The date is April 15, 2020.
U.S. President Donald Trump happens to be attending an economic forum in the small, obscure town of Hodgenville, Kentucky. The host of the forum steps up to the mic. Reading from prepared notes, he remarks that this is the town where former President Abraham Lincoln was born; and that, by chance, this just happens to be the anniversary of President Lincoln’s untimely death.
One of the guest-speakers at the forum, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, also happens to be a poetry buff. As a young boy, his schoolteachers forced him to memorize a lot of poetry. Extemporaneously quoting from memory, he pitches in with this:
And I saw askant the armies,
I saw as in noiseless dreams hundreds of battle-flags,
Borne through the smoke of the battles and pierc’d with missiles I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody,
And at last but a few shreds left on the staffs, (and all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter’d and broken.
I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the war,
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer’d not,
The living remain’d and suffer’d, the mother suffer’d,
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer’d,
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d.
To which President Trump replies with a sneer:
“Well, that’s all very well and good. And ya know, sometimes Americans DO have to go to war, to fight for the right thing. But that wasn’t the case here, and I think that Lincoln was, frankly, a chump, to rip our country apart and waste so many good lives of our young men. For what? So that a bunch of uppity welfare cheats could get their 20 acres and a mule?”
Are We Talking Mountains Or Molehills?
This is Part III and also the conclusion to my Putin-Lenin opus, brought on by an acute attack of Righteous Indignation.
And okay, my above thought experiment is unrealistic for several reasons, including that (1) an American economist would be able to quote poetry, and that (2) a hypothetical President Trump would not only recognize the obscure stanzas and their author, let alone understand the context of the poem. But nonetheless, I hope I have made my point. And I am pretty sure that a hypothetical President Trump’s hypothetical utterance would quality as a Grade A GAFFE in American society.
One of my colleagues, DavidT chides me thusly: “Sorry, Yalensis, old mate, you are really getting carried away with your own rhetoric. Your frustration with the 90’s is getting the better of you- in reality you are lucky that Putin was there, if only as a relatively powerless player.”
I think that David thinks that I am making a mountain out of a molehill. He could be right. Like every human being, I have my triggers. But, actually, I don’t think I am over-reacting. I think this story is actually kind of a big deal. Otherwise, why would Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov, jump into the fray the very same day, to backpedal Putin’s off-the-cuff gaffe?
“The President stated only his own personal point of view. This should not become a cause for agitation. Rather, it might become a cause for debate, but there is nothing to get upset about. Every [person], including the President, has the right to his own opinion about the role of this or that historical personality,” Peskov told reporters.
Well, that’s true, and I’m glad that Peskov mentioned the fact that Putin’s opinion bears no more weight than that of the babushka buying bread in the bakery.
Another colleague, Jen, hypothesized that: “So it may be that Putin objected not to federalisation per se but the way in which the Bolsheviks were compelled to allow federalisation in the western parts of the former Russian empire on terms that favoured Germany and not Russia or the subject peoples of the western parts of the Russian empire. This could be what he referred to when he mentioned autonomies.”
Well, that’s possible, I suppose. It is unfair to take a person’s remarks out of context and then beat them to death with their own words like a red-headed step-child. Only underlies the fact that Putin himself needs to address his gaffe, supply the context, and explain exactly what he meant by “autonomies”. His opinion of Lenin he doesn’t have to explain. We get it.
Yes, but what will the Tatars think?
Perhaps lulled by his 85%-something approval rating in Russian society, Putin might have forgotten that a good deal of his popularity stems not from his good looks or his knowledge of poetry, but from his authoritative actions in returning the Crimean peninsula to Russia. Crimeans were, and are, overwhelmingly in favor of re-joining Russia. Not least, in order to get out from under the Nazi jackboot of Ukranian nationalists. But one weak area in the Crimean re-integration, I suppose you could call it the Achilles Heel, is the role of the Tatar people. Ukrainian nationalists have attempted to stir things up, by playing on the fears of (some) Tatars, and by making extremely unrealistic promises to others, namely “JOIN OUR TERRORIST GANG AND YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL!”
Meanwhile, Russia has played this situation adroitly and with endless smoothness, emphasizing the autonomous rights of Tatars. Tatars as a people, as a “nationality”, in the Leninist definition of the term. Not just as atomic individuals drowning in the political soup of a tattered empire. Crimean Tatars have been promised quotas in the local institutions of government. They have been promised housing and educational opportunities. Even though they consitute only around 10% of the population of the peninsula, their loyalty to Russia is extremely important to the success of the Crimea project. I maintain that Putin possibly did some damage to that issue with his cavalier reference to “autonomies”, and his dismissal of Lenin’s nationalities policy. Or maybe not. Fiddle dee-dee, maybe this will all just blow away.
Is There a Scientific Opinion Poll?
No, not that I know of. So: Mountain? Molehill? I don’t know. I did see this online poll conducted by the newspaper VZGLIAD:
They posed the question: “How do you evaluate Lenin’s role in Russian history”?
As of this moment in time 20, 607 people have answered the poll. Current results are:
Completely positively – 29.9%
Mostly positively – 16.8%
Mostly negatively – 15.5%
Completely negatively – 33.8%
I don’t know – 4.0%
So, currently the results are fairly evenly split, with the overall negatives (49.3%) slightly outweighing the overall positives (46.7%).
Again, I don’t know how scientific this is, and one has to take into account 25 years of anti-Communist media propaganda in Russian society.
Without having time to read all the comments on the forum, I somewhat randomly picked what I think are representative pro-Lenin and anti-Lenin comments, an equal number of each, in my feeble attempt to be “fair and balanced”:
Если бы не Ленин никакой России бы уже не существовало! К чему мы и сейчас движемся семимильными шагами под предводительством путина с его либерало- фашистской бандой. (Abyrvalg Abyrvalgov) – “If it weren’t for Lenin, then Russia would not even exist today. To which end we are currently marching along with giant steps, under the leadership of Putin and his Liberal-Fascist band.”
Даже если будет 50 на 50,то это значит Ленина все равно трогать нельзя. 50% -это не жалкие 3-4 % либероидов (vovansokil1) – “Even it turns out to be 50/50, this still means that you can’t touch Lenin. It’s not like the pitiful 3-4% popularity enjoyed by the Liberoids.”
Для меня имя Ленина свято. Путина мне жаль (Alexander Budyakin) – “For me, Lenin is sacred. I feel sorry for Putin.”
самое противное, что сам путин и его придворная камарилья получили прекрасное (бесплатное!!) советское образование. А теперь льют помои на советскую власть, предатели! (Nina Muratova) – “What bugs me the most is that Putin and his courtiers received a wonderful (and free!) education in Soviet times. And now they pour buckets of shit all over the Soviet government. Traitors!”
При коммунизме не страшно было детей на улицу отпускать, в школу ребенка в кредит не собирали, поесть попить было, ЖКХ не душило, водкой не травились, бензин не дорожал, продукты натуральные и т.д. и т.п., были и недостатки у этого строя, ну нитак уж и много. (Artur Pirozhkov) – “Under communism, the children weren’t afraid to go out in the streets. You didn’t have to take out a loan to send your children to school. There was enough to eat and drink. Utility bills were reasonable. People didn’t poison themselves with vodka, gasoline was cheap, foodstuffs were natural and organic, etc etc. To be sure, there were some problems and deficiencies, but it wasn’t all that bad.”
Голосую резко против. Не отрицаю его творческую смелость, недюжий ум, ораторские данные. Но отношу его идеи к области социальных экспериментов. Не было у него никаких прав ставить опыты над РОССИЕЙ, за то что он пренебрёг страной в угоду своим амбициям и целям считаю его маньяком неудачником, сколько невинных людей пострадало, ЗАЧЕМ? (Boris Ermokhin) – “I am voting strongly against [Lenin]. I don’t deny his creative courage, his extraordinary mind, his oratorical gifts. But I relate his ideas to the realm of social experiments. He had absolutely no right to perform experiments on RUSSIA. Because he despised our country and [sacrificed its interests] in favor of his own ambitions and goals, I consider him to be a maniac and loser, how many innocent people, and FOR WHAT?”
Несомненно гений,но людоед (Igor Pankov) – “A genius without a doubt, but also a cannibal.”
Другие страны и люди добились того же, и еще чуть чуть побольше. Без гражданской войны, голодоморов, проигрыша в 1й мировой, без расстрелов (Boris Ermokhin, in reply to a pro-Lenin commenter) – “Other countries managed to achieve the same [successes as Lenin did], and even more so. Without Civil War, Holodomor, defeat in WWI, and without executions.”
Интересно, в чем гениальность? В том, что концлагеря раньше Гитлера придумал? (Mikhail Belov) – “I’d be interested to know, what did his ‘genius’ consist of? The fact that he invented concentration camps earlier than Hitler?”
Жиденка в запечатанном вагоне завезли, чтобы угробить Россию (Ivan Soloviev) – “They brought the little Jew [derogatory] back in a sealed train compartment, in order to destroy Russia.”
And In Conclusion: One Man’s Hero is Another Man’s Villain
O what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?