Vladimir Putin, in one of his first acts as president, restored the Soviet national anthem, a tune written on Stalin’s orders in 1944. There had been no widespread demand for its revival, but it still evoked imperialistic memories and dormant emotions in the people.
Channel One at the same time in 2000 reinstated a Soviet-era jingle for the evening news broadcast. With it, the tune ushered in a return to Soviet era news coverage.
Since September 2008 hundreds of thousands of Russian schoolchildren received new history with the following introduction: “Dear friends! The textbook you are holding…….will trace the journey of the Soviet Union from its greatest historical triumphs to its tragic disintegration.”
The book explains that while the Soviet Union was not a democracy, it still provided the world’s “best and fairest society”. It was the country that pressured the west into “respecting human rights”.
It was Putin who, in 2007, insisted at a meeting with history teachers that, “We can’t let anyone impose a sense of guilt on us.” Appropriately, the textbook covers the period 1945-2006, from Stalin’s triumph in the “great patriotic war” to the political victory of “Putinism”. It denounces all who are seen as responsible for the loss of empire, irrespective of their politics. The implosion of the Soviet Union is seen as a tragedy that severly impedes Russian progress.
As expected, it justifies Stalin’s crimes. The country needed the concentration of power by Stalin. In fact the situation demanded it. The cold war was to blame for Russia’s avoidance of democracy.
The book continues to explain that Mikhail Gorbachev brought the country to ruin, by regarding the west as a co-operative partner. The US initiated revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, making the former territories of the USSR into western military bases. Consequently Russia has now had to pursue a pro-active foreign policy. (The invasion of Georgia attests to this aggressiveness as it was the first time in the post-Soviet period that Russia has actually played out its imperial ambitions.) The ongoing occupation of Abhasia and Osettia is a stark message to the West: `We can and will stop NATO expansion.`
Russians apparently support the Sovietization of society, the flexing of military muscle and the twisting of history as an ideological imperative. According to a poll, fully 77% of Russians supported the reinstatement of the Soviet anthem. At least 50% see Stalin`s rule as positive. According to observers there was more opposition from Russian moderates/liberals to the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 (this during the repressive Breshnev years when liberals were persecuted) than there was to the invasion of Georgia. Those who are to oppose Soviet ideology are seen as utterly defeated by the version of history depicted in the new textbook. Observers point to the irony of the situation: the intellectuals who had pressed for liberalization in the 1980s and were to have benefitted the most from the USSR’s collapse have behaved like losers, because they at least enjoyed special recognition under the communist regime.
There are numerous explanations as to why Russians acquiesce to lies and idolize authoritarianism. Estonians on the other hand have to contend with the fact that, due to the lack of choice, the Russian speaking population of Estonia is constantly exposed to Russian TV which is a shrill and incessant source of the values and political inclinations of those currently in the Kremlin. It’s deceitful, but the only game in town.
Soviet era, revamped in book and song (2)