Russia, 15 Years After the Revolution

Rally in Russia

A rally in Moscow last month. What do you think they were talking about? [Antonis SHEN / Flickr]

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Fifteen years ago this month, Boris Yeltsin consigned the Soviet Union to the history books in what longtime Russia watcher Stephen Cohen calls “the most consequential event of the second half of the twentieth century.”

Tonight we’re asking: What can a decade and a half of hindsight tell us about that moment? What can we see more clearly now about what led up to it and what effect it’s had? How has the US narrative about the demise of the USSR solidified — and how different is the internal Russian conversation about its recent history? Was revolution inevitable, and if not, was it the best solution to Soviet problems? Stephen Cohen, for one, isn’t convinced that it was, on either count:

A large majority of Russians…regret the end of the Soviet Union, not because they pine for “Communism” but because they lost a familiar state and secure way of life. No less important, they do not share the nearly unanimous Western view that the Soviet Union’s “collapse” was “inevitable” because of inherent fatal defects. They believe instead, and for good reason, that three “subjective” factors broke it up: the way Gorbachev carried out his political and economic reforms; a power struggle in which Yeltsin overthrew the Soviet state in order to get rid of its president, Gorbachev; and property-seizing Soviet bureaucratic elites, the nomenklatura, who were more interested in “privatizing” the state’s enormous wealth in 1991 than in defending it.

Stephen Cohen, The Soviet Union, R.I.P.?, The Nation, 25 December 2006

Stephen Cohen

Professor of Russian Studies and History, NYU

Author, The Soviet Union, R.I.P.?, The Nation, 25 December 2006

Michael McFaul

Fellow, Hoover Institution

Professor of political science, Stanford University

Co-author, Between Dictatorship and Democracy: Russian Post-Communist Political Reform

Georgi Derluguian

Professor of sociology, Northwestern University

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  • Sutter

    Not directly on point, but a great and chilling (figuratively and literally, I suppose) article from a February issue of The Economist on the meaning of snow in Moscow: https://www.uwec.edu/Geography/Ivogeler/w111/articles/russia-winter2006.htm

  • There has been some noise about what the US did to help the anti-Russian side of the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine. I wonder how much of this is actually true, and whether there has been US involvement in other former Soviet states (Belarus?) or in Russia itself.

  • Sutter

    Some questions for the guests:

    1. Was there a point at which Russia’s “rise to liberalism” failed, did we delude ourselves into thinking there ever was such a rise afoot, or is Putinism just an aberration on the road to Western-style liberal democracy?

    2. With respect to the fall of the Soviet Union, I am always struck by American conservatives’ take: On the one hand, they suggest that Soviet communism was so bankrupt that it was bound to fail and to fail massively based on its internal weaknesses. On the other hand, they (simultaneously) suggest that absent the vision and heroics of Ronald Reagan, the Evil Empire would still be standing. Which is it?

  • rc21

    It is both. Reagan brought about the down fall of Communist Russia without ever fireing a shot. You would think the Liberals would make Reagan a saint. He freed over 300 million people useing no violence and yet the libs hate to give him credit.

    On the other hand, yes Soviet communism was totally bankrupt and was failing due to it’s internal weaknesses. This does not mean the Soviet Union would go quietly into the night. On the contrary, brutal force and the gulag system would help keep the Communists in power as long as they could hold the upper hand over the populace.

    This is just another reason we should be grateful for Reagans brilliant strategy of using our economic and military power,to bring an end to tyranny and opression in Russia as well as the other eastern bloc countries.

  • Igor

    Not much interest in Russia, huh? I mean, other than snow, (multi)colored revolutions around it and American conservatives’ take on its fall…

  • Igor

    rc21:

    Are you for real? Sounds like a parody, Colbert-style…

  • Igor

    Of course Western powers tried to impose whatever they thought was in their interests, but nothing would have happen if there hadn’t been a collusion of interests between Russian and Western elites.

    E.g. communists in Duma passed a privatization bill, they actually wrote the law themselves, not some Harvard professors. Egor Gaidar, leader of Russian “reformers” (in the narrow historical sense), was telling about the demands of IMF and World Bank that they were in the best interests of Russia. Andrey Kozyrev, a reformist foreign minister said that Russia shouldn’t oppose NATO, it should be inside NATO.

    Were they naive? Of course they were, but note the “join the club” mentality, it seems that russian elites got tired of both socialism and isolationism and that’s why they embrace “reforms”.

    And the other reason is a simple property grab, elites wanted to convert administrative control into ownership, and that’s exactly what they did.

    There was even a joke in that time, like, “what is socialism? Nothing but a long and convoluted way to capitalism”, it appears that that was not just a joke, but also a program.

  • Sutter

    RC, I had actually written an anticipatory response to this line of reasoning, but deleted it as it seemed too far afield. But in short: If you are correct (and I doubt this, but for the sake of argument…), then Reagan simply accelerated the fall, and one has to ask whether the price was worth it. It was a severe price: Reagan’s choice to bankrupt to USSR by playing chicken with defense spending threw the US into a fiscal tailspin from which it has never recovered, placing us at the mercy of central bankers in Japan and China and gutting the government’s ability to help Americans. We can debate the merits of this choice, but once you’ve acknowledged that the system was doomed to fail, the wisdom of Reagan’s approach is opened to a great deal of question.

  • Charles Tarbox

    When I was living briefly in Russia I found that the common people would almost spit on the ground when Gorbichov was mentioned. Their viewpoint universally touched the horrible economic depression which engulfed them during his regime. I, as an American, thought that his name would be revered at this time (2001-2003) but quite the contrary was the case.

    Another aspect which has been totally ignored in this discussion is the conflict between the black market ‘mob’ and the USSR. My understanding, from speaking with the Russian common people, was that Gorbichov was attempting to overcome the black market with his market reforms and fight against the ‘Banditti’ (Gangsters in Russian) from gaining control over the economy.

    My only complaint about the program was that it appeared to view this mostly from an academic aspect and ignored the perceptions of the common Russians. Again, I have to reinterage that I, myself, was shocked to see the common Russian’s opinion as I held the same viewpoint as your program while I was there. Charlie Tarbox (my experiences are limited to Tver, Moscow, St.Petersburg and Ekaterinburg)

  • Nick

    An advisory for any who might listen to this hour as a podcast: Georgi Derluguian’s characterizations of politicians as ‘Creatures of Power’ might not be wholly without insight, but to apply it uniformly to any and every politician is as misleading as any generalization of any ‘kind’ or person or persons. Therefore: prepare a very large grain of salt before absorbing Derluguian’s opinions of Gorbachev (which follow the show’s second break). Cohen’s and Chris’s opinions seemed vastly more realistic.

    Thanks for this show, ROS. We self-absorded and beFOXed Americans ought to know much more about Russia and the CIS than we do.

  • jazzman

    Sutter Says: On the one hand, they suggest that Soviet communism was so bankrupt that it was bound to fail and to fail massively based on its internal weaknesses. On the other hand, they (simultaneously) suggest that absent the vision and heroics of Ronald Reagan, the Evil Empire would still be standing.

    rc21 Says: It is both. Reagan brought about the down fall of Communist Russia without ever fireing a shot. You would think the Liberals would make Reagan a saint. He freed over 300 million people useing no violence and yet the libs hate to give him credit…. This is just another reason we should be grateful for Reagans brilliant strategy of using our economic and military power,to bring an end to tyranny and opression in Russia as well as the other eastern bloc countries.

    Sutter Then Says: If you are correct (and I doubt this, but for the sake of argument…), then Reagan simply accelerated the fall, and one has to ask whether the price was worth it. It was a severe price: Reagan’s choice to bankrupt to USSR by playing chicken with defense spending threw the US into a fiscal tailspin from which it has never recovered, placing us at the mercy of central bankers in Japan and China and gutting the government’s ability to help Americans. We can debate the merits of this choice, but once you’ve acknowledged that the system was doomed to fail, the wisdom of Reagan’s approach is opened to a great deal of question.

    Sutter is correct: I posted some of this in a different form in the cold war thread.

    The legacy of Ronald Reagan (besides fostering a resurgence of jingoistic nationalism in the wake of the Nixon scandals then hapless Carter economics and tripling the national debt – only rescued by the freeing up the stashed assets of the greedy (and not so greedy) attempting to cash in on the tech boom of the feel good Clinton – dot com era) was to largely destabilize the world by hastening the transition of USSR from Communism into chaos.

    This created a power a vacuum in which the USA was the only “Super Power” and removed what was for many the focus (black hole) for their personification of “evil.” Now people needed another scapegoat on which to channel their fears and mistrust and now they can pick and choose (the bete noire – the Russian bear of Communism has largely been replaced by Islamism.) The USSR thru intimidation and oppression (I don’t justify this) had kept a lid on the simmering pot of the Balkans, Middle East and most of Asia. When this was no longer the case, ethnic populations wanted their identities back, the suppressed religions wanted their gods back and old grudges avenged. They didn’t want to take the time (we’ve been held down too long) to use peaceful means to rebuild their societies and resolve differences, so again a short circuit “ends justifies the means” mentality prevailed and we have an unbalanced situation arguably far more threatening to the world than the USSR.

    Gorbachev realized that if the transition was not managed, the potential for tragedy was palpable and to his credit he tried to control the transition but failed and the Russians are paying the price.

    Ronald Reagan was charismatic and had a general idea of what he thought was right, but he was no strategist – the Star Wars fiasco while possibly a “Red Herring” (pun intended) that engendered a fearful response in the Soviet Union which bankrupted their economy (I don’t believe there’s any evidence to support this as if a little R&D spending caused the entire collapse) was conceived out of fear & paranoia and at that time RR (an affable dim bulb at best) was in the stages of earlier Alzheimer’s and being managed by Nancy, astrologers and others.

    It was a coincidence that the people’s revolution occurred contemporaneously and no one can categorically state whether it was because of RR or in spite of him. The hubris that resulted from the “triumphant” USA (god fearing Democracy trumping the godless commies) has provided the fertile ground for the Neocon’s misadventures.

  • Igor

    Nick:

    What’s politics without power? Politics is _all_ about power, and you are just trying to pull the wool over our eyes. Therefore: prepare a very large grain of salt before absorbing any of Nick’s ideas.

    I lived in Russia in these years and I saw what Gorbachev did and what he didn’t, how he presided over the first post-soviet parliament (one of my friends was a member and I worked for his campaign), how he sent tanks into Vilnius to crush a demonstration there, etc., etc., etc. These guys that made the coup in August 1991 that buried him, they were all appointed by him, despite many a warning. West might consider him a democrat, he was good to West after all, but no able-minded Russian ever would. Buy 90-s the guy was a joke, nothing else.

  • rc21

    To Sutter: I may have believed the Soviet Union was doomed to fail,but I’m no expert.

    Many of the experts such as Soviientologist Seweryn Bialer of Columbia,Historian Arthur Schlesinger JR, Economist John Kenneth Galbraith, Nobel Lauriete in economics,Paul Samuelson of MIT, and many other economic and political thinkers of the time all believed the Soviet Union was thriving and doing splendingly well.

    The Genious award goes to Lester Thurow. MIT economist and well known author.

    In late 1989 he said this ” Can economic command significantly…accelerate the growth process? The remarkable performance of the Soviet Union suggests that it can. Today the Soviet Union is a country whose economic achievements bear comparisson with those of the USA.

    This is the type of mind set Reagan was up against in his desire to bring down a tyranical,oppressive murderous dictatorship. He had little support in the begining. But he kept at it and eventually with help he succeded, without firing so much as a single shot.

    Was it worth it you ask? I dont know. Was the killing of over a million Americans from 1861-1865 worth it to end slavery. Was the killing of tens of millions to end Naziism and japaneese imperialism worth it?

    I would say any time over 3oo million people can be freed without the loss of a single life due to combat that yes it was worth it.

    Of course we all know that if Reagan had been a Democrat (as he at one time was) than we would not be having this debate. Reagan would be on the same mantle as Ghandi, MLK,Mandella FDR etc champions of freedom and equality.

    It is a shame people dont want to acknowledge Reagans role in ending oppression and slavery due simply to the fact he was a conservative republican.

  • Igor

    rc21:

    Didn’t reaganites claim that Soviets were ahead in arms race? So there wasn’t so much difference after all… In fact almost nobody in the West predicted the collapse, Reagan’s image of “evil empire” wasn’t that of a colossus on clay feet, was it?

    And just for the fun of it, what exactly Reagan did to achieve his purported wonderful goal “without a single shot”? Also, whose shots are you counting? Breaking up USSR got messy in some parts and lots of lives have been lost, not american ones, so they are not counted, of course.

    And don’t be too happy about “freed” Russia yet, it still has about 10,000 nuclear warheads with appropriate means of delivery, aiming plans, etc., thanks to your champion Reagan, BTW, Gorbachev in Rijkjavik offered full nuclear disarmament by 2000, but reaganites refused.

    FYI, civil war was about the union, not so much about slavery, there are famous Lincoln’s words to that effect, look them up. Interesting, isn’t it, how you praise saving the unity of one state (yours) while at the same time celebrating the demolition of another. Just FYI, there was a referendum in USSR in 1990 or 1991, and overwhelming majority voted for keeping USSR intact, so much about freeing 300 millions…

    About killing tens of millions to free the world from Nazism and japanese imperialism (interesting qualification, BTW, does it mean to suggests that american imperialism is good?), you seem to be unaware that it’s Germans that did most of the killing, and your argument doesn’t make any sense. You also seem to be implying that it’s western powers that crushed Germany and Japan, conveniently forgetting about USSR’s major role in both these events. Look up the number of troops involved, casualties and such.

  • rc21

    Igor much of what you say makes little sense to me.

    The civil war was about slavery,under the quise of states rights. Slavery and by extension saving the union was the main focus of the war. If the southern states had been allowed to keep slavery. Their would have been no call for succession. The saving of the union here was about freeing millions. The tearing down of the Soviet Union was also about freeing millions. That is why I praise saving one and bringing down the other. If you cant see the difference than that is your problem not mine. Russians at the time were overwhelmingly glad to see freedom. The reason for discontent now is the fault of the Russian population. They elected their leaders not Regan or Clinton. Russia needs to clean up its corruption. It’s a big boy now let them fix their problems. Maybe if they elect some honest truly democratic leaders they will prosper. But please dont blame Russian voter stupidity on the USA.

    You also forget Russia enslaved Many eastern bloc countries. The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, East Germany etc. Not to mention all the break-away countries of the former USSR Do you believe the people of these countries enjoyed their enslavement by the Soviet Union. Give me a break!

    You claim many people died in breaking up the Soviet Union. Please how many? thousands, millions. The truth is the Soviet Union broke up without any type of war being fought. If you deny this you are just being dishonest.

    You are right many from the west did not see the Soviet Union falling apart including many Reaganites, but the fact remains Reagan kept at his goal of bringing down a tyranical, brutal dictatorship which killed over 20 million of it’s own people and enslaved millions more. He succeded and should be recognized for this incredible feat. And yes all without firing a single shot. No need for a question mark as you inserted in your post.

    Sorry Igor But the US as well as it’s allies(Russia included) killed millions to free the world from Nazi Germany, and Japanese imperialism.

    The fact that you are unable to distinguish the differences between US imperialism and WW2 Japanese imperialism shows a blatant disregard for truth. Trying to compare the two is nonsensical Your anti Americanism really shines through on this one. It is true that Russia bore an incredible burden in ww2 and lost millions. It is also true that without US and British aid Russia would not have lasted. As an aside my father made many convoy runs to Murmansk during the war. Many ships were lost and many men drowned helping the Russians.

    Also Russia played only a small role in defeating Japan. It was Mainly the US backed by England ,Australia and New Zealand. That did the bulk of the fighting in the pacific. Have a nice day.

  • I taught a Russian college student who graduated in 2000. Her family – mainly scholars- recognized that the Soviet Union was collapsing in the mid-seventies and made many preparations to survive it, including sending their children abroad for education, starting at very young ages, and developing their own international ties. When I met and got to know Anna’s father he spoke at length about how obvious the collapse was from the early seventies on. He found it wildly amusing that America overspent itself on such an imagined strength.

  • Igor

    rc21:

    > Igor much of what you say makes little sense to me.

    I’m not surprised. How about this:

    “I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races; that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people…

    And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together

    there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.

    -Abraham Lincoln, 1858”

    Does it makes sense?

  • Igor

    rc21:

    How many people perished in Iraq because of USA invasion? You don’t care, do you? What do you care about casualties in post-soviet states?

    And there were wars, one between Armenia and Azerbaijan, another in Abkhazia, still another in South Ossetia, one more in Transdnestria and finally two wars in Chechnya. There were also two civil wars, in Georgia and Tajikistan. I don’t have numbers, but I would estimate the number of dead as at least tens of thousands, and the number of refugees as hundreds of thousands, closer to one million.

    Also you were all wrong about it being “without a single shot” even from your side, it’s Reagan administration that supported mujahiddins in Afghanistan, nurturing the likes of Osama bin Laden, it then backfired in New York, Pentagon and Pennsylvania, as you may well know, and now you got this ridiculous war on terror, and USA losses in it now stand at about 6,000 and counting…

    Now about Japan. Have you ever heard of Kwantung Army? I guess not. Now read this (taken from wikipedia):

    “Soviet offensive in the Far East

    On August 8, two days after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Soviet Union, having renounced its nonaggression pact with Japan, attacked the Japanese in Manchuria, fulfilling its Yalta pledge to attack the Japanese within three months after the end of the war in Europe. The attack was made by three Soviet army groups. In less than two weeks, the Japanese army in Manchuria, consisting of over a million men, had been destroyed by the Soviets. The Red Army moved into North Korea on August 18. Korea was subsequently divided at the 38th parallel into Soviet and U.S. zones.”

    Three army groups, more than 1.5 million Russians troops against 1 million Japanese. And how many troops took part in the Battle of Iwo Jima? 110,000 Marines against 22,000 Japanese infantry. Go figure…

    > …blatant disregard for truth…

    Yeah, go ask Vietnamese (Philippinos, Haitians, etc., now Iraqis) what they think about American imperialism and their notions of truth…

  • Igor

    I’ve found the quite I alluded to:

    “… My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union… ”

    It’s from August 22, 1862 letter to Horace Greeley.

  • rc21

    Igor, You cherry pick a few statements by Lincoln in hopes that it will erase all known factual history. Sorry it does not work that way.

    Lincoln was a politician. Slavery was very controversial at the time. He needed to tread lightly. Lincoln wanted to preserve the union, and was open to many ideas. Ultimately freeing the slaves was his choice. See Emancipation Proclamation. Then the 13th Amndt. Slavery was the main issue. Maybe not for the common man, but definitely for the politician both Northern and Southern. The Souths political structure needed slavery to keep it’s economy strong. This in turn gave the South power. Almost no Southern whites owned slaves but most of the Southern politicians did. Thus any threat to slavery was a threat to these rich Southern politicians. They couched their argument to the common sothern white man under the guise of states rights, and the right of any state to secced. This argument was succesfully used to stir the feelings of the white population in the south. Conversely in the North you had abolitionists (mainly religous leaders) also newspapr editors and some politicians such as Mass senator William Garrison who were advocating an end to slavery. Many more northern politicians were ambivalent towards slavery.

    The North was however leery of the South gaining more political power through the entry of new border states that would have legalized slavery. This coupled with a growing moral outcry over slavery were the main reasons the North went to war with the south.

    So was the Civil war about slavery? Absolutely. If there had been no disagreement about slavery and no threat to abolish slavery coming from the North,the South would never have thought of secceding.

    But was it just about slavery? No it was also about the constitutional argument over weather a state had a right to leave the Union.

    You need to brush up on your Civil War reading. The Civil War was a complex issue.Slavery as well as political and economic power were at the crux. Bottom line. Due to the fact the North won the Civil War, slavery was abolished. You can spin all you like , the truth still stands.

    Your statements on Russia and Japan are ammusing. But I was sure the Japs surrendered to the US on the Battleship Missouri. I guess I’m wrong on that one also. I read my history. I know Russia entered the war after Germany surrendered. This was a little like you or I entering the ring for the 3rd round of the Hagler- Hearns fight. To continue in the place of Hagler. Hearns had already been KO’d

    We freed the philipinos from the brutal regime of Japan during WW2 or did you miss that one also. We were asked to go into S.Vietnam to stop N. Vietnnam from implimenting a dictatorship. Do we currently occupy Haiti? Iraq was a war to free the people froma brutal dictator who practiced genocide, rape and murder. It may have gone wrong and may have been a mistake, but most of the blame lies with the violent sectarian groups, and terrorist groups who are killing civillians. But of course it is much cooler and easier to just blame America.

    By the way you never answered my question about how the millions of eastern bloc people felt about being enslaved by Russia. I also wonder how the families of the 20 million killed by the communists felt.

    The Mujahiddin were supported first by Carter not Reagan. Muslim extremist terrorism existed long before Osama. And he is only one of many terrorist organizations. You are going to have to do the reseacrh on this.

    The many small wars you speak of our not Americas fault. Russia crumbled and breakaway states saw a chance for freedom. Who can fault them. If they really believed staying part of mother Russia was to their benefit they would have.

    My quess is that they felt having their own indepenence was a better alternative. You can’t blame them can you.

  • Igor

    > …you cherry pick…

    I don’t, I go to wikipedia, etc. and read what’s there. Obviously, in american schools it’s different, which is no surprise.

    > “Almost no Southern whites owned slaves but most of the Southern politicians did”

    Excuse me? You mean that Southern blacks owned slaves? That’s new…

    > But I was sure the Japs surrendered to the US on the Battleship Missouri. I guess I’m wrong on that one also.

    You are, they surrendered not to US, but to the Allied forces, here is from wikipedia:

    “The Instrument of Surrender of Japan was the armistice ending World War II. It was signed by representatives from the Empire of Japan, the United States of America, _THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA_, the United Kingdom, _THE UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLICS_, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of Canada, the Provisional Government of the French Republic, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Dominion of New Zealand”

    And here is about the importance of Russian involvement:

    “Operation August Storm, along with the two atomic bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, combined to break the Japanese political deadlock and force Japan’s surrender; they made it clear that Japan had no hope of holding out, even in the Home Islands.

    Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s research has led him to conclude that the atomic bombings themselves were not the principal reason for capitulation. Instead, he contends, it was the swift and devastating Soviet victories on the mainland in the week following Stalin’s August 8 declaration of war that forced the Japanese message of surrender on August 15, 1945[3].”

    Tsuyoshi Hasegawa is a leading _american_ specialist in modern Russian and Japanese history, now with University of California.

    > We freed the philipinos from the brutal regime of Japan during WW2.

    I was talking about earlier Philippine-American War 1899-1913. Read this:

    “In 1908, Manuel Arellano Remondo, in a book entitled General Geography of the Philippine Islands, wrote: “The population decreased due to the wars, in the five-year period from 1895 to 1900, since, at the start of the first insurrection, the population was estimated at 9,000,000, and at present (1908), the inhabitants of the Archipelago do not exceed 8,000,000 in number.”

    So you _did_ killed millions innocent philippinos you were supposed to be freeing. Nice job… You can read what Mark Twain wrote about it, if you care to search.

    > “We were asked to go into S.Vietnam to stop N. Vietnnam from implimenting a dictatorship”

    So, you were _asked_ to bomb both S.Vietnam and N.Vietnam, and also Laos and Cambodia? Who did the asking?

    > “By the way you never answered my question about how the millions of eastern bloc people felt about being enslaved by Russia”

    I’m simply in no position to answer this question, having been a part of “occupying” force, am I? Ask alleged slaves…

    > “Muslim extremist terrorism existed long before Osama. He is only one of many terrorist organizations.”

    But you _did_ support him, didn’t you? So you have to bear the consequences, and you do.

    > ..”many small wars you speak of our not Americas fault…”

    I never said it is, you did, by putting the responsibility for USSR collapse on Reagan.

    > “If they really believed staying part of mother Russia was to their benefit they would have”

    Who are “they” in this sentence, states, peoples, elites? You have to be more specific making these kinds of statements.

    > “My quess is that they felt having their own indepenence was a better alternative.”

    Now you are guessing, it seems I’m making progress, you sounded much more assertive when you started.

    > “You can’t blame them can you”

    Blame for what? For separation? This was their (peoples) constitutional right. But I do blame political elites for wars and other nasty things that happen in the process.

    Do you know _how_ did USSR break up? Read this:

    “Belavezha Accords

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Belavezha Accords (Russian: Беловежские соглашения) is the agreement signed at the state dacha near Viskuli in Belovezhskaya Pushcha on December 8, 1991, by the leaders of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, Stanislav Shushkevich, Boris Yeltsin, and Leonid Kravchuk, which declared the Soviet Union effectively dissolved and established the Commonwealth of Independent States in its place.

    While doubts remained over the republican leader’s authority to dissolve the Union, according to 1977 Soviet Constitution, Union’s republics had the right to secede freely. On December 12, 1991 the Supreme Soviet of the Russian SFSR ratified the accords and at the same time denounced the 1922 Treaty on the Creation of the Soviet Union. On December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the President of the Soviet Union and turned the powers of his office over to Boris Yeltsin, de facto accepting the dissolution of the Soviet Union.”

    According to formal procedure each secession has to be preceeded by referendum, well, there was a referendum in March 1991. Read this:

    “Gorbachev thus continued to draw up a new treaty of union which would have created a truly voluntary federation in an increasingly democratised Soviet Union. The new treaty was strongly supported by the Central Asian republics, who needed the economic power and markets of the Soviet Union to prosper. However, the more radical reformists, such as Russian SFSR President Boris Yeltsin, were increasingly convinced that a rapid transition to a market economy was required and were more than happy to contemplate the disintegration of the Soviet Union if that was required to achieve their aims. Nevertheless, a referendum on the future of the Soviet Union was held in March (with a referendum in Russia on the creation of a presidency), which returned an average of 76.4% in the 9 republics where it was taken, with a turn-out of 80% of the adult population.[7] Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova did not participate. Following this, an April meeting at Novo-Ogarevo between Gorbachev and the heads of the 9 republics issued a statement on speeding up the creation of a new Union treaty. Meanwhile, Boris Yeltsin was elected President of the Russian Federation by 57.3% of the vote (with a turnout of 74%).”

    So, in 9 republics where the referendum was held, 76.4% voted for the Union. In USA this is called a landslide, isn’t it? Of course Yeltsin, Kravchuk and Shushkevich didn’t care, each trying desperately to become the head of state, not just a republic in a Union. And they did, unfortunately.

  • Igor

    I’m sorry, I was kinda jumpy about this “enslaved Eastern countries” question. And there a reason to that…

    Here is personal story. I studied in a very prestigious high school in Moscow, that gathered gifted kids from central USSR, there were four such schools in the whole country. We had a history lesson and our history teacher happened to be a communist party highest official in our school, every organisation had a party commitee and whe was the secretary, which was the top position. On this particular lesson we discussed Prague ’68 events and she for some unknown reason decided to make it look like discussion, and then proceeded to tell all kinds of nonsense, like that only reach people in the West can afford a car, etc. About the Prague events she was telling all these lies about CIA infiltrators, etc. Well, I guess there was some kind of western involvement, but I’m sure not a decisive one, so when she challenged me to share an opinion I said something along these lines, like cars are surely affordable, many families have two or more, and that there might be other reasons for Czech’s discontents. Well, that was enough, I had all kinds of problems afterwards, luckily they were not as serious as to affect me life dramatically, I wasn’t kicked out of school, not even from komsomol (but got close). And if I had been, my life would have been ruined, no university would have admitted me. It was 1977, the peak of Brezhnev’s era.

    Now, did you, rc21, chellenge your history teacher like that in your school? Note that there is a difference between a “free society” and “totalitarian state”. Will you advise you son or daughter to challenge his teacher like this about war in Iraq (let’s suppose that a teacher in question is a fervent supporter of President Bush, or President Clinton, if you are of republican persuasion). Did you? Will you?

  • rc21

    Igor , Yes I have challenged my teachers many times. Unfortunately in America it is easier to get along if you hold anti American views. as most colleges and universities are populated with educators from the left. This may sound strange to you coming from Russia but in the states being part of the blame America first crowd puts you in the majority on most campuses.

    As to your points about the breakup of Russia. I read your post. interesting, but really what it shows me is that freedom brings choice. Sometimes the choices that are made work out for the good sometimes they dont. If Russia is filled with corrupt leaders than chances are many bad things can happen.

    This is not Reagans fault, it really is the fault of the Russian people. The citizens of Russia have always seemed to have poor leaders. Kings,czars communist dictators, maybe some day they will get it right.

    I would not depend on wikepedia for your main resource. There are many better resources depending on the topic.

    Once again Russia and Japan. Do you realize Japan was on it’s very last legs when Russia entered the war its troops and resources were all but nonexistent. The A bomb ended the war despite what a few contrarians would have us believe.

    America is not a perfect country. and has made many mistakes through time but of all the super powers it has done more to help and promote freedom than anyone else. I dont think many people would deny this. There is a large contingent of hate America groups in the world today. They leap on any real or perceived bad act by the USA as justification for their twisted and vile beliefs. While constantly ignoring any positive contribution we make.

    I think your chilling story about your conversation with the teacher over the Czech uprising sais it all. How people could be happy to live in a system like that is beyond reason. Maybe thats why you can’t admit The USSR enslaved millions from the Eastern bloc nations.(the word alleged)

    Remember Russia and the break-away countries have only been free for a short time, I’m sure there are many great people there who may someday come to the forefront and help improve conditions for the millions who seem to desperately crave a better life.

    We probably are not going to change each others minds. So how about this. I’ll take the American way of life, warts and all ,and you can have the old Soviet style communist way of life, and we will leave it at that. Good luck.

  • Igor

    rc21:

    I see. Although I would still like to hear just one story how you challenged authority here in USA. With your love for truth I’m sure there are many. Please share, don’t be shy…

    And there is nothing chilly about my story, stuff like this happens all the time and even in America, like a story about Norman Finkelstein, for example.

    And would you please point out what in my quotes from wikipedia was _factually_ incorrect? And you were several times, I’m sorry to say.

    Sadly, I don’t understand many of your points, like “Russia and the break-away countries have only been free for a short time” and others, but don’t bother…

    And why do you think I like Soviet-style communist way of life? Did I say it? It seems like my story said just the opposite… But surely you didn’t mean it as a low blow, or did you? Of course, if it makes it easier for you to disregard what I (and many others) say, there is nothing I can do, but surely, not all contributors to wikipedia, etc. are crazy Soviet-style communists. Or maybe everybody who disagrees with you is Soviet-style communist by definition? Again, it seems like nothing I can do to remedy it. I tried, but obviously failed 🙁

    Bye.