Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

The Czars

April 11, 2016

There is a tendency, when writing of the history of a nation, to focus on the actions of rulers of that nation. American history books tend to divide American history by presidents, while British books differentiate the eras of British history by kings and queens, and later prime ministers, Chinese by dynasties, and so on. This approach is understandable since while kings and emperors may not have as much control over the events of the nations they rule as they would like, their reigns do give convenient dividing points between periods and eras. Still, there is often a lot going on that has little to do with the actions of any rulers and a history focused on the ruling class risks overlooking many factors and events in the country’s history.

This approach may be more justified in the case of Russian history, than in the histories of most other nations. For much of its history, Russia has been ruled by a strong, centralised government with political power vested in one man or woman, the Czar. The personality of Russia’s Czar was the most powerful influence on the development of the Russian nation. Russia only became a unified nation when the earliest Czars were able to establish control over the unruly boards and the Orthodox Church, become strong enough to defeat the invading Mongols, Poles and Lithuanians and take the title of Czar. The history of Russia is the history of its Czars.

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The Czars by James P. Duffy and Vincent L. Ricci tells the story of Russia’s czars, from their messy beginnings as the Vikings who raided, traded, and then settled the vast Russian lands to the murder of Nicholas II at the hands of the Bolshevik revolutionaries. It is a fascinating story, well told by the two authors. They give a biography of every Czar, the early and obscure princes of Kiev and Muscovy no less than such titanic rulers as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, giving something of the personalities and lives of each Czar as well as the historical circumstances of their reigns. I found the early history of the unification of Russia to be particularly interesting as this was a period that I didn’t know much about. Most histories of Russia seem to cover this time in the first chapter before quickly moving on to Ivan the Great and his son Ivan the Terrible.

The only fault that I can find with The Czars is the absence of maps. A map of the Ukraine and the European part of Russia would have been very handy, especially if it included all the little principalities and cities that were absorbed by the growing Russian state in its earliest years. I found myself having to consult Google maps to get some idea of where the various regions of European Russia were in relation to each other and where the battles against the Mongols and the Poles took place. A genealogy of the two Russian dynasties, the Ruriks and the Romanovs would also have been useful, especially with the early Ruriks who had not yet established the tradition of handing down power from father to son, and with the more tumultuous times of trouble in which several short-lived and distantly related Czars followed one another in succession. Despite these shortcoming, I still found the Czars to be interesting and informative.

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The Life and Death of Lenin

August 24, 2015

I am a fan of Isaac Asimov‘s science fiction stories, particularly of his Foundation series. In this series of books, a mathematician named Hari Seldon invents a way to predict the future through the mathematics of probability, which he calls Psychohistory.  It is not possible to predict the future actions of an individual person or even small groups of people. Psychohistory only works which large populations, entire worlds and nations. By using psychohistory Seldon learns  that the Galactic Empire, which has existed for thousands of years, is falling and the galaxy will enter into a dark age lasting for many millennia if nothing is done. It is too late to avert the fall of the Empire, but Seldon hopes to shorten the interregnum between the First and Second Galactic Empires to merely a thousand years by setting up two Foundations at opposite ends of the galaxy that will preserve the scientific knowledge that would otherwise be lost and to lead the way to the reunification of the galaxy.

Could there really be such a method of calculating the future as Isaac Asimov’s psychohistory? In order for something like that to work, history would have to be determined by great economic and social forces and the choices of individuals, even great generals and kings, would have to be inconsequential. Carlyle’s Great Man Theory would have to give way to Spencer’s theory that even great men are mere products of their environment.

For my part, I do not believe that psychohistory could really be possible. I think that great men, and women, really do alter the course of history. There are just so many ways in which history could have turned out very differently, if the personalities of the persons involved has been different. Imagine the American Revolution without George Washington or Germany after the First World War without a Hitler. Then too, there ware the completely unpredictable workings of nature. Climate change has had a greater effect on the rise and fall of empires than is generally recognized. Diseases like the Black Death can appear due to chance mutations of a virus or bacteria and kill half the population of a continent with little warning.

I could give many examples, but the one that I would like to consider is the life and death of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Bolshevik Party and the first leader of the USSR. Before the Russian Revolutions of 1917, there were many socialist factions seeking reform or revolution in Russia, some Marxist, some not. Among all these parties, Lenin’s party, the Bolsheviks were the most radically Marxist and the most given to violence and terrorism. Lenin and his lieutenants had no use for the kind of parliamentary reforms that more moderate groups wanted to bring to Russia, nor did he care for reforms to improve the conditions of the masses. Lenin and the Bolsheviks wanted revolution.When the Czar was overthrown in February, 1917 and a republican Provisional  Government set up, the Bolsheviks played almost no role in the great affairs. Lenin was still in exile and wanted his party to have no part in bourgeoisie elections. The party would seize power in a Communist revolution.

It is important to understand that this decision to seize power was entirely Lenin’s. None of the other leading Bolsheviks thought it was a good idea and properly speaking, as good Marxists, the Bolsheviks ought not to have led a revolution at all. Marx has very definite ideas on how Communism was supposed to come about. He believed that every society moved through stages, from the primitive socialism of savages to the great slave states of the ancient world, to feudalism,  capitalism, socialism, and finally communism. Since Russia was still emerging from feudalism into capitalism, Lenin ought to have waited until capitalism was fully developed in Russia before leading the revolution. Lenin, however, realized that the Bolsheviks would never have a better chance for power than while the Russian government and economy were in a state of collapse.

Lenin

Lenin

Lenin’s rule as the first leader of the Soviet Union was a disaster for the Russian people. All of the totalitarian aspects of the communist regime that are usually attributed to Joseph Stalin’s tyranny had their beginnings with Lenin. Lenin was the one who setup the Checka, the secret police and it was Lenin who established the Gulags and the use of terror to subdue the population. Yet, despotic as Lenin was, Stalin was far worse and it was doubly unfortunate for the Russian people that Lenin’s premature death in 1924 led to the assumption of power by Stalin.

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In the year before his death, Lenin was increasingly uneasy over events in the Soviet Union. The great revolution did not seem to be leading to a communist utopia but had exchanged the tyranny of the Czar with the tyranny of the commissar. Lenin began to consider ways of making the Soviet state more representative of the workers it purported to serve. Lenin was also becoming aware that Stalin, while a good man to have around in a revolution, was wholly unsuited to wielding power after the revolution. Lenin decided that Stalin had to be relieved of his powerful position of Party General Secretary. If Lenin had lived a normal lifespan, it is likely that he would have succeeded in unseating Stalin.  It is less likely that he would have made the Soviet regime in any sense democratic. Lenin’s own autocratic personality prevented him from ever really seeing that the cause of the increasingly oppressive regime was his own reluctance to allow anyone outside the Communist Party from gaining any real independence from the rule of the Party. Still, if Lenin had not died, the rule of the Communist Party, while still despotic, would not have reached the insane level of repression as it did under Stalin. The history of the twentieth century might have been very different, depending on whether Lenin lived or died.

Lenin was only 53 when he died following a series of strokes over the previous year which progressively weakened him. After his death, an autopsy showed that he had advanced arteriosclerosis in his brain with some blood vessels completely calcified. The arteriosclerosis was far worse than might be expected in a man of Lenin’s age, especially as he had none of the risk factors that might be associated with the disease. Lenin did not smoke, was moderate in his diet, and exercised regularly. He was under a considerable amount of stress as leader of a nation in a civil war and which had to be rebuilt almost from the ground up. Still, such an advanced case of arteriosclerosis at Lenin’s age is unusual, particularly considering that the worst buildup of plaque was in the blood vessels of his brain. The blood vessels in the rest of Lenin’s body were no more afflicted by the disease than might be expected by a man of his age and habits. Something strange was going on.

Recently, researchers have discovered that a mutation in a single gene can cause a selective buildup of the plaque that causes arteriosclerosis in the legs. Could Lenin have suffered from a similar genetic disorder that caused such a buildup in the brain? Lenin’s father also suffered from cardiovascular disease, dying of heart disease at the age of 54. While it is not yet confirmed that Lenin himself suffered from a genetic defect that specifically targeted the blood vessels of the brain, it is clear that there was some sort of hereditary predisposition for cardiovascular disease.

Getting back to psychohistory, I do not see how any method of predicting the future could account for the life and death of Lenin. It would not be difficult to predict the fall of the Czar many years before it happened. It may not have been too difficult to predict that the most radical faction of the revolutionaries seeking the overthrow of the Czar would end up in control. Other revolutions have seen similar outcomes. But how could anyone predict that a small splinter faction would end up seizing power in a coup? Remember that Lenin was the only Bolshevik who thought such a coup had any chance of success. If Lenin had still been in exile, the October Revolution wouldn’t have happened and either some other Marxist faction would have gained power, or the Provisional Government would have had time to get things settled down enough to establish a more permanent government. Even if it were possible to account for the rise of the Bolsheviks, how could anyone predict in advance that their leader suffered from a genetic defect that would kill him prematurely and pave the way for a psychopath like Stalin to gain power?

I think that it is clear that it is individuals who make history, either by the decisions of the great ones, or the actions of millions of lesser people. The social and economic forces that historians like Spencer believe that drive the course of history are nothing more than the trillions of actions made by billions of people over time with considerable influence brought on by unpredictable natural events. Psychohistory will probably have to stay in the realm of fiction.

The Pale of Settlement

May 19, 2014

A little while back, I wrote about the English Pale, the system of English fortifications in Ireland which gave rise to the expression, “beyond the pale”. That word, pale, as been used in several other historical contexts, one notable example being the Pale of Settlement in Eastern Europe. The Pale of Settlement was not any sort of fortification of defense system, but it was a policy of the Russian Empire designed to keep an undesirable people, the Jews, out. Since Vladimir the Great, Prince of Kiev, converted to Christianity along with his entire kingdom, the Russians have been proud of their Orthodox Christian heritage. After the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453 and went on to conquer most of Orthodox Eastern Europe, Russia stood strong as the last remaining bastion of the true Christian faith. (The Catholics of Western Europe didn’t count since they were vile heretics hardly better than the heathen Turks.)

Naturally the Czars of Russia did not want the sacred soil of  Mother Russia to be polluted by the footsteps of the Christ-killing Jews, so they made sure to keep the Jews out of the Empire. The problem was that beginning in the seventeenth and and eighteenth centuries, Russia started to expand westwards into Eastern Europe, mostly taking territories from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which formerly ruled over much of what is now western Russia, Belorussian, and the Ukraine. These territories, especially Poland had large numbers of Jews because earlier Polish kings had encouraged them to emigrate to Poland  in order to alleviate a shortage of skilled labor and merchants in the kingdom. Now,  most advanced, modern nations faced with a large population of undesirables would simply exterminate them. Russia, however, was somewhat backward and primitive so the Czars decided to simply exclude the detestable Jews from Russia proper while still permitting them to live in the conquered lands. It was Catherine the Great who first created the Pale of Settlement in 1791. In 1793, Poland was partitioned among Russia, Austria, and Prussia, bringing more Jews into the Pale.

English: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772

English: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Within the Pale, Jews were excluded from small agricultural settlements and villages, while their access to major cities was also limited. Most Jews lived in shtetls, Jewish communities in small towns. There were rare exceptions in which privileged Jews, mostly those with needed skills or large amounts of money were permitted to live outside the Pale, sometimes even in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Such permission was always conditional and could be revoked at any time. The boundaries of the Pale of Settlement could also be changed without warning and without consulting the Jews. The Russian government could also change the locations where Jews could reside within the Pale, again without warning or consultation. Life in the shtetls, then was precarious and impoverished. The Jews were subject to relocations and pogroms were not uncommon. There were quotas limiting the number of Jews who could attend Russian universities. Before 1827, Jews could not serve in the Russian army but were subject to double taxation to compensate. They were forbidden to hire Christian servants and often could not own land. The Czars often encouraged the persecution of the Jews to distract attention away from their own oppressive rule.

English: Map showing the percentage of Jews in...

English: Map showing the percentage of Jews in the and , c. 1905. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Despite the restrictions and discrimination, a rich cultural life flourished in the shtetls of the Pale. The Jews lived separately from their Gentile neighbors, speaking their own language, Yiddish, observing their own customs and largely governing themselves. The Jews formed social welfare organizations to help the more impoverished members of their community, especially students of the Yeshivas or religious schools. The Rabbis of the Pale of Settlement created new theological systems, particularly Hasidic Judaism. A literature in the Yiddish language flourished. One notable author was the humorist Sholem Aleichem, whose stories of shtetl life formed the basis for the musical Fiddler on the Roof.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire was beginning to change and life in the Pale was also changing. Many young Jews were no longer content to live in a world apart. They began to speak the Russian language and adopt Russian customs. Many Jews, frustrated by the limitations of Czarist Russia emigrated to the Holy Land or to the United States. Those that remained behind tended to join radical groups such as the Bolsheviks and Jews played a prominent role in both the 1905 and 1917 revolutions. World War I was the beginning of the end of the Pale of Settlement. Many Jews fled from the Pale into Russian proper in order to escape the fighting. Under the stresses of a losing war, the Czar’s government could no longer maintain any control over its subjects and the old restrictions on the Jews were increasingly ignored. Antisemitism also increased dramatically and throughout the World War and the Russian Civil War that followed, Jews were repeatedly massacred by those who blamed them for the disorders. The Provisional Government abolished the Pale of Settlement after the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, while Poland became an independent nation once more. The Jews, and the other minorities of the Russian Empire were granted equality with the Russians.

It is something of a sad irony that the end of the Czars who oppressed the Jews also meant the end of the distinctive culture of Russian Judaism. Many Jews had joined the various organizations that were devoted to ending the rule of the Czars. Jews were over represented in such radical groups as the Bolsheviks, yet the militant atheist Communist government proved to be more cruelly oppressive than the worst of the Czars. With the horrors of the Civil War, the hatred of the Communists toward any religious expression and the destruction of the Jews throughout Europe, little now remains of the formerly vibrant communities. Those Jews who remain in Russia are mostly secular and assimilated. Their numbers are shrinking rather than growing. The Yiddish language is rarely used today.  Yet, a remnant of this culture remains in the Russian Jewish communities of Israel and the United States. So, the glory of the world becomes less than it was.

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Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov

August 26, 2013
Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov (biologist)

Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov (biologist) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A favorite character trope of science fiction and low budget horror movies is the mad scientist. The mad scientist is a scientist who is, well, mad, or at least eccentric. He works in his laboratory alone, or with a trusted minion. His researches are often considered beyond the bounds of respected science and he is either indifferent or oblivious of the moral and ethical implications of his discoveries. He could be evil, good, or amoral. The mad scientist is not always found in science fiction, however. There have actually been real mad scientists. Perhaps the maddest of these mad scientists was Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov. He was not mad in the psychiatric sense, but he was certainly willing to push the boundaries of scientific ethics. He is most famous for his attempts to create a human-ape hybrid. He was never successful, thank goodness, but that was not for lack of effort on his part.

Ivanov was born in 1870 in the town of Shchigry in Russia. He attended the University of Kharkov and graduated in 1896. He became a professor of biology at that institution in 1907. Ivanov was an associate of Ivan Pavlov. He also worked as a research veterinarian and his primary contribution to that science was the development of methods of artificial insemination which he could use on animals, especially horses. Ivanov was able to use the semen of a single stallion to impregnate 500 mares, far more that any stallion could manage naturally. Horse breeders from around the world studied his methods and he was put to work breeding fancy horses for the ruling Romanov dynasty. Ivanov was fascinated by the idea of creating animal hybrids from species that would never even consider mating with each other in the wild. He was able to create hybrids of antelopes and cows, guinea pigs and rabbits, and zebras and donkeys. The Czar and his court were fascinated by these hybrids and while the Russian Orthodox Church frowned on artificial insemination, at least in humans, Ivanov’s future seemed assured.

Unfortunately the Romanovs were overthrown in 1917 and the Bolsheviks seized control of Russia. The Bolsheviks did not have any use for fancy animals of any sort and Ivanov was out of a job. His troubles with the Orthodox Church seemed a recommendation to the militantly atheist Communists so he was able to find work at the State Experimental Veterinary Institute. At some point he had begun considering the possibility of making a human-chimpanzee hybrid. Chimpanzees were believed to be the animal most closely related to humans and he had managed to create hybrids from species farther apart, so the experiment seemed worth trying. He needed funding from the newly created Soviet government. Since the Soviet Union was just recovering from a devastating civil war, right after a disastrous experience in World War I, it might seem that the possibility of his getting the needed funds was remote. He somehow managed to persuade the Communists that a human-chimpanzee hybrid would show that man was nothing more than just another animal and its existence would serve to discredit religion and promote Communism and atheism. The Soviet government bought his line. The rising political leader Joseph Stalin was especially enthusiastic and in 1925, he got his funding.

There are no apes native to any part of Russia, so Ivanov had to go abroad to begin his work. By 1926 he had made arrangements to conduct his experiments at a primate research facility in French Guinea. The conditions there were not ideal. The chimpanzees had been captured by poachers  and half had already died of neglect. None of the females were sexually mature, so Ivanov had to wait, while trying to gather more chimps. By February the following year, two females had become mature and Ivanov could begin at last. The two female chimps did not appreciate being sexually assaulted by a man with a syringe and his first attempts were not successful. He tried again the following spring with a sedated chimp. This attempt was also a failure.

With his chimps dying faster than they could be replaced, Ivanov decided he needed to change his procedures. He decided to return to the Soviet Union. Earlier, Ivanov had helped to establish a primate research facility in Georgia, the southernmost part of the USSR and the only territory with a climate that apes could flourish. He also decided that since it would be easier to keep one male than several females, that he would use chimpanzee semen to impregnate a human woman. He tried to make arrangements to acquire a male chimpanzee from a Cuban woman who kept a private reserve for apes, but the Ku Klux Klan learned of their plans and threatened her into withdrawing her support.

Back in Georgia, most of the remaining apes fell ill and died. The only remaining ape was an elderly orangutan. Ivanov sought for volunteers to be fertilized with the old apes semen. They had to be volunteers since the Soviet authorities decided that it would be too capitalist or bourgeois to offer money. As amazing as it may sound, Ivanov actually managed to find a woman willing to undergo the procedure. Ivanov now had only to collect the semen from the orangutan. Unfortunately, he died before Ivanov could get a sample. He would have to get more apes.

Before he had a chance to continue, however, Ivanov was arrested by the NKVD. According to stories that may or may not be true, Joseph Stalin had had visions of invincible armies of apemen working in factories and farms and advancing the Socialist cause in the Red Army. Stalin was growing impatient with Ivanov’s lack of progress and he reacted in his usual way, arresting people and shipping them off to concentration camps. Ivanov was comparatively lucky. He was only exiled to Kazakhstan. He was old and his health had become fragile, so Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov died of a stroke just before he was due to be released.

His death was considered a great loss to science in some quarters and his old colleague Ivan Pavlov wrote his obituary. No one has ever tried to produce human-ape hybrids since his death and it is unlikely anyone ever will, at least I hope.

If you want to know more about Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, as well as many other DNA related matters, I cannot recommend highly enough Sam Kean’s The Violinist’s Thumb.

  • Oliver the Humanzee (weird.answers.com) He wasn’t really, but a lot of people thought he was.

Pravda Supports Freedom

January 10, 2013

There is something seriously askew with the world when Pravda, formerly the official newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party runs an editorial urging Americans not to give up our freedoms, especially the right to bear arms.

These days, there are few things to admire about the socialist, bankrupt and culturally degenerating USA, but at least so far, one thing remains: the right to bear arms and use deadly force to defend one’s self and possessions.

This will probably come as a total shock to most of my Western readers, but at one point, Russia was one of the most heavily armed societies on earth. This was, of course, when we were free under the Tsar. Weapons, from swords and spears to pistols, rifles and shotguns were everywhere, common items. People carried them concealed, they carried them holstered. Fighting knives were a prominent part of many traditional attires and those little tubes criss crossing on the costumes of Cossacks and various Caucasian peoples? Well those are bullet holders for rifles.

While President Putin pushes through reforms, the local authorities, especially in our vast hinterland, do not feel they need to act like they work for the people. They do as they please, a tyrannical class who knows they have absolutely nothing to fear from a relatively unarmed population. This in turn breeds not respect but absolute contempt and often enough, criminal abuse.

No it is about power and a total power over the people. There is a lot of desire to bad mouth the Tsar, particularly by the Communists, who claim he was a tyrant, and yet under him we were armed and under the progressives disarmed. Do not be fooled by a belief that progressives, leftists hate guns. Oh, no, they do not. What they hate is guns in the hands of those who are not marching in lock step of their ideology. They hate guns in the hands of those who think for themselves and do not obey without question. They hate guns in those whom they have slated for a barrel to the back of the ear.

So, do not fall for the false promises and do not extinguish the light that is left to allow humanity a measure of self respect.

Meanwhile, one of the most prominent newspapers in the United States has run an editorial calling for tyranny.

AS the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.

Consider, for example, the assertion by the Senate minority leader last week that the House could not take up a plan by Senate Democrats to extend tax cuts on households making $250,000 or less because the Constitution requires that revenue measures originate in the lower chamber. Why should anyone care? Why should a lame-duck House, 27 members of which were defeated for re-election, have a stranglehold on our economy? Why does a grotesquely malapportioned Senate get to decide the nation’s fate?

Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.

Although, to be fair, the New York Times has been on the side of tyranny for a long time.

And, while I am looking at links at The Drudge Report, Governor Andrew Cuomo knows how many bullets every one needs.

“I say to you forget the extremists. It’s simple — no one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer and too many people have died already,” Cuomo said.

I wouldn’t know how many bullets it takes to kill deer, nor do I care. The second amendment isn’t to protect the rights of deer hunters but to protect all of us against tyrants. It often takes a lot more than ten bullets to kill a tyrant.

 

Statue of Stalin Restored in Georgia

December 26, 2012

I waited until after Christmas to publish this post because, frankly, it is more than a little depressing. It would seem that the genocidal dictator and top contender for the title of most evil man in history, Joseph Stalin, is actually a hero in his native Georgia. Here is the story at Bloomberg News.

Villagers in Georgia have restored a statue commemorating Josef Stalin, with residents of his birth town of Gori also considering plans to rebuild a monument to the former Soviet dictator.

The statue, which was removed last year, was reinstated in a ceremony yesterday in Alvani, in the Akhmeta region north-east of the capital Tbilisi. Villagers gave speeches, recited poems and talked of “happier times” during Stalin’s reign.

Stalin remains a divisive figure in his birthplace, with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili having denounced statues of the Second World War leader as a reminder of the Soviet Union’s control of Georgia. Saakashvili’s party was unexpectedly defeated by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s opposition coalition in October. Ivanishvili has expressed willingness to improve ties with Russia.

“Long live Stalin, he liberated us from fascism and improved Georgians’ lives, while Saakashvili’s government did nothing but destroy the economic glory of Georgia,” Grisha Oniani, an entrepreneur who is collecting Stalinist memorabilia, told a crowd in Alvani.

The Stalin statue was removed from Gori in 2010. Georgia’s parliament voted to ban Soviet symbols in 2011, 20 years after the country declared independence from the Soviet Union. Georgia and Russia fought a five-day war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia in 2008 and relations between the two countries remain tense.

It is not as if Stalin showed any particular favoritism towards his native land while he ruled the Soviet Union. I found an extensive history of Georgia under Stalin’s rule here. There is quite a lot there and I can’t do any more than give a few highlights. It is enough to say that the Georgians have no reason to honor Stalin. He was the worst thing to ever happen to that country.

To start with, Stalin took a harder line on the trans-Caucasian nationalities than Lenin or Trotsky did. Lenin wanted to avoid a bloody conquest of the region, even if it meant leaving the Bolshevik’s rivals, the Mensheviks in power. Stalin wanted to crush an independent Georgia in order to destroy his personal enemies there. Stalin ultimately got his way in this. Stalin was also in favor of the “Russification” of the Soviet Union, promoting the Russian language and culture at the expense of the other nationalities, including Georgia. Stalin’s collective farming campaigns hit Georgia even worse than Russia and the Ukraine, as did his purges. Many thousands of Georgian died and many more had little choice but to flee to the woods and mountains and try to fight for their lives. The selection ends with this assessment of the most famous Georgian.

Stalin’s death removed from the world stage the most formidable Georgian of all time, a man who combined almost superhuman tenacity and force of character with quite subhuman cruelty and criminality. He took over a Russia backward and divided, and pitchforked it forcibly into the twentieth century. By methods which cannot be condoned by any standards of human or divine morality, he fashioned the social and industrial springboard from which the Soviet Union today is leaping irresistibly forward as one of the two dominant world powers of our generation.

It is a strange and inverted world in which this monster has a statues raised in his honor anywhere in the world.

Bury Lenin

July 11, 2012

As incredible as it might sound, twenty years after the fall of Communism in Russia, the body of Vladimir Lenin is still on display in Red Square. There has been talk of finally burying him since the collapse of the Soviet Union but the unreconstructed Communists have resisted any such move and nothing has been done. Recently, however, Russia’s Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky has suggested that it is time to bury the former leader. Here is the story in the Washington Times.

Russians soon may come not to praise Lenin, but to bury him.

The embalmed body of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin has lain in a glass coffin in a mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square since his death in 1924.

But recent comments by Russia’s new culture minister have brought closer the possibility that the father of the Bolshevik Revolution could finally be laid to rest, signaling an end to the cult of Lenin.

“I have always believed that a body should be entrusted to the earth,” said Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky late last month. “And Lenin’s relatives begged the authorities not to place him in the mausoleum.”

“Many things in our life would symbolically change for the better after this [burial],” Mr. Medinsky said, adding that he thinks Lenin should be buried with full state honors and his Red Square mausoleum turned into a museum of the Soviet era.

I wish they would bury him. I can’t help but think that it is more than a little ghastly to have a man’s body on public display, and it was not what Lenin wanted. The Russian people seem to agree.

An online poll held by United Russia on the anniversary of Lenin’s January 1924 death found that 70 percent of the 270,000 Russians surveyed favored burying his remains.

“I guess we should wait for a while so as not to upset the old folk,” said Alexander Kashin, 25, an office manager walking on Red Square. “But I’m totally in favor of burying him at some point. After all, this isn’t ancient Egypt.”

Which brings up the question of why Lenin’s body was preserved, since as I said he had expressed no such wish while he was alive. I had thought that the cult of Lenin was set up by Stalin to enhance his own power and prestige, but it seems there was more to it. Unbelievably, the early Bolsheviks actually thought that Lenin would rise from the dead. Not by a miracle, of course, but through science.

Russians of all ages are familiar with the rallying cry “Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live!” But very few are aware that it was no mere slogan: Certain Soviet officials believed Lenin would rise from the grave to inspire the world’s proletariat once more.

The construction of Lenin’s tomb was overseen by Soviet Foreign Trade Minister Leonid Krasin, a follower of the ideas of 19th-century Moscow-based ascetic-philosopher Nikolai Fyodorov, who was convinced that science eventually would conquer death.

Krasin successfully argued for Lenin to be embalmed to preserve his body for future science. A subsequent statement in the state-run Izvestia newspaper said workers of the world “would not be reconciled” with Lenin’s death and would not rest until he was resurrected by Soviet scientists.

Maybe this was ancient Egypt.

Just bury him.

It is a little depressing to note that Lenin still holds a prominent place in the hearts and minds of the Russian people, even those who are not Communists.

More than 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lenin remains very much an everyday presence in modern Russia.

The country’s biggest library and a nearby subway station in Moscow are both named after the founder of the Soviet state. And though the city of Leningrad reverted to its czarist-era name of St. Petersburg in 1991, the region that surrounds it still bears Lenin’s name — as does Leningrad, one of the country’s biggest rock bands.

Dozens of Lenin statues still stand across Russia, with more than 80 in Moscow alone. A newly restored Lenin statue was unveiled in the Urals city of Ufa late last year, and the ceremony was attended by senior Communist Party officials.

Lenin was an evil, cruel tyrant. His crimes and atrocities have been overshadowed by the much greater crimes and atrocities of his successor Joseph Stalin, but Lenin paved the way for Stalin. All the gulags, secret police, oppression and mass murders of Stalin were begun by Lenin and it was only through Lenin that Stalin was able to rise to power.

But, then, who else to the Russians have to venerate? It is Russia’s misfortune that all their great leaders have been evil, cruel tyrants. We got George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. They got Ivan the Terrible, Peter the “Great”, and Lenin.

Russian Nazis

November 5, 2011

I saw this story in the Daily Mail.

Thousands of far-right Nazi-saluting nationalists marched in Moscow today in a ‘Take Back Russia’ protest at Muslim migrants.

Resentment is growing over the migrants from Russia’s Caucasus and the money the Kremlin sends to those troubled regions.

Chanting ‘Russia for Russians’ and ‘Migrants today, occupiers tomorrow,’ about 5,000 demonstrators, mostly young men, marched through a working-class neighbourhood on the outskirts of the capital.

I wonder how these fools could not realize that Hitler and the Nazis regarded the Russians as Slavic untermenschen fit only for slave labor and eventual extermination. I guess that we are not the only country with young people ignorant of history.


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