August 21, 2006 by AK
Memories of 1991
Fifteen years ago, a group of senior Soviet officials deposed Secretary-General Mikhail Gorbachev, seized power, and declared their intention to revert to pre-Perestroika Communism. Thanks to — among other things — Muscovites taking to the streets and the military’s reluctance to interfere, the coup failed after only three days. Those three days of fear and resistance were some of the happiest in my life. Unfortunately, what followed was a hasty deconstruction of the Soviet Union, which turned millions of Russian speakers outside Russia into aliens or second-class citizens overnight, and left some nations to the mercy of Oriental tyrants. Yet among the responsible, Yeltsin and the other republican leaders should take a back seat to Gorbachev and his team, whose strategic vision proved shortsighted.
On the other hand, Gorbachev must be credited with a policy that made possible the mass protest of August, 1991 — giving a large degree of freedom to the press. In less than five years, from 1987 to 1991, Russians were exposed, via TV and the printed press, to a massive flow of new information — essentially anti-Communist in content — that made millions of Russians reconsider their understanding of the country’s past and present. Several Soviet newspapers and magazines turned ino outlets severely critical of the Communist regime, uncovering ugly facts on Soviet rule unknown to most readers. Literary journals (the so-called tolstye zhurnaly) printed new and previously forbidden works by Russian and foreign fiction writers, historians, economists, and other thinkers. This culminated in the publication of Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago in 1989, in the literary journal, Novy Mir.
But when, only a year later, Komsomol’skaya Pravda printed How Should We Develop Russia in a special supplement, Solzhenitsyn’s suggestions and concerns (grassroot democracy, land reform, independence for 12 of the 15 Soviet republics, etc.) was were met with disappointment: they seemed irrelevant. Most readers did not understand how complex the Soviet Union’s problems and diseases were: they thought that, once they shrugged off Communist rule, things would get back to normal and a golden age would set in.
Category Uncategorized | Tags: