Let the Past Collapse on Time!

Vladimir Sorkin in NY Review of Books:

Putin_vladimir-050814_jpg_250x1294_q85In 2014, Lenins were felled in Ukraine and were allowed to collapse. No one tried to preserve them. This “Leninfall” took place during the brutal confrontation on Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), when Viktor Yanukovych’s power also collapsed, demonstrating that a genuine anti-Soviet revolution had finally occurred in Ukraine. No real revolution has happened in Russia. Lenin, Stalin, and their bloody associates still repose on Red Square, and hundreds of statues still stand, not only on Russia’s squares and plazas, but in the minds of its citizens.

The fury of our politicians’ and bureaucrats’ response to the mass destruction of Soviet idols in Ukraine is revealing. You might think, why pity symbols of the past? But Russian bureaucrats understand that their beloved Homo sovieticus crumbled along with Lenin. “They are destroying monuments to Lenin because he personifies Russia!” one politician exclaimed. Yes: Soviet Russia and the USSR, the ruthless empire, built by Stalin, that enslaved whole peoples, created a devastating famine in Ukraine, and carried out purges and mass repressions. The recent Ukrainian revolution was indeed directed against the heirs of that empire—Putin and Yanukovych. It is telling that pro-Russian demonstrations in Crimea and eastern parts of Ukraine invariably took place next to statues of Lenin.

Unfortunately, what happened in recent weeks in Ukraine did not happen in Russia in 1991. Yeltsin’s revolution ended up being “velvet”: it did not bury the Soviet past and did not pass judgment on its crimes, as was the case in Germany after World War II. All those Party functionaries who became instant “democrats” simply shoved the Soviet corpse into a corner and covered it with sawdust. “It will rot on its own!” they said.

Read the rest here.