Monday, August 08, 2011

What did you read at the revolution?

So, where do you think this quote comes from?
"Enough!" ... "Enough lies, enough servility, enough cowardice. Let's remember, finally, that we are all citizens. Proud citizens of a proud nation!"
From some dude in a funky 18th century outfit at a Tea Party march? Not quite.

It is quoted in a broader context from an absolute must read in an article in FP by Leon Aron titled, Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union Is Wrong.

Looking back at the fall of the Soviet Union - it was something that just came out of nowhere and took everyone - not at least the people of the Warsaw Pact - by surprise. Some people would talk about the end of the Soviet Union - but that time in that way? No.

The above quote comes from a novella and movie by Boris Vasiliev about the WWII period in Russia, Tomorrow Was the War - the Russians are different, but as people have historically wanted freedom as much as anyone else.

Russia is a strange place for a Westerner to ponder - even a Russian for that matter. A nation that took a German political concept and turned it in to one of history's most oppressive death machines is still looking for liberty, in a fashion.

Here is another quote for you;
In the past Russia needed liberty to live [better]; it must now have it in order to survive.… The challenge of our times is an overhaul of the system of values, the forging of new consciousness. We cannot build a new country with the old thinking.… The best investment [the state can make in man] is Liberty and the Rule of Law. And respect for man's Dignity.
That is from this FEB's by the Institute of Contemporary Development, a liberal think tank chaired by President Dmitry Medvedev.

They have an election in 2012 too.


ewok40k said...

Well, after all the choice Russia faces is either modernize before running out of gas (literally!) or fade into decay and junior partnership with China. And you cant make modern day sophisticated economy without at least measure of personal liberty - as the Chinese are discovering at the same time. You can whip labor force into building tanks or warships, but not much into creativity needed in the information age, Open western societies thrive on exchange of ideas, open discussion and public knowledge of facts. Traditional Russian model was trying to stifle the information and restrict it to the power circles, which is fatal flaw in modern times.

DeltaBravo said...

Russia's definition of liberty might be a wee bit different from ours.

I predict Vlad Putin will win again in 2012.  You mean he's not running?  He'll still find a way to win again.

SouthernAP said...

I read the FP pieces over the last weekend, the most interesting thing was how Mr. Aaron's piece seem to talk about how it wasn't the lack of liberty, nor the lack of personal freedom that started the free-fall; rather it was the preception of absoulte corruption by the younger generation as they viewed the older comisars "skimming" from the top. If not that then the belief that the "Peter Principle" was heavily at work with inside the USSR, if you take in to account the number of submarine accidents in the mid-80s, Chernobyl, and the food/fuel shortages in the early 80's as well. The younger Russians could see that the system was rotten to the core and wanted to see changes. The leadership under Gorbachev could have eased the change and preserved the USSR, instead they executed a series fo flail-ex's which only seem to speed up the collapse.

ewok40k said...

Corruption was rampant, I recall at one moment Gorbachev was forced to use KGB spy sats to estimate central asia cotton production because loyal "feudals" were blatantly lying...

DeltaBravo said...

I take issue that everyone was taken by surprise by the collapse of the USSR system.

There were many people who worked for decades to bring that about.  The economic model was unsustainable and the contradictions with human nature inherent in the system doomed it to the "ash heap of history."  It just needed to be kicked in that direction.  And it was. 

Surfcaster said...

5 bucks says Medvedec has an "acident" before the elections.<span></span>

TheMightyQ said...

The thing is, Russia has known nothing but totalitarian/oppressive regimes for its entire history, dating back to the Mongol Invasions.  The Russian people are not comfortable without a "strong leader," as could be seen in the 1990's under Yeltsin.  They lack the understanding to grasp the concept of true representative government, under the rule of law, because they have never been exposed to it. It is not often discussed that, even under the Brits, who originated the concept of the rule of law, it took hundreds of years, starting with the Magna Carta, to establish that principle.  It is not something that can be successfully foisted upon a people who are not ready for it, as the Russians clearly are not.  As a result, what will realistically happen is that Putin will stay in power, regardless of the title he carries, and the cream of the Russian people will continue to leave because of the corruption of the government and the lack of individual liberties .  I say that we should encourage this diaspora and reap the benefits of all that talent.

Mike M. said...

Not quite...and that's the tragedy.  Before the Mongol Yoke (as the Russians call it), Russia was a constutitional monarchy.  Assemblied, the ability to fire princes - in 900 AD, they had a political system comprable to England circa 1600.

The fall of Kievan Rus is one of the great tragedies of history.  They were SO close to a modern concept of government that one weeps to think of it.

ewok40k said...

Kievan Rus was strongly influenced by Viking "thing" tradition, as Swedish Varegs were probably founders of the ruling dynasty.
There was big percentage of literacy, even in Xth century, but when strong-armed Muscovite dukes levelled the Novgorod trade republic-city state in 1400s, the strong-armed monarchy was set as standard.
That said, by the late XIX century Tsarist Russia was beginning to greatly modernize, with serfs liberated in 1862, and representative assembly introduced after 1905 revolution failed. It was the fatal mistake of entering WW1 that pulled a promising developing country into abyss of Bolshevism, as by 1917 people had enough war to the extent they felt like following anyone who promised peace. And all it took to either Germany or Russia to leave Balkans to its fate after Sarajevo... Without Germany support, Austria-Hungary would back down on Russia, and without Russia's support Serbia would just fold. And of course with such turn of events neither France nor Britain would be pulled into conflagration.

Anon said...

Correction: Russia us our natual ALLY....  But they could be one hell of an allied army on the northern front against China.  

And the Indians.  What an Army!  Opening a front front from Andra Pradesh.... Liberating Tibet....

SouthernAP said...


I don't think anyone was taken by suprised by the group you were talking about. Rather most folks were taken by suprise in the speed it happened. Like it was almost overnight that there was a USSR and then there was nothing by a bunch of different states who were ruled by the Russians and the Russians.

ewok40k said...

@ Anon, I think Russia can end up in conflict with China over resources of the Siberia, not unlike 1905 when Japan tested its newly acquired modern military against not first tier power, like UK, US, Germany or France, but aimed at ailing Tsarist Russia.
Lets look at Chinese expansion options - westwards and southwards boxed in by deserts and mountains, eastwards Japan is solidly allied with US, that leaves northwards towards mineral riches of Siberia, guarded by ever fewer Russian troops with aging arsenal of cold war weaponry.
I beg to differ on the value of India as potential ally - namely any notion of transhimalayan warfare on large scale is plain madness, but India sits exactly on the oil supply route from the gulf to China... needless to say this makes for a perfect naval strategic position.