Nikolai Starikov and the Problem of History

The following is a guest post by Paul Grenier:

People who care about Russia – its culture, its history and traditions, and, most importantly, its people – have had reason to feel fearful and frustrated in recent years.  Among other reasons because the media in the United States has gotten into one of its by-now all-too-familiar campaigns of simplification and demonization of a foreign country and its leader. Such campaigns (remember Nicaragua? Iraq? Libya?) usually signal that the US government is getting itself ready for the attack.

It was in such a context, about a year ago, that Russia Insider came on the scene. Initially it shared lots of tongue-in-cheek articles, often ridiculing simplistic caricatures of Russia in Western media.  It also included thoughtful analyses — some of them reprints from other sources, others by its own regular writers.  Reprints of my own work have appeared there on a few occasions.

Here’s the thing, though.  A recent article in Russia Insider, Nikolai Starikov’s “Why Russia Should Not Repent for Her Past” (Russia Insider, October, 2015), has got me wondering about, first of all, whether Russia Insider isn’t straying into dangerous territory; and secondly, whether we think clearly enough about what it is in Russia that deserves our respect.

Problems of History

We all know that ‘history is written by the victors.’  Readers of Russia Insider doubtless include many who accept this well-known saying and are therefore skeptical of official narratives.   Indeed, I would include myself among the skeptical.  And why not?  After all, quite a bit that we have been told by ‘reputable sources’ in the United States over recent decades has turned out not to be true.  And for some reason we tend to find out only after such knowledge is no longer of any practical use (Tonkin Gulf, Contra drug running, weapons of mass destruction, etc.).

Pervasive skepticism, however, raises its own difficulties, especially for those of us whose understanding of history boils down to being a matter of whom we can trust.  How can the non-professional historian respond to the complex uncertainties of history?  There is a temptation to conclude that the search for historical truth is altogether vain; that history is a game to be played for political gain, and nothing more.  That what we need to do, instead, is accept whichever version of ‘truth’ is most advantageous to ‘our side’.

This latter course is the one chosen by Nikolai Starikov.  Let’s take a quick look at his historical methodology — for example, as regards the once-controversial question about who was responsible for the Katyn massacre of Polish officers during WWII.  Reputable historians in and outside of Russia have long been convinced that the evidence proves beyond reasonable doubt that it was Stalin’s regime that carried out the massacres.  Starikov calls this “a lie.”

His reasoning (if the word ‘reasoning’ is warranted here) completely ignores the question of evidence. He is concerned only with political consequences. “Repentance” for Katyn, writes Starikov, “would bring nothing but problems.”  Accepting “the lie” that the Polish officers at Katyn were executed on Stalin’s order rather than by the Nazis has had a bad influence on Russia’s relations with Poland, Starikov writes.  The “lie” and the disadvantage, for him, are one and the same.

Indeed, his methodology is blatantly consequentialist. If “de-Stalinization” is harmful, then the right approach is to accept an extreme historicism which dismisses Stalin’s mass repressions as “triggered … by the realities of the period” in which he lived. For a ‘historian,’ Starikov demonstrates remarkable indifference to history.  “Politics, especially international politics,” he writes, “is always a complicated matter. There is no objective morality here, just ourselves and our allies set against foreign and domestic enemies who wish to dominate and rob us [emphasis mine].” History is politics continued by other means, and an ugly politics at that.

It is true that Starikov is not the only one playing this game.  Machiavellis in the U.S. are also quite capable of picking and choosing which aspects of history to focus on, which demons to demonize, and then using this selective history as a political tool.[1]

Political power does ‘complicate’ the quest for truth.  Does this mean that we cannot know who actually was guilty of the Katyn massacres?  Does it mean we cannot know the truth of any of the various other controversial incidents in history? To an extent, it depends on luck. Sometimes the right documents fall into the right hands at a propitious political moment, and we find out. Such was the case with Katyn. We know that this massacre was perpetrated by the USSR.  But at other times, as the pessimist Simone Weil once wrote, “ … according to the nature of things, documents originate among the powerful ones, the conquerors. History, therefore, is nothing but a combination of the depositions made by assassins with respect to their victims and themselves.”

The truth of history can only be known within an atmosphere that actually cares for the truth as the most important thing. It is only in such a milieu that the methods of professional historical inquiry can produce their results.

Without the Truth, Why Should We Care?

Is it possible that Starikov is right, then, after all? If all sides are playing political games, why shouldn’t Russia as well – and beat the others at their own game?

Well, for one thing, it is not true that other countries are always so eager to tell lies about their own histories. But let’s set all that aside. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the cynicism is just as rampant as Starikov and his supporters (including many on the comment thread of his article appearing in Russia Insider) suppose. What then? According to this logic, all we need ever say about the history of Russia, is what is to Russia’s advantage. And all we need ever say, by extension, about the United States (or any other country) is what is to the advantage of those countries. The ‘truth,’ such as it is, in such a world, can only ever be determined by the victors, in other words, by the strongest. And as the passage from Simone Weil suggests, such is sometimes the only ‘truth’ we get our hands on: the ‘truth’ of the victors.

The question to ask at this point, however, is this: why should we care about such a ‘truth’?  Why should we care about a country concerned with nothing more than the extension of its own power?  Is it possible to love such a country?

History, the truth of history, is not a game, after all; it is our only contact with reality. Starikov far too lightly discards the truth as a matter of any interest. (In this respect too, unfortunately, he is far from unique.) But as a consequence of this indifference, there remains no Russia left that a person can love. For as Simone Weil also pointed out, love and truth form a unity. It is impossible to love a Russia woven of a fabric of lies. “What one loves is something which exists,” wrote Weil, and about which, therefore, one can know the truth. Starikov’s project, by contrast, depends on building Russia’s future on a foundation of lies and the praise of force.

Ironically, Starikov’s brand of Russian exceptionalism flounders on this very logic. As I have argued elsewhere, to the extent that a culture is merely liberal, to that same extent it reduces the political idea precisely to self-interest and force. Starikov’s Russia, far from presenting an alternative logic, serves up the same old same old, only this time with a collectivist tinge.

I can only speak for myself. What I find attractive in Russia is something very different. The Russia I respect is not merely and impractically anti-liberal (self-interest, after all, is not something to be simply rejected); it is a Russia that remains devoted to the best of its own traditions, which are more than merely liberal. Russia at its best is capable of admitting its past sins honestly, without rejecting its Christian and, if I may put it this way, its Platonic heritage.

Happily, such honesty can be found in the stance of the Russian government itself. To Starikov’s great chagrin, it was the Russian government that recently declared that “Russia cannot fully become a state governed by the rule of law and occupy a leading role in the world community without immortalizing the memory of many millions of its citizens who were the victims of mass repressions.”

It is worth noting, in this same connection, that Russian president Vladimir Putin has a well-known high regard for Ivan Ilyin, the Russian legal scholar and philosopher. At a recent conference held in Moscow and attended by Russian senators, one of the organizers quoted Ilyin on the subject of patriotism:

“There is no person, and there is no nation, who can be the unique locus of the spirit, for the spirit lives in all people and in all nations. To fail to see this is to be morally blind and therefore deprived of both patriotism and legal consciousness. Such a path of spiritual blindness is truly a non-ethical path, one having nothing in common with love for one’s native land; because true patriotism is not a blind but a seeing form of love … ”

 

[1] https://consortiumnews.com/2014/07/29/obama-should-release-ukraine-evidence/

Advertisements

47 thoughts on “Nikolai Starikov and the Problem of History”

  1. Yeah, Starikov is an unpleasant character. According to my observations, his shtick is extremely far-fetched conspiracy theories; anything that fits his narrative will do. If some old Bolshevik was convicted and executed by Stalin for being Japanese spy, Starikov will tell you that he definitely, without a doubt, was spying for Japan.

    He’s also, I believe, the guy who organized the so called ‘anti-maidan’ movement.

    They should not publish this guy.

    Like

  2. My impression of Starikov is that he is a Russian 100% super-patriot. In America, the equivalent might be someone like Rush Limbaugh.

    The problem with such people lies not only in their relation to truth, but also in strategy. There is no country in the world whose history is clean. Yet they act as if nothing terrible ever was done in their homelands (and if it was, there was good reason for it). However, they are not likely to convince anybody who’s not already convinced.

    100% super-patriotism leads to a distorted understanding of reality. Consider this unintentionally hilarious excerpt from an interview with Starikov:

    “In the Russian world, the goal of life is to follow certain morals and commonly held values, such as duty. Western traditions are more egotistical, living for oneself. […] being Russian means serving God. In the West, it is more of an agreement with God.”

    (from: http://russia-insider.com/de/tv/what-russians-really-think-interview-popular-author-and-politician-nikolai-starikov/ri684)

    It’s comical to hear him talk about duty and morality when you consider the rates of draft-dodging, divorce, abortion, and domestic violence in Russia. The “agreement with God” comment sounds like it was pulled out of thin air – what does Starikov really know about religious trends in Europe and America? On the evidence of this, not much.

    This God-talk is also richly ironic, since Starikov is defending a state that savagely persecuted religion for decades.

    Yet bloviators like him have a large audience, both in Russia and in other countries.

    Like

    1. “It’s comical to hear him talk about duty and morality when you consider the rates of draft-dodging, divorce, abortion, and domestic violence in Russia”

      Dropping yearly. And your point is?..

      Like

  3. Excellent, thoughtful and timely piece, Paul!

    For the most part I find what Russia Insider publishes refreshing; however, there are a few pieces they have run of late which have made me a bit queasy. I think you’ve laid your finger quite firmly on one of the reasons why. They are, of course, free to publish whatever they please.

    The wilful blindness which Starikov seems to permit goes against so much of the grain for so much of the corpus of Russian thought that it’s kind of mind-boggling. Letting alone Ilyin, one can hardly see Solzhenitsyn, for example, making these kinds of excuses. Or, for that matter, Berdyaev, whose take on Russian history was utterly unsparing of its blemishes, and who was as ready to castigate the Slavophils for their Romanticism about Russian history, as he was eager to embrace the spiritual tendencies and concepts they indicated.

    Again, very well done essay.

    Like

    1. Solzhenitsyn is well known for his lies regarding Gulag. And his historical “studies” like “200 years together” are frivolous to say the least. I could be mistaken, but as far as I remember he even defended them somewhat similarly to Starikov.

      The whole historical discussion about Stalin and USSR in last few decades in Russia as well as public opinion of him reminds pendulum. Lies of one side make other push harder in preaching opposite. And so it goes on with the only truth for each side being what they want to be true.

      Highly political topic. With Stalin himself more of a personification of idea, when real man of flesh and bones who is dead for 62 years.

      Like

      1. “Lies of one side make other push harder in preaching opposite.” “With Stalin himself more of a personification of idea”

        This is very true. Starikov&Co. are, in a very clear way, a reaction to the well-established and thriving anti-communist industry; all these ‘black books of communism’, ‘bloodlands’, etc, etc, etc.

        And, I think it’s important that whenever Starikov is denounced, it needs to be mentioned, to demonstrate that you are not denouncing him from the positions of reactionary anti-communism and/or rehabilitation of nazism.

        And on this note may I share my favorite quote from Sergei Dovlatov, a Soviet dissident, who, after emigrating and living in New York for a few years in the 1980s, wrote this in his notebooks: next to communism the thing I hate most is anti-communism.

        Like

  4. Funny thing, love for one’s country. Works perfectly fine if you’re blinded to what you’d rather not see, actually. Much, much harder, but worth so much more if you’re not. What offends me is those who insist that the only way it can possibly be done is the first way.

    Like

    1. Anti-revisionism makes me queasy. The opening of the archives of the Soviet Union presents historians with a unique chance to get to original documents, intended never to be seen by public eyes. An orgy of revisionism is inevitable if we make appropriate use of this opportunity. In the atmosphere of this day, and the “history of history” in the past few years, I believe we serve the truth best if we cultivate an openness to every challenge to the history of the Soviet Union as written in the West. Openness does not mean acceptance, but it means we do not attack theories of history based on the author’s motives.

      Like

  5. I have just started Oleg Khlevniuk’s new biography of Stalin, which is based on years of work in the Soviet archives. His introduction seems to have people like Starikov in mind. He writes: ‘In today’s Russia … Stalin’s image is primarily being shaped by pseudo-scholarly apologias. … Their apologias typically cite fabricated sources or shamelessly misrepresent real ones. … They do not even try to explain how the executions of seven hundred thousand people in 1937-1938 alone, ordered by Stallin, served the goals of modernization. …Historians are compelled to deal not with simple schemes and political conjecture but with concrete facts.’ Indeed.

    Like

  6. I agree with pretty much all of the above, and appreciate the appreciation. Thanks, Matthew.

    I’ll try to track down later the URL, but a propos of your point, Paul, I came across yesterday a site — the creation of which had been ordered by the government of Dmitry Medvedev — on which the originals of documents proving Stalin’s culpability for Katyn were posted. The appearance of these apologists is worrisome. There seems to be in every large country (with the exception of Canada?) a strong temptation to idolatry.

    I have one hesitation about one aspect of Estragon’s comment. Not your point re fanatics, and 100%-ers. Agreed. But every country that sets ideals at a level above what can — by default, so to speak — be easily reached by everyman, are setting themselves up for accusations of ‘hypocrisy’ and failure. This raises questions of political philosophy too long and complex to get into here. So I will just suggest everyone really interested in this point take the time to read Pierre Manent’s study of liberal modernity, The City of Man.

    Like

    1. Mr. Grenier, why in your critique of admittedly less than perfectly written and sometimes overly emotional article of N.Starikov ignore some really serious themes and questions that he raises?

      For example this:

      “As soon as we, in Russia, agree that “criminal authorities” carried out criminal policies, the next step is for us to give up all the outcomes of those alleged “criminal policies.” And that’s where it stops being a laughing matter.

      1. Today, the West is trying to change the rules at the United Nations; there is talk about the need to abandon the idea of veto power in the Security Council. Let me remind you that the United Nations was created in its current form with the direct participation of the Soviet Union and Stalin himself, and all its rules are the outcome of a difficult diplomatic battle at the Yalta Conference and beyond. So, shall we give up our veto power then? After all, it was that so-and-so Stalin who gave it to us.

      2. How about the Arctic shelf with its untold riches? Stalin gave that to us as well. Do we give it up? Should we give it to the “democrats?” They are waiting for it, all right – they’ve already tried sending Greenpeace to our “fault-angle” drilling platform.

      3. The Kuril Islands would, naturally, need to be given to Japan, if we recognized that Stalin had been a criminal who carried out criminal policies. After all, Japan is a democracy, and hence will be able to manage them better. Isn’t this what the members of the fifth column have been telling us since 1991?

      4. Kaliningrad must surely be given to the Germans. They, of all people, have suffered from the “bloody Stalinist regime” more than anyone else.

      5. Parts of the Leningrad Region – from Vyborg to Sestroretsk – would have to be returned to Finland because Stalin forced the Finns to give up those territories through direct military force. And of course, no one would need to remember that all that land was purchased from Sweden under the Treaty of Nystad way back when Peter the Great was still around!

      6. It would also be urgently required to “chop” Sergey Shoigu’s birthplace off the map of the Russian Federation, because Tuva only returned to Russia under Stalin in 1944.

      7. Estonians and Latvians would surely ask us for “their” lands back – territorial claims would spring up like mushrooms overnight. At the same time, no one would recall that such countries had never existed before 1917. The Estonians and Latvians, for example, only took shape as nations inside the Russian Empire, which had purchased those territories perfectly legally and in several stages from Sweden and the Duke of Courland; or, also legally, had obtained them through the partition of Poland.”

      Do you agree, that the next logical step after Russia’s officail admisson of the fact that Stalin was a “criminal” and that his regime was “criminal”, should be the implementation of pp 1-7? If not – why?

      Like

      1. Lyttenburgh, thanks for that. It makes it clearer that Starikov is being criticized for his “historical methodology” employed in what is actually polemics, and specifically a rebuttal, by reductio ad absurdum, to a school of thought prevalent among the non-system opposition with which I am not familiar, being Cyrillically challenged.

        If I am identifying it correctly, criticizing it without reference to this context is irrelevant and even unethical.

        Like

  7. Here is the URL for the archival resources referenced above:
    http://www.rusarchives.ru/publication/katyn/spisok.shtml

    The title of the page states: “These images of original archival documents on the ‘Problem of Katyn’ from ‘Packet no. 1’ have been made available in digital form by decision of the President of the Russian Federation, D. A. Medvedev.
    [По решению Президента Российской Федерации Д.А. Медведева размещены электронные образы подлинников архивных документов по “проблеме Катыни” из “пакета N 1” ]

    Like

  8. One of the things I kind of agree with Jim Kovpak on is that some of the Stalin “worship” may well be quite similiar to the Bandera worship in West Ukraine. People in a country identify some other countries as enemy (Russia in the case of Ukraine, the west in the case of Russia), then look at who it is this enemies hates the most (Bandera is most hated by Russians, Stalin is most hated by the west) and then supporting this character.

    Now, Stalin has a far higher bodycount then Bandera (well, he also was in a very different weight class in terms of power), and while I frankly do not really put much weight into his leadership, it was not as disastrous as Banderas (who literally only managed to get people killed, without achieving any of his goals) was.

    Like

    1. I think Kovpak is right about that. Stalin becomes a political football for current politics rather than a historical figure in his own right.

      But I think another factor behind “Stalin worship” is what I like to call “Peter Stalin nationalism.” This is the belief that Russia only thrives when it is under a powerful authoritarian leader, like Peter the Great or Stalin. To the Peter Stalin nationalist, ideology doesn’t matter; all that counts is a strong Russia. Hence they are able to admire the most powerful Tsars as well as Stalin, with no sense of contradiction.

      Like

    2. I have strongly disagree here. Stalin was more or less just strong dictatorial figure, difference with many other dictators (like Pinochet) was in scale, but not in nature.

      So for people who do “worship” him he’s an icon of strong state and social policy. With his body count for his worshipers being just an ugly side effect that could be overlooked, “щепки летят” (I’m actually of the impression that it was also very much Stalin’s view on a matter, though who knows now)

      He is usually hated in Russia by people who share “romantic” views of pure nation and determine enemies by their ethnicity. With dreams of eradicating them all. I mean he’s even Georgian “black ass” for Christ’s sake!

      Like

  9. I don’t think many are worshiping. I think it’s mostly a battle of narratives, a push-back against the narrative of Stalin being the absolute evil, that took hold during perestroyka and then in the 1990s.

    Take this Chomsky quote, for example: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

    Chomsky is hated intensely in some (many) quarters as it is, but imagine this view taking hold and becoming the common wisdom in the US media and American discourse in general. Imagine the push back from the defenders of American greatness, the passion of it… That’s the idea…

    Like

  10. That is a very revealing analogy, Even drawing such an analogy of course would infuriate most Americans. But in terms of the psychology of the situation, I suspect it is close to the mark, at least for many Russians.

    I am not one of those Americans who hate Chomsky, incidentally.

    Like

  11. This is an excellent and thoughtful essay on a quite concerning subject. I’m familiar with Starikov and his “theories,” unfortunately.
    This is just the kind of writing on Russia I need. Thank you, Paul.

    Like

  12. I’d like to start with a little recommendation. When you are referencing, heavily quoting and/or to openly polemize with some article, it’s always a good tone to provide a link, so that others would have an opportunity to read it for themselves and draw their own conclusion. Can’t speak on behalf of other Irrusianality’s regulars, but I don’t read Russian Insider regularly or even semi-regularly to know immediately what article some people are referencing here just by reading a few quotes from it.

    So, if anyone hasn’t read said article (but decided to weight in and express an opinion regardless) here it is: http://russia-insider.com/en/history/nikolai-starikov-why-russia-should-not-repent-her-past-1/ri10585

    I mostly agree with points made by Mao Cheng Ji and Alexey – the pendulum analogy looks fitting. I will only elaborate a little and present my take on the situation.

    Now, as for the article by Nikolai Starikov, I had some trouble to remember who he is. Finally, I remembered – he’d appeared a couple of times on TV, not only on the “pro-Kremlin” (like in Vladimir Solovyov’s shows on Rossiya 1) but even on some regional channels and on pro-“liberal” RBK-channel. Whenever he had an opportunity, he managed to reduce so called “Russian liberals” to shrieking piles of incoherence, even more pathetic then they are.

    As for his credentials as a historian – there, I’m much more doubtful and less eager giving him some slack. But before writing off Starikov completely as some kind of “propagandist” or “fraud”, why not recall the past events and developments, which characterized the official historical discourse in Russia and discussions about the Soviet Union? Many Westerners might be genuinely in the dark here. Me – well, as it happens I have more than clear picture of those processes, being Russian student of history, who still lives and studies history in my country.

    Beginning since the halcyon years of Perestoika, one narrative took the preeminent role in any discussion about the USSR and its history – everything said by dissidents, anti-sovietists and the West was/is TRUE, and anyone arguing against it is just filthy commie apologist. The lack of evidences and sources have been compensated by sheer chutzpah and screams of the liberal zealots involved in hammering down this One and True ™ view into everybody’s sculls. End of story. No – seriously, this kind of approach was indeed official in Russian academia. Questioning, e.g., Solzhenitsyn’s claim about 110 million of GULAG inmates was a thought crime. Conquest – hell, those people were worshiping the ground beneath his feet for what he’d wrote!

    And thus the “De-Sovietization” began. All former Soviet republics along with former Warsaw pact countries began “ridding themselves of the communist past”. And while in Russian Federation the process consisted in massive repentance, admittance of all possible and impossible crimes of the Soviet Union, the rest of the Socialistic camp took a rather different approach. There, de-sovietization often took nationalistic twist. The term “Soviet” became equaled with “Russian”. Here, local elites and intellectuals tried to portray all time when their countries were either parts of the SU or the Warsaw pact as “foreign occupation”. Naturally, in their narrative, nothing good came from such “occupation”. Moreso – native of these now finally liberated countries could not have been beholden to such “evil” ideology as Marxism-Leninism, argued they. So, according to them – there were no local communists, or just people honestly sympathetic to the Soviet Union and everything it did for them once in a while.

    So, while in Russia the official fight against its Soviet past was still in the full swing, these new countries chose for themselves a surprisingly “profitable” narrative – ultimately, they reason, it was all Russia’s fault. And Russia must pay for that – now! Seeing Russian on knees admitting every perceived slight committed by it in the past was not enough for them. Ultimately, phrases like “genocide” and “occupation” began cropping more and more in those countries. Usually, such words were especially loud in countries that celebrated their own Nazi-collaborators as “freedom-fighters” and staged for them yearly SS-veterans parade and cutting more and more rights from the Russophonic population of their countries. Naturally, they had absolutely no desire to apologize for what their “freedom-fighters” in stahlhelms have done in the past. And their new sovereigns in the democratic West did nothing to discourage such behavior.

    That’s when the pendulum in Russia swung in the opposite direction. It might surprise some of you – but Russians don’t like to be called beasts, monsters, rapists and be equated with Nazis. Especially when it’s done by people with less than perfect track record themselves. And anti-sovietists of all stripes have no one to blame for that other than them. From the very beginning their approach was as heavy handed and ideology beholden as the old Soviet one. So-called “Russian liberals” cared little about providing reliable data and, you know – actually researching things, instead passing as an Ultimate Truth ™ copy-pasted passages from this or that rabid Russophobe or anti-sovietist. So when their arguments began beaten (soundly!) by basically any historian who was sick and and tired of their lies and no longer afraid about their collective screeches of indignation – the whole structure fell like a house of cards.

    Some so-called “Russian liberals” got the message, and now don’t stuck the foot into their collective mouth trying to claim that “bloody ghoul Stalin single-handedly murdered dozens of millions of innocents!”. But the most of them is as detached from reality as ever. And the Western Free and Independent Press ™, rabid Russophobes of all stripes and origins plus the ruling elites of all countries that have some scores with Russia – they continue to support them relentlessly.

    That’s where comes the first (and one of the major ones) point made by Starikov in his article – “The battle for history is waged as part of the information war”. I hope no one here will argue, that, nah – there is no “information war” waged against Russia.

    Mr. Grenier, you wrote this:

    ”The truth of history can only be known within an atmosphere that actually cares for the truth as the most important thing. It is only in such a milieu that the methods of professional historical inquiry can produce their results.”

    For nearly two decades no one in the Russian official academia has been really interested in finding out the truth about the Soviet Union – only to “condemn” and “repent”. Now the situation has changed. But others, especially outside of Russia, apparently didn’t get the note. They don’t understand that they can’t “shame” Russia into doing something – like paying “reparations”, preferably while on its knees.

    And yet the Poles still exploit the Katyn with a glee of a seasoned necrophiliac – the same things foes with the Ukraine and Holodomor btw. There are still attempts to classify both events as “genocide”, but not in the name of “restoring the historic injustice” – but to slander Russia and get some hefty gesheft for themselves.

    In the ideal world (in which, I remind everyone, we live not) countries all around the world would recognize and repent for their past crimes and then live one as good neighbours. Poles, for example, would recognize as a military crime the starving of 70-80 000 of Red Army soldiers in 1920-21. And the current government of the Ukraine would not only denounce Bandera, Shukhevitch et al, but also fall on their knees and repent before Poland for the Volhynia massacre. Not torching Babiy Yar (which already happened 5 times since the so-called “Revolution of Dignity” in Kiev) would also be nice

    But we don’t live in the ideal world. Does it mean that we shouldn’t strive for truth? No! That’s the standard modus operandi of every historian. But said historian must understand that his or her work is conducted not in some Ivory Tower above the teeming and ignorant masses starved to hear the new Revelation – historians live in the world. Their findings – or what they consider to be the “truth” – will have effect on people around them and produce all sorts of reactions. Sometimes the circumstances are such, that they can’t realistically go against the “current”. Maybe later, when the political situation at home and the world at large will change their findings will be accepted and get much larger traction then it could otherwise. That was the fate of Victor Nikolayevitch Zemskov, recently passed, who despite outright antagonistic atmosphere kept working – primarily with archives – trying to find out the real extent of “Stalin’s repressions”. His works are still anathema for any “conscientious”, shy and honest Russophobe and so-called liberal, who is dead sure that Stalin annihilated 100500 people daily.

    Like

  13. As far as I know, no French person is offended by Trafalgar Square or Waterloo Station. It will be a good day when Eastern Europe attains the same level of detachment.

    Like

    1. You are not quite right about French detachment.
      France did recently object a Belgian €2 coin commemorating the battle of Waterloo.

      Like

  14. Thank you, Lyttenburgh, for posting the link to the Starikov article. It was an oversight on my part.

    I don’t deny that my essay is detached (‘ivory tower style’) from internal Russian political power struggles. Those struggles, however, are rather opaque and difficult to account for, at least from the outside. Whatever the nuances may be, I find it hard to see the terms of these debates as anything but tragic. The discussions about the scale of the repressions — how many hundreds of thousands, or millions, at any given period — remind me of a discussion about slavery, where someone on the sidelines clucks their tongue and says, ‘Oh my, that man was sold very cheap — he was worth twice that much.’ When something is absolutely wrong in and of itself, the exact numbers are no longer important.

    Like

    1. Well, this bring us to 2 very, very difficult questions.

      First of all – what is “repression”? Most understand by it being accused and judged guilty of 58 art. of the Criminal code: – Counterrevolutionary activity. Part one gives the definition of it – “”A counter-revolutionary action is any action aimed at overthrowing, undermining or weakening of the power of workers’ and peasants’ Soviets… and governments of the USSR and Soviet and autonomous republics, or at the undermining or weakening of the external security of the USSR and main economical, political and national achievements of the proletarial revolution””

      I.e. – the crime against existing governmental structures. Now, answer me honestly – which government does not persecute according to the law those, who commits crimes against their “regime”?

      [crickets]

      Or should we now treat ALL traitors, coup d’état plotters and those who became the agents of foreign powers who’ve done all in their power to topple the government of their own country as.. innocent victims?

      Just some of those “horrible” articles:

      Art. 58-1a persecutes for treason, i.e. for spying, disclosure of military or state secrets, or becoming a “turncoat” during a war. What – all judged by this article were “repressed”? Should we rehabilitate such “hero” like General Vlasov?

      Art. 58-1b persecutes for treason commited by military personnel. Also innocent victims? No one should’ve been punished for divulging a military secret to the enemy? Or, what – they never existed?

      Art. 58-1v deals with relatives of those accused by the previous 2 articles, who knew about it and didn’t report. But, I guess, family ties trump national security, right?

      Art. 58-1g deals with comrades at arms of the military traitor, who knew about the planned treason, but didn’t report.

      Art. 58-12 – Non-reporting of a counter-revolutionary activity (for civilians).For example, local “patriots” from OUN-UPA are killing indiscriminately Jews, Poles and communists. Locals and their relatives keep their modest silence. Apparently, they can even live the rest of their life knowing that. What – they should not be punished or, to use the over popular parlance, “repressed” for this “no-crime”?

      Art. 58-2 – “Armed uprising or intervention with the goal to seize the power”. Does it mean that any healthy and non-suicidal government should allow various Banderites, basmachs, “forest brothers” and other bandits free reign on its territory? And even if they deal with them – apologies later and proclaim them as “freedom fighters”?

      Art. 58-2 “Terrorist acts against representatives of Soviet power or of workers and peasants organisations”. Or what, if victims are not Westerners – it doesn’t count as terrorism?

      Trying to equate the abhorrent practice of slavery with the execute of law, not so different even for the modern norms, is beyond my comprehension, Mr. Grenier.

      If you didn’t know, so-called “Russian liberals”, anti-sovietists, Russophobes of all origins and a large swathes of the Enlightened Western Public (Enlightened primarily by the Free and Independent Western Media ™) are dead sure that:

      a) “Repressions” were in millions.
      b) “repressed” meant – executed.
      c) All “repressed” were innocent.

      Which brings us to the second difficult question – were they? Why this assumption a priori that none of them was guilty because “Stalin’s paranoia” – or some other lame excuse. Or are those people trying to say us, that against certain governments, regimes and countries committing various crimes – is actually not a crime, but an act of “heroism”?

      So – does it mean that there were no repression in the Soviet Union? Of course not. The Russia had to live through 3 revolutions, World War, Civil War and Intervention in the first decades of the XX century. But was Russia really unique in that regard – that after the forceful change of power the group of revolutionaries had to engage in various repressive measures to keep this power and carry out their often unpopular with some groups decisions? Once again – no.

      But trying to portray Soviet Russia as something monstrously abnormal, not deserving to live in any form – even as the successor state – why, for that you need to engage in propaganda and hype the level of “innocently killed” many, many times. Even now I encounter (on-line) happy liberal minded Westerners of various ages dead sure that Stalin personally killed 50 mlns… or at least – 20 mlns people. Some very forward thinking admit “just” 15 mlns. And all of them become very agitated when I ask them for the sources.

      Like

      1. This is a complete whitewash, and most of the evidence presented is completely irrelevant. Quoting articles of Soviet law is entirely beside the point when the whole question at issue is whether the authorities involved were actually applying any recognizable law whatsoever, or just using the laws in question as a bureaucratic device. In regard to the general tone of your comments (and leaving aside the conspiratorial dismissal of literally every Western historian, and most Russian historians, as part of the “Western media” bogeyman), you’ve implicitly attacked even Khrushchev’s secret speech. As if the transparently absurd nature of the charges against Soviet cadres in the 1930’s weren’t obvious enough already (if anyone honestly thinks there’s any remotely reasonable chance that someone like Bukharin was any kind of traitor, I think they’ve excluded themselves from any reasonable discussion), Khrushchev explicitly acknowledged that most of the charges were fabricated out of thin air. and Khrushchev, if anyone, was in a position to know. If this is how loyal party members were treated, what does that tell us about what members of automatically suspect groups like peasants and national minorities could expect?
        You also misrepresent the views of the historians you attack. No one says that everyone convicted of crimes against the state was innocent. Instead, what they say is that it’s overwhelmingly probable that the vast majority were innocent, and in any case, the troikas were such a transparently unfair method of judgment that, even if perhaps some people were guilty, we have no reason for any confidence in that fact. As to the idea that anyone claims that all those “repressed” were executed, against, it’s a complete strawman. Every historian who has dealt with the Stalinist era has noted that most convicts were either deported or sent to the Gulag rather than executed. They just (entirely reasonably) consider Stalin and his government responsible when people sent to the Gulag died of malnutrition and poor treatment.
        But in addition to being completely false, the attempt to whitewash the Stalinist era is counterproductive. It contributes to exactly the sort of “history wars” that Starikov seems to enjoy, where no one on either side cares much about the truth. Trying to make a myth of a “normal”, unexceptional Stalinist period only doubles the resolve of Ukrainian nationalists, Western neo-conservatives, and other groups to fabricate and stand by their own mythological narratives.

        Like

      2. Mr. Ward! Your post reads like a litany of accusations. If you allow me, I’d like to answer some of them. From the very beginning you are accusing me of a “whitewash”, because I refuse to immediately accept some very questionable (and unsupported) claims, that for a very long time have been deemed as “Ultimate Truth” by some Westerners and by the so-called “Russian Liberals”. E.g., you’ve accused me of the following:

        ”In regard to the general tone of your comments (and leaving aside the conspiratorial dismissal of literally every Western historian, and most Russian historians, as part of the “Western media” bogeyman), you’ve implicitly attacked even Khrushchev’s secret speech”

        Mr. Ward – can you, please, quote any of my posts where I “dismiss literally every Western historian, and most Russian historians, as part of the “Western media” bogeyman”. I’d really appreciate that – that’d show, that you are indeed interested in a meaningful dialog between us two.

        ”As if the transparently absurd nature of the charges against Soviet cadres in the 1930’s weren’t obvious enough already (if anyone honestly thinks there’s any remotely reasonable chance that someone like Bukharin was any kind of traitor, I think they’ve excluded themselves from any reasonable discussion), Khrushchev explicitly acknowledged that most of the charges were fabricated out of thin air. and Khrushchev, if anyone, was in a position to know”

        As for treating “Khruschev’s secret speech” as some sort of Holy Writ – Mr. Ward, do you know what Khruschev did in Ukraine during the “Great Purge” and what have prompted Stalin to send him a telegram “Calm down, you idiot!”? I don’t trust claims and words – I trust facts, findings and statistics. Khruchev is the last person on Earth who can claim any moral superiority over Stalin in that regard, and trusting just his words, said (and widely distributed) while he was engaged in the inter-party struggle to get o the top – and secure that position, is rather naïve.

        ” If this is how loyal party members were treated, what does that tell us about what members of automatically suspect groups like peasants and national minorities could expect?”

        And – once again – facts and proofs, instead of extrapolations and some convoluted though images, please. Since when did the “peasants” became “automatically suspect” group? Sources, proof. And don’t get me started on this myth about “unjustified persecution of the national minorities” unless you have some really good data .

        ”You also misrepresent the views of the historians you attack. No one says that everyone convicted of crimes against the state was innocent. Instead, what they say is that it’s overwhelmingly probable that the vast majority were innocent, and in any case, the troikas were such a transparently unfair method of judgment that, even if perhaps some people were guilty, we have no reason for any confidence in that fact”

        Only you are defending those, whom you don’t know. Your average run of the mill so-called “Russian liberals” and sympathetic to them historians prefer to strike a pose and shriek in a high pitching voice about all those “millions” of “repressed by bloody regime” – they don’t bother to make a distinction. At all. And as for the theory that “the vast majority were innocent” – well, in my own naïveté I always though that for claiming such things one should have some proof. We can’t believe someone just because they are voicing “idealogically right” views. And the burden of proof is on them in this regard.

        ”As to the idea that anyone claims that all those “repressed” were executed, against, it’s a complete strawman”

        Of course its strawman – but this claim is still used by the so-called Russian liberals, anti-sovietists and crowds of misinformed people brainwashed by them.

        ” But in addition to being completely false, the attempt to whitewash the Stalinist era is counterproductive”

        Once again – no one tries to whitewash anything. We only try to bring a real discussion to the topic previously dominated by the anti-Sovietist echo-chamber patients. We demand hard facts and proof instead of accepting everything said by the “saintly” dissidents, liberasts and pieces of concentrated Russopbobia from all around the world. It tells a lot about the shakiness of your side’s position, if after a simple demand for a hard proof, a sourced link and/or non-partisan analysis you scream “whitewash” and “denial”.

        ”. Trying to make a myth of a “normal”, unexceptional Stalinist period only doubles the resolve of Ukrainian nationalists, Western neo-conservatives, and other groups to fabricate and stand by their own mythological narratives”

        Pardon my English, but – fuck them.

        Like

      3. Before we go on, I think it would be good to make sure we’re not talking past each other. So, I’m going to make a number of statements as a “baseline”, and ask you to tell me which ones you disagree with.

        1) In the Stalinist era, millions (I’m not really concerned to get into the fine details of numbers, so I’ll just say something north of 1 million) of Soviet citizens were executed for various crimes against the state.
        2) Millions of other citizens were sentenced to the Gulag or internal deportation, and a sizable percentage of both groups died prematurely as a result of these sentences.
        3) The “troikas” were in no sense fair courts, and therefore their findings are worthless as an index of the guilt or innocence of the people they convicted.
        4) “Quotas” which were issued for the arrest and conviction of criminals, although officially intended as maximums, were actually treated as minimums, and exceeding these quotas was largely encouraged.
        5) The “Holodomor” is a real event, by which I mean that an artificially-generated (although not necessarily intentional) famine was worsened by government policies that showed a complete disregard for human life.
        6) In the course of the various Stalinist purges, members of ethnic minorities were statistically more likely to be convicted and sentenced than ethnic Russians.
        7) Due to the general worthlessness of the troikas as indexes of guilt and innocence, there’s no reason to believe that this statistical over-representation of ethnic minorities results from any real tendency of the minorities to commit treason.

        I suspect I know which numbers you’ll object to, but I want to make sure before we proceed.

        Like

      4. Actually, I read somewhere, the official NKVD numbers show somewhat less than a million executions, and that’s for something like 30 years (1923-1953? I don’t remember exactly).

        And the worst incarceration rate, again, the official numbers, comes out about twice the current incarceration rate in the US. Which is terrible, of course, but not exactly mind boggling.

        I think the narrative that makes sense is not that Stalinism was somehow a perfectly ordinary period, but that the situation and the times were extraordinary. Extreme western hostility, a credible existential threat of war, leading to the need for an expedited industrial revolution (and industrial revolutions are always painful), and so on. The context. Everything should be viewed in context, and Starikov&Co would do better by providing the right one.

        Take the internment of Japanese Americans in the US, for example. Yeah, a terrible thing – by itself. But let’s add the context: hey, those were difficult times, the Pearl Harbor, the war, it’s understandable.

        But then for the US that war wasn’t really an existential threat, the US didn’t expect to fight on its own territory. And yet drastic measures like that felt justified at the time. Implemented by Saint FDR, who remains a perfectly saintly figure nevertheless. Or Saint George Washington, massacring Indians left and right. Yeah, regrettable, but, under the circumstances, surely something had to be done, right? The context.

        Like

      5. According to Stephen Wheatcroft, the total number of executions in the period 1921-1953 is 799 455, according to the NKVD archives. However, I agree with historians who argue that that number is incomplete, and, in particular quite likely fails to include some of the victims of the “Great Purge”. On the other hand, that figure also includes people executed for non-political crimes.
        As for incarceration rates, I’ve even heard a stronger claim, which is that the average incarceration rate under Stalin was actually lower than the current American incarceration rate. I haven’t spent a lot of effort investigating this claim, though, because I don’t think the incarceration rate is a particularly helpful way of evaluating the scale of the Gulag phenomenon. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, a large number of people either died in the Gulag, or shortly after being released. Many of the people that were released from the Gulag were released because they were already close to death. However, if you look at incarceration rates, deaths and releases actually push the rate down, whereas in reality they make the problem of the Gulag bigger, not smaller. Secondly, the problem of the Gulag is not only, or even primarily, a quantitative problem. Although it’s significant to know that so many people experienced it, the quality of the experience itself is the first and most important thing. Thirdly, I think the reasons for skepticism concerning the official records are even stronger for the Gulag than for executions, so I don’t have a lot of confidence that we can get access to any sort of exact data to make comparisons with.
        Getting to the more general point, I don’t think many people would agree that “the context” justifies the internment of Japanese Americans. I know I certainly wouldn’t. It’s a different claim to make to say that the internment is a genuine black eye on FDR’s record, but the record can be justified on the whole on the basis of other things (the New Deal, Lend-Lease, war leadership, etc.), and to say that the black eye isn’t really a black eye at all. I would definitely defend the first claim (I have a fairly high opinion of FDR) but not the second. Coming back around to Stalin, his “black eyes” are multiple orders of magnitude blacker than the Japanese internment (the forced deportations on the basis of “objective characteristics” after the war were alone responsible for much more suffering, both quantitatively and qualitatively, than the internment.
        Looking at the question of the times, I don’t agree that they were nearly as grim for the Soviet Union as they’re often painted as being. Throughout the 1920’s, the only possible threats to the Soviet Union were Japan and the Western democracies (for obvious reasons, Germany wasn’t yet a factor). Japan, although it could reasonably seen as having malicious intent, was much weaker than the Soviet Union. As for the western democracies, it would take a truly paranoid mind to think that their hostility (such as it was) presented any existential threat to the Soviet Union. They were far too wrapped up in domestic issues to contemplate any great “crusade against communism”. Yet even at this relatively safe time, all the worst tendencies of the Stalinist system were already starting to appear. Furthermore, I don’t think it’s at all established that the Stalinist terror and violence did anything to prepare the Soviet Union for the war with Germany when it finally came. If we imagine the counterfactual where the Soviet Union sticks with the NEP, and doesn’t massively purge its government and army right before the war starts, it’s not at all clear to me that this counterfactual Soviet Union would perform any worse than the real Soviet Union did.

        Like

      6. “…the internment is a genuine black eye on FDR’s record, but the record can be justified on the whole on the basis of other things (the New Deal, Lend-Lease, war leadership, etc.)…”

        This is exactly the approach that, I think, reasonable opponents of the (so to say) total demonization of Stalin advocate. To see the whole, the big picture, in context.

        In the case of FDR, it’s not only the internment (and not only of the Japanese, also of other ‘enemy aliens’: some Germans, some Italians), but also, for example, the ‘stuffing of the supreme court’ incident that isn’t even a part of the common national discourse as far as I can tell, let alone being considered among the defining features of his period. Because for his, FDR’s context, the first things that come to mind context-wise, are the Great Depression and WWII. Great challenges, being dealt with.

        “As for the western democracies, it would take a truly paranoid mind to think that their hostility (such as it was) presented any existential threat to the Soviet Union.”

        I don’t think so. Check out some relevant Churchill’s proclamations of the period.

        “I haven’t spent a lot of effort investigating this claim, though, because I don’t think the incarceration rate is a particularly helpful way of evaluating the scale of the Gulag phenomenon”

        Yes, but it’s the same story with the modern phenomenon of mass-incarceration in the US. Overcrowding, violent gangs, housing of mentally ill in prisons, general brutality (with prison rapes being, apparently, common).

        Between One Day of Ivan Denisovich and HBO’s Oz, I think I might’ve preferred GULAG.

        ” If we imagine the counterfactual where the Soviet Union sticks with the NEP”

        Nah. Forced industrialization, rapid development of the ‘heavy industry’, to be prepared for the fast approaching existential challenge, for the Big War. Could not be done within the framework of NEP. Or, at least, I can’t imagine how it could. Now, that’s the whole point of seeing things in context.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Soviet_Union_%281927%E2%80%9353%29

        You may want to read Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. It’s been a while, but as I remember, while not being sympathetic to Stalinism, it explains some of its logic…

        Like

  15. Lyttenburgh,

    I take what you are saying.

    However, in the light of recent developments, I think that Starikov really does have the wrong response to these problems, even if one is looking at matters from a narrowly Machiavellian point of view.

    A regular feature on ‘Russia Insider’ are the ‘Russian Federation Sitreps’ by the former long-serving Canadian government analyst of Soviet and Russian affairs, Dr Patrick Armstrong. In his 8 October ‘Sitrep’, he has a section entitled ‘The Worm Turns’, which links to two reports in the ‘Washington Post’, one in the ‘Daily Mail’, and one in the ‘Express’ – the last two strongly Tory-leaning British ‘tabloid’ newspapers.

    On these, Dr Armstrong commented:

    ‘The first two condemn Russia’s actions, the second two approve. But, in all cases the readers’ comments are overwhelmingly supportive of Russia’s attacks. I have suspected for a while – why else all the talk about ”Putin trolls”, Putin’s ”information war” and the closing of comments sections? – that an increasing proportion of the Western audience sees through the spin and propaganda. Syria may burst the dam. The last words go to Paul Craig Roberts: ”By telling the truth at a time of universal deceit, Putin committed a revolutionary act”.’

    (See http://russia-insider.com/en/one-pager-latest-developments-russia-rf-sitrep-20151008/ri10362 .)

    Another ‘straw in the wind’: My own ‘perch’ on the internet has, for a long time, been the blog ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’ run by Colonel W. Patrick Lang. Formerly in charge of intelligence for the Middle East, South Asia and Terrorism at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and later of ‘Humint’, and before that a Vietnam-era special forces officer, Colonel Lang spent very much of his career fighting communists, in one way or another.

    Although the commenters on the blog are of very varied views and backgrounds, very few of them would have had any sympathy whatsoever for communism.

    What almost all of us have thought, for a long time, however, is that precisely the kind of instrumental approach to truth which Starikov advocates has been leading the West into one disaster after another. Put simply, when people start talking ‘bullshit’, they commonly end up getting lost in their own propaganda.

    Over the last three years, moreover, there has been a sea-change in opinion on the blog. The Ukrainian shambles was a major part of it, and with the crisis over Syria, the absolutely overwhelming preponderance of opinion is firmly behind the Russian intervention, and completely contemptuous of Western policy.

    By far the best-informed coverage I have seen in the West of what is actually happening in Syria comes in the ‘Sitreps’ provided on the blog by ‘Patrick Bahzad’ – a former senior French special forces and military intelligence officer, of mixed French and Lebanese Maronite Christian background. This is hardly a background, I think, which makes him instinctively sympathetic to the ‘R + 5’. But in a conflict between them and those the Colonel proposes to call ‘the Borg + 6’, we all know which side we choose.

    (See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/ .)

    Since he started ‘Irrussianality’, and indeed before, I have strongly recommended Paul’s writings to my fellow commenters on SST, precisely because – while so many were simply reciting the mantra ‘Once a Chekist, always a Chekist’, like self-satisfied parrots, he pointed to the shaping role of ‘White’ traditions in Putin’s thinking.

    I referred to it again in a comment which Colonel Lang put up as a post a week ago, provoked by a commentator who appeared to think that Russian won its wars by ‘throwing more peasants at the enemy.’

    Although my own knowledge of these matters is very limited, there were certain points about the background to the very patent revival in the combat effectiveness of Russian forces I thought worth making.

    (In so doing, I touched on the extraordinary ambiguities of Stalin’s role, in so doing provoking a discussion which you might find interesting. In the course of it, A.I. Schmelzer, who comments regularly on this blog, referred me to what looks like a fascinating recent British thesis on that former inhabitant of the Gulag, Marshal Konstantin Rokossovskiy – which repeatedly points how that his distinctive strategic ‘style’ was very much in accord with the thinking of Aleksandr Svechin, who I had been discussing.)

    (See http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2015/10/a-few-observations-by-david-habakkuk.html .)

    It is very much my view that it was something of a catastrophe, not just for Russia but for the West, that in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of communism we had a kind of ‘echo chamber’, with Russian ‘liberals’ telling people in the West what they wanted to hear.

    However, the appropriate response to that seems to me that which Putin has adopted – which involves recognising and trying to learn from the catastrophes of the past.

    The question that he put in his address to the U.N. – ‘do you at least realize now what you’ve done?’ is going, I think, to reverberate for a very long time. However, a key reason that it will do so is that the chain of thought of which it is the culmination starts with Putin saying:

    ‘We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress.

    ‘It seems, however, that instead of learning from other people’s mistakes, some prefer to repeat them and continue to export revolutions, only now these are ”democratic” revolutions.’

    Likewise, Putin’s remarks on Western support for terrorists, culminating in the pointed question, ‘who’s playing who here?’, hit home, precisely more and more people in the West do think that their own leaders have become lost in their own ‘spin and propaganda’, on a range of important matters he is telling it like it is.

    Like

    1. Concerning that thesis, what I find particularly remarkable about Rokosovsky is that he, while in Gulag and pretty viciously tortured, neither confessed nor denounced anyone else.

      This requires considerable degrees of moral and physical fortitude.

      I fully second your points concerning the drawbacks of echo chambers, and I also somewhat dislike the morphing of Russia Today into basically Russian Fox news.

      Like

    1. That was an attempt at shorthand, perhaps an overly violent shorthand, to hint at aspects of the Russian intellectual and philosophical heritage which Christianity alone doesn’t capture. Much of Russian thought is, in fact, both Christian and Platonic — e.g. Vladimir Solovyov, and his entire subsequent school (which is virtually the whole of the Silver Age). There are important Platonic influences even on some of Tolstoy’s great novels (a subject on which Dr. Svetlana Grenier has written).
      But it goes beyond such conscious intellectual influences too, I think. America’s culture, like most of its architecture, is flat. Russian culture has retained a pre-modern respect for hierarchies, for spiritual aristocracies. It retains a strong vertical dimension, one that was evident even in atheist Russia. This helps explain some of the nostalgia for the Soviet experience. I am not at all unsympathetic to that nostalgia, as long as it is honest and discriminating.
      As regards the Russian government, it is hard to say. At times, rhetorically at least, yes. But it is too early to make any generalizations about it. My point was simply that this is something that still exists in Russia. What aspect of culture will in the end prove defining for Russia only time will tell.

      Like

  16. Hey, I’m watching Starikov right now.

    I’m not sure about the theory that the US has been destroying middle-eastern states in order to support the dollar, but other than that he’s making sense… So far, that is, 20 minutes in…

    Like

  17. To mr. Ward

    I’m sorry, but your comment is a manifest ignorance in theme you write about. It was already pointed to you how ridiculous is using Khruschev as some kind of historic source (in fact there is even American literature on the matter of his Secret Speach lies).

    I wouldn’t even reply, especially since more general parts of your comment I would even agree with, if not your overly indignant tone.

    So here is little general explanation. You see, all you know about Russian history is wrong. Simply for the fact you have nowhere to learn it from. English speaking historiography on this topic is mostly beyond ridiculous and limited to periods of, Stalin, Revolution and Ekathrine the Great (plus a bit about 3 other rulers) which limits usefulness of even few facts they get right, since no way to put them in historical context.

    And the rest… I mean my favorite is use of Cossacks according to different historians from US they are descendants of Mongols, there are tribes of them, and they commited “Cossack pogroms” from which Jews fled to US. Out of those three statement, something akin to truth could be found in only one, and even this one is long way from being accurate worded like that. And this is Cossacks who captured western imagination. What to say about less glamorous topics?

    Here is summ of what you could possibly know about Russia

    Like

    1. Mister Ward!

      If you were indeed interested in “making sure that we’re not talking past each other”, you’d answer my question which I wasked you in my first post to you, namely:

      1) _Mr. Ward – can you, please, quote any of my posts where I “dismiss literally every Western historian, and most Russian historians, as part of the “Western media” bogeyman”._

      2) _Mr. Ward, do you know what Khruschev did in Ukraine during the “Great Purge”?_

      3) _Since when did the “peasants” became “automatically suspect” group?_

      I was of opinion that answering these quite simply-worded questions, you’d contribute much to our dialog.

      Instead you chose to present as “baseline” a list of glaring factually largly unsupported (where are your sources, Mr. Ward?) anti-Soviet stereotypes and myths.

      I’ve demonstrated it before, and will demonstrate again – I can and will dissect such usupported claims and refute them with actual historic data. Just recently, about a week or two ago I presented to Paul a number of decrees and laws which refute the ever-popular myths about “Kolhozniks – new serfs”. The same I did while touching upon the subject f myths and lies about Holodomor in comment section in other blog – https://marknesop.wordpress.com.

      What you have done so far is just a recital of the same old myths and misconception. Once again – I can provide you with exhaustive refute of many of them, Mr. Ward – but this is Paul’s blog, and this very post and our comments to it are sinking lower and lower on this page as new articles and news items are added. Soon, most people will stop checking out for new comments and might even forget about it alltogether.

      Should we ask the kind master of this blog to make a special post for us (and other interesting parties) to solve our differences in the intellectual variant of Texas Steel Cage Death Match? 😉 Or you have other ideas?

      One idea I offer you absolutely for free – stop making baseless, groundless and sourceless claims. The burden of proof is upon you, Mr. Ward – not me. This is you who are making these “Holy 7 Claims” without providing proof whatsoever.

      Like

      1. With apologies for the slow response, I’ll answer your three questions first.

        1) When I made this comment, I was referring to your post where you said that, “Trying to equate the abhorrent practice of slavery with the execute of law, not so different even for the modern norms, is beyond my comprehension, Mr. Grenier.” It seems to me to be fairly widely agreed, even among fairly “revisionist” historians, that the troikas responsible for most of the executions and Gulag sentences were not in any way fair courts, or even really courts at all (if “court” means a place where guilt or innocence are honestly determined, to the extent of the judge’s or jury’s ability). Therefore, I thought the claim that their sentences constitute “the execution of law, not so different even from modern norms” was bizarre.
        2) Yes, I know that Khrushchev had a very bloody career in Ukraine. I just don’t find that relevant to the discussion of the reliability of the secret speech (at least in the sections relevant to this discussion). I don’t think the secret speech is a trustworthy source (at least in this context) because of the moral authority of Khrushchev, but rather because it was a speech by one “insider” to a group that included other insiders, and therefore the possibilities to stretch the truth were limited (although not completely absent).
        3) I referred to peasants as an “automatically suspect group” because of the special measures taken against them as a class during agricultural collectivization. In the face of their official treatment, I think it’s even less likely that members of this group would be given fair trials than members of other groups (such as urban workers).

        As for the rest, I think you misunderstood my intention in posting the “seven claims” in my last response. I’m not trying to argue for those claims yet. I just want to see which ones in particular you disagree with. I think it’s pointless to spend a lot of time making arguments and documenting claims before we even know for sure what we’re arguing about. I could write a long post demonstrating that Russia lies to the north of China and the East of Belarus, but it would be a waste of time, because we don’t disagree about that. My goal in my last post was to make sure that I don’t waste time making arguments that are unnecessary/non-controversial in this context. Just doing the preparatory work, so to speak (and, for the record, that’s the same reason I didn’t include any sources to back up my claims in this post either. Again, I want to make sure the positions are clear before we get into the details).
        As to where this discussion should happen, I’m pretty flexible about that. If a special post is made, I’ll participate in the conversation there. Otherwise, I’ll just keep posting here. Either way is fine with me 🙂

        Like

  18. Mr. Ward. I will give you short answers, not to bloat already big thread which falls further into oblivion with each new post by Paul.

    1) I disagree with ALL of your 7 points.

    2) I also disagree with your new claims that you’ve made in these two new posts.

    3) I still didn’t see you response to my rather simple questions – which I find rather sad.

    4) I will gladly “duke it out” with you in some other thread, even here on “Irrussianality”.

    5) I was deeply sudden by your, Mr. Ward, approach, which amounts to “I want to believe” – when you have no facts and sources to support you theories, you just claim to “believe” in something, and expect others to shate this beliefe. Sorry – but I won’t accept that as a proof. Try harder.

    Would be glad to “face you off” here or elsewhere, where I’d have a chance to explain to you more about Troikas (and why it’s wrong to dississ all of their sensces out of hand), about deporations (listing reasons and real effects), and that peasants were not “specaially target category” for the so much hated by you Stalin.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s