Russian republic of the USSR, and the latter to the Georgian republic of same.

I certainly do fail to understand why my fellow Western liberals, so keen to see Bosnia-Herzegovina break away from the Yugoslav Republic, as was the Bosnians' wish, - and so keen to support the Albanian Kosovars' fight for independence - why now these same liberals cannot see or comprehend or for that matter even acknowledge that South Ossetia wants to rejoin with North Ossetia, even if it means rejoining Russia. Why don't you get this simple fact, that North and South Ossetia are one and the same entity, forcibly separated from each other by Stalin's arbitrary decrees, and now still separated because of Georgian nationalism and hatred of Ossetians? It seems to me a fairly simple equation.




Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on August 24, 2008, 12:16:00 PM
Elisabeth, you are not giving enough due consideration to how the Russian invasion of Georgia looks to Russia's erstwhile vassal states of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Ukraine, and so forth.  This is the reason the EU and the U.S. are reacting with such strong rhetoric.  Do you know how many ethnic Russians live in Ukraine?  How about Estonia?  What would you say if these people started agitating to again become part of Russia?  What's your position on the Crimea?

If you want to talk realpolitik, let's do it.  The EU will never allow Russia to regain it's lost empire in Europe.  And the response you are seeing to what happened in Georgia is evidence of that.  Perhaps Georgia is the exception, but for the rest of them, the borders have been settled once and for all.  You don't see Germany attempt to reclaim most of Poland, do you?  I mean, most of western Poland was once part of Germany, with Germans living there.  Not anymore. 

It is Russia, not the West, that has to rethink it's attitude here. 

Rich, I honestly think you and the western media are being far too simplistic. As far as I can see, Russia does not have designs on Georgia itself, much less the Baltic States (please be reasonable, Russians are a distinct minority there as in the Ukraine!). Russia probably wants to absorb South Ossetia, yes - but South Ossetia is a willing partner in this. The vast majority of the population hate Georgia and want to be rejoined with North Ossetia, which has been part of  Russia since Soviet times. There is no ethnic difference between the North and South Ossetians. This was an arbitrary distinction dreamed up by Stalin, when he divided Ossetia into north and south, giving the former to the Russian republic of the USSR, and the latter to the Georgian republic of same.

I certainly do fail to understand why my fellow Western liberals, so keen to see Bosnia-Herzegovina break away from the Yugoslav Republic, as was the Bosnians' wish, - and so keen to support the Albanian Kosovars' fight for independence - why now these same liberals cannot see or comprehend or for that matter even acknowledge that South Ossetia wants to rejoin with North Ossetia, even if it means rejoining Russia. Why don't you get this simple fact, that North and South Ossetia are one and the same entity, forcibly separated from each other by Stalin's arbitrary decrees, and now still separated because of Georgian nationalism and hatred of Ossetians? It seems to me a fairly simple equation.


I said in my earlier post that "perhaps Georgia is an exception". 

Anyway, why you refuse to see how what is happening would make Russia's other neighbors nervous is beyond me. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: StevenL on August 24, 2008, 12:27:46 PM
Excuse me for saying so, Steven, but you can't seem to confront the question of Kosovo, and what it has meant for the world political paradigm. I've asked this question twice in a row now, in two different posts, and you still haven't answered. I think it's because you're honestly stumped. You can't answer, because if you answered, you'd have to admit that South Ossetia, like Kosovo, has the inherent right to go its own way - even if that means, in South Ossetia's case, rejoining Russia!

Do you ever stop to observe yourself? Yet again, you imagine and then ascribe attitudes and positions to me -- and continue to put words in my mouth --even regarding a subject I have not at all discussed on this thread. You have such an amazingly out-of-control imagination that you can even "paraphrase" and decide upon the meaning of my silence. This behavior is both irrational and unsettling, and certainly it is a deterrent to meaningful discussion.

As I have repeated said elsewhere, it is fruitless for you and I to discuss certain matters due to our conflicting fundamental values. You may read whatever you want into my silence on what I personally view as (1) a totally unrelated topic and (2) an example of another matter that is pointless to debate with you. Over and over, the motives, words and attitudes you ascribe to me are mostly from your hot-headed imagination. Please understand I'm not buying into your "Soviet mindset-sensitive world-view," nor am I buying into your insistence that Kosova is fundamental to this discussion. Personally I find it is wiser to work to narrow the focus in an area of vehement disagreement, not expand it. Else, soon we will be fruitlessly discussing Iraq, Basque separatism and East Timor.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 24, 2008, 12:34:52 PM
Jeez, Rich, of course it makes them nervous. I'm not disputing that. I agree with you, they have every right to be nervous. Russia is one scary customer. But what I am saying is, in this case if in no other Russia was well within its rights to respond as it did. If it hadn't responded as it did, it would have appeared weak and ineffectual in the region, which is the last thing it wants. This is why Saakashvili has come across as so incredibly incompetent and stupid in the last several weeks. He played right into Russian hands by bombing South Ossetia. I can't imagine Ukraine or any of the Baltic states behaving in such an idiotically provocative manner. (I am hoping they have more competent leadership, and as far as I know, they do.)

And I honestly don't think Putin - or Medvedev's - Russia has designs on taking over all the countries of the former Soviet bloc. Yes, Russia wants to expand its geopolitical influence in the region - and it does this, for example, by withholding or supplying oil to a particular country or countries, depending on how the countries in question meet Russia's current demands. But I think that's probably the extent of the Russians' bullying. They don't have the best army, they're overextended in Chechnya (a war crime, if ever I saw one), they realize they're no longer a superpower. I think for the most part they limit their bullying to economic blackmail, which in and of itself is highly effective.

Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: RichC on August 24, 2008, 12:50:38 PM
Jeez, Rich, of course it makes them nervous. I'm not disputing that. I agree with you, they have every right to be nervous. Russia is one scary customer.


Elisabeth, all I'm saying is this is the reason for the rhetoric on the American/EU side. 
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 24, 2008, 01:04:57 PM
Jeez, Rich, of course it makes them nervous. I'm not disputing that. I agree with you, they have every right to be nervous. Russia is one scary customer.


Elisabeth, all I'm saying is this is the reason for the rhetoric on the American/EU side. 

Fine, Rich, I understand the reason, you are perfectly right. But in this particular instance they need to tone down the rhetoric. Russia is hardly going to abide by any ceasefire agreement if it thinks the West is still hostile towards it. The Russians will be expecting a stab in the back. That's the way they think. I think.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: TimM on January 22, 2011, 12:07:46 AM
I remember when this was going on.  John McCain, then the Republican ticket for President said something like "In the 21st Century, countries don't invade other countries."  Of course, everyone pounced on that one.  Hello?  Iraq? (or Bush's Blunder as I have come to call it).  An invasion that McCain himself endorsed.  What a hypocrite!
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Elisabeth on August 21, 2011, 04:06:16 AM
I remember when this was going on.  John McCain, then the Republican ticket for President said something like "In the 21st Century, countries don't invade other countries."  Of course, everyone pounced on that one.  Hello?  Iraq? (or Bush's Blunder as I have come to call it).  An invasion that McCain himself endorsed.  What a hypocrite!

In retrospect, I don't think that either of the male presidential candidates in 2008 were entirely hip to foreign policy -- neither McCain nor Obama. Probably the last American president who was really good at foreign policy was George Bush Senior... I now regret supporting Obama as the Democratic party presidential nominee, largely of course because hindsight is 20/20, but also because during these last several years I have seen Hillary Clinton coming into her own as Secretary of State. She wears power well. She's a formidable presence, is she not, without being too forbidding? She projects a much stronger and at the same time diplomatically more subtle and intelligent image than Obama -- who despite his own high intelligence can be relied on to send Joe Biden on various diplomatic missions in which the vice president continues to put his foot in his mouth at regular intervals and cause major political embarrassments for the United States. I do not understand this. I sincerely hope that Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to run for president at some point in the near future.
Title: Re: The Soviet Union: What Kind of Mistake Was It?
Post by: Petr on August 22, 2011, 01:22:48 PM
I now regret supporting Obama as the Democratic party presidential nominee, largely of course because hindsight is 20/20, but also because during these last several years I have seen Hillary Clinton coming into her own as Secretary of State.

Me too.  I voted for Obama because McCain (who I like) picked that woman for his Vice Presidential Candidate. But as a life long Republican I simply cannot understand what's happened to my party and I'm not a Rino. On the contrary, when I consider Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Earl Warren, Taft, Everett Dirksen, Arthur Vandenburg, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, and even Nixon (apart from Watergate and his paranoia), I think Bachman et. al. are the Rinos (and pygmies as well).  It's as if the inmates have taken over the asylum. The fact that one believes in fiscal conservatism does not excuse calling the Chairman of the Fed a traitor or believing in secession. The fact that one believes in smaller government does not mean that we should eliminate the social safety net for those who truly merit or earned it. The fact that one believes in a strong military does not mean that  you maintain a huge military capability best suited to fight World War II.  Both political parties should talk to each other rather than talking at each other. I must also say that while I detested Hilary (particualrly in Bill's first term and her tendency to become somewhat strident) I think she has changed for the better and in comparison to the remaining members of the Obama Administration has exhibited a level of intelligence, stature and practical moderation that does her credit.  By the way, I understand that the Iowa straw poll voters thought they were voting for Batman.

Petr