20 Years Later: A Post Mortem of the fall of the Soviet Union

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Ugg, Jun 25, 2011.

  1. Ugg macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #1
  2. CaoCao macrumors 6502a

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    #2
  3. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #3
    :)
     

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  4. CaoCao macrumors 6502a

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  5. NT1440 macrumors G4

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    #5
    But I was taught on the TV box that Reagan spoke some really tough words and the USSR got all scared! Then he rode his flying pegasus and with one mighty blow broke through the Iron Curtain and tore down that wall!

    That or the senile puppet got to take credit (if he could remember what day it was by the end) for something that happened internally over many years thousands of miles away.....

    History is fun when the facts don't matter isn't it? :)

    If you don't like the facts, you can just wait until the population has forgotten (takes about 5 minutes here for some reason, must be something in the water) and rewrite whatever the hell you want in the textbooks to bring back the very policies that lead to disaster time and again, while some very special people get to reap the money and power that ensues. That is, of course, if you don't give a damn about history, truth, people, etc.
     
  6. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #6
    Really?

    How many commas were used in the article?
     
  7. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #7
    Agree, Reagan was more or less irrelevant to the demise of the SU. Good article, and thanks for posting it; to my way of looking at it, much of the US commentary on the demise of the SU is far too US centric, and overlooks internal dynamics, and internal motivations, cultural, moral as well as economic and military.

    Anyway, it's nice - and more than a bit overdue - to see an acknowledgement of Gorbachev's moral & political journey, and good, too, to see people such as Yakovlev, Burlatsky (and indeed Shevardnadze) all name-checked in the article. They showed moral and political courage at a difficult time.

    My only quibble is with the idea that the SU and Stalin were to blame for everything flawed within the Soviet Imperium. While there was an awful lot at fault there, the totalitarian state system devised by Lenin and refined by Stalin had deep organic roots in the authoritarian system of the Tsarist Russia. One could not have developed without the other.

    Indeed, there is an argument for saying that modern Russia is a sort of grotesque hybrid fusion of traditional autocratic state tendencies married to a sort of kleptocratic state capitalism on steroids. The real tragedy here is the incapacity of Russia to develop a modern civic society with proper political checks and balances and some degree of elite accountability.

    Cheers
     
  8. NT1440 macrumors G4

    NT1440

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    #8
    Seems to be tough to do just about anywhere, in anything other than mere rhetoric anyway....
     
  9. codymac macrumors 6502

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    #9
    I haven't read anything so pedantic in a very long time.
     
  10. CaoCao macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    Let me rephrase "I have previously learned the concepts they talked about in the article, I did not learn anything"
     
  11. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #11
    At least in the west, there are opportunities to remove political elites from office through the ballot box and "free and fair" elections. Unfortunately, in Russia, they have not had a genuinely free - or fair - election in almost a decade; their elections serve to confirm the rulers in office. I'd argue that Russia will be on the road to democracy when a Government is actually removed as a result of a free and fair ballot and regime change occurs as a consequence. Of course, there is much more to Russia's problems than that.

    I don't have a problem with the content or tone of the article. It was balanced and reasonable. Better still, it was actually well informed.

    Good for you, but nuanced knowledge about Russian political culture, history and politics is not so common in large parts of the west. I might add that the same point could well apply to me, as I used to teach Russian politics and history at university, but that is an irrelevance; the main point here is that an interesting and balanced article has been posted for the benefit of those who may not already be in possession of these facts, or this background.

    Cheers
     
  12. CaoCao macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    Ignorance of actual history is fairly common in the West, and everywhere else...
     
  13. Scepticalscribe, Jun 25, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #13
    Yes, indeed. Eric Hobsbawn has written about how he casually referred to World War II in a lecture to a group of what he stressed were bright (US) youngsters and was stunned when one of them asked "does that mean that there was a First World War?" That was when he realised that knowledge he assumed was "general knowledge" was nothing of the sort, and that his starting point would have to be a bit different from what he had assumed would have been the case.

    I have heard/read similar stuff in the class room (and in student essays and exams); I suppose the only solution is to assume limited knowledge and try to encourage students to wish to know more, and to make allowances for those who do, in fact, know more and wish to know more.

    Russia is an especially egregious example of western ignorance, as, (for obvious historical/political-socio-reasons), it has been the subject of prejudicial and blinkered thinking and observation for a long time. With, unfortunately, much good reason. However, I'd argue that sheer bias or comfortable prejudice is no substitute for proper (preferably balanced) critical and thoughtful analysis.

    Cheers
     
  14. Ugg thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #14
    A Polish friend of mine tells me that the Russians are doomed to be serfs as that's all they've ever known:D

    The article does suggest that Russia may soon see another revolution. The demographics would suggest not as almost all revolutions are led by the young and hungry, not by the old and weary.


    The article or someone's response? Please explain.
     
  15. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #15

    To be honest, I don't like the "doomed to be serfs" argument. Yes, I'd argue that while it has huge historical validity (and also helps to explain why the Russians were such foul rulers both in the Soviet Imperium and the Tsarist one; how can you rule your colonies well if you treat your own underclasses so abysmally badly?) it does not necessarily predetermine future outcomes, as, if that is the case, nothing would ever change. That is almost as bad as Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" nonsense of the late 1990s.

    Having said all of that, I don't see the sufficient or necessary "conditions" for 'revolution' occurring in Russia anytime soon. The current state system of exquisitely crafted kleptocracy (permitted by quasi state ownership of oil and gas resources and networks) allows for key players and sectors of society to be bought off, or silenced. Or murdered. Or side-lined. Or imprisoned. These days, Russians can travel abroad, have assets abroad, bring money home; they just cannot play an active role in formal political opposition in what passes for the "public space" or "public sphere" in modern Russia.

    This is not the Soviet Union, still less the Tsarist world, although it does have features which would have been recognisable in both of these worlds, such as "state capitalism", a strong police force, excessive cosiness of church and state, a fusion of the concept of the "state" with that of the "nation", a nation which defines itself in terms of elder sibling (at its most benign) or divinely (or ideologically) designated ruler, of the wider penumbra of regions and countries and entities that surround it.

    There has also been a limited understanding of the concept of a "loyal opposition" (historically, opposition has been viewed as treason, and dealt with, accordingly), and also, considerable difficulty with the concept of the media, or press, as anything other than an approved mouthpiece of state propaganda or interests.

    I will say that some of the western coverage of Russian affairs has been nothing short of disgraceful. Lazy, cliched - indeed cynical - journalism at its unimaginative and idle worst. Perhaps that is a topic for another thread.....


    I have already responded to this, and have argued that it is, in fact, a balanced and thoughtful piece.

    Cheers
     
  16. codymac, Jun 25, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2011

    codymac macrumors 6502

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    #16
    The article. It's four pages of a superfluous display of Russian history for two paragraphs (maybe one page, if I'm generous) worth of actual reference and conclusion.

    I'd guess the author appreciates Tolstoy more than most.

    Perhaps it wasn't written with the intention of seeing circulation outside the world of academia? Perhaps I read it differently since one of the grad schools I looked at was SPBU?
     
  17. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    #17
    Hey, I got that one.

    Gimme a cookie!!!!
     
  18. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #18
    With respect, while it may be a bit obvious to those who are informed about this area, it is well-written and it is a lot better than most of the stuff that appears in the US media about Russia, especially the stuff that ascribes a far more important role to the late President Reagan than is warranted by the facts. I imagine that the OP chose to post it for that reason.

    BTW, I don't get the Tolstoy reference, and obviously, therefore, do not merit a cookie.
     
  19. iJohnHenry macrumors P6

    iJohnHenry

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    War and Peace, a very, very l-o-n-g tome. ;)
     
  20. dukebound85 macrumors P6

    dukebound85

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    #20
    You know, Tolstoy originally titled War and Peace as War, What is it Good For?
     
  21. codymac macrumors 6502

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    #21
    Perhaps, but it certainly is pedantic.

    Given the author's education, background, and career, I would have preferred to hear him expand upon solutions for the current state of Russia and post-Soviet Europe.

    You got it!
    :D
     

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  22. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #22
    Thanks for the explanation; while I've read War & Peace (I'm not really a fan of Tolstoy, and prefer Turgenev and Chekhov) I can't say I really liked it and, obviously, I didn't get the reference, either.

    Cheers
     
  23. Ugg thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ugg

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    #23
    My friend is Polish and lives in Sacramento where there is a large population of Russian immigrants. She absolutely hates when her accent is mistaken for Russian and resents the fact that she had to learn Russian in school. So, her opinions need to be taken with a grain of salt, however, I do believe that there is some substance to what she says. SU Communism was really just another form of serfdom. The current right wing Hungarian mess has its roots in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Finland's cold war attitude towards Russia has its roots in the fact that Finland was a Duchy of Sweden and Russia for centuries (sometimes its a good idea to step very, very carefully when you have a big unruly bear living in the cave next to you).

    All countries' history has an impact on their present and their future. Puritanism is very much a part of the American psyche whether we like it or not.

    Do all revolutions need to be bloody? I don't believe they do and Medvedev seems to be trying to right Putin's wrongs. If Medvedev is successful and can do so without shedding blood, then, I would have to call that a revolution.

    foreignpolicy.com isn't the Enquirer, you know.
     
  24. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

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    #24
    Michael Steel loves War and Peace. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times....
     
  25. Scepticalscribe, Jun 27, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2011

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #25
    I'm not sure that I'd quite see this as a recommendation for Tolstoy.

    To a certain extent, I agree with you re Poland, Hungary and Finland and I do see the point (and perspective) of your Polish friend. Within the EU there are some who view the attitudes expressed by some of the citizens of the Former Near Abroad (i.e. Central & Eastern Europe) as a bit "emotional" on the topic of Russia. They are "emotional" but their unwillingly shared past with Russia gives them good reason to be.

    Elements of Russian history have a horrible habit of re-emerging in a ghastly new guise under new regimes, and serfdom was no exception. One of the real tragedies of Russian history was that their elites assimilated or internalised the value system of serfdom, and took so long to address and abolish this problem. Thus, the notorious "propishka" was a twentieth-century communist re-imagining of the old concept of tying individuals to workshop, factory or farm..

    The difference between the Tsarist past and the more recent communist past in Russia is that some of the ideals of communism were really rather attractive, unlike that expressed by the Tsarist state; who can resist the idea of the new Jeruasalem? Unfortunately, as we well know, the reality - a political construct which emerged from a state partly rooted on a powerful secret police force and the concept of indentured, or forced labour - even in the 18th century! - was, of course, pretty dismal in large part.

    Re revolutions and change, and the current ruling tandem, I have to say that I would love to be able to agree with you, but I have come - with regret - to the conclusion that it is really rather a relatively sophisticated expression of the old "good-cop bad-cop" routine.

    Cheers
     

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