The USSR: the Death of a Visionary

Uncle Volodya says, "English fairy tales begin with, ' Once Upon a Time..' Soviet fairy tales began with, 'Very soon now..."

For those of you who, like me, have eagerly awaited Kovane’s next effort, wait no longer. If you have a degree in Russian history like A Good Treaty and several other academes among the Russia-watching community, you probably know a good deal about the collapse of the USSR already. If you don’t have that sort of background, this is a bit like taking the degree program in about a half-hour. It would probably be a bit of an exaggeration to say that it negates the advantage of a college degree; however, it’s a priceless insight into the initial stumbles that brought down a juggernaut, and it must be heartbreaking (for some) to know that it could have gone either way. At so many points in the cavalcade of errors, something could have gone right that ultimately went wrong. Que sera, sera. Although some will see it as divine validation of the western way of life, in the end it was like most catastrophes, perpetrated by those who were either too ignorant to see the consequences of their actions, too weak to arrest the plunge, or too venal to wish to. A powerful piece that is likely to be controversial, from someone who lived at least part of it – read on.

“It’s rather amusing to watch how quickly major historical events unfold nowadays. Just slightly more than twenty years ago the world was firmly divided into two separate politico-economic camps, jam-packed with nuclear weapons and throngs of armies. The sides routinely vilified each other and occupied themselves with calculating how to tip the coveted strategic balance without sending the economies into free fall; it seemed that the status-quo would hold for eternity. Fast-forward 10 years: the picture is so staggeringly different that some kind of time paradox might be rightfully suspected. Shards of the once formidable Soviet Union are thrown back for almost 30 years, torn apart by terrorism, nationalism and a huge surge in crime. On the other hand, the United States is unanimously hailed as a victor, and the spoils are indeed theirs: Russia is flooded with US advisers; experts gleefully predict doomsday scenarios for Russia, one worse than another; international corporations are eyeing newly appeared markets. Pax Americana has never shone more brightly and there is not a single speck on its horizon. Another 10 years forward, to the present day, and the picture once again becomes rather different from what was expected earlier. The capricious opinion of experts has changed, and they are circling the USA, simultaneously fawning over China. The usual downbeat voices of Russia’s critics are now interspersed with screeches about “the resurrection of Russian imperialism” and “The New Cold War”. Who knows what the world will face later? Will it be domination by Burkina Faso’s undefeatable military and economic might? Given the previous events, I hesitate to completely brush aside the possibility of that happening. The most unsettling thought, however, is in knowing that any country can go down in flames in a matter of years, and sometimes it’s your country. The dissolution of the world’s second economy had a profound effect on the lives of millions, probably even billions of people, and yet the reasons behind it haven’t been thoroughly researched. Studies in Russia often tend to be heavily influenced by various conspiracy theories, because the pain is too fresh, while the West views the Soviet Union’s break-up as something natural; a victory of good, capitalism and democracy. Unfortunately, the analysis of such events may be one of the most difficult endeavors in today’s science, as the number of the processes affecting the outcome is truly infinite. They interact in a complex way, sometimes canceling each other out or, on the contrary, amplifying – the key to a successful analysis is creation of a model that takes into account the most significant processes. That’s why the whole practice is regarded as a kind of witch-doctorism. Analysis of past events is much easier, as the outcome is already known, and a lot of data is available for use in the study. That’s what we’ll do, trying to look into the causes of the USSR’s demise.

The 1950-1970s were the pinnacle of Soviet economic might. Having lost the most developed region in WW2 (the national income dropped by 34% in 1942 compared to 1940), the Soviet Union rapidly recovered, and by 1950, the national income was 1.6 times higher than in 1940. On average, the economy grew at the annual rate of 6-7% during 1945-1970, which is certainly the most successful period in the history of Russia. But there should be no illusions as to where this achievement came from. The specifics of the planned economy allowed the government to set an arbitrary investment rate – practically speaking – as consumption was strictly controlled, and  economic growth was achieved at the expense of common people’s need.

Stalin’s postwar rule was marked by a very careful economic policy. Soviet people were provided with the most basic goods and services: full coverage free health care, free and quality education and affordable food and clothes. But beyond that, the standard of living was very low, especially in rural areas. The prevalence of cars and home appliances was almost non-existent; the situation with the housing provision was appalling. But nevertheless, the nation was enthusiastic after the Victory, had strong faith in a bright future and saw improvements in everyday life:  real wages also grew, though admittedly lagging behind industrial development. That created a situation whereby the government had a large amount of spare resources to allocate. Stalin opted for creating a solid industrial base and strong military: at that time the onset of the Cold War dictated priorities. The government’s main efforts were concentrated on heavy industry development. All produced goods were divided into two categories: “A”, goods for enterprises, and “B”, goods for consumers; the first category received a much higher priority. On the whole, the economic system was sound and the state was running a large surplus.

After Stalin’s death the power passed to the triumvirate of Malenkov, Beria and Molotov. That was the first time since NEP when the Soviet state flirted with ideas of liberalization. On Beria’s initiative, more than a third of prisoners were freed, several prominent show trials were stopped, a new law that outlawed any form of torture was signed and some other liberalizing measures came into being. But he was too dangerous a rival. Firstly, Beria had at his disposal the most organized and strongest organization, NKVD, and secondly, he had more than enough dirt on each and every one of his fellow party members. That’s why nobody protested when Beria was arrested on familiar espionage charges, and quietly shot. The balance of power then shifted to Malenkov. He also favoured liberalization, and shared Beria’s belief in the necessity of transferring the power from the Party to economic executives (he, conveniently, was the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR).  The ban on foreign press was lifted; a new law easing the lot of peasantry was adopted; and Malenkov announced a plan for increasing the production of category “B” goods. Among his undertakings, he sharply reduced the incomes of Party members, a step that proved to be fatal to Malenkov’s career. Khrushchev used this mistake with lightning speed and roused opposition; Malenkov was ousted on the accusation of being close to Beria.  Khrushchev became the sole pretender to supreme power. His rule was characterized by a very erratic style of governance. Most of his initiatives were concluded with the phrase “in the next two years”; the result was expected here and now. Despite relaxation of political life (Khrushchev’s Thaw), Stalin’s economic policies were generally continued, although serious efforts were made on construction of affordable housing. By the end of Khrushchev’s times, everybody among high-ranking Party officials realized that serious difficulties in the economy were present and that something had to be done about it, while the leader wasn’t up to the task. That’s why Khrushchev was displaced in his absence, on the grounds of “poor health condition”.

The successful attack on Malenkov denotes an important turning point in the history of the USSR’s downfall. The Party bureaucracy rejected the slightest implication of losing power, and immediately disposed of its advocates. Since the foundation of the Soviet state, political ideas took precedence over economic ones; no one had any notion how to practically put Marx’s ideas into action. Drunk with first successes, the Bolsheviks even intended to abolish money, but reality harshly reminded of the utopianism of this plan. Collectivization and industrialization were met with protest from economists, but they didn’t see what was clear to the political leadership – the impending war. History abundantly provided the USSR with events demanding emergent interference in the economy: WW2, the USA’s nuclear advantage and the Cold War. Responding to these challenges, Stalin created a very strict hierarchical Party system where members received power and significant material bonuses. But the price of error was very high – dismissal at best, and arrest or execution very often; no one was safe from Stalin’s wrath. These harsh measures kept Party members in check and ensured the renewal of the Party’s ranks – social elevators worked. After Stalin’s death there was a perfect moment for letting the economy perform its function – to satisfy people’s needs. But the top Party leadership didn’t want to relinquish their power and privileges. Besides, they had obtained total unaccountability; the most common punishment for a serious mistake became transfer to another position or a small demotion. Virtually, the only way out of the Central Committee was in a coffin, and the average age of the Politburo’s members steadily grew, reaching 71 years in 1981. Those people controlled all spheres of life in the Soviet Union, and needless to say, such tendencies didn’t augur well.

Another common problem that plagued the economy was the growing complexity of central planning. Initially, when Marx was writing his magnum opus, he stood on the simple idea that consolidation of enterprises would result in a more productive economy and central distribution would eliminate the horrible working conditions of his time. But all these notions were formulated on the premise that the number of produced goods was limited. That was true for the first half of the 20th century (the Soviet economy was developing at tremendous pace then), but In the 70s the USSR produced 25 millions of different type manufactured items and had tens of thousands of enterprises. And that is despite widely used standardizations of all production! Because of that, the central planning was a very inexact science; its data was fraught with distortions, backdated corrections, and it heavily relied on the ability of CEOs of enterprises to negotiate with each other. And the importance of personal connections was paramount.

The problem of creating working administrative structures was important over the whole Soviet period, but it became especially crippling after the 50s. The system of ministries was growing more and more inefficient, as they tended to neglect regional interests and engaged in competitive wars for investment resources. Trying to bite off more than they could handle, there were many investment projects that were never finished. This highlights another problem inherent in the Soviet economy – weak profitability assessment. Although some methods were used (calculating the cost of labour to produce), distorted prices made introduction of any new product or technology difficult. Such decisions were usually discussed on ministry commissions, and the process was much bureaucratized. As a consequence of that, the Party tended to direct resources at the sectors where output was understandable and could be used to report as an achievement: the military and the space program. Khrushchev attempted to reorganize ministries into sovnarhozes, so different branches of industry cooperated more, but failed. Enterprises got two or even three masters to serve then, and economic effectiveness suffered. One of the first decisions of Brezhnev, who replaced Khrushchev, was a return to the system of ministries.

Also not everything was smooth with the mood of the common people. If in the 50s a qualified worker earned 3-4 times more than an entry-level one, by 1970-1980 the difference was practically leveled. A Soviet engineer after 5 years of higher education earned less than a worker after high school. This fact alone got on the nerves of the Soviet intelligentsia, and alienated it.  Initial post-war enthusiasm quickly turned into bitter disappointment and cynicism. Many vented these feelings by drinking, the alcohol consumption steadily increasing since the 60s. As the deficit of goods worsened, the Soviet state was becoming a more and more inconvenient place to live.

The infamous Soviet deficit was always different. Back in the 50s, only a few goods were in short supply; that was not a consequence of any special abundance, but rather strict control over the financial sector. After Malenkov’s reduction of prices the problem became more acute, but the private market alleviated it in regard to food and clothes: however, durable consumer goods were rare. After 1970, the growth of the money in people’s hands was increasing faster than the availability of goods, and the list of what was considered ‘deficit’ expanded. And finally, during the last years of the Soviet Union, the shelves of stores were almost empty. The deficit became a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy – people expected that goods would disappear and bought them up. The reason that greatly exacerbated the deficit was wide-scale corruption in the Soviet trade. Managers who were responsible for the distribution of goods often hoarded them in order to sell them for personal profit or exchange for other rare goods. The state usually turned a blind eye to such activities, preferring to fight petty pilfering and speculation. The only attempt to change things was made by Andropov in 1982. He launched an anti-corruption campaign which revealed large-scale scams in Moscow, the Caucasian and Middle Asian republics. The ties led to the highest levels in the Politburo, but the Soviet leadership decided to hush up the issue.

After Khrushchev’s dismissal, Brezhnev came into power; the second most powerful man was Kosygin, the Chairman of the Council of Ministers.  By that time, almost everyone understood the reality of the economic difficulties that the Soviet Union faced. All the limits of extensive growth were exhausted; the number of employed workers stabilized; and the economy seriously lagged behind in terms of productivity compared to the Western developed nations. Two ideas were competing at the time: the State-wide Automated System of Accounting and Information Processing (OGAS), proposed by academic Glushkov, and the plan of implementing market methods by economist Lieberman, laid down in the article “Plan, Profit, Bonus”. OGAS was conceived as a united computer network managing the whole economy, and was very costly, so Lieberman’s ideas were used, and in 1965 the first documents were signed. The reform was probably the last chance to evolutionarily reform the Soviet economy. Enterprises obtained more independence; such market concepts as profit and profitability were introduced. Despite certainly being a step in the right direction, the reform was seriously flawed. The funds that remained at enterprise’s discretion could be spent on wages or equipment upgrades, but CEOs mostly preferred to distribute them as bonuses, as any investment remained in the control of ministries. The Soviet leadership was displeased with soaring wages of managers – some of them earned more than Politburo members. Besides, the reform stimulated the growth of costs, as the bonuses were tied to them. These effects gave a perfect pretext for smothering reform in the 70s, instead of correcting it. Too many people in the Party couldn’t accept the thought of losing power, so opposition to it was formidable. Another contributing factor was the influx of oil money from the recently developed West Siberian oilfield, and soaring prices of oil. This money was spent mostly on the import of consumer goods and food.

Although Brezhnev’s epoch is fondly remembered by senior citizens – real incomes increased and the state put a lot of effort into providing the country with consumer goods – the economic growth was slowing down and the renewal of the industrial base was often ignored. After Brezhnev, Andropov – a former KGB chief – became the leader. He tried to revive the economy with usual KGB subtlety:  by detaining absentees and fighting pilferers, but it was like beating a dead horse. Andropov’s rule was short-lived: following him, Chernenko held out only for a year, and after him Gorbachev was elected as General Secretary.

Initially, Gorbachev was hailed as a long-awaited break from the string of senile, gravely-ill politicians, who could only read their speeches from a sheet of paper. But his first steps were more like a continuance of Andropov’s initiatives – the proclaimed policies of “acceleration”, the campaign against “unearned income” and the anti-alcohol campaign. The results of these actions were predictable – in an environment of almost full paralysis and apathy, they were doomed. The anti-alcohol campaign seriously sapped the budget; the income of light industry almost halved in 1985-86. In addition to the sharp drop in oil prices (it went down from 30 $/bbl in 1985 to 13 $/bbl in 1986) and the terrible and costly Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986, the dragging on of war in Afghanistan laid too heavy a burden on the sickly Soviet economy. By 1987 Gorbachev replaced many old conservative members of the Party, and it enabled him to do an almost complete about turn – Perestroika and glasnost became the new salvation method of the USSR. From an economic point of view, perestroika was an echo of the Kosygin reform – more independence to enterprises, and economic incentives.  The single plan was to be replaced by state contractual work; foreigners were allowed to invest in the economy; and private cooperatives were gradually introduced. Cooperatives were probably the final stake through the heart of the Soviet economy – basically they could buy goods at firm state prices and sell their production at an arbitrary price. The barrier between enterprise funds and hard cash was broken; that paralyzed state plan execution, and shortages of the most basic goods rapidly developed. The first Soviet millionaires appeared in a matter of months; among them was Khodorkovsky, an ardent komsomolets then. Such exorbitant earnings couldn’t remain unnoticed, and the first racketeers formed the backbone of future organized crime. Glasnost meant that the state completely repealed all censorship. Yakovlev, the second most powerful man then and the intellectual force behind perestroika, closely worked with the press. A vicious attack was launched first on Stalin, then on the whole of the Soviet state. The most surreal stories were published on the pages of magazines and newspapers that were read and trusted by the entire country.

Soviet republics were heavily subsidized by RSFSR (modern Russia) and when the budget dried up, that gave rise to nationalistic moods and separatism. Conflicts in Middle Asia, the Caucasus, the Baltic region and Transnistria flared up, and the government did little in response to them. Gorbachev undertook a new political reform; the Congress of People’s Deputies was convened in 1988. That marked the Soviet Union’s first truly free elections. It was then that Yeltsin began to garner huge popularity. He sharply criticized the Soviet nomenclature; any of his mistakes turned in his favour. For example, in 1989 Yeltsin gave an interview to the western press, allegedly drunk: when the article from “la Repubblica “was published in the USSR, it was considered a KGB provocation against Yeltsin, and only boosted his popularity. Meanwhile, Yeltsin was elected Chairman of the Congress of People’s Deputies, which gave him real power, and in 1990 the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was signed. Gorbachev’s power waned, as he was outplayed by Yeltsin, who never was afraid of making tough decisions. A year later he was elected President of RSFSR, which gave him control over the largest budget. The USSR was de facto finished. Even the results of the Soviet Union referendum, which showed that the population was strongly for saving the integrity of the country, were ignored by “democrat” Yeltsin. In August of 1991 a group of conservative politicians made a last-ditch attempt to save the unity of the country by a military coup. But there was no politician strong enough whom the top of the military trusted, and GKChP failed. In December, Belavezha Accords were signed, marking the end of more than 70 years’ history of the Soviet Union.

So, what were the true reasons behind such an inglorious demise? One of the popular theories is that the USSR collapsed under its own weight. But this explanation is beneath criticism. North Korea continues to exist despite the abysmal standards of living, as does communist Cuba. If a government is willing to maintain the situation and is not afraid to use force, it can hold out for years. That was proven by many dictatorships with various levels of development. The second version, that so often captivates the minds of the Russians who are prone to conspiracy theories, is some brilliant operation by the CIA. As with many others conspiracy theories, it has more holes than Swiss cheese. In 1985 the KGB achieved one of its greatest successes by recruiting Aldrich Ames. He gave away almost all CIA spies in Russia, and the position of the American secret service had never been more weakened as at that time. But the main argument against this idea is the difficulty of such undertaking. Nobody can topple the governments of Iran and North Korea, any coup from abroad is only possible when the moment is right, and the government is near a chasm itself.

Although many participants of those events are still alive, they are not very forthcoming about the real reasons. Gorbachev changed the tune, saying that the destruction of the totalitarian Soviet Union was his lifetime goal, others are also evasive. The full picture will remain hidden, but it’s not too hard to infer that there was a complexity of causes.

First, and the most important reason, was the agonizing crisis of power. The Old Guard of the Party was unwilling to change anything and clung to the existing order of things. Among them there was no strong leader who understood all the glum prospects, who fully understood the economy and was healthy enough to carry out all needed changes. Moreover, they were impossible without sacrificing the interests of the high-level nomenclature, and The Old Guard immediately joined up forces against any strong candidate. The second echelon, to which Gorbachev and Yakovlev belonged, had to tolerate the marasmus of its elders and paid lip service to the ideals of communism, while hating them in their hearts. They also travelled around the world, and saw how leaders of their rank lived. Directors of Soviet enterprises were fed up with the constant bureaucracy of ministries and fighting the increasing difficulty of fulfilling the plan. They were sure that their skills in managing would be useful in any circumstances, and wanted changes. Intelligentsia felt themselves aggrieved and were sure that the state was suppressing them. They also were sure that they were currently not appreciated, and would be better off without the Soviet state. Workers, under the influence of perestroika propaganda, were outraged at seeming privileges of the nomenclature, which are laughable in comparison with the present lifestyle of ordinary upper-level bureaucrats. They were sure that changes would bring the living standards of the West, keeping the present social guarantees. It is they who were the grunts of perestroika, who overthrew the regime. And finally, country people were sure that in any case they had all the food, and townsfolk would crawl begging to them. So the only people who opposed the transition were old communists. The plan was to knock out their support by rocking the boat. As very few understood the specifics of the planned economy, nobody expected the depth of the fall. Whole industrial complexes turned into hollow derelict ruins because the economic links were severed. The USA also played their role, lavishing the Soviet leaders with the promises of economic help and encouraging separatism. The leaders of national republics were courted and assured of future help. And former true adepts of internationalism and Leninism turned into radical nationalists.

As it can be seen today, only former apparatchiks were right in their expectations. Most of them formed the new elite of Russia and Post-Soviet states. The other categories of citizens suffered a huge drop in incomes and security; the consequences of the reforms were comparable with that of the worst stage of WW2, the GDP of Russia plummeted by almost 50% in 1998. Marx is credited with the conception of communism, and the phrase “Religion is the opium of the people”. History played a cruel joke: in the Soviet Union, the quest for communism became a religion. Fate showed the price of holding on to delusions and the price of ineffectual leadership. Now, the former reformists argue that the Soviet Union was a mess and they did the best that was possible. Some even credit themselves with the  laurels of preventing a civil war. But the example of China proves that soft transformation is possible, it just  requires a strong political will.

The USSR started to exist when laissez-faire dominated the economic policies of almost all states. Gradually, under the influence of Keynesianism, state interference in the economy was increasing, and the convergence of the two-system theory gained wide acceptance. The Soviet Union was the pioneer of many methods, and today China shows that the future of economics lies in the correct combination of a state and market economy. The experience of the USSR shouldn’t be forgotten.

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81 Responses to The USSR: the Death of a Visionary

  1. Pingback: The USSR: the Death of a Visionary | Γονείς σε Δράση

  2. Nils says:

    I am currently enrolled in a masters programme on Russian politics, culture, history and economy. I always thought that Malenkov was ousted (together with Molotov, Vorozhilov and Kaganovich) after they tried to oust Kruschev because they were afraid that Kruschev’s “secret speech” and de-stalinization would threaten their position. With aid from Marshall Zhukov (in the form of planes), Kruschev immediately convened a meeting of the central committee (the “parliament of the Communist Party”) and he won the vote. After which he accused the former Stalinists of “forming an anti-party group” (Using the same rules Lenin had applied to the opposition in the Civil War and Stalin as well). Molotov was sent to Mongolia as an ambassador, Malenkov was sent to run an energy plant in Kazachstan, Vorozhilov was allowed to stay.

    Kruschev was ousted because his economic reforms did not result in economic growth, his foreign policy turned out to be a failure in many ways but it were the political reforms which took him down: the decentralisation of the power, the law that stated that politicians in the Soviet-Union could only hold office for a limited amount of time and the split of the Communist party in an agricultural and industrial sector, he also increased the Sovnarkhozy (regionalism at the expense of the broader political interests in the economy) .

    By 1964 Kruschev had managed to alienate every important constituency in the Soviet system: military leaders who despised his handling of the defense budget, the arrogant treatment of Zhukov and other top officers, the economic bureaucracy, the conservatives and proponents of artistic freedom alike, frustrated by his contradictory behavior in 1962 and 1963, top party leaders whom he hectored and insulted and party officials at regional and local level alike, shaken by his constant changes.

    He would later comment: “Maybe the most important achievement that (they) just retired me, Stalin would have had all of them arrested”

    Just decided to throw my knowledge on the web.

    • kovane says:

      An excellent knowledge of Russian history, Nils!

      “. I always thought that Malenkov was ousted (together with Molotov, Vorozhilov and Kaganovich) after they tried to oust Kruschev because they were afraid that Kruschev’s “secret speech” and de-stalinization would threaten their position.”

      Nope, quite the contrary. Malenkov appointed Khrushchev to be responsible for de-Stalinization. Practically everyone supported it, because it was a perfect opportunity to dump their own sins on Stalin. Besides, nobody longed for Stalin’s time, so they had to guarantee that the situation wouldn’t return. Zhukov’s aid was used to bring down Beria. After that he was driven away from power.

      Quote: “После смерти Сталина 5 марта 1953 года [Маленков] стал председателем Совета министров СССР. Уже в марте 1953 года на первом же закрытом заседании Президиума ЦК заявил о необходимости «прекратить политику культа личности и перейти к коллективному руководству страной» и назначил Н. С. Хрущёва ответственным по борьбе с культом личности”

      http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Маленков,_Георгий_Максимилианович

      (It’s my understanding that you speak Russian.)

      “Kruschev was ousted because…”

      Yes there certainly were many reasons, but the ones you mentioned are the most important. Khrushchev was an excellent intriguer, but a mediocre leader at best.

      “He would later comment: “Maybe the most important achievement that (they) just retired me, Stalin would have had all of them arrested””

      And that highlights why everyone supported de-Stalinization. Who would have refused unaccountability and impunity?

  3. Nils says:

    Indeed I speak Russian.

    I remember that the textbook we used for the course on Soviet History stated something like that after the death of Stalin a period of Collective Leadership started, at least officially. In practise however, Stalin’s lieutenants vied for dominance. Fearing Malenkov’s emergence as Stalin’s replacement, other presidum members prevented his adding the position of premier to his post as top Party secretary. This would have meant Malenkov, like Stalin, would have been both head of the government and the Communist Party. Instead Malenkov was appointed premier and Kruschev acting first secretary of the Party. This was all in 1953 including the trial of Beria.

    By the end of 1953 however, Malenkov and Kruschev emerged as rival candidates. Kruschev used his position to appoint people loyal to him and campaigned to get his supporters in the Central Committee, he also defended the military against budget cuts which Malenkov wanted to use to increase consumer good production. Kruschev also advocated continuing the emphasis on heavy industry (instead of Malenkov’s light industry), he blamed the agricultural crisis on Malenkov as well (because at the Ninteteenth (I think it was the Nineteenth) congress Malenkov declared the grain problems solved). He finally played his biggest trump card by descrediting Malenkov by using the last ones collusion with Beria in the Leningrad Affair. Whilst Kruschev himself was not tainted by any kind of purge in the minds of the people and took credit for releasing political prisoners. In the wake of this, Kruschev’s arranged for Malenkov to be demoted, he was however, allowed to stay in the presidium untill 1957 (see my first post on what happened after that) when Stalin’s lieutenants decided that, whilst Kruschev was off to Finnland,

  4. Nils says:

    Whoops I should add: to get rid of him

  5. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    A very interesting reading, thanks Kovane and Mark. There is couple of typos in the post:
    1) the Congress of People’s Deputies was convened in 1998 should be 1988.
    2) la Republica should be “la Repubblica”.

  6. Yalensis says:

    Excellent post, kovane, thank you very much for bringing all this research and analysis together for us to read. I agree with your final conclusions that economic development and wealth of nations requires correct balance of government planning and regulation on one hand; and market forces, on the other. China is by no means perfect country, but they seem to have discovered a pretty good formula that works for them. At least for now. Also of interest to me is the notion of Beria as liberal reformer who ended political repressions. Khrushchevites demonized Beria as unspeakable monster; but somehow I always suspected he was maybe not such a bad guy as portrayed. Thanks again for great post!

    • kovane says:

      My pleasure, yalensis. It’s funny that among all the top players after Stalin’s death, Khrushchev was involved in the repressions more than anyone else, even Beria. That’s why he was so eager to accuse others, the Russian proverb “На воре шапка горит” comes to mind.

      • Yalensis says:

        This recalls discussion on earlier blog, in which I came out of the closet as Katyn Denier. I hesitate to re-open can of worms, but please recall that Beria was accused (maybe “framed”) for Katyn executions. Wasn’t it Khrushchev who initially “admitted” that Soviets killed all 20,000 Polish officers? And then, conveniently, it was Beria’s signature that was “discovered” on (forged?) execution orders. Khrushchev/Gorbachov/Yeltsin gambit: Kill 2 birds with one stone: 1.) discredit odious rival (Beria) and 2.) curry favor with West by accusing Soviet Union of committing a crime that maybe it didn’t really commit.

        • kovane says:

          Well, everything is possible, and we’ll probably never know the truth. But if anyone was behind the forgery of Katyn documents ( IF there was a forgery), the most likely candidate is Yakovlev, it’s looks like his hand. He staged a violent tempest in the Soviet press, attacking the entire Soviet history and certainly had enough influence to contrive such a sham.

          Though the most likely scenario is that Stalin ordered the execution (I’d give 95%), I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories of any kind.

          • Yalensis says:

            I’m not normally a fan of conspiracy theories. For example, I scoff at people who say American astronauts didn’t land on the moon. Of course they landed! Usually a cigar is just a cigar. But I think Katyn is an exception. At least, I have felt this way after reading
            http://chss.montclair.edu/english/furr/pol/discuss_katyn041806r.html
            This researcher has delved into every tiny detail. He is not a Russian or a Pole and has no dog in this fight. There are 99 facts that point to Nazis doing the crime; and only 1 fact pointing to Soviets, and that one fact is the “execution order” supposedly signed by Beria. If this were tried in impartial court, I think the verdict would be obvious.
            P.S. It seems likely that Soviets did execute some Poles, but probably “only” a thousand or so; not the full 20,000. This is important because Poles are seeking expensive reparations; multiplied for each dead Polish officer’s family this could run into an amount that could actually cripple Russian economy.

            • kovane says:

              “This is important because Poles are seeking expensive reparations; multiplied for each dead Polish officer’s family this could run into an amount that could actually cripple Russian economy.”

              I don’t think so. Poland has a lot of Russian blood on their hand too, 60-80 thousands of Russian soldiers were starved to death in Polish captivity, so it will be hard to get any reparation. At least, this is my understanding.

              • Yalensis says:

                @kovane: You are right, and I am hopeful that Putin/Medvedev will employ exactly that argument if and when they are issued with any reparation claims. I hope they would submit counter-claim for the 60,000 Russian POWs who were starved to death in Polish captivity. Claim and counter-claim would eventually be dropped, and both sides get on with life. But I am pessimistic on this score. Unfortunately, Poles are relentless with their claims and have no sympathy for these 60,000 or so Russians. In their view, these captives were “Bolsheviks”, and therefore not deserving of life or reparations. And, unfortunately, with their own strongly anti-Communist views, Putin/Medevev might just be vulnerable to such a point of view.

                • kovane says:

                  It’s not just about money. If any reparation is awarded, this will be a huge slap in the face to Russia. And certainly the Russian public opinion will be furious. Putin is anything but stupid, and he certainly has more information at his disposal than we all combined. So I trust him to do the right thing.

                • grafomnka says:

                  @yalensis
                  The point about Polish officers is that they were the elites. Their came from prominent families. All of this has been spinned (rightly or not) into an attempt to destroy Poland by destroying the elites. Nobody gives so much toss about peasants or low rank soldiers being killed, people that didn’t come from good families. There were about 60 000 polish peasants slaughtered by Bandera in Volynia, and you don’t hear much about them, whereas you hear about Association of Katyn Families all the time.

                • Misha says:

                  Grafomnka there’s something else to consider.

                  With Katyn, the culprits are Soviet, which a good number also read as Russian.

                  The UPA/OUN situation with the Poles serves to upset attempts at improving Ukrainian-Polish ties with an anti-Russian agenda.

                  Some years back and after the Soviet breakup, there was a weekly show called Kontakt, which was aired in the NY market. It was an interesting mix of Ukrainian cultural and political views, with an emphasis placed on the favored Ukrainian perspective in many leading Western circles. One segment featured a Canadian based panel that included the Polish born Ukrainian historian Orest Subtelny. He claimed that the historic Ukrainian-Polish differences were a detriment beacuse it allowed Russia to take advantage of Poland and Ukraine. Gogol and many other past and present folks from Ukraine quite understandably differ with Subtelny’s take.

                  I note how Freedom House has had a sub-org. dedicated to improving Ukrainian-Polish ties, but none dealing with the improvement of Russo-Polish and Russo-Ukrainian relations.

      • marknesop says:

        In the whole great and fascinating post, the analysis of Beria interested me most. I’d learned of him as mostly an inhuman butcher, of whom even his close acquaintances were terrified. It’s astounding to see him portrayed as someone with political instincts and a plan rather than just a killing machine. Those were violent times, and I’m sure his reputation isn’t wholly undeserved, but his role in history was an eye-opener for me.

        • kovane says:

          Yes, he took the NKVD in 1938, immediately after the Great Purges. Among his first steps, he reviewed many cases and rehabilitated thousands of victims. Beria stayed as the head of the NKVD from 1938 to 1953, personally supervised the Soviet nuclear project. Of course, it’s impossible to be in charge of the Stalinist punitive system for 15 year and keep angel-like innocence, bu he is certainly a victim of Khrushchev’s denigration.

  7. AJ says:

    excellent post, Mark. It should also be noted that at the time of its collapse, ethnic Russians made up only 50% of the population of the USSR. Do you think that racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity was a major factor in the death of the USSR?

    • marknesop says:

      Thanks, AJ; I’d love to take credit for it, but everything except the one-para intro is Kovane’s work. Off the top of my head I’d say no, that fiscal mismanagement and a series of appalling misjudgments culminating in Yeltsin’s disastrous rule brought down the Soviet Union. But I’m basing that on Kovane’s work here, and he has the turf advantage, so I’ll let him field that question.

      You can’t see our stats, of course, but this post seems to have reawakened interest in Kovane’s previous, “Stalin, in the Eye of the Russian Beholder”, which is running about even with this new post in terms of page views. Interesting.

    • kovane says:

      Why, thank you, AJ. You’re right, Russians constituted 50,7% of the Soviet Union’s population.

      “Do you think that racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity was a major factor in the death of the USSR?”

      When the glue that held together the Soviet Union (budget subsides, strength of the police) dried up, there were no reasons to stick around anymore. Regional leaders wanted personal power and played a nationalist card. So racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity was not a direct cause of the dissolution, but it greatly affected how the disintegration went.

      Just a backward opinion of some backward Slav here.

    • carpenter117 says:

      AJ, what do you think about the “Problem of Shamanism on far North”? Or do you think there isn’t any “Problem of Shamanism on far North?!”

      :)))

    • Leos Tomicek says:

      In my opinion Ukrainian nationalism which reared its head with Glasnost, and which served as a vehicle of anti-Communist displeasure, was the major drive behind separatism in Ukraine, at least in Western Ukraine. In Eastern and Southern parts of the country attitudes were a much more ambivalent and support for independence was not expressed in nationalistic terms. I have yet to gain proper grasp of what exactly motivated the drive for independence there.

      • Yalensis says:

        At the risk of appearing paranoid or subscribing to conspiracy theories: I do believe American think-tanks and NGO’s played a role here. After WWII Ukrainian nationalists who had collaborated with Nazis were welcomed to U.S. They and their progeny kept alive their “dream” of an “independent” Ukraine, as first promulgated by the Nazis. When USSR collapsed, Americans saw their chance to start placing their agents of influence from among this cadre pool. Recall that their most successful agent ever was Kateryna Chumachenko, an American citizen and state department official under George Bush Sr. Her CIA handlers managed to wed her to future-president Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko himself was the son of a Ukrainian nationalist who is suspected of being a Nazi collaborator. (He claimed to have been a victim of the Nazis and incarcerated in a concentration camp; but his claims have been debunked, and it seems more likely that he was actually a low-level guard in one of the camps.)

        • Misha says:

          Of possible interest:

          http://www.russiablog.org/2006/04/yuschenkos_wife_and_the_ugly_h.php

          On the other hand, note that Geroge Bush I received some flack when he warned the Ukrainian parliament against suicidal nationalism (if I’ve the term right).

          A good number of anti-Communist Russians (the patriotic kind of Russians) are well aware that the so-called Captive Nations Committee has been premised on a more anti-Russian than anti-Communist outlook.

          • Yalensis says:

            Hi, Misha, thanks for the link and additional info! Although I mentioned that Chumachenko served under the George Bush Sr. administration, I should have clarified that the Bush Sr. people did not play her. I think she was a long-term mole who only came into play during the later Clinton/Bush Jr. administrations, culminating in the “glorious” Orange Revolution of 2004.
            Bush Sr., as you mention, was a cautious guy who suddenly had this USSR collapse thing thrust at him, it was like an unexpected and wonderful gift, but he was worried about overplaying his hand. So he played it safe and didn’t encourage centrifugal tendencies. He wanted to “manage” Russia’s dissolution in a slow and responsible manner. Clinton was more impatient and ambitious, I think he honestly wanted to go “full monte” and dismember Russia completely, according to the Brzezinski/Albright scenario. Dismembering Yugoslavia was a practice run: the real long-term target was Russia. Bush Jr. continued on Clinton’s path, and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine was their crowning achievement.
            In the end, of course, the Americans did overplay their hand, just like Bush Sr. had feared. They drew wrong conclusions from quick Serbian capitulation and underestimated Russia’s will to live.

      • Misha says:

        I recall Stephen Cohen saying that the Ukrainian independence referendum was written in a way to choose the following:

        – A support for independence was a vote against the attempted coup on Gorbachev.

        – A support against independence was the opposite.

        This was said some years ago in an American TV segment.

        I’d like to get further clarification on the way the choices were worded.

        Technically, it’s possible to be against the USSR as it existed, while supporting a continued union between some Soviet republics.

  8. carpenter117 says:

    Good work, kovane! I especially like your approach – analysis of economy, calm attitude, non-partisanship, etc… It’s a rare thing in the Internet, really.

    Off-topic.
    Re: About Katyn.
    Well, Yalensis already mentioned it. I’d like to say a few words about my attitude toward this problem. For starters, there were only 18 000 polish officers in soviet “custody” after 1939 (according to new Russo-Polish book “White spots – Black Spots” http://www.mgimo.ru/news/university/document165017.phtml). Not 22 000, and, of course, not “creme de la creme” of polish society. All of them were professional officers of polish army. Despite some assertions (even by Putin himself, this April, if I’m not mistaken), that Stalin gave the order to shot thousands of Poles “according to his unknown reasons” or from desire to avenge the lost war of 1920 (in which comrade Dzhugashvili showed himself as inept commander and did not manage to take Lviv), it’s all rubbish. No, Stalin’s reasons were absolutely sound and sane (from his point of view):
    1. This polish commanders were incapable of “reshaping” their political views and preferences to be more Soviet-friendly. Hell, they were backbone of bourgeois army, after all! And yes, a number of them indeed fought against Bolsheviks in 1920. And that leads us to…
    2. … they were really bad choice for leading a new, “worker-peasant” style army against Nazi Germany in case of war. First of all, they were still subordinate to typically-russophobic “Polish Government in Exile”. And even if they would choose to fight side by side with Red Army, they were no good for making post war Poland more “friendly” to USSR.
    3. The most banal reason. After “The Winter War” with Finland there was a new influx of POW, and, perhaps, it was decided that “Poles should leave prisons”, so there will be place for everybody.

    My attitude to Katyn? Well, it was a mass execution of polish officers and top brass, maybe, carried out by NKVD only. So? You, Poles, want a “Whataboutism” orgy, or working, normal relationship with Russia?

    • kovane says:

      Thanks, carpenter, I’m really flattered. The truth about Katyn will only be revealed with a full disclosure of all the documents. I guess, it’s not too much to wait.

    • Misha says:

      Not so far fetched an act, given the earlier purge among some of the Red Army officer corps. Tack on the remaining animosity from the Soviet-Polish War and prior differences between Russia and Poland. (Points mentioned at an earlier thread discussion at this blog).

      BTW, I understand that Russian “nationalist” (the at times politically selective N word for “patriot”) Mikhalkov played a prime role in seeing to it that Wajda’s film on Katyn made the Russian market. As some probably know, that film later aired on Russian national TV. One Russian source told me that Wajda’s film didn’t do so well in the Russian market for reasons having to do with public taste. Others told me that the showing of that film enhanced an interest on the subject in Russia – which had an earnest spirit – as opposed to so-called “whataboutism.”

      On the public taste point: how well would a hypothetically produced and directed Vietnamese movie on some negative American manner during the Vietnam War do in the US? Pardon my not being able to offhand note the specific film in mind: a few years ago, there was a Russian film on the Polish subjugation of Russia circa 1600s. Offhand, I wonder how well that film did in the Polish market?

      • carpenter117 says:

        2Misha
        Ahh… Nikita Sergeyich! There is a catch, Mike – he is self-styled “patriot” of Great, Tzarist Russia. He really, really dislikes, no – hates Soviet state (and also has very… ahem, “cavalier” attitude to history). Check his filmography. There is such unbelievable monarchistic pathos in all his movies! No wonder that he supported Wayda and his film – this movie only shows how barbaric those Bolsheviks were! Surely, gallant God-fearing patriotic Russian Army officers wouldn’t do such a thing!😉
        I watched “Katyn” movie this year on TV.
        What can I say? As expected, Reds portrayed as some ragged dirty barbarians, and the Germans – sleek and ruthlessly efficient. “Katyn” shows only the atrocities of this bloody Russians. In the movie the Germans only dismiss the Cracow University and arrest its professors (but do this with such elaborate ruthless efficiency!). From the Russian side – oppression of the proud Poles, attempts to lie about the great history of the Polish state and the aforementioned Katyn. In the final we got executions.
        The idea of Wayda was, that, well, I do not know, everyone should feel the moment and realize what an atrocity it is – NKVD’s “Troika”, the sentence, shot in the head, then tossing corpse into the pit. I felt nothing. First of all, I am not a Pole. Second, when the director relishes cruelty for the sake of savoring, then this immediately reminds me of “The Passion of the Christ” by Mel Gibson. It should be the movie about the tragedy and faith, and Jesus, but the audience remembers him as “a film in which “they kick shit out of Jesus’”
        The artistic value of “Katyn” is questionable.
        PS You are referring to “Russian historical blockbuster” «1612»

        • Misha says:

          Believe so on the last point Carpenter.

          I’m also aware of Mikhalkov’s leaning:

          http://www.russiablog.org/2009/07/nikita-mikhalkov-denikinist-state-averko.php

          My idea of a politically diverse Russia includes a politically diverse left-right existence of patriotically inclined Russian views that are within reason.

        • Yalensis says:

          Ha ha! I am sorry, carpenter, but you make me laugh. Your comment about “kicking shit out of Jesus.” I am ashamed to chuckle, but that is great black humor! Anyhow, on Katyn, I grant what everyone says about Soviets having a “motive” to commit this crime. And yes, however unpleasant these Polish officers might have been, it is still a crime to execute POW’s. So I would not be one to excuse or condone this act for any reason, not even for revenge.

          But my point is that “motive” doesn’t prove a crime. I have a great motive to rob a bank — I could really use the money. But I am not going to rob the bank. The facts seem to prove that the Soviets simply did not do it. As kovane says, we’ll probably never know. But I think we, as Russians, need to place the burden of proof on the Poles, as they are seeking reparations.
          And P.S. Wajda is a hack piece of shit. Although I did enjoy his earlier film about Danton.

          • carpenter117 says:

            You are welcome Yalensis, Also, you are, probably better person then me. Even after publishion g of all these volumes of documents there will be 110% proof that “Reds did it!” (Katyn, I mean) I would still agree with this desision (i.e. execution) and oppose any reparation payments.
            C’mone, that was WWII, after all!!! During that time human life was indeed a cheap thing.

  9. Giuseppe Flavio says:

    I mentioned in a comment at a previous post that I visited Moscow for 15 days, in 1990. Speaking with some Russians at that time, I noticed that not only most of them expected to reach the western living standard in a few years, but also that they deluded themselves about this standard. Their imagined ‘average’ western living standard, actually was the living standard of the upper class. And no matter what I said about our well-being, these people wouldn’t change their minds.

  10. Nils says:

    Actually I would say that the non-Russian nationalities played a critical role. The constitution made by Stalin in 1924 (Leninst in name, Stalinist in content) stated that all minorities on Soviet territory were granted linguistic and cultural rights. By according non-Russians the right to use their own language and to develop local literature, culture and traditions enabled the minorities to maintain and even enrich their identity and solidarity despite decades of political and economic subordination to Communist centralizers in Moscow.

    I would add that Soviet Nationality guidelines fostered a sense of separateness in some ethnic groups who had experienced little national feeling before 1917. This continued to grow under Kruschev, Stalin and Brezhnev and eventually exploded (thus destroying the union) when Gorbachev loosened the bonds of censorship and centralist control after 1985

    • AJ says:

      Yes Nils, I totally agree with you. Yugoslavia and the USSR both show that multiculturalism is a failure, and a Utopian false idea.

      • Misha says:

        “Yes Nils, I totally agree with you. Yugoslavia and the USSR both show that multiculturalism is a failure, and a Utopian false idea.”

        ****

        When force fed in a hypocritical way it most ceratinly can be.

        I’ve in particular mind some of the commentariat and others, who downplay the transgressions among non-Serb nationalists in former Yugoslavia, while inaccurately bashing Serbs.

        That said, I think that there’s a healthy approach to “multi-culturalism.”

    • Misha says:

      Anti-Russian/Ukrainain nationalists are (put mildly) quite ironic in their negative linkage of Russian and Soviet.

  11. Natalie says:

    Interesting post, as usual for this blog. A couple of thoughts:

    1) If you want to understand the collapse of the Soviet Union, Archie Brown’s The Gorbachev Factor is a great place to start. I had to read it for a class almost two years ago and it’s excellent.

    2) Regarding Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, I’d highly recommend William Taubman’s biography Khrushchev: The Man and his Era. It includes fascinating discussions about Khrushchev’s involvement in Stalinist repressions and how Khrushchev himself thought about them.

    • Nils says:

      Now that I think of it: in The Netherlands we can enjoy a lot of anti-Putin stuff, especially in the form of documentaries. Funny thing is that we always see the granddaughter of Kruschev (I have seen her 3 times now) who is talking about the lack of democracy in Russia and about repressions of the Putin regime etc. Truth is that her grandfather was far worse (oversaw the incoperation of Eastern-Poland in the wake of the Molotov-Von Ribbentrop pact) and had a lot of blood on his hands. This KruschevA (:P) is then joined by Anne Applebaum and yes, my personal favourite, Edward Lucas of the Economist. “New Cold War” blablabla right.. like any of Kruschev’s policies did anything to end it.

    • marknesop says:

      I’ll look those up – I need to get a better background in this stuff.

  12. Misha says:

    This thread touches on how the past is recollected.

    Note what’s said at the end of this link:

    http://www.win.ru/en/Mysteries-of-History/3083.phtml

    “It’s quite understandable. German, Austrian, Hungarian and other foreign sources are willingly paying for the researches intended to figure out the destiny of their countrymen, who fetch themselves at the Soviet and Russian prisoner’s camps. At the same time our historians — due to the lack of funding — are willingly grasping these grants. It’s a pity that Russian state institutions, foundations or entrepreneurs do not rush to give an incentive to continue such research projects, studying the destiny of their own compatriots. Are we really the nation of people who don’t know who they are and where have they come from?”

    ****

    We see how some Russian views are more preferred than others at certain venues.

    On the subject of some little known historical issues, these links among others have been forwarded to my attention:

    http://www.liveinternet.ru/users/westernbourg/post104924779/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukrainian_Austrian_internment

    There’s an abundance of historical follow-up to consider. Regarding Russo-Polish relations:

    http://www.russiablog.org/2009/10/russian-polish-history-averko.php

    On the issue of recycling and what it motivates:

    http://www.austereinsomniac.info/blog/2010/11/2/kuzio-the-recycler.html

    • marknesop says:

      This is a good discussion for you, Mike; you’re in your element.

    • grafomnka says:

      @Misha
      Re: “The UPA/OUN situation with the Poles serves to upset attempts at improving Ukrainian-Polish ties with an anti-Russian agenda”
      This is so true. It’s only Polish hardcore nationalists that dare to criticise Polish government of not kicking Ukraine in the same fashion as they kick Russia.
      But I still think the fact that important people died in Katyn is a main factor in perception of this crime.

      • Misha says:

        Offhand, I wonder how staunch R. Sikorski has been on the OUN/UPA? It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s soft when compared to the Poles you refer to.

        To some degree, I can respect the latter for being more true to form.

        Under Polish rule between two world wars and some other prior instances, the eastern Slavs had legitimate gripes with Polish rule. This point doesn’t serve to excuse what the OUN/UPA did.

        • carpenter117 says:

          Just before WWII Poland’s government:
          1) Ordered and carried out demolition of 100+ Orthodox churches in the eastern part of their country
          2) Started aggressive “polonisation” of Ukrainian and Byelorussian minorities.
          3) Repressed communists and Soviet Union’s sympathizers again in the eastern part of Polish Republic.

          So, no, no excuse for super nationalistic Orthodox Ukrainian UPA movement. (sarcasm mode off)

          • grafomanka says:

            those “Orthodox” UPA killed thousands of Russians and Armenians too, guess they weren’t bothered by religion too much.

            Just as there are many Soviet and Russian victims of NKVD buried in Katyn, on the Russian side of the cemetery.

            • carpenter117 says:

              2grafomanka
              Agreed. UPA’s were nationalistic cretins. Also, our pet troll AJ hails from Western Ukraine. Most nationalistic, xenophobic, racist, anti-semitic Yuschenko supporting part of Ukraine. Do you know, that even today Western Ukrainians are called “Benderevci” in Russia?

              • grafomanka says:

                Yes. However from what I remember it was only 1% of population that participated in those ‘brigades’ so it would be very wrong to call everyone that. Sorry, didn’t mean to turn this into Ukraine bashing thread.

                • Misha says:

                  Grafomnka, this discussion isn’t Ukraine bashing as some would label.

                  Put bluntly, there’s a tyranny of the minority of sorts, who consider their views to be the more accurate over others.

                  For some time, they’ve monopolized the commentary, at a good number of leading Western venues.

          • Misha says:

            More like Greek-Catholic or Uniate when characterizing the UPA. This characterization is by no means complete.

            Note that Yushchenko and Chumachenko have Orthodox backgrounds east of Galicia. Not that they reflect the general mood of the OUN/UPA in that part of Ukraine.

            • Misha says:

              Adding onto some recent points stated about Ukraine, the Cossacks are considered a sort of national symbol of Ukraine.

              The Cossacks in contemporary Ukraine are generally among the more pro-Russian of Ukrainians.

              The Galician based UPA/OUN hails from a region where the Greek Catholic or Uniate denomination is especially evident.

              Kindly inform me of any Greek Catholic/Uniate Cossacks.

      • Yalensis says:

        @grafomnka, you make a very good point about the perceived value of a person’s life, depending on their socio-economic class. Also says something about Polish snobbishness.

        • Misha says:

          I take issue with the notion that under Pilsudski, Poland “saved” Europe from Communism.

          If anything, the reverse is true:

          http://www.russiablog.org/2009/10/russian-polish-history-averko.php

        • grafomanka says:

          I think generally during the war life of skilled people is worth more (hence more chances that the enemy would kill them). Those people were vitally important for Polish Army chiefs because they were… well, officers. There is a scene in BBC’s dramatized documentary ‘World War 2: Behind close doors’ Where gen Anders keeps asking Stalin where are those guys because he needs them and Stalin replies that he doesn’t know “maybe they escaped Manchuria?” (allegedly a true exchange tho the whole documentary has a really anti-soviet narrative).

          • Misha says:

            That theme was raised in the movie Enemy at the Gates. Another immediate example coming to mind is “Operation Darky” in the South Park movie – which had the all Black detachment lined up to take the heaviest of casualties.

            Just look at how some put a greater premium on a beaten journalist over a (comparatively speaking) beaten “commoner.”

            Wealth can usually tie into celebrity. In journalism circles, “wealth” has (at times) more to do with propped stature over being in a financially rich situation.

  13. AJ says:

    most Ukrainians would welcome complete unification with Russia.

  14. AJ says:

    most Ukrainians would welcome complete unification with Russia, itll make them stronger. It’ll be good for Russia’s demographics too, they’ll get a culturally compatible additional 40 million to add to their population.

    • carpenter117 says:

      And what about the Problem of Shamanism on the Far North, hmm?

      • Yalensis says:

        Yes, I do find it curious and suspicious that our pet troll will not answer a simple question about Shamanism of the Far North. Probably the most pressing issue facing Russia today!

  15. Pingback: Official Russia | Weekly Russia Blog Roundup, 13 November 2010

  16. Pingback: konyvklub.com » Weekly Russia Blog Roundup, 13 November 2010

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