Reliance on our great heritage is the worthy and honest choice
An open letter to the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev
Bad news has become the constant background to Russia’s life. Rampant crime in the village of Kushchevskaya in the Kuban area and the youth riot in Manezh Square in Moscow have been added to the accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya Power Station, the fire at the “Lame Horse” nightclub in Perm and the explosion at the Raspadskaya coal mine, the flagship mine in Kuzbass. All these are no mere accidents. Each of these events is like a tocsin, a warning and a call for radical change.
The incompetence of power continues to engulf Russia. People capable of tackling the most complicated and responsible tasks are sorely in short supply at all the levels of power. Meanwhile, key offices continue to be held by those whose names are closely associated with an endless string of failures and setbacks. Kudrin’s financial policy is bleeding the economy and the Russian regions white, smothering agriculture and science, small and medium-sized business. The army and navy have been placed at the mercy of Serdyukov who is humiliating the Armed Forces and creating unemployment by throwing out into the street hundreds of thousands of officers and warrant offices.
Fursenko’s experiments are destroying the classical Russian and Soviet education system. In schools capacity to think is supplanted by a primitive “guessing game” in the shape of the Single State Examination. The system of extra-curricular and pre-school education has been all but destroyed. Modernization, your pet idea, has been entrusted to the man who invented the notorious “voucher” and the nuclear industry to the man who not so long ago declared a national default.
Parliament in its present shape is incapable of correcting the inept actions of the cabinet of ministers. The most disastrous of decisions are enshrined in laws. Even in the wake of the unprecedented wild fires last summer the State Duma is in no hurry to change the Land, Forestry and Water Management Codes. Instead the United Russia majority at the Duma votes for a budget that could not be further from concern about ordinary people and the development of scientific and technological progress.
Mr.President, with this kind of cabinet and this governing party elementary order cannot be restored in the country. Such a team cannot generate a social mood that is conducive to modernizaton of Russia. The leading TV channels are busy round the clock spreading Russophobia and violence, hatred and contempt of Russian history and immersing the residents of Russian cities and villages in spiritual garbage and sewage. This media policy destroys healthy relations among people, opens a gulf between generations and throws the nation back into savagery.
It is hardly surprising that Russia has dropped to the level of backward countries in world ratings of the quality of human potential. Not surprisingly, in your native city, the country’s cultural capital, monuments to Lenin are being blown up and there are plans to “sink at its berthing place” the legendary Aurora cruiser which has gone through the trials of three wars.
Today it is clear to every sober-thinking person that it is necessary to urgently change course and ameliorate the situation in the country. Instead the Council for Civil Society Institution Development and Human Rights, which reports directly to you, suddenly became exercised about the task of “destalinizing” Russian society. The Council’s head, M.Fedotov, and his co-religionists propose issuing a presidential decree that outlaws “the glorification of Stalinism” and are seeking to put the ”criminal regime“ on trial. Juggling with words, the Council’s members are making active use of the term “totalitarianism” invented in the last century by the American knights of the Cold War.
As a person with a university degree you cannot but be aware that the violations of legality in the 1930-50s were resolutely condemned during the Soviet years. It took place not only in 1956 and in the period that followed. It was done by the Party and Stalin himself back in the 1930s. Already then many of those unlawfully convicted were released and rehabilitated.
You will surely know that the exposure of the so-called “personality cult” was organized by Nikita Khrushchev for reasons that are far removed from justice and legality. That move was prompted by the exigencies of the power struggle. At the same time it marked Khrushchev’s attempt to absolve himself of charges of crude violations of socialist legality and creating innocent victims. The campaign he launched immediately dealt a blow at the unity and cohesion of our society, the country’s international authority, our allies and friends all over the world.
Today Russian citizens should understand the causes of the second spasm of the fight against “Stalinism” during the years of perestroika. The spate of accusations was launched by Gorbachev, Yakovlev and their supporters as part of a large-scale plan aimed at dismantling the Soviet society and state, undermining the security of the USSR and liquidating the entire system of our alliances. Their policy plunged the Soviet country into the historical hiatus from which Russia is still struggling to extricate itself.
In spite of the lessons of history we again see that people who surround you, Mr.President, are trying to organize a campaign against so-called totalitarianism. Is it possible that you as President of Russia can settle for replacing a public discussion on the ways of modernizing the country with a campaign against the history of our fathers and grandfathers? If implemented, these ideas will inevitably be a wrenching experience for Russian society and will immerse it into chaos. Against the background of acute economic problems, the sway of corruption and banditry, and the growing scientific and technological lag of our country such a campaign is a recipe for the collapse of today’s Russia.
The Russian Federation is officially the heir and successor to the Soviet Union. We occupy its place in the UN Security Council. You as President of Russia are an heir of the founder of the Soviet State, Vladimir Lenin, and also of Joseph Stalin and other leaders of the USSR. Like it or not, this is the hard fact. You as the head of state must be aware of the responsibility that you bear for ensuring historical continuity of power in Russia, for the unity and integrity of our country.
It should be remembered that the past century had visited on humankind two crises of capitalism which ended in bloody world wars. We are approaching the 70th anniversary since the beginning of the Great Patriotic War which was the gravest trial our people had ever experienced. As we approach this sad anniversary in the midst of a new world crisis, Russia is preparing to join the WTO. Thus the country’s economy will become still more dependent on fluctuations in the world markets. By the same token, we are engaged in a puzzling flirtation with NATO. Drawing Russia into the mainstream of the bloc’s policy threatens to undermine national security. All this can hardly be regarded as reasonable policy that does justice to the great victories of our people.
Whatever remains of Russia’s defense capability, the whole potential of its industry and agriculture that has survived the devastating “reforms” have been created by the dedicated work of several generations of Soviet people. That we exist at all as a multinational people only became possible because by the time of the Great Patriotic War the policy of the Bolshevik Party under Stalin had brought a backward country to the second place in the world. It was that policy that in the years of military trials enabled the country to overpower Hitler’s monstrous military machine to whose creation the whole of Europe had contributed. Subsequent successes of the USSR in the world leadership race, and its emergence as a superpower are not challenged even by the most vicious anti-Sovieteers abroad. And yet these successes were based entirely on the unprecedented leap forward accomplished by our people in the 1930s-50s.
Mr.President, do you believe that Russian iconoclasts have lost their power of reason? Did it ever occur to them that a people that is a victim of a “criminal totalitarian regime” would have been incapable of inspired discoveries and breakthroughs the whole world stands in awe of? That a great surge can only be accomplished by people who are happy and free of oppression?
Let us recall how many people have been members of the Soviet Communist Party over the years. Among them were Zhukov and Rokossovksy, Sholokhov and Tvardovsky, Kurchatov and Korolev, Gagarin and forty million of our compatriots. They thought and created, loved and built, charged the enemy and performed feats of labor. Can the memory of these people be just thrown into the dark cauldron of somebody’s hatred?
Yes, the Soviet land was fond of erecting monuments to its heroes and naming streets after them. But can one doubt that the future generations will readily put up monuments to those who would rid the country of plunder and thuggery which has lasted for two decades now. Yes, twenty years have passed since the destruction of the “totalitarian regime.” Where are the pastures of heaven promised to the people? Where are economic efficiency and a high quality of life? Where are the Nobel Prizes for scientific discoveries and literary masterpieces? Where are resounding Olympic triumphs?
Mr.President, your Council for Civil Society Institution Development and Human Rights has been in existence for some time now. Perhaps the time has come to ask these human right activists, headed by Mr.Fedotov, to report back on the results of their activities. The country, you would agree, faces a host of problems. On September 1 two million children in our country had no schools to go to. The number of homeless children has topped one million. The number of crimes against children and teenagers is soaring. The number of drug addicts has reached 6 million. The state would do well to take care of them, and of the 12 million disabled people and 39 million pensioners.
It is time to give serious thought to the health of the nation and to make the preservation of the population and development of national culture and support of grassroots sport truly national projects. A scientific and technological breakthrough is impossible without a cultural upsurge. Unless we have widely accessible sport facilities we will never have champions who could win fame at the Sochi Olympics and the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
How do the members of the Presidential Council contribute to protecting the key social rights? What is their contribution to the struggle for the right to live and to safety, free and fair elections without manipulations and vote rigging, rights that are so flagrantly being violated today? Or perhaps the Council members feel that these issues are too trifling for them? And if that is the case, does it not seem to you that the composition of the “human rights activists” who form the Council is somewhat peculiar?
Alas, the members of the Council are hardly household names who are revered because they uphold human rights. People simply do not know their names. And if they do, they remember well how some of these “human rights champions” reacted to the shooting down of the Russian Parliament by Yeltsin in 1993, how they behaved during his impeachment for crimes against the people and state and how they lined their pockets during the 1998 default.
I appeal to you, Mr.President, as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. In addition to the quality of weapons and combat training pride of country and the great achievements of the ancestors have always been decisive for the Russian soldier, seaman and officer. They were invariably guided by a sense of responsibility for preserving and multiplying the achievements of their fathers and grandfathers. The greatest of these achievements took place during the Soviet times. Only apostates and bitter enemies of our country dare to call those times “criminal.” Only, what do the denigrators believe the country’s soldiers should defend in the event of an external aggression? The “totalitarian” past or the “Kushchevskaya” present?
I appeal to you as the head of our country’s foreign policy. You have rightly noted that the scale of history falsification has recently been growing in the near and far abroad and that these attempts should be opposed. Of course, one could not but react to the activities of the successors to Fascists at the PACE. One could not but notice the brazen behavior of the former SS men in the Baltics and Bandera’s successors. We have seen the wicked intentions of external forces to “condemn” the Soviet Union and equate it to Hitler’s Germany meet with legitimate if sometimes timid resistance on the part of official Russia. But what was the point of these actions if today clarion calls to stage a disgraceful trial of Soviet history are coming from the circles close to you? What was the point of earlier steps if today you readily raise the topic of Katyn while United Russia forgets even to mention the 130,000 Red soldiers and commanders who perished in Polish prison camps in the 1920s?
Russian society senses that inconsistent behavior of the country’s top leaders encourages the Fedotovs, Mlechins and Svanidzes to “put history on trial.” It does not elude people that such “trials” lead not to a just verdict, but to criminal attempts to make short shrift of whole generations of our compatriots. All this is poignantly reminiscent of the disgraceful times in the early 1990s. It was then that under Yeltsyn’s mantle of protection Fedotov and his ilk made early attempts to “condemns” the Soviet past. But you probably remember well that the farce that was billed as “the trial of the CPSU” turned out to be an ignominious failure. There could have been no other outcome to the show that was reminiscent of the Nazi’s trial of Georgy Dimitrov in Leipzig in the 1930s.
It is odd that some of the Russian human rights activists still dream of the laurels of those who set the Reichstag on fire. Those who have a penchant for political provocations should remember that history has its own logic. The fire at the Reichstag led to the persecution not only of communists. They were followed to Hitler Germany’s concentration camps by social-democrats, trade union activists and many other dissenters. So the lovers of show trials should remember that playing with fire often ends in big conflagrations.
Mr.President, if historical mud-slingers and political charlatans are given a free hand, they would gladly stage an obscene witches’ Sabbath in our country. What does one make, for example, of their call to ban “glorification of Stalinism”? It looks as if your “human rights” council is seriously considering declaring the collectivization of agriculture to have been one of Stalin’s crimes. Does it mean that people would next be put in prison for reading “The Virgin Land Upturned” by Nobel Prize laureate Mikhail Sholokhov? Or perhaps we will see a ban imposed on the great music of Shostakovich and Dunayevsky and, for good measure, on watching films that glorify the Soviet past and the Stalin period? Will the time come when the works of Lenin, Stalin and their followers will be burned in bonfires in the middle of squares? Will Vera Mukhina’s magnificent monument to “A Workingman and a Peasant Woman” be pulled down as a symbol of Soviet power? And will the veterans of the Great Patriotic War who wear orders and medals with a profile of Stalin be arrested?
Look at the future with “witch hunts,” Mr.President. Take a closer look. Really, this is worth doing. Think where the iconoclasts may lead the country if they enlist the sympathy and support of the authorities. Think of your personal responsibility for such a prospect.
You are the President of Russia. A huge responsibility sits on your shoulders. You face the daunting task of taking Russia out of its historical blind alley. Some things are inadmissible, especially in the current conditions. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into the ignoble fight against past generations. Their time was marked by great feats and untold calamities, many achievements and honest misconceptions. No one can correct the past. But it is our duty to proceed from all the great and the glorious that there is in our past and in world experience.
It is no accident that “Red” China is today pulling the planet out of the economic crisis. The USSR in its time played the same role. The secret of the success of the People’s Republic of China is simple: the leaders of that great country have pursued genuine modernization for thirty years now. They had enough wisdom not to settle accounts with their history and sink into the morass of exposing their predecessors. They preserved all the best as the foundation for moving forward. That is why China is becoming the world leader and increasingly takes the place vacated by the Soviet Union.
Relying on the achievements of predecessors and pursuing creative reform is a reasonable and worthy choice for any leader. It is the best choice for you as President. A choice in the name of the people and the country which are on the brink of an abyss, a people ready to work and strive for the sake of a happy future for their children and grandchildren. This is the choice that will win the respect of contemporaries and genuine gratitude of posterity.
Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation