The outcome of Russia’s elections are being misrepresented in the
mainstream American press. “Moderates make gains in Russia,” declared my
local newspaper headline. ABC news jubilantly reported the outcome as a
victory for Russia’s reformists and democrats.
Before anyone gets too excited, the largest political party in Russia
is still the Communist Party. In the land of Lenin and Stalin, one in
every four Russian voters chose the Communists. The next most successful
party is that of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This is the Unity Party,
“The Bear.” It is the party of the Kremlin, the party of the Russian
General Staff, and the favored party of the secret police. (Remember the
old “shield and sword” of the Communist Party?)
The political party in Russia that suffered defeat in the Duma
elections, was Yabloko, a liberal opposition party led by Grigory
Yavlinsky. This genuinely liberal group, no doubt penetrated by secret
police agents, received approximately 6 percent of the vote. Yabloko
stood alone in opposing the Kremlin’s Soviet-styled anti-Western war
hysteria, and in opposing the brutality in Chechnya. Yabloko’s leader,
Mr. Yavlinsky, was quoted by the New York Times as saying the Unity bloc
was merely a front for the old Soviet elite.
And how does he figure that?
“Because in 1991,” said Yavlinsky, “a democratic revolution failed to
take place in Russia.”
Regular readers of this column are familiar with the idea that the
fall of the Soviet Union was a deception, a misrepresentation. And here
is yet another witness — a leading political player in Russia —
confirming this idea. So what did happen in 1991?
“In Russia,” said Yavlinsky, “we had a coup by the nomenklatura.”
This is a funny way to explain the situation. How can one have a coup
to overthrow oneself? But that is, after all, what happened. For those
who don’t know, the nomenklatura is a term used for the old Soviet
Yevgenia Albats, the courageous Moscow journalist, said about the
same thing in her controversial book on the KGB’s role in the collapse
of the Soviet Empire, “The State Within a State.” The collapse of the
“evil empire” was not as it appeared. For Albats, the key role in the
transition was that of the secret police. “The KGB is not a secret
service,” wrote Albats, “it is a political institution of power,
enormous in size, beautifully outfitted with both technology and
armaments, and extremely conservative (i.e. Communist) in mentality.”
Is it any wonder that the last three Russian prime ministers served
as chiefs within the former KGB structures?
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was chief of the FSB (internal branch of
the former KGB), Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin also served as FSB
chief, and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov once served as chief of the
SVR (the foreign intelligence branch of the former KGB).
And now, it almost makes one laugh to read what Garry Kasparov, the
Russian chess champion, wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the Duma
elections. He noted that former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin might
emerge as the new speaker of the Duma. In other words, there they go
For those who know little about Stepashin, let me quote his famous
words on the abridging of legal rights in Russia, while he was head of
the secret police: “I am in favor of the violation of human rights if
the person involved is a bandit and a criminal.”
And this is the guy who might lead the new “moderate” Duma.
So there it is. The KGB’s top cops don’t want to leave the Duma and
the government to agents of influence. They don’t want middlemen. They
want to exercise direct control themselves.
Garry Kasparov’s Wall Street Journal piece was entitled “A Victory
for Democracy.” I think that Kasparov must know better. He wrote that
“the emerging ruling class of Russia belongs to a generation … that
doesn’t share the old hatred of the West.” He says that free market
ideas are very much alive in Russia, because Mr. Chubais’s Union of
Right-Wing Forces (IRF) did well in the elections.
But Chubais and former Prime Minister Kiriyenko only did well in the
elections by embracing the country’s war hysteria, by talking tough and
xenophobic — like good old Communists and nationalists.
For someone who has carefully tracked the public pronouncements of
Russia’s emerging ruling class, Kasparov’s statement is outrageous.
During the entire period of this election campaign the Russian leaders
— including President Boris Yeltsin — have made hostile statements
about the West. They have talked of nuclear weapons, of Western
aggression and American conspiracies to destroy Russia. The Russian
Foreign and Defense Ministers have, in so many words, accused the West
of being behind the Chechen terrorists. And the Russian people loved it.
They ate it up. And the
election outcome is proof.
I recently received a letter from an American who lived two years in
Russia, having just returned. His experience was that middle-aged
Russians generally hated America, with some exceptions — although they
hide these feelings, because they don’t want to be rude to visiting
younger Russian adults, he wrote, are envious of Americans.
Touching on this, an interesting letter was published recently on
Johnson’s Russia list, written by an American teaching in a Russian
school. He reported that the textbooks were all pre-Gorbachev, the
content was Marxism-Leninism, and the students were not sophisticated
enough to see through the anti-American propaganda. In other words,
anti-Americanism is still a main staple of Russia’s educational diet. Of
course, in showcase areas — those “windows to the West” — we might
find some counter-examples, but the truth cannot be denied when we look
at the Russian Duma elections.
Except for Mr. Yavlinksy’s party, the entire Russian political
spectrum adopted Stalin’s favorite political formula — “nationalist in
form, socialist in content.” Nearly everybody adopted Soviet-era
rhetoric. Most Russians agree that it is time to blame the West and
build up the military. And furthermore, they would add, Chechnya must be
In the Soviet Union there was never much disagreement on basic
issues. Politics in the former Communist superstate revolved around the
personalities of different party bosses. It is interesting to see that
observers of the recent Russian elections say that no real issues were
debated in this
instance, either. The Duma elections were about personalities. And they
also had an important sub-theme. There was a lot of mud-slinging during
the campaign. And this only served to demonstrate long-standing
Communist claims that Western democracy is vile and corrupt. That
so-called “democracy,” which the Soviets always called “false
democracy,” is a degraded practice — beneath the dignity of a great
Step by step, the old Soviet view, with a few nationalist
refinements, is being rehabilitated. A militarist police state, hostile
to the West and allied with Communist China, is emerging on a popular
foundation. Nothing could be more dangerous to America. As long as the
people of Russia disliked
and distrusted their own government we were relatively safe. Now the
USSR’s old problem is being straightened out.
Meanwhile, back in the USA we remain asleep. For us the “moderates”
are triumphing in Russia. Economic reform at last. The Soviet economic
system will finally be torn down.
According to the United States Navy’s “Status of the United States
Navy” fact file, updated on Dec. 20, 88 percent of our submarines are in
port. Almost 75 percent of our surface ships are also in port.
Sweet dreams and Merry Christmas.