Understanding Russian History: How A Country’S Ignorance Of Its Past Led To Putin’S Regime
To gain a better understanding of modern Russia and its often contradictory nature, readers need to look at the country’s past.
That’s where The Future is History by Masha Gessen comes in.
This book dives deep into Russia’s history and how it ultimately shaped its current landscape.
It reveals how many Russians didn’t have an accurate or adequate understanding of their own history , sociology, and culture leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This lack of knowledge was used to the advantage of dictators such as Putin in order to control the population through fear and manipulation.
The Future is History covers some truly shocking stories on what people resorted to just to survive during the 1990s, explains how a hit movie ended up being seen as subversive for marketing cheese with queer characters, and provides a wide array of examples to further emphasize just how far swaying public opinion can go without a population having any reference points from its own history – let alone from modern day events around them.
In short, The Future is History provides us with insight on why Russia appears so at odds with itself today: because it was never given an honest chance for freedom and democracy based on an educational system that blended truth with fiction.
The Lack Of Self-Reflection In Russia: How A Revolution’S Suppression Of Psychology And Sociology Made The Country Ill-Prepared For A New Era
When the Soviet Union underwent a series of reforms in the late 1980s, it was a shock to its citizens, many of whom had been raised in an environment which promoted loyalty to the state and discouraged individual expression.
This lack of self-reflection put the nation at a major disadvantage when society began to change.
This was due largely to the fact that Moscow University’s Psychological Society had been dissolved in 1925 and all social sciences and humanities were censored from Russian universities by 1931.
As a result, materials were extremely hard to come by for decades leading up to this period, leaving most Russian professors completely unaware of any advancements made in psychology or other disciplines.
The Soviet Union even failed to conduct research polls before 1987, when General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev began his reform efforts.
In addition, there wasn’t any data available to understand how people might react or what they wanted from these changes – knowledge which is essential for any government making large-scale decisions.
Thus Russia’s lack of self-reflection put it at an extreme disadvantage when society began changing in the late 1980s.
This unfortunate circumstance left many citizens unprepared for the psychological and political consequences of such dramatic reform.
Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev Stood Firm In His Beliefs, Holding Out Hope That Perestroika Would Succeed Despite Its Challenges
As the Soviet Union began to unravel in the late 1980s, there was a growing sense that the people – or as they called it “Homo sovieticus” – were changing and adapting as well.
In order to understand these changes, Gorbachev appointed Alexander Nikolaevich Yakovlev as his “chief ideologue” so he could help sort out the details of perestroika and get the public on board.
Nikolaevich had spent most of the 70’s in Canada criticizing the past leadership of the Soviet Union, but saw changes under Gorbachev’s reforms that tightly align with his own thinking.
Despite this, government officials weren’t willing to change their established views and methods, making Nikolaevich’s job extremely difficult at times.
To further understand who this new generation of Homo Sovieticus was, Alexander helped establish a new Center for Sociology.
This center conducted polls asking “Who is today’s Homo Sovieticus?” The results showed that only 5.6 percent believed Marxism or Leninism held life answers, and younger generations were much more focused on individualism than Communism.
Unfortunately, Andrei Amalrik had already predicted almost 20 years before that with neither Marxism nor Russian Orthodox Church having firm control over them, then end of the Soviet Union was near which ultimately proved correct by its collapse just a few short years from when these polls began taking place.
The Fall Of The Soviet Union Set The Stage For Authoritarian Rule In Russia
The 1990s saw the end of the Soviet Union, leading to a state of confusion, anxiety and depression.
A tense three-day standoff between Boris Yeltsin and Gennady Yanayev’s group saw the Communist Party shut down, with Gorbachev resigned soon afterwards.
With various territories from the extended Soviet empire uncertain about their inclusion in the newly liberated Russia, using Soviet rubles for money and passports to travel, there was no stable future.
Private commerce was being privatized quickly and freefalling currency value only added more chaos to the situation.
In this tumultuous milieu, psychologists such as Erich Fromm argued that people were likely to seek out an authoritarian figure who could make important decisions on their behalf – thus setting up a potential authoritarian takeover of Russia.
The Economic Reforms Of The 1990S Sparked Class Divisions And Resentment In Russia
In post-Soviet Russia, people were forced to face the reality of poverty and class stratification in a way that was never experienced before.
With the legalization of private commerce, it was far more apparent how much wealth some were able to accumulate compared to others.
In addition, newly open borders meant that people could compare lifestyles between countries for the very first time, allowing them to appreciate just how wealthy someone else had become and how poor they sometimes felt in comparison.
Meanwhile, during this period it became socially acceptable to flaunt one’s wealth and success – something not seen under Soviet rule.
This further contributed new emotions like jealousy among those who had little money or achieved fewer successes in life.
Lastly, Yeltsin appointed local leadership positions on recommendation of his staff which resulted in many new officeholders that may not have been suited for their roles.
One example of this was Boris Nemtsov, who was appointed mayor to Russia’s third largest city, Nizhny Novgorod – and experienced a whole new level of luxury alongside his family.
At the same time in cities like Solikamsk even adults and children alike could be found performing acts like oral sex just to make ends meet, showing an extreme level of poverty unheard of before the post-soviet reforms took place.
Yeltsin’S Attempts To Expose Soviet Atrocities And Curb Chechnya Conflict Unsuccessful As Russians Look Back Longingly Towards The ‘Simpler Times’ Of Soviet Rule
As Yeltsin’s presidency faltered amid the ongoing conflict in Chechnya, Russians began to feel nostalgic for the simpler times of the Soviet era.
This nostalgia came to a head at the turn of the year when Russia’s main public television network aired a movie titled Old Songs About the Most Important Things.
This film was an homage to famous musicals from the 1930s and 1950’s, fondly recalling life under the Soviet regime with its classic Russian songs and lack of conflict or drama.
It was widely acclaimed by many, becoming a smash hit despite having no plot whatsoever.
The soundtrack became widely popular and three sequels were soon made due its success.
In many ways, this is understandable; because while former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had started to reveal some of atrocities that happened during that time period, there was still much that many people remained unaware of – making them more willing embrace a simpler way of life without understanding all it entailed.
In A Time Of Turmoil, Vladimir Putin Brings Stability To Russia
The 1990s were a tumultuous period for Russia.
With the country facing economic collapse and multiple bombings, it was clear that something had to be done in order to restore stability and security.
That’s when Vladimir Putin stepped up to the plate with determination.
By 1999, NATO had already started carrying out airstrikes on Serbia as part of their Yugoslavian civil war intervention.
This led to many Russians havingFeelings of fear and anxiety due to seeing their OrthodoxSerbian neighbors targeted by these attacks underminedRussia’s authority, with 92% of people polled feeling that they were illegal.
Then tragedy struck closer to home when 293 Russian civilians died in a chain of bombings at apartment buildings in August and September of that same year.
In this time of chaos, Putin’s steely determination seemed more promising than President Yeltsin’s inability to take decisive action on any matter.
He answered questions about the bombings with conviction and promised swift justice for those responsible — meaning they would be killed on sight.
The public was impressed with him and his strength, leading him being appointed Prime Minister in August 1999 followed by the Presidency a few months later.
Faced with what appeared to be an insurmountable situation, Vladimir Putin grabbed the spotlight with determination and brought hope back into the lives of Russians by providing them with stability once again.
Lyosha Experiences A Polarizing Post-Soviet Russia As The Kremlin Reasserts Its Power And Oppression Of Marginalized Groups
The direction of the Russian political landscape quickly changed after Putin took office in 2000, as he began to implement reforms that leaned towards authoritarianism in the name of stabilization.
Yelsin’s local leaderships was fired and replaced with leadership loyal to Putin.
He also placed television under Kremlin control, allowing him to spread propaganda trying to portray opposition figures such as Andreas Umland as pedophiles.
A move towards chemical castration was even proposed and pushed for by the Kremlin’s investigative committee into pedophilia.
These aggressive counter-reforms led to citizens feeling more secure, with psychoanalyst Marina Arutyunyan seeing a newfound sense of “stability” amongst her patients.
The freedoms and reforms offered during perestroika were being revoked one by one and the people seemed alright with it.
It became apparent that Putin had become increasingly popular with his rising actions in the name of stability.
Russian Opposition To Putin Signals A Shift Away From Acceptance Of Unethical Power
When Vladimir Putin left office after two consecutive terms as President of Russia in 2008, he moved into the position of prime minister.
There was a great deal of controversy surrounding his move, as it seemed like a blatant disregard for the Russian constitution.
But much more troubling was how high Josef Stalin was ranking on polls which asked citizens to name the greatest Russians who had ever lived – that year, he peaked at number 3.
In 2012, Dmitry Medvedev announced that President Putin would be reclaiming the presidency at the upcoming election – a cause of dismay and outrage to many Russians, who believed that Putin had still been running matters even when he served as prime minister.
This splintered civil rights activists all around Russia into a state of unrest – these were people who were unwilling to settle for stability for an oppressive dictatorship.
Chief amongst them was Masha, who had joined the Little Octobrists junior communist organization in 1991 prior to its dissolution.
As Putin prepared to take his place back in power once again with Medvedev sliding over as prime minister, more and more Russians became convinced that their leaders weren’t attempting to hide their corruption anymore.
How Masha And Lyosha’s Activism Forced A Kremlin Crackdown On Political Dissent In Russia
The Kremlin ensured that protests against them did not get out of hand by cracking down on those involved, while at the same time proposing new anti-homosexual laws.
This was evident in 2012 with the inauguration protests at Bolotnaya Square.
Armed troops suddenly descended upon the square and Masha, a leader among the activists, was knocked unconscious when security screens let in a group of counter-demonstrators with dangerous weapons.
At this point, the Kremlin knew they had to tread carefully when prosecuting protesters to avoid further uprisings.
At the same time as these crackdowns were taking place, they proposed legislation that would make homosexuality illegal.
While Lyosha hoped this wouldn’t pass, a popular talk show featuring some of Russia’s biggest celebrities argued for such a ban to be passed.
The Future Is History shows how the Kremlin cracked down on protestors whilst also pushing for anti-homosexual laws in order to secure their power and control over Russia.
Could A Nation Of People Suffer From A “Death Drive” After Going Through A Traumatic Event?
In Lyosha’s home country of Russia, the feeling of stability brought on by the leadership of Putin was quickly replaced by fear when new laws against homosexuality were proposed in 2013.
During a televised debate, more than 34,951 people voted in favor of the legislation and only 7,375 were against it.
There was no turning back at that point.
Soon after, gay men began to be targeted online and videos circulated of them being tortured without any police intervention.
Tragically, one young man was killed when his attackers crushed his head with a rock.
The news media said that this horrific act happened because his homosexuality offended their patriotism.
These events culminated in anti-homosexuality legislation being passed, followed by other laws such as one prohibiting homosexuals from adopting children.
People were afraid and panicking as they felt their rights being taken away from them.
Lyosha knew he had to escape the country and went to Brighton Beach in New York City where he became part of an active community of Russian exiles helping new arrivals get work permits and file for asylum.
Back in Russia, many wondered if new laws has anything to do with the sudden feelings of panic that had taken over the nation; some psychologically analysed this phenomenon as a form of self-destructive behaviour due to PTSD resulting from a traumatic event – survival had become unbearable under this oppressive regime.
The Future is History by Masha Gessen provides an in-depth look at Russia’s history and current state of affairs.
It paints a poignant picture of the repressive measures used by the Soviet Union to stifle critical thinking and the impact this had on its citizens long after communism fell.
With Vladimir Putin’s increasingly autocratic rule, Russia has taken dramatic steps away from democracy and its future looks uncertain.
This book provides a compelling call to arms, reminding us that if we neglect our past and fail to take action, the future is in danger of becoming more totalitarian.