Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s Effort to Reconcile Reds and Whites has Cost Society Its Moral Compass, Russian Analyst Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, September 15 – The Russian government’s ongoing effort, in the name of “reconciliation and accord,” to celebrate both the Bolsheviks and their opponents is depriving Russians and especially young people of a moral compass, contributing to cynicism and “extinguish[ing] patriotic feelings,” according to a post on the Newsland.ru portal.
At present, the commentator says, “Soviet and anti-Soviet, executioners and their victims are equally acceptable to the official ideology. There is a day of the October Revolution and day of memory for the victims of political repressions on our calendar.” And both the Imperial family whose murders the Bolsheviks ordered and those who ordered them are recalled.
“Such a bifurcation of moral guidelines lead to cynicism in society and the extinction of patriotic feelings, especially among the young,” he continues, all the more so because it comes on the heels of two periods, tsarist and then Soviet in which the situation was far clearer (newsland.ru/News/Detail/id/411113/cat/10/).
In Soviet times, the regime put out extremely clear guidelines: “Everything Soviet was good, everything revolutionary which assisted directly or indirectly the establishment of the Soviet system also was good.” But everything which sought to prevent it from happening or fought Bolshevism and Soviet power was “harmful, bad, and ‘reactionary.’”
At the end of the Soviet period, there was a brief period in which this pattern was inverted, but “after 1993, the main principle of the powers that be became the slogan ‘reconciliation and accord,’ but that does not apply to relations between good and evil. Good cannot reconcile itself with evil for then it ceases to be good.”
The 1917 revolution, the commentator continues, “so decisively ended the entire preceding tradition of Russia, that [Russians] must either consider it a good thing and everything preceding it and struggling with it evil or view it as evil and the other Russia as good. “ But the current Russian rulers want it both ways.
In practice, the “reconciliation and accord” they advocate means “reconciliation and accord with Bolshevik which both was and remains in the government system, in the names of many streets and cities, in monuments and symbols, in commemorative events, and in history textbooks.”
Thanks to research over the last 15 years, “Russian society has found out about the infinite number of evil actions of the Soviet period, about the deaths of millions of our compatriots through the fault of the revolutionaries and Soviet power.” Indeed, “with each year ever new horrifying facts of evil actions and force are revealed.”
And the Russian Orthodox Church, the writer says, by canonizing “more than a thousand” new martyrs has “precisely set moral-historical guidelines for the Orthodox majority of Russians.” Together, these factors are “destroying the positive image of the Soviet system in the moral consciousness” of the population.
“Like the Nazi system in Germany,” the commentator writes, the Soviet system “to an ever greater degree is conceived as a tragic and shameful period of the history of the fatherland. This does not in the slightest degree destroy the achievements, and triumphs of Russian people under the Soviet regime.”
“But [those gains] are no longer viewed as the product of the Soviet system but rather understood as acts of conscious or unconscious resistance to it, as an extension of the entire thousand-year-long history and culture of the fatherland.” Indeed, Stalin had to recognize this at the time of the German invasion when he appealed to that tradition.
In recent years, “having lost the Soviet ideal, Russian society like any other cannot remain in the state of a moral vacuum and relativist values. It must have before it appositive example of citizenship which does not offend either conscience or religious feelings,” the editors say.
“But the past of Russia is not a treasure chest out of which one can, depending on one’s desires or political circumstances, pull out this or that thing of value.” Instead, Russia now must recover its historic past by “reestablishing succession from the historic Russia which was broken by the revolution,” a task that will require much effort and many years.
At the end of their essay, the Newsland.ru editors identify 13 steps they say need to be taken soon, ranging from officially declaring the Bolshevik revolution and its results a crime to restoring the pre-Soviet names of all places and institutions to eliminating all holidays connected with the Soviet past and restoring others from the tsarist one.
Few if any of these ideas are likely to be adopted, but the problems arising from the absence of clear moral guidelines are obvious. Sometimes, these are almost humorous as when the leader of Kalmykia insisted in an interview this week that he is both Buddhist and Russian Orthodox (www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?fromsearch=eb12ee3f-a570-4206-84a5-e64760696b2e&docsid=1235521).
But in far more cases, they are tragic, with Russians not knowing what to think when the murderers and the murdered are equally celebrated by their leaders and thus not certain whether they themselves should behave according to the values that informed those who set up the GULAG or to those that inspired the millions who were sent there.

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