Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Lenin Should Be Celebrated as Founder of the Russian Federation, Ufa Scholar Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 28 – Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader who seized power in Russia in 1917 has been praised and condemned for many things, but now a Bashkir scholar has celebrated him for a role few have yet acknowledged: Lenin, Rustem Vakhitov argues, deserves recognition and honor for his role as the founder of the Russian Federation.
In a 4,000-word essay posted online this week, Vakhitov, an Ufa-based academic who writes frequently on contemporary affairs, saysthat that Lenin’s importance for Russians today lies in his role as the creator of the Russian Federated Soviet Socialist Republic, the predecessor of the Russian Federation (contrtv.ru/common/3111/).
Arguing that “the cult of Lenin” in Soviet times was not only something the man himself did not want but also has gotten in the way of focusing on what Lenin actually did, Vakhitov says that the best way to begin is by asking the question: “When did the state by the name of the Russian Federation in which we live arise?”
“Many people consider that this took place in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR, but this is not true,” Vakhitov insists, adding that in fact “on December 25, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR passed legislation according to which the RSFSR was renamed [Vakhitov’s italics] as the Russian Federation.”
In support of that contention, the Ufa scholar notes that the law began with the following words: “The Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR affirms: 1. The State the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) from now on will be called the Russian Federation (RF),” as it is known to this day.
What that means, Vakhitov continues, is that in 1991, the RSFSR simply changed its name, out of which were eliminated the words ‘soviet’ and ‘socialist’ as an indication that the Russian Republic had changed its political system and state ideology.” “But,” he continues, “no new state arose as a result.”
The country “retained all the territories and borders of the RSFSR, all its industrial and economic potential, its armed forces, its interior ministry, its special forces and even its political leadership since RSFSR President B.N. Yeltsin, elected according to the laws of the RSFSR was simply transformed into the RF president with all the powers he had.”
Moreover, “the Constitution of the RSFSR from 1978 continued to operate on the territory of the Russian Federation until 1993.” At the same time, of course, “the Russian Federation is the legal successor of the USSR,” as RF President Yeltsin informed the United Nations and other international organizations on the day” the RSFSR was renamed.
“The relations between the RSFSR and the RF are themselves thus a case of continuity,” Vakhitov says. No one had “disavowed” the legal act of the creation of the RSFSR unlike the legal act which created the USSR and which Yeltsin and his Ukrainian and Belarusian counterparts disavowed in Belovezhskaya in December 1991.
In this way, he says, “the Russian Federation is exactly the same state as the RSFSR but under a different name, with a different social-political and economic system, and a different state shield and hymn.” One “would like to add as well a different flag but that is not precisely so: the tricolor was established … when our country was still called the RSFSR.”
Moreover, Vakhitov continues, “the RSFSR [itself] arose on October 25 (November 7), 1917, when the Second All-Russian Congress confirmed the overthrow of the Provisional Government.” That was the moment when the Russian Federation under its current name was created, something Russians should recognize and thereby acknowledge Lenin’s key role.
“In no way,” the Ufa writer continues, is he “denying the right of citizens to express their moral assessment of the figure of V.I. Ulyanov-Lenin, his political activity, and the ideology which he professed.” But his role as the founder of the state in which they live is something that they cannot deny.
Other nations have gone through the same process in dealing with their founders, Vakhitov points out, with the French still honoring figures from the 1789 revolution as founders of modern France even while decrying the extremism and often vicious anti-clericalism of those individuals.
Indeed, the legitimacy of the French Republic depends on doing precisely that, he insists, and in like manner, the legitimacy of the Russian Federation requires respect for its founder, however much many Russians may be properly horrified by many of the crimes Lenin, the Bolsheviks and the Soviet state committed.
Russians should “respect Lenin as the creator of the USSR, the geopolitical heir of the Russian Empire,” he says. They should respect him as “a Russian patriot,” and they should respect him as “one of the creators of Russian federalism, the flexible system of administering the state which,” Vakhitov says, kept the country together after 1917.
“Let us hope,” Vakhitov concludes, “that after decades of deification and demonization, finally emotions will cool and reason will return, and Lenin will become part of our history – contradictory, bloody, but at the same time part of a great and severe history, as has been the history of any great power.”

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