Anything but war

The demented belligerence of latter-day domestic Putinist propaganda was not at all typical of its Soviet predecessor in the late 1970s and the 1980s. “The Soviet block has always sought peace; NATO has always wanted war,” so went the official story. Brezhnev was lauded as a “passionate and indefatigable fighter for peace.”

That bit was laughable, but the notion that almost any deprivation or discomfort would be preferable to war resonated with the Soviet public. “Anything but war.” “We can take it as long as there’s no war.” In this respect, official and private sentiment sometimes converged: the memory of WWII was still fresh in the 1970s and the 1980s. This is what the well-known chastushka refers to:

A little star has fallen from the sky
right into my sweetheart’s pants.
If he gets blown to bits down there,
it’s OK as long as there’s no war.

It’s probably better poetry than the output of most officially recognized Soviet versifiers. (As opposed to genuine Russian poetry. While I’m at it, Kendrick Lamar’s doggerel is marginally less boring than most of what passes for serious poetry nowadays.) Once Reagan and Gorbachev had started their series of summits, especially after Reykjavik, the average Soviet TV watcher no longer felt that war could break out any time. The case for tolerating the strictures and shortages of “well-developed” socialism in the name of keeping peace started to melt away.

Today’s Russia seems to have a greater share of desperadoes willing to fight it out, although the ratio of posturers to kamikazes is a major unknown.

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