Putin’s Gaffe Divides Russian Society – Part III: Public Reaction

Extry! Extry! President Trump disses Honest Abe, not to mention all African-Americans!

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.”

“Waiter! What is this Peskov doing in my soup?” “I’m not sure, Sir, but if I didn’t know better, I’d have to say: the backstroke.”

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?

Svidomites whip up Crimean Tatars.

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”:

PRO:

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.”

ANTI:

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?
(Walt Whitman)

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37 Responses to Putin’s Gaffe Divides Russian Society – Part III: Public Reaction

  1. Lyttenburgh says:

    ” 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?”

    This particular mensch, Mikhail Belov, should be reminded that no, concentration camps were invented by ultra-democratic, rich and successful British Empire during the Boer War which happened nearly 20 years before the Civil War in Russia. Yep, the country which due to be more successful (read – appalingly ruthless at exploting other people and resources) “managed to achieve the same [successes as Lenin did], and even more so. Without Civil War, Holodomor, defeat in WWI”, and with the judicial application of executions and state terror, which was later whitewashed anyway.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      I know, sheesh, among the “anti-Lenin” comments the number of halfway-intelligent arguments, you could count on the fingers of one hand, if you were in an industrial accident and lost some fingers. Anyone who reads Russian can check for themselves, I was not being unfair to their side. There are, in fact, lots of intelligent arguments that people COULD make against the Bolsheviks, other than inaccurate soundbites or “Jew Jew Jew!” which is their usual fallback.

      Like I said this particular comment by this Mensch was completely representative of the “anti” side – most of their comments just broad and ahistorical generalizations.

      Another proof of the creeping “Americanization” of Russian culture – people with no real historical education who spout memes and think they know something!

      Again, sheeeeesh!

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      • Ryan Ward says:

        Don’t you think it’s a little one-sided to put it like that? Fair enough to point out that some of the “anti” comments are less than insightful, but the same is true of the “pro” comments as well. For example, one person said that people “didn’t poison themselves with vodka” under communism, which is a little odd, since alcohol consumption and the related social pathologies increased dramatically in the Brezhnev era. Another said that without Lenin, Russia wouldn’t even exist, which is about as broad and ahistorical as a generalization can get.

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          Dear Ryan:
          That’s a valid point. I concede that some of the “pros” are idiots too.
          Both sides spout memes and generalizations.
          But on the average, I think the “pro” comments are more intelligent, some “pros” actually cite facts and numbers from time to the time. The “antis” really are mostly, just, “Lenin was worse than Hitler” and “Jew Jew Jew” sort of thing.

          My beef about “Americanization” is the notion that every idiot’s opinion is worthwhile. I am pretty sure that was a borrowing from American culture. Never existed in Soviet Union, I am pretty sure. Oh, they had idiots, all right, but assigned them to a special job, called “Village Idiot”.

          🙂

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        • Lyttenburgh says:

          “For example, one person said that people “didn’t poison themselves with vodka” under communism, which is a little odd, since alcohol consumption and the related social pathologies increased dramatically in the Brezhnev era.”

          To quote the great doctor Percy Cox “Wrong-wrong-wrong!… You’re wrong!” Here is a graph depicting the alcochol poisoning in the USSR/Russia since 1965:

          The 2 largest peaks happened in “Free” and “Democratic” Russia. That’s why people slightly incorrectly say such things like none was “poisoning themselves with vodka”. All is known in the comparison, Mr. Ward. But to do that you must not just cherrypick other people’s words but to actually know the facts on the ground.

          “Another said that without Lenin, Russia wouldn’t even exist, which is about as broad and ahistorical as a generalization can get.”

          Again – wrong. Dead wrong. By November 1917 Lenin got a country with demoralized army and collapsing frontline (all thanks to agitators and “democrats” loyal to the Interim Government), Don Cossack’s Host territory as a new Vandee and nationalists tearing the country up at the fringes.

          And then in became worse.

          Only thanks to him and bolsheviks the Russia in the form of the USSR remained with only comparativaly minimal territorial goals. But, I guess, you, Mr. Ward, would be still satisfied with annihilated and dismembered Russia the size of the Moscow’s knyazhestvo in14th c.

          Like

          • yalensis says:

            One of the “Pro” commenters pointed out, that under Lenin, the Bolsheviks won back everything that had been part of the Russian Imperial Empire at its maximum extent, with the sole exception of Finland. They did this not just by galvanizing workers and peasants, but also offering broad autonomies and unprecedented rights to the national minorities. You know, sometimes you DO capture more flies with honey than with vinegar.

            Not a bad record at all, especially when compared to the territorial anti-metrics of Boris the Drunk. Boris lost not only Baltics, Central Asia and most of the Caucasus, but even managed to let Chechnya slip through his fingers.

            Which is why it is so infuriating, not to mention indelicate, for Putin, the “naslednik” of Yeltsin to bring this matter up. I mean, it would be like, if I accidentally ran over my neighbor’s poodle, then I should not EVER invite that person over to my house to watch the “Westminster Dog Show” on TV. Simply unseemly!

            Like

          • Ryan Ward says:

            I don’t mean to be rude, but this response is just silly. Both alcohol use, and alcohol poisoning, were higher in the Brezhnev era than they are now, or than they’ve generally tended to be over the course of Russian history. But that doesn’t matter because, in the turmoil of the immediate post-Soviet era, there were two temporary spikes in alcohol poisoning? You would never accept such sloppy reasoning if it was in favour of something that contradicted, rather than confirming, your prejudices.
            As for Lenin, let’s leave aside all the inconvenient facts, like the fact that demoralization at the front was partially a result of Bolshevik agitation encouraging the soldiers not to fight, or the fact that the line, although it had been pushed back, was relatively stable at the time of the October revolution, or the fact that the Russian armies didn’t really need to do anything except avoid complete collapse to win the war (as, for example, Italy did). Leaving all that aside, we’re still left with the fact that Brest-Litovsk was pretty close to being an unconditional surrender, and it still left Russia in possession of more or less the same European territories as it currently holds. It would be a pretty hard case to make to say that Russia under the Kerensky regime wouldn’t even have been able to get a deal as good as Brest-Litovsk, which, as it seems needs to be stated explicitly, most certainly did not result in “there not even being a Russia”. It’s not open-and-shut, but there’s a reasonable case to be made that the Soviet Union emerged stronger after the Civil War than Russia would have been without the revolution. There’s no remotely reasonable case to be made that there was a fundamental threat to the existence of the Russian state in 1918, since there’s no evidence whatsoever that Russia’s only major enemy (Germany) had any plan or desire to eliminate the Russian state. Again, you would never defend such a silly statement unless it came from “your team”.

            Like

            • yalensis says:

              Dear Ryan:
              Sounds like your comment is addressed to Lyttenburgh, so I’ll let him respond, if he wants to. But I just had to jump in with one point – about the “Bolshevik agitation at the front”, and so on. Like that was such a terrible and disloyal thing that they did. And you’re right – they did agitate. Even more, they organized committees of both Russian and German soldiers who fraternized in the trenches, drank tea together, and plotted to overthrow their respective ghastly governments who had gotten them into this pickle in the first place.

              The Bolsheviks were opposed to WWI from Day #1, did everything they could to put a stop to it, they saw no reason whatsoever why Russian soldiers should be killing German soldiers, or vice versa. This was in their political platform, and had nothing to do with pacifism per se.

              It was one of the main reasons why the Bolsheviks gained masses of supporters later on, as the war turned sour. The Bolshevik slogan of “Peace and Land” was irresistable to many. But of course you know all this, being a history student.

              But I see that your main point is one of those ALT-TIMESTREAM hypotheticals, like in some Doctor Who story: IF, say, Kerensky had won the Civil War, and IF Russia had stayed firm behind her impeccably honorable allies (England and France), then what would have happened? Would the Russian state still exist today, and if so, in what boundaries? And then what would have happened with Hitler later on? Would he even have come to power?

              Sadly, I do not know the answer to these burning questions.
              I do know that in the real, actual, historical timeline, Lenin did NOT destroy the Russian state, as VVP accused him of doing. The only recent leader who came very close to doing that, was Boris Yeltsin. And you don’t need a time machine to know that Boris almost did it, and that Russia escaped complete implosion, but just by a whisker.

              Like

            • Ryan Ward says:

              Yes, your right about my comment, but the system put it under yours, for some reason. Anyway, I don’t necessarily disagree with what you said about Bolshevik “agitation”, at least under the Tsar, although I’m not sure it was the most positive thing to be doing once the Kerensky government was in place. In any case, I wasn’t really talking about what I found good or bad, but rather what helped to preserve the Russian state. My point was simply that it’s a little rich to credit Lenin with saving the Russian nation (or, to be a little more honest with our wording, the Russian empire, since “core Russia” was never threatened), when Lenin and his Bolsheviks were such a major part of the reason why the state became so weak in the first place. Again, in saying that, I’m not really making any value claims of my own, just putting on my “gosudarstvennik” hat to treat the original quote on its own terms.
              Perhaps ironically, I also agree with you that Putin was mistaken in suggesting that Lenin placed a “bomb” under the Russian state. I think the line between Lenin and the breakup of the Soviet Union is too long to be drawn so directly. For example, I think that a lot of the explanaotory emphasis should lie more on Stalin, but that’s another issue.
              In regard to counterfactuals, I agree that they’re often more than a little sterile, but they’re unavoidable when I’m dealing with the statement, “Without Lenin, there wouldn’t even be a Russia” The statement is so obviously false in any direct sense that I have to go into elaborate counterfactuals to give it any chance of being even partially true. My point was, that even when I go to all that effort to be charitable to the statement, it still turns out to be pretty implausible.

              Like

            • yalensis says:

              Sadly, the Bolsheviks chose not to offer their fealty, their loyalty, their swords, and their lives to Kerensky.
              Amazing a national leader and hero, as he was.

              Like

    • Cortes says:

      That’ll be the same British Empire which specialised in enslavement of the Irish, from the West Indies to Australia. Nice guys, all. No genocides, please, just shhhh.

      The Gaffe now being picked up:

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/25/vladmir-putin-accuses-lenin-of-placing-a-time-bomb-under-russia

      Like

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        This article is so full of shit. How about linking your sources, twerps? Also, “meeting with pro-Kremlin activists” has a name – “Obyedinjonniy Narodniy Front” (United People Front), not just some random people from the street but a members of organisation.

        Like

      • yalensis says:

        This is exactly what I was afraid of.
        Putin handed a big ideological gift to the Russophobes, all wrapped up in a bow!

        Like

  2. davidt says:

    Y, apropos my general point that national leaders generally don’t have the power to change things as easily as their electorate might imagine I draw your attention to the following three reports. First a week or so ago, Stephen Cohen claimed that Putin was under pressure to sack Medvedev. (Cohen stated this on a John Batchelor interview.) Then a few days ago the Saker reckoned the great failing of Putin was that he hadn’t sacked a dozen or so people who. he, the Saker, identifies as “Atlantic integrationists”. (Medvedev was for the chop again, as, happily, was Kudrin) And most recently, John Helmer, interpreted Lavrov’s snub of Nuland as a simultaneous rebuttal to Surkov and Peskov. (This seems to be a strange call.) I am not sure why any rational person would want to be the President of Russia- you would be called a pedophile to boot.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      That is true. I must confess that I simply do not understand how “power” works.
      Never having possessed any myself!

      Like

    • Jen says:

      Couldn’t the power to remove Medvedev or any other person in a senior political position equivalent to, say, cabinet position in of a President’s cabinet in the US (or in some if not most British Commonwealth countries, a Prime Minister’s cabinet) actually rest with the Russian Federal Assembly?

      People like Cohen, the Saker and Helmer appear to be looking at the Kremlin from the point of view of Americans. Americans seem to view their President as some monarchical figure with Congress apparently just existing to hinder the President. You cannot overlay the way the US system of government works, both in theory and practice, onto the Russian system of government.

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        Well, in my understanding of Dermocratic systems, there are “Presidential” systems and “Parliamentary” systems. In the latter, the P.M. is the main leader, and the President is a figure-head. In the former, the President has the right to sack the P.M., although normally he would abide by the voters choice and pick the P.M. from the party which got the most votes. But in theory he can sack the P.M., that’s the point people are making, I think.
        Russia has a “Presidential” system, thanks to Tsar Boris The Drunk and his shelling of the Parliament.
        Ukraine also enjoys a “Presidential” system of government, which is why there are all thes rumors about Porky and his plans to sack Veruca.

        Like

  3. Lyttenburgh says:

    Meanwhile, a true intellectual colossus of our time – Micky McFail – decided to add his 2 cents to this debate. Polite and attentive to details users of twitter already commented on that:

    Like

  4. davidt says:

    I think the evidence is very strong that Putin is an exceptional politician, and here is further evidence of it.
    http://tass.ru/en/politics/852069

    Like

  5. yalensis says:

    A more reasonable version of the story than the Grauniad B.S.

    And just for the record: I personally have ALWAYS believed that Lenin should have been given a decent burial, not mummified in that fashion. Well, it worked out well for King Tut, but it’s kind of creepy, and I don’t think it’s what Lenin would have wanted.
    I’ve seen Lenin’s body myself, several times, and it’s not really even him any more.

    Cremation and honorable spot in the Kremlin Wall – that would be my humble suggestion.

    Like

  6. PaulR says:

    Putin has now said some more on the subject. My translation is here: https://irrussianality.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/putin-on-communism/ I think it’s quite an important exposition of his political beliefs.

    Like

    • PaulR says:

      Reading the other comments more attentively, I see that you had caught this story already. But at least my (admittedly very rough) translation will help non-Russian speakers read for themselves what Putin had to say (not at all a ‘rediscovered love of communism’!).

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        Thanks, Paul, this is interesting and very timely. Also great translation, by the way. Thanks for taking the time to do it.
        (Especially with your wounded hand!)

        Like

  7. yalensis says:

    Dear David: My apologies. Please see my comment on PaulR’s blog, I forgot to check my spambox! For some reason WordPress decided that your link was spam. But it’s not. Not even 25% less sodium type spam.

    Like

  8. davidt says:

    Hi Y. I doubt that many people will read the Tass article more than once. Perhaps you might do a little bookkeeping and remove all but one of these references- I thought that my computer was misbehaving.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Done. I picked the best one and deleted the others (!)

      No, your computer is fine. Like I said on Paul’s blog, the WordPress spamfilter has a mind of its own, it tries to decide if a comment is spam, based on some algorithm which I am not privy to. If it relegates a comment to spam, it doesn’t alert me in any way, I have to remember to manually go in and open the spam folder, then manually click a comment as “Not spam”. That immediately liberates the comment into the general population.
      .
      Something about your TASS link really ticked it off, I guess.
      Although, I wonder why Paul’s blog allowed the comment, or maybe it did spam it, and he remembered to check.

      Anyhow, when I remember to check the spamfilter, most of the time there is legitimate spam there. One particular comment which always starts with the words “Hello, Web Administrator!”

      Sometimes there are comments that are borderline. For example, there will be a comment from somebody in some exotic nation out there, their “nik” links to a website that sells plumbing supplies, but their comment reads something like, in broken English, “You have great blog, keep up good work.” My spidey sense tingles, and I think they just want me to click on their website and buy some stuff from them, or maybe just ratchet up their clicks.

      Spam? Not Spam? Like King Solomon, I have to make a judgement call. With a single click of my mouse, I can either liberate their comment into the general population; or send it plunging into oblivion.

      I usually give them the benefit of the doubt, just in the hopes that some plumber out there in Elbonia is actually reading my blogposts.

      Like

  9. Lyttenburgh says:

    2 Mr. Ward

    “I don’t mean to be rude, but this response is just silly. Both alcohol use, and alcohol poisoning, were higher in the Brezhnev era than they are now, or than they’ve generally tended to be over the course of Russian history.”

    No, Mr. Ward. Ignoring (as you tend to do) statistical data that don’t suit you – that’s rather silly. As we are speaking of that right now the current level of the alcohol poisoning in Russia while at its all time low for the last 25 years (and a quarter of century is a lot of time) its still not on the same level as the USSR’s all time low. Meanwhile, the “Free and Democratic Russia” saw absolutely unprecedented increase in both alcoholism and alcohol poisons in that time period – TWICE. You call them “temporarily spikes” – one, lasting from 1992 till 1998 (when on its lowest point it was comparable to the lowest point of Brezhenv’s era as well) and another one – lasting from 1999 till 2007. That’s “temporarily” for you? More than a half of the entire “Capitalist Russia” period?

    People who answered in this poll were not professional historians – they are common people, a number of whom indeed lived during the USSR time. And if they say that “no one was poisoning themselves with vodka” (in original – “водкой не травились” – is actually more nuanced) this means “… in comparison to the Cluster Fuck that happened later”. Collective peoples memory is much more fair judge to these or that achievements. And surely as hell their albeit imperfect and perhaps rosy-tinted view of the past is much more close to the truth, than the “Lenin was Jew-IllumiNazi Agent!” crowd’s theories.

    “As for Lenin, let’s leave aside all the inconvenient facts, like the fact that demoralization at the front was partially a result of Bolshevik agitation encouraging the soldiers not to fight…”

    No – let’s discuss it. I insist! Bolsheviks surely were not the only ones who were agitating soldiers (in all fighting armies) to lay down their arms and stop killing each other in this unjust and imperialist war (I hope, Mr. Ward, you won’t argue against this description of the “Great War”). And you know? These uber-evil, baby-eatin’, priests-shootin, intelligentsia-exilin’, private property-stealin’ Bolsheviks… did not destroy the Russian army! It wasn’t them!

    And you know who was that, Mr. Ward? Why, it was all thanks to the shy and conscientious intilligents (and also bourgeoisie and nobility) members of the thread-bare legitimate Interim Government – plus, of course, fedora-tippin’, champagne-sippin’, coffee-houses rantin’ revolutionary bohemians of the Petrograd Soviet (nearly 100% of them – men’shevik’s and eSeRs), who have done all in their power to obstruct the government while receiving a hefty gesheft from participating in political rallies and blathering their way from day to day – without accomplishing anything.

    Ever heard about Order №1 of the Petrosoviet (1 March 1917), which its deputies agreed upon with the bourgeoisie (yes, bourgeoisie – that’s an absolutely correct term to describe them) Interim Government? They’ve introduced the “democratic elections” of the officers by the soldiers, soldiers themselves now could form (even on the frontlines) their own quasi-Soviets – committees – with vast authority over them, plus the corporal and death punishment were abolished. Honorific forms of address to officers were also abolished – as well as performing of the military salute and coming to attention. One of the authors of this Decree №1, men’shevik Iosif Goldenberg said in March 1917: “Order №1 is not a mistake – it’s a necessity… The very same day when we “made the Revolution”, we also understood, that if we won’t ruin the old army, it would destroy the Revolution. We didn’t doubt: we decided in the favor of the later and employed – I’m claiming that openly – an appropriate measure”.

    Now – who is more fitting to the “fifth column” mold? Lenin and his Bolsheviks or… this?

    Now, a little bit of context. Imagine that – by February 1917 Russian army held on the eastern front about half of the all German divisions. In 1916 Brusilov’s offensive managed to somehow improve the situation on the South-Western front. In Caucasus Russian army was successful against the Turks. Things were holding – barely. There was a real need for some real reforms and society’s restructuring, otherwise the situation would be unsustainable in the long run. The situation within the country was depressing. After 3 years of war the prices on all goods in Russian empire have increase 3-4 times. For comparison – in France price hike after 3 years of war was only by 70%.

    And then came the Interim Government – and fucked all up. Them – not Lenin and Bolsheviks. During their glorious reign proto-liberasts managed to screw over what little that still remained of Russian economy, already suffering from the war. During 1917 prices have increase 4 times AGAIN. The value of ruble fell by 4 times. They couldn’t manage to collect taxes starting from the summer of ’17. Their solution? Why, print more money, of course! And, naturally, take more, and more, and more credits from our faithful “allies” – under the promise to participate further in this bloodbath.

    And that’s what they did – for the money. Already on 6 March the Interim Government announced that it (read – poor sods in the trenches) will continue the war “till Victory!”. And even when on 22 May the Commander of the German Eastern front prince Leopold of Bayern offered to begin a peace talks – the Interim Government rejected the offer. After all, they were “loyal” in a sense of the word – they stood bought.

    I also remind you, that in May 1917 Kerensky was a Military Minister in the government. That after a deliberate sabotage known as the Order №1 (for which also voted members of his own party – the eSeRs) Russian army in just a couple of month became demoralized and virtually uncontrollable. Fraternizing of Russian and German soldiers became commonplace, officer’s orders were often ignored. Hell – frontline soldiers often forbid the artillery to shell enemy’s trenches, because it would be not “nice” – or just because they didn’t want for the Germans to shell them back.

    Which brings us to:

    “…or the fact that the line, although it had been pushed back, was relatively stable at the time of the October revolution, or the fact that the Russian armies didn’t really need to do anything except avoid complete collapse to win the war (as, for example, Italy did).”

    Like hell it did. Especially this part about “avoiding complete collapse” and “win the war”. Our gallant allies won’t allow such things to happen, always glad (like they did in early 19th c.) to fight “to the last Russian” and basically controlling the foreign policy of the Interim Government.

    After the Germans broke through the Russian frontlines in 6 July in the area of the town of Tarnopol (now – Ternipil of the Best Ukrajina) and the new, “Revolutionary Army”, which Kerensky have previously morally motivated in his lectures and political rallies along the frontlines just in May, just broke and began withdrawing. In a complete disarray. The number of deserters (with their issued rifles in hands and as much ammo as they could take) skyrocketed. But, hey – it didn’t matter at all! Russian “republican” government just yet again did its duty to the “grateful” allies, by managing to attract to their front another 16 German divisions! Tally ho!

    After that the front-line was sooooo incredibly stable that on 20 August the Germans took Riga – which was in dangerous proximity to the capital. The frontline proved itself one again “stable” when on 1 October the Moonsund naval battle ended with the sinking of the battleship “Slava” and the destroyer “Grom” – and later that month Germans did capture Moonsund islands just off the Estonian coast. On October 20 (note this day Mr. Ward – how long till the October Revolution?) new Military Minister in Kerensky’s cabinet Alexander Verkhovsky said: “We can’t fight any more. The pull of the Army to the peace is undefeatable right now. Thus, the only thing we must do now – to sign a peace with Germany. This will allow us to save the country from a catastrophe”. But, as we know, “democrats” of the Interim Government were loyal to their allies – they stood bought. “War till Victory!”. Verkhovskiy resigned the following day in disgust.

    You know, Mr. Ward, when the Eastern front did indeed became “relatively stable” in 1917? In Mid November, after the October Revolution and when the new government of the Bolsheviks reached out o the Germans and said out loud – let’s sign an armistice. This little thing happened after the “Decree on Peace” – which called for the universal peace in all fighting countries without annexations and contribution.

    Which, yet again, brings us to:

    “Leaving all that aside, we’re still left with the fact that Brest-Litovsk was pretty close to being an unconditional surrender, and it still left Russia in possession of more or less the same European territories as it currently holds.”

    And – again – no, let’s not leave that aside! Let’s talk about it!

    So, when the Brest-Litovsk peace talks began on 9 December 1917 situation in the whole of the country looked grim. Bolshevik’s inherited this situation – not created it. There was no army – thanks to the Interim Government and men’shvik Soviets. The country couldn’t physically fight anymore. Were the German conditions hard? Yes! But about 80% of the territory that Germans claimed as their new “own” had not been controlled by the central government anyway – like Poland, Baltics or the Ukraine. Hard, harsh – but survivable terms.

    Brest-Litovsk had been signed in 3 March 1918, and then – a Czechoslovakian revolt broke out. In May 1918 Bolsheviks lost control of the territory from Urals to the Far East. Now, without the territory behind the Urals, without anything western than Pskov, without Southern Caucasus and Finland, “Russia”, so to speak, shrank to its borders of, say, 16th century.

    And then it became worse – Volga region has been lost. Here, the “crème de la crème” of that age “handshakability”, a true giants and titans of Russian liberalism (no irony here – they were a real thing, not like the so-called “Russian liberals” of today), former Constitutional Assembly deputies decided to create their own state within Russia, aka КомУЧ – shrinking it even more. This, Mr. Ward, is much – MUCH – less then the current territory of the European part of the RF.

    Yet again, let’s quote your own words:

    “There’s no remotely reasonable case to be made that there was a fundamental threat to the existence of the Russian state in 1918, since there’s no evidence whatsoever that Russia’s only major enemy (Germany) had any plan or desire to eliminate the Russian state.”

    Such sweet, sweet naivety, Mr. Ward, can only result from not knowing a lot of real facts about Russian history.

    There is one fundamental historical document that any self-respecting historian studying early XX c. Russia absolutely must read. I’m talking about a note, written by a former Minister of the Interior P.N. Durnovo in February 1914. Here, he amazingly accurate predicted what will happen in the event of Russia-German war. Durnovo also prophetically noted that no one of the existing political parties in Russia really represents its people and they won’t be capable to lead the people in the case of the imminent Revolution. He then named one true enemy, threatening the existence of Russia – not just the Russian Empire, but Russia as the independent state.

    It was the the Anarchy. The complete and total collapse of all basic institutes of the state and society. And in 1918 onwards such threat was real. Due to the general ruin and destruction resulting from the war and revolutions some basic elements of everyday life were unraveling really fast. Some particular people like to badmouth (to put it mildly) Bolsheviks for the Prodrazverstka and the Military Communism system of requisitions. But do they have any idea what happened at that time in the former Russian Empire? The relationships between the city and the village collapsed completely. In the spirit of the free enterprise and the Invisible Hand of the Market ™ peasants (especially – kulaks) simply refused to sell the grain to the cities on “unfavorable conditions”. Which usually meant – starving city population while demanding outrageous sums of money. Can you imagine how damaging to the very structure of society was that?

    Besides Reds and Whites, various Intervents and local Nationalists a constant feature of any part of the Civil war had become various gangs and warbands – not just Makhnovtsi, or “Revolutionary Seamen” hi-jacking entire trains and travelling across the country to establish their “Anarchic Order”. All sorts of gangs ruled the vast gaps in between the little authority that still remained, not interested in any particular ideology. It all actually began while the Interim Government pretended to be a something, with hike in criminal rate (thoughtful liberals abolished the Police and Gendarmerie… yay!) and peasants, angered at the constant lay-offs at deciding the “Land Question” capturing the noble land for themselves – and pomesh’iks fighting back.

    It might come as shock to you, Mr. Ward, but, yes – Bolsheviks and Lenin were the only real alternative to the constantly spreading anarchy and the annihilation of the state. And they did that – saved their country in 4 years full of constant battles and very difficult political decisions.

    Putin said in his original statement that “Lenin placed a nuclear bomb under the foundation of Russia”. Wrong – but Lenin was responsible for the fact, that we got the atom bomb later on, saving us from very glum fate this early in already heating up Cold War. It was Lenin and his Bolsheviks, that thanks to whom we got an Academy of Physics and Chemistry of the USSR, which produced amongst its alumni such famous scientists as academicians Kharitonov, Ioffe, Kapitsa, etc. Go ahead and compare the number of higher education institutions in czarist Russia in 1914 to what the USSR have accomplished by 1940. Bloody Bolsheviks, who loved nothing better than to pwn mercilessly some rotten ntyuligents (as we are told), these barbarians, who physically annihilated “the Elite of the Nation” (said with screeching falsetto, to show all the outrage) somehow managed unexplainable things! In 1914 there were 91 higher education centers – in 1940 there were 817. That’s 9 times more. And while in the Blessed Nicholaist Russia there were at that moment 114 000 students receiving the higher education, in the godless country-vide gulag (as we are told… repeatedly) they numbered 811 700.

    I’d like to end my mega-post, Mr. Ward, by quoting some people, whose opinion on Lenin you would probably trust the most – his enemies.

    Nikolai Berdayev (exiled by Lenin): “Lenin – a typical Russian man. Lenin was made from a single piece, he is solid … In 1918, when Russia was threatened by chaos and anarchy … he called for elementary things – for work, for discipline, for justice, for knowledge and learning, for the positive construction … He stopped the chaotic disintegration of Russia. In this he has similarities to Peter [the Great]” («Истоки и смысл русского коммунизма», Глава VI, 1938).

    Victor Chernov (eSeRs leader): “Lenin was a great man. Not only the greatest man in his party – he was its uncrowned king, and deserved that. He was its head, hits mind, one might even say its heart, if he and the party did not accept the obligation to be heartless. Lenin had a powerful but cool intelligence. Intelligence that was ironic, sarcastic, cynical. For him there was nothing worse than sentimentality… For him, it was something frivolous – a hypocrisy, “the priest’s chatter.” Politics meant to him strategy and nothing else. The desire to win – the only commandment for him. The will to power and uncompromising implementation of the political program – that’s the only virtue. Doubt – the only crime” (“On the death of Lenin”, 1924).

    Karl Kautsky (no comments): You have to be crazy not to recognize the greatness of Lenin. Gather into one single coherent state structure Russia – steeped in anarchy, beset on all sides by the counter-revolution, exhausted to the death – an achievement the likes of which can hardly be found in the history” (“On the death of Lenin”, 1924).

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Lyttenburgh:
      Your comment needs to be its own post.
      And I will make it so, with your permission.
      Working title: “Who placed a bomb under Russian society” ????
      But not today, or tomorrow, I ain’t got no time for that now, I have to go skiing, but maybe in a week or so.

      Also, maybe removing polemical indicators with Ryan, unless Ryan wants to do this as a “point – counterpoint” type thing. In which case, he can also expand on his debating points.
      What say you,, Ryan? Just thinking out loud.

      Also, Lyt: a technical point on my translations – I did struggle with that “водкой не травились” phrase and how to render into English. My translation was not nuanced enough, like you say. Maybe something like, “Back in those days, people didn’t poison themselves as much….” or something like that.

      Like

  10. Ryan Ward says:

    I’m up for that. This seems to me a natural turning point in the conversation, since it’s clearly gone beyond the fairly modest point I initially intended to make (which was that, if the anti-Lenin comments weren’t exactly models of scholarly precision, neither were most of the pros). Anyway, given that it’s a long holiday here, and I have more time on my hands than usual, it’s a good time for a more involved discussion.

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Dear Ryan,
      I’m good for this, if Lyt is agreeable.
      Don’t know how exactly to format it.
      Maybe I just draft something, based on your existing comments?
      Then you can comment more, if you like.
      And I format into “Point – Counterpoint” and turn into blogpost, something like that?

      Other option: If you like, you can write your own article, and I’ll post it here on my blog.
      Then Lyt can respond.
      Or vice versa.

      To write your own post, you basically email it to me in Word format.
      Then I post it while adding graphics and clever captions.
      For that to work, I have to email you first, with your permission, to give you my email address.
      Your choice!

      Like

      • Lyttenburgh says:

        yalensis, if you don’t mind, I’m currently re-working my post so that it would become more article like. I’m cutting all my thetorical questions to mr. Ward in it, plus I will try to divide it into chapters. And – as a bonus – I’ll add new content (DLC ;)) not seen previously in the original post.

        I will mail it to you soon-ish.

        Like

        • yalensis says:

          Excellent! Thanks, Lyt, I can’t wait to read it.

          Ryan: So, just let me know if you want to write a post too, giving your POV.
          The way this is shaping up, I guess it won’t be a catfight after all.
          Just 2 separate posts. If you are agreeable.

          Like

  11. Ryan Ward says:

    Sounds good. If you send me the email, I’ll mail you back in a day or two.

    Like

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