Monday, November 30, 2009

Window on Eurasia: How a Finn Set in Train the Destruction of the Soviet Union

Paul Goble

Vienna, November 30 – Even as the Russian media marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the winter war between the Soviet Union and Finland, a Moscow commentator is arguing that a Soviet Finn disappointed in his hopes to become the president of a Sovietized Finland set in train the events that led to the destruction of the USSR.
In an essay posted on the site today, Maksim Kalashnikov argues that “just like in Biblical history (in which Abraham gave birth to Isaac and Isaac gave birth to Jacob), so too [Russians today] can follow the chain of those who worked for the collapse of the Soviet Union” (
If they do so, the nationalist writer continues, they will see that “Gorbachev was brought to power by Andropov” and that “the latter was the favorite and protégé of Otto Kuusinen,” who although not as well known as Molotov or Khrushchev “in fact played the role of a bomb under the foundation of the Soviet Union.”
When Stalin ended the Winter War without defeating Finland and then after World War II when he concluded a peace treaty with Helsinki rather than absorbing it into the Soviet bloc, Kalashnikov argues, Kuusinen, a longtime Comintern official who held some largely ceremonial posts in the short-lived Karelo-Finnish SSR, was not only disappointed but furious.
Kuusinen had hoped first in 1918-1920 and then in 1939 that Russian tanks would put him on “the Finnish ‘throne’” and when that did not happen, Kalashnikov argues, the Soviet Finnish leader decided to take his revenge against the “Russian” heart of the Soviet Empire by undermining those he felt had not supported him.
To that end, the Moscow commentator continues, Kuusinen recruited young people around him who shared his tastes and interest in a comfortable life. The first of these was Yury Andropov who became the head of the Komsomol in Karelia when Kuusinen headed the Soviet government there.
Like Kuusinen who was a talented poet and essayist, under pseudonyms like V. Baltiysky who took price in founding the Soviet journal “Novoye vremya,” Andropov from the earliest times “wrote poems,” was interested in the latest “Western social thought,” “loved French wines, and liked to enjoy the glory and status of “an intellectual.”
According to Kalashnikov, “both Kuusinen and Andropov had a weakness for the comforts of life as organized in the West European style.” And a result, the former played a marginal role in World War II compared to the other leaders surrounding Stalin, and the latter was also “a gray” blur compared to the post-Stalin leadership.
Kuusinen was “an outsider, who was satisfied with formalities and representative functions in the state apparatus of the USSR and with literary-journalistic work. “ He was concerned about the Finnish communist party which he hoped he would someday lead, but that party, just like the Finnish state, wanted nothing to do with him.
In Kalashnikov’s understanding, Kuusinen was biding his time. After Stalin died, Kuusinen launched his project for “democratization” of the USSR, a project that ultimately lead to the demise of that country instead of its transformation and growth in the way that Deng Xiaoping transformed and strengthened China.
“The turning point and the beginning of the last flight upwards of the career of Kuusinen can be considered 1956 when two terrible shots were directed at the Soviet Union:” Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin, which Kuusinen as the party’s ideologist helped to write, and the Hungarian uprising which Kuusinen’s protégé Andropov helped to crush.
After 1956, Kuusinen became an academician and the formal author of the new edition of the textbook “Foundations of Marxism-Leninism.” And he began to assemble around him many who would become famous only later: Andropov of course, Fedor Burlatsky, Georgy Arbatov, Oleg Bogomolov, and Aleksandr Bovin, to name just a few.
And Kalashnikov continues, “in the milieu of the young intellectuals “attached to the Central Committee of the CPSU’ began the infectious spread of imported social science and economic theories,” theories that promoted “the intellectual ‘viruses’ of decay, disintegration and national incompleteness.”
Kalashnikov’s conspiratorial interpretation certainly overstates Kuusinen’s role. Others were very much and more prominently involved. But given the obsession Russian nationalists and communists have for blaming Andropov because of his role in the elevation of Gorbachev, it is useful to recall on this anniversary of a Soviet defeat just who gave Andropov his start.

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