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Russia – what did they expect?

11 Jan

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There is a lot of protest about the clampdown on freedom to demonstrate and the anti-gay promotion legislation in the Russian Federation. My response is, what did they expect? Given how the West treated Russia after the break-up of the Soviet Union, and how the Russian people themselves voted in various elections, the West and the Russian people really have themselves to blame.

Russia has never had a tradition of democracy. The ruthless, autocratic Tsarist regime with its vast empire was overthrown in early 1917 and replaced by the short-lived Karensky government, then came the Bolshevik Revolution later that year and, like in Tasarist times, all opposition was crushed, even Socialist alternatives to the government line. Lenin and Trotsky laid the foundations for the Stalinist terror which followed, which only mellowed when he died, but still it remained a bureaucratic dictatorship.

After the break-up of the Soviet Union, which incidentally I still regard as a tragedy, opportunities were missed which could have made the Russian Federation into a real democracy. In fact, the Soviet Union itself could have survived in a more democratic form, perhaps as a looser federation of Socialist republics which allowed free elections with other political parties competing to administer Socialism.

Unfortunately, although Gorbachev was trying to implement reforms such as ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’, a hard-line coup overthrew him in August 1991, and although this was crushed, his successor Boris Yeltsin presided over the break-up of the USSR.

The Soviet Union, along with the other Socialist countries, had achieved much despite the bureaucratic ruling clique and the inefficient State monopolies. This included full employment, security in old age, good public services, the elimination of illiteracy, good health services, etc. However there was a lack of freedom, and I cannot help feeling Russia was probably one of the worst places to experiment with Socialist revolution. The autocratic tradition of the Tsarist regime was carried over to the Bolshevik one very early on.

Then finally we came to 1991 and the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Warsaw Pact was disbanded, so logically, now the Cold War was over, NATO too should have been disbanded. Instead former members of the Warsaw Pact, excluding the Russian Federation, were invited to join the Western NATO military alliance. Is it really any wonder the Russian Federation felt threatened? As countries in the Soviet sphere of influence for years fell into the arms of NATO? Little attempt was made to reach out to the Russian Federation itself, and disbanding NATO would have been the first step.

Then we have the domestic Presidential and other elections in the Russian Federation. Although they became members of other political parties, as in many other former Socialist countries, the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats remained largely in power, and were voted back in by the electorate. For Heaven’s sake, Putin was a hard-line KGB man, so what do people expect? A benevolent democracy?

After the fall of the USSR many Russians demanded the rehabilitation of Joseph Stalin, and called for a new hard-man to rule the country. This was surely mainly due to the West’s continuing hostile attitude to post-Soviet Russia, and the encroachment of the aggressive NATO military bloc to the very borders of the Russian Federation itself. Even into countries formerly part of the USSR. Former Socialist countries now in NATO are Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Albania and Croatia, with probably more clamoring to join. The three Baltic states were part of the Soviet Union since WWII.

There was a big opportunity in the 1989-1991 period to end the Cold War, disband the two rival military blocs, and create an atmosphere in which true democracy and freedom could flourish, be it under a Socialist constitution or some other kind of constitution. Instead the Russian Federation has been hounded into a corner by the expanding NATO states, and the Russian people have responded by electing hard-liners into power, former KGB men, and many longing for a new ruthless Stalin-like figure to confront the West and knock the country into shape.

The West, and particularly the USA, is largely to blame for this state of affairs. Once the Cold War was over, all nations should have come together under the UN umbrella and created a more peaceful, democratic era where various economic and political systems could flourish without restricting freedom. This great opportunity was squandered, and now the result is an increasingly dictatorial Russian Federation which feels threatened by the eastward expansion of NATO and the continued existence of Western nuclear weapons presumably still targeted on the Russian Federation and its people. This is not the way to achieve a peaceful world and the abolition of nuclear weapons worldwide which Barack Obama and many others have said they want to achieve..

 

One Response to “Russia – what did they expect?”

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