Russia resembles a horseman seated on his horse back to front as he rides forward while peering backward at his past.
Indeed, Russians live under capitalism. Meanwhile, a mummy of Vladimir Lenin, “the leader of the proletariat” who passed away 83 years ago, still lies in the mausoleum right in the heart of Red Square. Red Square also hosts a trendy skating rink that borders on the splendorous GUM, a department store and display window of a new capitalistic “paradise.”
The remains of General Kappel, a prominent military commander of the White Guard during the Civil War in Russia, were brought back to Russia from Harbin recently. The remains of the general were reburied with much pomp in a churchyard of Donkoy monastery in Moscow. Kappel’s grave is now located next to that of Ivan Ilyin, the Russian philosopher and ideologist of the White Movement who was banished from Russia by Lenin’s order in 1922. The remains of Ilyin were brought back to Russia earlier following President Putin’s active support. “The Foundations of the Struggle for a National Russia, and “The Way of Spiritual Renovation,” the main works of Ilyin, an outspoken critic of Communism, reportedly grace a bookcase of President Putin.
An impressive monument to General Kolchak, one of the most prominent leaders of the White Movement, was erected in the city of Irkutsk several years ago. General Kolchak was executed by a firing squad by order of Irkutsk revolutionary committee in 1920. The monument is guarded day and night by the police because followers of a local Communist youth organization have repeatedly threatened to blow it up…
Using the head as a trash can
In terms of present-day ideology, the mess is complete. Gennady Zyuganov, leader of Russia’s Communist Party, keeps clinging to ideological heritage of Lenin and Stalin, the archenemies of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, Comrade Zyuganov attends yearly Easter receptions at Moscow Patriarchy without fail. Moreover, the leader of Russian Communists preaches something that looks like a cross between the doctrines of Russian Orthodox Church and Communism.
Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II was declared the “czar martyr” by Moscow Patriarchy a few years ago. Consequently, Nicholas II was sanctified. The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has recently given the green light to rehabilitation of Nicholas II, the one who was referred to as “Nicholas the Bloody” by Soviet-era history books.
Many Russians can feel the impact of Russia’s troubled history at first hand. One of the letters received by Argumenty i Fakty is penned by Margarita Nikolayevna (last name withheld by sender), a pensioner whose family was persecuted and rehabilitated twice. Her father was officially rehabilitated in 1989. In 2001, Margarita was found to be a victim of political persecutions. “Lately I’ve been “persecuted” once again by the authorities which stripped me of all the benefits and gave me a piddling sum - 200 rubles – in compensation instead,” says her letter.
Apart from Margarita, about 700 thousand Russians, the victims of political persecutions just like her, are still living hand-to-mouth in this country. Russia’s history is still holding them tightly by the throat, or by the wallet, for that matter.
The Russians are a strange nation. Just a while ago our kids in schools were singing mushy songs about the revolution and its leaders. Some of the “best” lyrics extolled Lenin the Grandpa who “has as many children as the Sun which shines through the clouds.” Others referred to Josef Stalin as “our pride and battlefield glory, a flight of our youth.”
These days we seem to havea clearer pictureof thepast. We do realize that Stalin has driven his own people into the Gulag. We are aware of the fact that Lenin’s embalmed carcass lies for display in the Mausoleum while his brain is kept in a jar in the Institute of Brain of the Russian Academy of Sciences. We also know that every now and then they dress the “body” in a new suit to replace the old one, which gets irrevocable damaged by chemicals soaking the “immortal Iyich.”
We know that the situation is utterly absurd and take an ironic stand on our own naiveté by making up jokes about the sale of a “king-size bed for three called Lenin and Us.” In the meantime, we can easily imagine possible consequences of the joke for its author should the president of this country happen to be a true disciple of Comrade Lenin. A prankster would get 20 years in jail “without the right of correspondence,” a standard sentence for this sort of crime in Stalin’s time.
Running from the past
By and large, the attitude toward the revolution and its leaders has changed significantly since Communism “was canceled” 16 years ago. Fewer people cite a line from a poem by Vladimir Mayakovski: “I judge my deeds in the eyes of Lenin/ so that I could sail into the revolution farther.” People cite on frequent occasions the great visionary Fyodor Dostoevsky who was the first to call the Russian revolutionaries “possessed.” According to latest opinion polls, a mere 10% of the Russians believe that Russia benefited from the revolution, while 38% see the revolution as a source of unjustifiable disturbances which took a heavy toll of the Russian people. The revolution was a historical disaster, according to 42% of the polled.
Today we begin to understand that Russia is not by any means a “country of special destiny.” We are just like the others, and we should belong to the ranks of the peoples of Europe. All we have to do is learn to work in the European way. However, Russia is still haunted by its past. Though the majority of Russians (56%) agrees that the confrontation between “the Reds” and “the Whites” has come to an end, about one fourth of the population still believes that the civil war is going on. Nearly 34% of those who share the viewpoint support the Russian Communist Party. I cannot seem to banish the words of the late Yuri Levada, head of Russia’s largest independent opinion poll agency, who once said that we “should save Russia from its own past.” It stands to reason that President Putin made a warning while delivering his address on the recently observed Day of Victims of Political Persecutions: “I request the people of all walks of life to do their best so that no one will ever have the slightest intention of reproducing any elements of the past.”
Funny news came recently from Jordan. An 85-year-old Muslim woman filed for divorce after living with her husband for many years. “He’d beat me and abuse me for all those 65 years we’ve been together. And he’d force me to kiss him after beating me up. Why should I put up with this man in the afterlife?”
As far as I am concerned, there are certain similarities between the fate of that woman and Russia’s “marriage to Communism” that lasted for some seventy years.
On the other hand, can one file for divorce from one’s own past? I have my doubts. But I do believe that we should learn the lessons of the past. For a start, we should come straight to the point: Are we keep sharing our bed with Comrade Lenin? Or maybe we are already sharing it with somebody else?
Arguments and Facts
Translated by Guerman Grachev