Union of Soviet Sovereign Republics?

For us, 1930s America is synonymous with the Great Depression and great gangster wars. And I do not doubt that for the majority of citizens, it would be anything but simple to answer the question: What did Roosevelt, the “American Stalin,” so admire in the economic, social and cultural programs of Mussolini and Hitler?

Very many of the U.S. president’s initiatives were identical to the main tenets of the domestic policy of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Yet at the same time, Roosevelt has been called the “American Stalin?” After visiting Moscow in 1934 and meeting with the people’s Soviet father, H.G. Wells could not see the difference between the economic and social policy of the communist leadership and the U.S. president — who was, it must also be noted, elected to four consecutive terms.

It was the epoch of the formation of the three major ideologies that would shape more than just the 20th century: communism, fascism, and liberalism. It took the brutal WWII to dot all the i’s and bury Hitler’s Nazism, but by no means was it an end to fascism. It took more than a single decade to initiate a global dialogue for the peaceful coexistence of the two superpowers, the USSR and the U.S., and the planet’s two main ideologies.

Therefore, those who still see the USSR only as [a place of] long lines due to shortages and a “bloody regime,” simply continue to suffer from either a brain deficit or a shortage of imagination. The disappearance of the Soviet Union has itself become the cause of a great shortage — a shortage of historical optimism and social creativity.

That is precisely what I was recalling and thinking about while reading the opinions of American experts who spoke to Izvestia about the prospects of a rebirth of the USSR under the guise of the Eurasian Economic Union. Assessing the results of the meeting of the presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), in which the presidents of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine’s prime minister also took part; the work on the creation of the customs union; and Transnistria’s recent absolutely pro-Russian decisions, I would like to point out — and not just to American political scientists — that on the all-Union referendum of March 17, 1991, 76.43 percent of Soviet citizens answered “Yes” to a simple question: “Do you consider it necessary to preserve the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal, sovereign republics in which the rights and freedoms of a person of any nationality will be fully guaranteed?”

One could, of course, spend a long time assessing the scope of corruption, economic growth rates, or the deplorable state of many social institutions in the free republics in the post-Soviet space, but this very “Yes” which resounded then was an affirmation that the USSR is a unified civilizational space. The Soviet Union was never a project based on a “one-party system and a planned economy” (as Edward Lucas said to Izvestia). This was a “Yes” voiced not in favor of building communism across the entire planet or all-out war with capitalism worldwide but in favor of the Soviet way of life, which, of course, differed from and could not help but differ from its antipode, the American way of life.

And it is a way of life that lives on — however we might try to deny it — continuing to stigmatize the “Sovok”* and determine the atmosphere of social consciousness in all the former Soviet republics, and in Russia above all. One can easily see in the traditional values, so odious to many and that modern Russia supposedly imposed by force, not the distant traditions of the former Russian Empire but, first and foremost, Soviet traditions that never went away and could not go away.

The existence of these values is especially noticeable in culture, in theater, in cinema, in literature: The Soviet masterpieces remain a benchmark even for the younger generation of Russian citizens, even if they repaint them and illuminate them with modern technology.

For many years in Russia and in other republics, it was almost shameful to admit as much, above all at the official level within the atmosphere of the spiritual totalitarianism of “liberal values,” whose cruelty and aggressiveness the prominent ideologues of Stalin’s USSR could perhaps envy. And it took almost a quarter of a century to finally end the jubilation at the catastrophe of 1991 — the collapse of the USSR — and to finally come to value the civilizational space of the Soviet Union, and to begin, step by step, to revive and recreate that which was so thoughtlessly destroyed.

It is necessary to understand that at this stage there is no other national idea and can be no other national idea for Russia, other than the restoration of the Soviet mode of life. And it is impossible to assess the reality of this problem — regarding the prospect of the rebirth of the Soviet Union — on the basis of the criteria used by Western political scientists; one can only assess such prospects from the standpoint of the psyche and the will of millions of Soviet citizens concerning unification.

And what does GDP have to do with anything? And what does oil or blood that supposedly has to be shed in the struggle for the rebirth of the USSR have to do with anything?

The cultural and historical shock of post-Soviet consciousness is gradually receding. Such global trauma as the result of a catastrophe does not heal in one year or in one generation. But it gives the kind of civilizational experience that all modern developed countries, without exception, can only envy.

The time for ideological wars has passed; the era of competition between civilizations has come. It is impossible to try to remain in the paradigm of the last century. And no matter how overly cautious or malicious political scientists might be, only one thing can be said for sure: Russia’s Eurasian project is a real wake-up call for the West, first and foremost for the U.S. And even the indisputable successes of China, now the world’s second largest economy, pale in comparison with this project.

*Editor’s note: “Sovok,” which literally means “dustpan,” is often used colloquially — with its attendant negative associations — to refer to the Soviet Union.

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About Jeffrey Fredrich 199 Articles
Jeffrey studied Russian language at Northwestern University and at the Russian State University for the Humanities. He spent one year in Moscow doing independent research as a Fulbright fellow from 2007 to 2008.

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