Site map
0The virtual community for English-speaking expats and Russians
  Main page   Make it home   Expat card   Our partners   About the site   FAQ
Please log in:
To register  Forgotten your password?   
  Survival Guide   Calendars
  Phone Directory   Dining Out
  Employment   Going Out
  Real Estate   Children
   October 1
News Links
Business Calendar
Phone Directory
 Latest Articles
 Archived Articles
Analysis & Opinion
16.07.08 The Unpredictable Past
Comment by Georgy Bovt

Russian television has launched “elections of the past.” The format of the project did not come from Russia – the necessary license for it was purchased from Great Britain. The idea is for the population to choose the most popular character from its history – someone great who has already passed into history. Thus, the active political leaders and other celebrities are not part of the project, thank God.

It’s hard to say now what the motivation was for the organizers of the Name of Russia contest. Their intention and design probably was extremely noble and ideologically consistent. The organizers are using a large-scale advertisement campaign to arouse historical images in the minds of the masses, and, at the same time, to cultivate patriotism – respect for our great history, which really had enough great characters to choose from in many categories – writers, scientists, army commanders and politicians.

It should be noted that the number of participants is very impressive: as of last week, more than a million Russians have already participated in the project. And quite many of them voted for Pushkin, for Lermontov and for Peter the Great. Russian scientists, despite all their multiple discoveries, don’t really have anything in store for them, at least for now. Scientists are not really highly thought of in our country.

Actually, in the current stage of the project, Joseph Stalin is the clear leader, with others far behind. In the second place is singer and poet Vladimir Vysotsky, who died in 1980; and in the third place – Vladimir Lenin.

The fact that Stalin is in the lead (with Lenin being one of the first three) is a rather natural result, even if the organizers of the contest end up correcting the results a little in accordance with some current political traditions in favor of, for example, the more “neutral” and, thus, more clearly “national” Peter the Great.

Lately official propaganda engages in too much play with the recent Soviet history as a whole and with the character of Stalin in particular. Starting with school textbooks and ending with multiple TV shows dedicated to historical topics that are demonstrated on national TV networks.

Many historical details that do not fit into the “black and white” simplified outline have long ago been removed from school textbooks. Thus, now Stalin is pictured in textbooks not at all as a murderous dictator who killed a still not exactly known number of our compatriots, but as an “effective manager” who had to tackle the problems of modernizing the country in the difficult conditions of hostile surroundings. Of course, he did make some mistakes (without a detailed description of these mistakes), but, on the whole, his actions turned the country into a mighty superpower, which not only won World War II, but also became a serious competitor to the capitalist world.

There is a certain way the official propaganda most often presents Stalin these days and a significant part of the country’s ruling elite sees him; in this interpretation of Stalin, the clearly most important highlight is – the priority of state interests over the interests of individuals, no matter how cruel this might be to the country’s citizens. Essentially, Lenin’s third place also proves the same conclusion.

But how can we explain the second place of Vladimir Vysotsky, who beat even Pushkin, Lermontov, Tolstoy and Chekhov? After all, the modern youth and even the people who are a bit older practically do not know this poet and singer; his songs today sound exactly like songs from the past, many realities of which are simply incomprehensible for the people who were born after 1980, the year of his death.

One well-known liberal publicist and public figure gave me the following explanation: the people who voted for Vysotsky simply did not want to vote for either Stalin or Lenin. That is, in a way, they wanted to underline the “anti-state individualism” – because for people who knew Vysotsky’s work, he was primarily a rebellious individualist, who used his work, his songs to rebel against the Soviet state system. This wasn’t exactly a political rebellion – many Russian common citizens even now feel a strong aversion toward any kind of politics as a form of activity. This was rather an anarchist’s revolt, the spirit of which is much closer to the Russian nature. Not to fight against the system that represses individuality and violates personal rights, but to try to escape from it, at least into your own internal emigration, to somehow trick it for your own personal peace and to fence off your own free personal world somewhere inside yourself.

But, still, what is the role of our past in our present? What answers are we trying to find there today, what guiding lines and reference points? Why do we so painfully argue – and take it as far as diplomatic scandals – with our near and far neighbors, particularly about our common historical past and their, as we believe, criminal attempts to “pervert and misinterpret” history?

Perhaps, such an intent and sometimes painful attitude toward history is in many ways explained by the fact that we, as a nation, still suffer form a deficit of spiritual, ideological and moral support for our existence in our modern life. In this sense, the seemingly paradoxical opinion that Russia is a country with unpredictable past only reflects the fact that too many people in our country feel the instability, unreliability and unpredictability of our present and future.
The source
Copyright © The Moscow Expat Site, 1999-2023Editor  Sales  Webmaster +7 (903) 722-38-02