Staunton, August 22 – The 25th anniversary of the failed August 1991 coup has sparked much discussion about whether that event ended the Soviet Union or whether it ended before that date or after it, with many preferring to think that it ended either then or in December 1991 rather than anytime earlier.
Many of those who say that, especially in the West, do so because they had invested so much in the existence of the USSR that they were not prepared to see it swept into the dustbin of history or because -- and these are especially numerous in the Putin camp -- they want to believe to this day that it was brought down suddenly, by accident or by conspiracy.
But in fact, as many recognized at the time, the Soviet Union had entered its death throws much earlier and that it was only a question of time, however much its defenders at home or its facilitators abroad hoped otherwise, before it was going to pass from the scene. Many who pointed that out were marginalized then – and remain marginalized now.
That makes a post by Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov especially valuable because he says quite correctly in the view of this author that while “officially” the USSR ceased to exist only on December 26, 1991, “in fact it had fallen apart much earlier” and that by at least the 1980s, it continued only because it was on life support (varlamov.ru/1905804.html).
More than a decade before the August coup attempt, many understood, he writes, that “communism wasn’t going to be built and that in the form it then had, the country would not be able to last for long.” The failed war in Afghanistan, the fall in oil prices, and challenges from some republics had left it “in a coma.”
“The doctors had already established brain death, but the inconsolable relatives insisted that the body be kept artificially alive. In such a vegetative state, it could have been supported for years. Many think that [the Soviet system] died in 1991; Now, in 1991, it simply happened that the apparatus of artificial life support was turned off.” In December, the corpse was buried.
Now, 25 years later, Varlamov says, “to [his] surprise, many nostalgic citizens are trying to exhume the body of [the Soviet system] and return it to life” out of the entirely mistaken believe that it was “a kind and just state” in which “the bread was more tasty, the water purer, the trees taller, and what is most important everyone feared us.”
Some Russian politicians play on this because it is relatively easy to get voters to cast their ballots “for a dream” however false. Moreover, those of a certain age are entirely sincere in their nostalgia because “30 to 40 years ago, they wer young and happy, they lived a life without concern, and everything was good for them. Everything was simple and clear.”
Today, such people are “old and sick” and their best times seem to them to have been in the past. That may be a natural response, but it is not based on an honest assessment of the situation. Rather it reflects the fact that people with the passing of time remember the good but forget the bad.
For him, Varlamov says, “Soviet power was the occupation of Russia, by one of the most bloody and inhuman regimes of the 20th century. Exploiting the weakness of the tsar, these occupiers seized power and for 69 years raped the country. They destroyed the peasantry, they destroyed the most entrepreneurial, and they destroyed the military, the clergy, and politicians.”
And when they finished destroying “alien” elements, these occupiers then “began to devour their own.” Tragically, as a result of all this, the Soviet system “metasticized” in present-day society and firmly holds us in its sharp claws.”
Many blame the current approach of the residents of Russia on some kind of “’Russian mentality,’” Varlamov says; but in fact, what is on view is “not a Russian mentality. It is a Soviet mentality, of 69 years in which the occupiers transformed people into slaves without a will of their own.”
“The main idea of the Soviet man was to serve his master,” the blogger continues. From childhood, those living under the Soviet occupiers were compelled to avoid thinking for themselves or distinguishing themselves from “the collective” and to assume that the bosses would decide everything and that their views were irrelevant.
Those values continue to inform Sovietized Russians who instead of taking responsibility for themselves and working for their own interests continue to assume that the leader will take care of everything. And they have infected the younger generation which fails to see the connection between education and personal responsibility and its own future.
Why should they study or work? Varlamov says they ask themselves. They “want to gete money but they don’t want to work. All this is an irresponsible infantile society, a canceorus continuity from Soviet times. Thus, while the Soviet Union ceased to exist long before 1991, the Soviet mentality continues to this day.