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The Nostalgic Golden Age

dedicated to my respected teachers, Dr Arunabha Ghosh, the former Head of the Department of Political Science, Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, and Dr Kunal Roy Chowdhury

It is known that members of the Communist Party of Soviet Union (CPSU) had moved the Constitutional Court against Boris Yeltsin, the President of newly-formed Russian Federation, after the party was banned in 1992. From July 1992, a trial was held against the CPSU for five months, and the event was broadcast live. This political trial is popularly known as the Russian Nuremberg, although no one had been held responsible. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, the last leader of the CPSU, had reportedly said that there was no specific allegation against “certain individuals“. “Party leaders, who were really criminals, have passed away. Only History will be a fairer judge,” he stressed.

Boris Yeltsin

Three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union (on December 26, 1991), one may well wonder about the Judgement of History. In the early 1990s, Russia had decided to liberate itself from its Soviet past, and to spread a full-fledged Democratic Culture. Soon after the fall of the Soviet System, the Russian Federation changed its symbols, such as the National Flag and National Anthem. However, Russian Politics took refuge in Soviet Glory. Perhaps, President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin realised that only nostalgia could help Russia become a World Power, as they had reached the peak during the Soviet Era. Therefore, despite acknowledging some historical problems, the president is not willing to let the burden of guilt fall on the Russians. The Boris Yeltsin Administration had asked Sergey Vladimirovich Mikhalkov (March 13, 1913 – August 27, 2009) to write the Russian National Anthem. It may be noted that Mikhalkov had written the lyrics of the Soviet National Anthem. In other words, what was promised has not been kept!

Vladimir Putin

It is evident in history that Justice either came immediately or was not manifested at all in a Democracy that had been born out of an Authoritarian System. The Communist Elites had overcome the shock in 1991, as the Yeltsin Government was made up of former communists, and it was not difficult for them to return to power as there were no legal barriers. President Yeltsin, himself, formed a Police Force, following the KGB model. A Bill was tabled in the Russian Parliament in 1992 in order to bar the CPSU and KGB officials from holding public offices; however, the House rejected the Bill. By that time, the former regime re-established total control over Politics, the Media and the Economy.

A simple question arises here: How was it possible? It was because the Soviet Legacy was (and is) still alive in people, considered as the basic foundation of Democracy, and in their daily lives, as well. As the newly-adopted National Anthem failed to inspire the Russians, the performance of athletes and footballers deteriorated in the 1990s. Nearly 67% of the Russians got angry when the Yeltsin Administration changed the most important National Holiday – the Revolution Day. A study, carried out in the 1990s, had revealed that 71% of the Russians used to consider the KGB’s predecessor Cheka (All-Russian Extraordinary Commission or VChK) as the “protector of public life, and law and order“, while 67% believed that Stalin was an efficient leader, and 42% favoured a leader like him. The study further revealed that 78% of the people in Russia used to think that Collective Farming was necessary for industrialisation, while 91% believed that the Hitler-Stalin Pact was appropriate, Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev‘s tenure was in fact a Period of Possibility, and the collapse of the Soviet Union was a National Disaster. Within three months of the formation of the new party, the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), on November 30, 1992 (after the end of the Russian Nuremberg), the membership jumped to 0.5 million. The CPRF was the largest party in a new Democracy.

Mikhail Gorbachev

The people of Russia should not be blamed for all these, as one should not forget that the October Revolution had taken place on Russian soil, millions of Russians were members of the CPSU, and the majority of the people accepted the Soviet System. Historians, who built Memorials to portray the images of the Oppressed, are themselves the children of Bolshevik leaders or Gulag officials. Twelve out of 13 Judges of the Constitutional Court were former Communists! Even the Constitution, which was in force in Yeltsin’s Russia, was prepared by the CPSU. Hence, it was difficult to draw a line between the victims and the perpetrators. In fact, if one wants to blame the CPSU, then the person would have to blame the entire nation, and not the party members only. Yeltsin, himself, had been the Provincial Chief of the party from 1976 to 1985.

Those, who had spent 70 years under the Socialist System, lost everything after the collapse of the Soviet Union… the socially protective economy, the status of World Power, political ideology, national identity, among other things. Leaders of the Russian Federation have always blamed the past only to justify the collapse of the Soviet System. Russia is still carrying the Soviet Legacy. While the Police are still strong, the Civil Society is weak. Most importantly, Russian Politics is still being judged with Soviet yardsticks. The Judgment of History, therefore, has not taken place, as yet…

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