Thursday, January 6, 2011

Window on Eurasia: ‘Disintegration of USSR Still Not Over,’ Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, January 6 – Most politicians, experts and ordinary people treat the disintegration of the USSR as a single event, but in fact, it is a lengthy process. And today, nearly 20 years after the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States sounded the “death sentence” of the Soviet Union, a Moscow writer says, “the disintegration of the USSR is still not over.”
In an article in Moscow’s “Yezhednevny zhurnal,” Arkady Dubnov says that the events of the last year, from the revolution in Kyrgyzstan, to the failure of the OSCE in the south Caucasus, to the behavior of the Belarusian leadership following the elections there all testify to the fact that the end of the USSR is far from completed (
The so-called “frozen” conflicts continue to drag on, and even “the hopes that the August 2008 war will be the last stage in the marking out of new state borders in this region are fading.” Moreover, “the mutual distrust among neighbors in the former Soviet communal apartment in the last year, unfortunately, has only multiplied.”
Some people want to lay the blame for all this on individual leaders, Dubnov continues, but there is strong evidence that the problem has far deeper and more extensive roots. When the revolution in Kyrgyzstan took place, he notes, Kazakhstan had to close its border with its neighboring state for several months.
Moreover, the response to the Russian recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia highlights just how far things have gone. “Not one of the Russian partners in the CIS has recognized the independence [of these two states] over the past year … not even Belarus” even after promising to do so.
The December events in Minsk, Dubnov adds, “can by right be considered the apotheosis and logical result of the evolution of the Commonwealth on the past to its 20th anniversary,” an event that found a kind of parallel in proposals in Kazakhstan to make Nursultan Nazarbayev president for life.
And what is striking about that, the Moscow writer says, is that “the main pusher for this completely Soviet-type idea was the former overthrower of Soviet canons and dogmas, the well-known Kazakh poet of the 1960s and author of the legendary book about Slavic writing ‘Az i Ya,’ Olzhas Suleymenov.”
“The Belarusian and Kazakhstan variants of ‘the development of democracy’ (as accurately noted Dmitry Medvedev after ‘Lukashenka’s elections when [the Russian president] expressed the hope for the further development of democratic processes in his country) represents” one of the few CIS-wide common trends.
That is because many of its leaders are asking themselves “do we need such ‘a democracy’ which threatens consequences like ‘the Kyrgyz’?” But that commonality rather than serving as the basis for renewed unity across the CIS in fact may point in exactly the opposite direction.
That is because, as both Lukashenka and Nazarbayev have shown, precisely the kind of authoritarianism they manifest requires that they set themselves against others, including those with whom they or their predecessors had effectively cooperated with the Soviet Union was still in existence.
And, although Dubnov does not mention it, the very lack of genuine popular participation that characterizes both their regimes and those of many others across the former Soviet space eventually if not immediately leads those who are excluded to seek to mobilize along ethnic, religious or class lines.
Twenty years ago, such mobilizations helped bring down the Soviet Union; now and in the future, they will guarantee that the disintegration of that common space will continue, and quite possibly, that in turn will be accompanied by the disintegration of some of the states located there.

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