Monday, August 24, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Defenders of Molotov-Ribbentrop Reflect Moscow’s ‘Cynical Authoritarianism,’ Russian Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, August 24 – Pro-Kremlin ideologists have rushed to defend the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact not so much in order to revive Stalinism in all its dimensions but rather to exploit Stalin’s ultimately failed alliance with Hitler to promote “the cult of cynical force and lies” on which their own regime is based, according to a Russian commentator.
In an essay posted on the site today, Yevgeny Ikhlov argues that the current Russian elite, however much its authoritarianism might suggest otherwise, “cannot openly rehabilitate Stalin’s terror for “a whole range of reasons,” including “the loss of respectability abroad, unwelcome support for the KPRF, and “a threat to its own political legitimacy.”
And consequently, the Putin-Medvedev regime has focused on promoting the rehabilitation of the Soviet dictator by focusing on foreign policy where “it would seem” everything could be presented “as one long victorious march,” although even here there have been problems (
The current Russian government is not interested in talking about Stalin’s popular front policies of the middle 1930s or his cooperation with the anti-Hitler coalition after June 1941, Ikhlov says, because both those policies, which reflected Moscow’s need to cooperate with others, undercut the current regime’s interest in promoting an image of Russia against the world.
Consequently, Ikhlov continues, while “instinctively eliminating recollections about the military alliance of Stalin with the Western democracies and the post-war period of relations with East European peoples when they were formally considered ‘friendly and fraternal,’ today’s pro-Kremlin ideologues have chosen to focus on the period of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.”
That period which extended from August 1939 to June 1941 was one in which “the USSR was openly hostile to the liberal West and dealt unceremoniously with the peoples of Eastern Europe as trophies.” But of course, those actions reflected an even deeper set of changes, Ikhlov says.
Those 22 months, he writes, were “an epoch of demonstrative cynicism and of the naked use of force,” one when “all Bolshevik international declarations were thrown out, and a regime, which arose under the conditions of the Great Terror could find itself in an alliance with Hitler’s regime, a second, just as aggressive and terrorist form of totalitarianism.”
Such a treatment of the 1939-41 period represents a major departure from Soviet times, the writer notes, when Communist leaders tried as much as possible to highlight Soviet “resistance to fascism in Spain and during the period of the anti-Hitler coalition” between 1941 and 1945.
In addition to the ideological reasons they had for do so, the Soviet leaders had to confront the fact that “millions of people were still alive who remembered” that Stalin’s “alliance with Hitler” had ended so catastrophically “in the summer of 1941.” And consequently, Moscow at that time talked about how Hitler had deceived “the peace-loving Soviet leadership.”
But for the new rulers of Russia, everything is “simpler: they ascribe the defeat of the Red Army to the failure of the Communist Party and the ‘backwardness of the peasantry,’” ideological notions that “help [those now in power] in their polemic with the KPRF and are a justification of [the current elite’s] exploitation of the people.”
Praising the period of the pact has the additional payoff for the current powers that be in that it “provides support for the new myth about ‘the Russophobia’ of Western (and especially East European) peoples” as well as recalling a time when the country was at odds “with the entire world.”
Thus, Ikhlov says, the support for the period of the pact is part of an effort to “consolidate society” by suggesting that however angry people may be about “the corruption, arbitrariness and kleptocracy of the new rulers,” they have no one else on whom to rely as “a defender from
Russophobia and ‘the recrudescence of European fascism.’”
Because this is so, the Moscow analyst continues, Moscow’s uncritical, even enthusiastic support for the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, its secret protocols and the alliance between Hitler and Stalin that a month after the pact was signed was, in Stalin’s words, “sealed in blood” over the corpse of pre-war Poland represents a clear and present danger to Russia and the world.
Thus, he concludes, “any moral and intellectual opposition to the cult of the epoch of the pact is a chance for Russia to avoid, even in a much reduced extent, a repetition of Stalinism” and thereby at least restrain, if not block, any repetition of the kind of ultimately disastrous “political dilettantism” that Stalin displayed in his dealings with his fellow dictator Hitler.

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