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ryzhenko-zontik

Pavel Ryzhenko (2008): Umbrella.

The latest in our series of translations of Russian national-conservative intellectual Egor Kholmogorov, as promised.

In his latest article, published at Vzglyad, Kholmogorov demolishes twelve myths about the Bolshevik revolution, using a recent article by the Russian novelist Zakhar Prilepin as a foil. Why Prilepin? Who is he, anyway? You won’t find many mentions of him in the Western media, like you would of Vladimir Sorokin, Lyudmila Ulitskaya, or Dzerzhinsky admirer turned maniac Russophobe Svetlana Alexievich – writers that take a “handshakeworthy” anti-Russian stance. However, Zakhar Prilepin enjoys far more popular acclaim within Russia itself than any of those third rate entities – the only modern Russian literary authors comparable to him in eminence are Boris Akunin (historical mystery), Viktor Pelevin (satire), and Sergey Lukyanenko (sci-fi).

Part of the reason is Prilepin’s background. He has nothing to do with the Moscow intellentsia; he is the quintessential Russian redneck. Worked as a laborer, a security guard, and with the OMON riot police. Chechnya vet. Went into journalism in the 2000s, but found his true calling in artistic literature: Writing socially critical novels, typically about life in the Russian podunks (he himself hails from the rustbelt city of Nizhny Novgorod). Worst of all, he is a vatnik, a Communist (a National Bolshevik, to be precise), and a Donbass supporter. Most definitely not handshakeworthy – especially since he doesn’t exactly keep his politics on a backburner. Prilepin is also Chief Editor of Svobodnaya Pressa, an intelligent online journal and media success story that enjoys 15 million monthly visits (they even once translated one of my articles). He also pals around with DNR bigwigs and has even gathered a batallion for the War in the Donbass, though its more PR spectable than anything else.

As one of Russia’s leading “patriotic”/vatnik intellectuals, and one of the most authoritatative spokespersons for what Russian Neo-Stalinists actually think, a point by point critique of Prilepin’s apologia for the Bolshevik Revolution has value beyond just another recitation of Bolshevik crimes and hypocrisy (of which there is no shortage of anyway). Moreover, even if you substantively or wholly disagree with Egor Kholmogorov’s critique, I hope that this translation will at least help you get a better picture of the actual state of the debate about the Soviet legacy amongst normal Russians, beyond the banal (not to mention 90% wrong) Western representation of it as a binary struggle between a Stalinophile Kremlin and pro-Western liberals.

Translated by: Anatoly Karlin (intro to #5) and Fluctuarius Argenteus (#6-12).

Original: https://vz.ru/columns/2017/11/8/894324.html

***

Twelve Myths of the Bolshevik Revolution: A Conservative Refutation

The defense of Lenin and the Bolshevik regime in Zakhar Prilepin’s recent article is so representative of the genre that one can barely leave it uncommeted.

The Great October Revolution lies in ruins on its centenary. The essence of its defeat lies in that even the modest apologists for Bolshevism hardly ever cite their actual programs, slogans, and values. Nobody knows says that the Revolution opened the path to socialism and Communism all over the world, nobody expresses joy over the collapse of the bourgeoisie and the Tsar’s henchmen, and their replacement by a workers’ state. Nobody says that the light of atheism shone through the darkness of clerical obscurantism, nobody insists that the Bolseviks gave the land to the peasants, the factories to the workers, and peace to the people.

The justification of the October Revolution, of Bolshevism, and of Soviet power – in short, the entirety of Red apologetics – now occurs from within patriotic, nationalist, conspirological, populist, and even Christian Orthodox frameworks, all of which were mostly or entirely antithetical to the Communist value system itself. In practice, this consists of sophistic manipulations of Hegel’s “Cunning of Reason.” That is, the Bolsheviks wanted one thing, but something entirely different happened in reality, and it is actually this unconscious benefit which constitutes the real blessing of the revolution.

This form of apologetics was invented as early as the 1920s by the National Bolsheviks, from Ustryalov – who viewed Lenin as a patriot and a great stateman, and the Whites as agents of foreign powers in the form of the Entente – to Klyuev – who saw the Bolsheviks as liberators of the more authentic, pre-Petrine, “Kerzhen” Russia. But the value of all these apologetics was most poignantly demonstrated by the execution (Ustryalov, Klyuev) or imprisonment (Karsavin, Savitsky, Shulgin) of everyone who glorified Bolshevism through prisms other than Marxism-Leninism. Sure, the Bolsheviks were not averse to using smenovekhovstvo – the White emigres pushing for conciliation with the Soviet regime – for their own purposes, but they most assuredly did not subscribe to their vision of their historical mission as patriots, regatherers of the Russian lands, and custodians of the Russian state.

Why do people still bother with Red apologetics today?

Partly, on account of inflexibility. Russia in the 1990s was infested by ghouls, screeching that they had freed us from Lenin, the Communists, and the revolutionary heritage – which quietly freeing us of the contents of our pockets. And since this looting occured under the banner of anticommunism, it is no surprise that pro-Soviet discourse grew popular, since it, at least, did not brook this mass looting.

For all intents and purposes, Red apologetics was an apologetics for a social state; for public property, that had been created by the common labor of the Soviet people; for the Army, cosmonautics, the military-industrial complex, the Navy, the research centers, and so forth. And this was logical.

To my shame, there was a period, when I myself, despite never having imbibed the Leninist spirit, partook of similar activities. The most popular aspect of these apologetics was the Stalinist one – yes, the Revolution may have been horrific, but then came along Stalin and set everything right again…

But this train has passed. Russian society now faces new challenges, in which the political canonization of Bolshevism, Leninism, and Stalinism are not the friends, but the enemies, of our future.

And yet the Red people are still stuck in their polemics about Gaidar and Chubais. For instance, take the issue of creeping separatism in Tatarstan. It is impossible to solve it from a neo-Soviet position, because it was Lenin who created the Tatar ASSR and accomodated the Sultan-Galievs. The Ukraine, which demolished all its Lenin monuments, was his beloved child. In reality, regardless of which question we consider, appeals to the Soviet experience are block brakes on our future progress. It is either a false alternative to the liberal solution, or it is the liberal solution. Therefore, it is of no surprise that we are hearing increasingly Bolshevik overtones in the rhetoric of our liberal cliques, for example, in the matter of anti-clericalism. The Zyuganov era of traditionalist-friendly Communism is coming to its inevitable end, and is becoming displaced by a new era of Communist liberalism, which is hostile to the Russian traditional values that are held in equal contempt by both liberals and conventional Communists. [1]

It is precisely this form of apologetics that was advanced by Zakhar Prilepin in his recent article 12 Points about the Revolution and the Civil War. His defense of Lenin and the Bolshevik order is so representative that the urge to deconstruct it is irresistable, so that is what we shall do, point by consecutive point.

1. The Bolsheviks did not overthrow the Tsar – they overthrew the liberal-Westernist Provisional Government.

The Bolsheviks were the most categorical supporters of overthrowing the autocracy amongst all the Russian opposition parties. They excluded the possibility of keeping the monarchy even in a purely constitutional form; they were the most consistent republicans.

The Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party considers its immediate political task to be the overview of Tsarist autocracy and its replacement by a democratic republic,” read the program of the RSDRP accepted at its 2nd Congress, the very one where Lenin’s supporters constituted the majority, and henceforth came to be known as the Bolsheviks.

The Bolsheviks didn’t play a major role in the overthrow of the monarchy only because the party was still very weak as of February 1917.

But they more than compensated for this through their murder of the royal family, which, besides the innate abhorrence of the murder of the children and the servants, constituted the true overthrow of the Russian monarchy. As many historians and legal theorists have pointed out, the abdictation of Nicholas II in March 1917 was legally null and reversible, whereas death was final.

2. Prilepin, arguing that the Civil War between Whites and Reds was started by the Februarists (Kornilov, Alekseyev, Savinkov), poses this rhetorical question: “Do those who oppose Lenin and the Bolsheviks really believe that Russia would have been better off in the 20th century if it was governed by liberals, revolutionaries with a penchant for terrorism, and generals who broke their vows”?

Unfortunately, the majority of our readers are still not sufficiently familiar with the history of the anti-Bolshevik resistance, and might therefore be inclined to agree with this assertion. But that doesn’t make it correct.

The leaders, the real icons of the White movement – generals Drozdovsky, Markov, Kappel, Yudenich, Kutepov – were convinced monarchists. The only consistent republican amongst the leadership was Denikin. The position of Admiral Kolchak remains unclear.

The rest in one way or another expressed support for monarchy. Moreover, despite the dissatisfaction of Entente emissaries, the White movements continuously moved rightwards throughout the years of the Civil War towards a more definite monarchism, culminating in a Zemsky Sobor in Vladivostok in 1922.

General Kornilov: “I was never against the monarchy… I am a Cossack. A true Cossack cannot be anything but a monarchist.

General Alekseyev: “In the course of time Russia has to move towards a restoration of monarchy.

General Wrangel: “The Tsar must appear only when the Bolsheviks are vanquished.

Even the republican Denikin admitted that half of his Army consisted of monarchists.

But to honestly answer the question of whether it would have been better for Russia to be ruled by liberals, retired Social Revolutionary pyromaniacs, and turncoat generals in the 20th century, it is merely sufficient to pose the following questions:

“Would Savinkov, the terrorist Social Revolutionary, have implemented general collectivization, dekulakization, and the expulsion of people whose lands and property had been seized, into areas of permafrost, where they died of hunger?”

“Would Kornilov, the general who betrayed the monarchy, has created a system of concentration camps covering the entire country, where people would have been sent for telling a joke about himself, or for stealing a sheaf of wheat from one of Savinkov’s collective farms?”

“Would Kerensky, that undoubted leftist scoundrel, have issued orders blocking relief to the famine-stricken oblasts of Malorossiya, the Kuban, and the Volga, and instead barred their denizens from leaving the disaster zones?”

“Would Denikin, the republican, have signed off on lists of hundreds of names to be executed and approved the requests of local secret police HQs to raise the shooting quotas?”

“Would Milyukov, unrivalled in his liberal vulgarity, have closed churches, shot monks, priests, bishops, and hole fools, tear off crosses from children’s necks and open up holy relics for “examination”?”

An honest answer to these questions demonstrates how even a regime of incredibly odious Februarists was still far preferable to Bolshevik tyranny. Even the most authoritarian right-wing regimes are incomparable to leftist totalitarians in the scale of their repressions and destruction. Pinochet is not Pol Pot.

Furthermore, we can see why even the Februarists were preferable to Communist power by the example of the 1990s. In those years, the new Februarists encountered fierce political, ideological, and sometimes violent resistance from the national-patriotic forces. In the end, before a single decade passed, and Russian February ended, voluntarily surrending power to Putin, who began the process of state rebuilding. Why would the 1920s have been any different?

3. “Supporters of the idea that the Revolution was financed by German and British money should try to explain, first, whether they actually obtained the advantages they sought; and second, identify the goals that both pursued by intervening against Soviet Russia, if the Bolsheviks were indeed their agents.

Nobody ever suspected the Bolsheviks of acting in the interests of the Entente. It is the Februarists, overthrown by the Bolsheviks, who were probably English agents, whereas Lenin and his colleagues are, not without justification, seen as German agents.

There were no even minimally significant clashes between the Bolsheviks and the German Army, which occupied a large portion of Russia under the Brest Peace. Lenin and his government was absolutely loyal to Germany up to the last day of the Hohenzollern monarchy, with tremendous benefits to the German war effort – a large part of the Army was freed from the Eastern Front and hurled west instead, helped along by food supplies from the Ukraine.

You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Lenin was most scrupulous about keeping his side of the German contract, up to and including pressuring even his own party to ratify the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. It is sufficient to recall that on March 1, 1918 the Bolsheviks matter of factly surrendered Kiev, liberated from the Petlyurites on February 8 as a result of a workers’ uprising.

The enduring nature of the Bolshevik-German alliance is testified to by its quick resurrection under Germany’s new republican rulers, despite them having suppressed all attempts to seize power by Moscow-backed Cominternists.

4. “When discussing the exile of part of the aristocracy from Russia, and its replacement by “cooks and bandits,” as some of us say, it is worth recalling, that Lenin, too, was a noble, as were many of the most prominent Bolshevik figures and leaders of the party” [there follows a discussion of the noble descent of Lenin, Ordzhonikidze, Mayakovsky, and even the Chekist, Gleb Bokii].

There is nothing new about some members of the aristocracy defecting to anti-aristocratic movements. One can cite many other historical examples, from Pericles in Ancient Athens to Philippe I, Duke of Orléans.

The list of names mentioned by Prilepin himself show that the numbers of noblemen amongst the leaders of the Bolsheviks was negligibly small (especially when your exclude Polish nobles such as Dzerzhinsky, who hated everything Russian and were considered revolutionaries a priori in the Russian Empire).

Moreover, the degree of Lenin’s noble stock shouldn’t be exaggerated; his father, Ilya Ulyanov, was the son of a petty bourgeois, and only acquired the rank permitting him to pass on his noble status seven years after Vladimir’s birth.

Relations between the Bolsheviks and the nobility was determined not by individual relationships, but by the political philosophy of Bolshevism, the essence of which was class war – and the nobility, just like the priesthood, the bourgeioisie, and well-to-do peasants peasants were seen as class enemies, destined for destruction.

5. “75,000 former Tsarist officers served in the Red Army (62,000 of whom were of noble origin), whereas the Whites only attracted 35,000 of the 150,000 officer corps of the Russian Empire.

Prilepin’s numbers are an arbitrary fiction concocted by the Soviet researcher Alexander Kavtaradze in the book Military Specialists in the Service of the Soviet Republic 1917-1920. His speculations were refuted in Sergey Volkov’s ground-breaking research manuscript The Tragedy of the Russian Officers.

Kavtaradze arbitrarily sums up completely different categories, such as:

1. The 8,000 officers who voluntarily signed up with the Bolsheviks to participate in the “curtain forces” shielding Russia from German forces in the spring of 1918. These were men who wanted to continue fighting the German enemy, but were betrayed by the Bolsheviks, and subsequently, a signifcant number of them left the Red Army, or even joined up with the Whites.

2. The 48,000 former officers conscripted into the Red Army from 1918-2020, often coercively.

3. The 14,000 imprisoned White officers, who entered the Red Army to save their own life. These former officers constituted around a quarter to a third of the command of the Red Army, but their percentage steadily declined, since the Bolsheviks didn’t trust the Tsarist military experts.

It also a manipulation to put the numbers of the officers corps of the Russian Empire at 150,000. That was the number of officers in the active Army, whereas the numbers given as serving the Bolsheviks included all officers, regardless of where they were in 1918 – in the rear, in hospital, etc. According to Volkov’s calculations, the size of the Russian officer corps was 276,000 at the end of 1917. Consequently, less than a quarter of all Russian officers ended up serving the Reds.

For comparison, there were 170,000 officers who took part in the White movement, of whom 55,000 died in the Civil War, and a similar number of whom ended up in the emigration.

So you still want to talk about how the cooks and bandits deceived and defeated the wonderful, blue-blooded Russian nobles, who didn’t at all renege on their oaths to the Emperor?” asks Prilepin.

The quality of the officers who went to the Bolsheviks should be discussed separately.

The Russian Army command could be separated into two main groups by 1917.

The first group were the cadre officers of the Imperial Army, like Roschin in The Road to Calvary by Alexey Tolstoy. This category was seriously depleted by the war, especially in its early stages, which predetermined the discipline crisis in the Imperial Army.

The second group constituted officers produced by the exingencies of wartime, such as the poet Nikolay Gumilev and Alexander Blok, Telegin from the aforementioned Road to Calvary, the notorious ensign Nikolay Krylenko, etc. These people were, essentially, ordinary intellectuals in epaulettes, neither from military families nor possessing serious military training.

General Gurko spoke with distain about the “clerks and bathhouse attendants” turned officers. A significant part of them, ensigns, didn’t differ much from ordinary soldiers, and from the civilians, whose ranks they had recently withdrawn from. The vast majority of Red officers came from this group, while cadre officers constituted no more than 6% of the command.

Wikipedia currently lists 385 Tsarist generals who served in the Red Army. For comparison, there were close to 4,000 generals in the Imperial Russian Army in 1916, and even more by the end of 1917. No more than 10% of the generals went on to serve in the Red Army.

There were practically no top-level commanders from the First World War; for the most part they were either staff generals (Mikhnevich, Manikovsky, Zayonchkovsky), or dashing colonels, who got their high ranks in the war. Even more telling is that the Bolsheviks did not entrust these generals with indepenent command, instead using them more as as specialist consultants, and surrounding them with commissars. One rare exception was major-general Vladimir Olderogge, who finished off Kolchak’s army in Siberia in 1919.

However, the ultimate fate of most of the Tsarist generals and officers who went to serve the Bolsheviks is even more germane.

They were destroyed in 1931 in the Vesna case, fabricated by the OGPU. A total of 3,000 people were arrested, and many of them – including the aforementioned Olderogge – were shot. In 1937-38, those who had hitherto received only prison sentences were also shot: The great military theorist Svechin, generals Sytin, Verkhovsky, Morozov…

Consequently, we come to the following conclusion: Either the Soviets inducted enemies into the Red Army, who served it insincerely; or the Bolsheviks deliberately destroyed the officers and generals who believed them and chose to serve them out of their love for the Motherland.

6. “The Civil War was unleashed by the Whites…

The first event of the Civil War in Russia was the Bolshevik coup in Petrograd and Moscow that included such acts as the shelling of the Kremlin – that is, an usurpation of power.

Apparently, the author assumes that all citizens of the former Russian Empire had to accept the usurpation simply because some Congress of the Soviets in the capital proclaimed the transfer of power to something called the Sovnarkom.
If every usurper has the right to unconditional submission, then Major Prilepin is out of place in the Donetsk People’s Republic military. By his own logic, they are typical mutineers who failed to accept the self-proclaimed régime in Kiev and “unleashed” a war by refusing to submit to Maidan usurpers.

Fourteen (14!) foreign countries intervened in the Civil War – and, in this situation, blaming its victims on Bolshevism alone is utter hogwash.

Painting the Bolsheviks as Russia’s defenders against intervention is an old propaganda stunt.

The Entente intervention sought to contain the consequences of their largest ally’s withdrawal from the Great War, then in full swing, and the signing of a separate peace treaty by its usurper government.

Neither Britain nor France nor the US sought to annex a part of Russian territory or overthrow the Bolsheviks by military force (however successful those attempts could have been), and lent a very scanty aid to the anti-Bolshevik resistance while being very assertive in demanding gold in exchange for said aid.

In Spring 1919, the Entente decided to completely cease all military intervention in the Russian Civil War. None of the different “interventions” ever posed any credible threat to the Bolshevik régime.

7. “The first pieces of legislation adopted by the Bolsheviks after their rise to power had nothing repressive in their nature. The Bolsheviks came as unprecedented idealists, liberators of the people, and democrats in the best sense of the word”.

On October 27th (November 9th New Style), the Soviets promulgated the Decree of the Press, its fourth decree up to that date.

It justified and introduced criteria for a repressive crackdown on all “bourgeois” press outlets by the Sovnarkom. They were three in total: calling for “a n open resistance or disobedience to the Government of Workers and Peasants” (i.e., when a legitimate government refuses to defer to usurpers); attempts at “fomenting dissent via grossly obvious perversions of fact” (i.e., any information the Bolsheviks deemed unfavorable to their cause); and calling for “acts of patently criminal or felonious nature” (i.e., given that no Penal Code existed at the moment, acts of any nature the Sovnarkom didn’t like).

Over November and December, the preaching of violence in Soviet acts intensified: confiscation of private printing presses and reserves of paper (November 17th, this and the following dates New Style); state monopoly on public notices (November 20th); demands for arrest and trial “by the revolutionary court of the people” for anyone deemed “harmful to the people’s cause” (November 18th); explicit ban on direct and intermediary negotiations with the “leaders of the counterrevolutionary insurrection” (December 8th); arrest warrant for the leadership of Constitutional Democrats branded as the “party of the enemies of the people” (December 11th).
So much for “democrats in the best sense of the word”.

8. “Faced with an impeding collapse of the Empire collapsing and separatist movements at its fringes, the Bolsheviks immediately shifted their tactics and rapidly reassembled the Empire, only permanently losing Finland and Poland, whose being a part of Russia is even now seen as irrelevant and superfluous anyway. The Bolsheviks have done nothing to merit the title of “wreckers of the Empire” – even if they called their offensive campaigns “internationalist”, their result was a traditional Russian territorial expansion.

The Bolshevik Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, eulogized by Prilepin, explicitly allows for a “right of nations within Russia to free self-determination, including seceding and creating an independent state.

It turns out that Bolsheviks were typical hypocrites – when different nations actually tried to use the rights they were entitled to, they immediately “shifted their tactics” and turned to “territorial expansion”. Seems very familiar in the light of how the Bolsheviks treated all other human rights.

And, of course, the Bolsheviks did not expand to any territory in the end.

By the time the Civil War ended in the Russian Far East, they had lost the Baltics, Western Ukraine, and Western Belarus, ceded to Poland by the Riga peace treaty, as well as Bessarabia, annexed by Romania. Stalin took all of this back in 1939, no thanks to Bolshevism but thanks to World War II and a deal with Hitler (and none of this, save several districts transferred from Estonia and Latvia, was added to the territory of Soviet Russia proper).

The territory that got misplaced on the road to Communism included even the Uriankhai Krai (now the Tuva Republic), only reintegrated in 1944. Permanent losses included regions of Western Armenia ceded by 1921 Moscow and Kars treaties to “our friend Kemal”: Kars, many times washed by the blood of Russian soldiers, and Mount Ararat.

After recognising Finland’s independence, Lenin, in a gesture of largesse, gave up Vyborg, conquered by Peter the Great from the Swedes.
In 1940, Vyborg returned to Russia only thanks to Marshal Mannerheim. His obstinate resistance to Soviet forces caused Stalin to abandon plans for a puppet Democratic Republic of Finland led by Otto Kuusinen. Instead of signing a treaty with the puppet state, voluntarily ceding a good half of Karelia and drawing the border south of Vyborg, the Soviet Union was forced to sign a full-fledged peace treaty with harsh conditions.

The Soviets did exactly zilch in terms of expanding Russian territory until the very capture of Lvov during Stalin’s “liberation campaign” against Poland. However, Lvov would have become a part of the Russian Empire anyway had the Tsar not been deposed. Under Stalin, Lvov became a poisoned gift that contaminated the Ukraine with the most radical strain of nationalism.

9. “Point one: there’s no Tsar. Point two: there are only White generals who are mostly okay with divvying up the country. And there are Bolsheviks who are against this divvying up.

Eulogizing about Leninist national and territorial policy is a particularly arduous affair for Prilepin. He resorts to parroting the Liberal thesis of “all empires are bound to collapse” and appealing to a treaty between Britain and France regarding the “partition of zones of influence in Russia”.

Let’s start with an outright hoax. The Whites were fighting for a united and indivisible Russia. This was the chief slogan and the main goal of the White movement. Gens. Kolchak, Denikin, and Wrangel alike were adamantly against recognizing any separatist statelets that had sprung up in the territory of the Russian Empire.

As has been said, treating a British-French agreement signed on December 23rd 1917 and establishing zones of responsibility of Entente powers in the South of Russia, with the Great War still ongoing, as a “partition of Russia between Britain and France”, is entirely baseless.

The author may fulminate against the idea of Bolshevism as the culprit that had planted the bomb under Russian territorial unity as much as he wishes to. But nothing can be done to disprove the fact that the Bolsheviks established a “Kyrgyz Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic” in 1925, rechristened the Kazakh Republic in 1925, its capital until that year having been Orenburg. Such was the revenge of the Bolsheviks against the Orenburg Cossack Host for their resistance. That Russian city having been transferred away from Kazakhstan and back to Russia is nothing short of a miracle. Many other parts of Southern Siberia were much less lucky.

The Soviets, everywhere they could reach, created republics with a right to autonomy and secession, created “titular ethnicities” [2], granted them development funds, constructed their histories and gave them Latin-based writing systems (something reattempted by Nursultan Nazarbayev with much fanfare). [3] Terry Martin’s study The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939 is a terrific analysis of this process.

Mykhailo Hrushevsky, the founding father of Ukrainian separatism, came to enact in his capacity as President of the Ukrainian Soviet Academy of Sciences more than he ever could dream of as President of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, – turning millions of Little Russian peasants into “Ukrainians”.

Ukrainization was a central policy of the Soviets in 1920s – 1930s and never ceased completely in later eras. Indeed, Stalin did dampen those processes somewhat (even though he upgraded Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Karelia-Finland from autonomies to full-fledged Soviet republics, the latter fortunately abolished by Khrushchev), but they never stopped for the entirety of the Soviet régime.

Finally, the artificial borders chartered by Communists exploded in 1991 thanks to Liberals.

Who is to blame for falling to the ground – the one who laboriously sawed the chair’s legs or the one who carelessly parked his rear end on its seat?

10. “They say Patriarch Tikhon anathematized the Bolsheviks, and that’s why one cannot support them. But neither did he bless or endorse the White movement.

The Patriarch did not anathematize the Bolsheviks, only those who enacted cruel persecutions against the Church and Orthodox Christians, those who murdered priests, robbed churches, stripped decorations from icons, desecrated holy vessels, and so on.

However, he did censure Bolsheviks proper in his epistle dated October 13th (26th) 1918, and his words are a dreadful argument against Prilepin himself:

Our great Motherland is conquered, diminished, and dismembered, and, as a tribute imposed upon her, you secretly send to Germany the gold that doesn’t belong to you.

No one feels safe anymore. Everyone lives in constant fear of searches, robbery, eviction, arrest, and execution. Innocents are taken by the hundred, tortured in prisons for months, often put to death with no trial or jury, even an expedited trial that you introduced.

The executions affect not only those guilty before you in some way but even those who are patently blameless but taken as “hostages”. Those unfortunates are murdered as a revenge for crimes enacted by people who not only don’t have opinions similar to theirs but also support you or have convictions comparable to yours.

First, under the name of “bourgeoisie”, you robbed well-to-do people; then, under the name of “kulaks”, you turned to robbing richer and more diligent peasants, thus multiplying poverty, even though you must realize that, by ruining a great multitude of individual citizens, you destroy public wealth and lead the entire country to destitution.

In this context, it seems that the point of whether the Patriarch, taken hostage by the Bolsheviks and subject to constant mortal danger, supported the Whites or not is moot.

11. “The Bolsheviks nationalized the industries, harming the interests of large-scale capitalists by siding with those of the laborers. The class most interested in the Civil War were, metaphorically speaking, the Russian Forbes 500…

The identity of the laborers that the Bolsheviks sided with is rather unclear. Were they factory workers doomed to several years of devastation, famine, and non-functional plants? Or peasants, anguishing from the terror of Prodrazvyorstka and Kombeds [4] and later rising up in the Tambov rebellion [5] (and many others), suffocated with chemical weapons?

When the “exploiters” were in charge, Russian economy grew by 8% a year; it took the Soviets more than a decade to reach its 1913 levels.

Regarding the “Russian Forbes 500”: with the exception of Russia’s richest man Nikolay Vtorov, murdered in 1918 in Moscow under suspicious circumstances, the others emigrated and saw the twilight of their years in Paris or Monaco. In the 1920s, Mikhail Tereshchenko’s 127-meter yacht, the Iolanthe, was the world’s largest yacht afloat.

Meanwhile, the living standards of the proletariat liberated from the yoke of capitalists and Tsarist social legislation was graphically described by poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, the chief panegyrist of Bolshevism: “Workers sitting in the dark, munching on damp bread.”

This was all peanuts compared to what came next: a system of forced labor, the main know-how of Stalinist industrialisation. Having no means of concentrating enough capital to fulfil his 5-year plan, Comrade Stalin found an elegant solution – dumping the costs of the other industrial factor, labor itself, to near zero.

For the first time in history, the world saw a modern industrialisation based on slave labor. The Bolsheviks were successful in annihilating private capital. The state remained the sole capitalist. And it was the state, not individual businessmen, who conducted negotiations with workers, with the barrel of an NKVD pistol as its ultima ratio.

While their comrades in both Europe and America successfully campaigned for better wages and welfare and formed the system of the social state, Russian workers spent decades in slave-like conditions and deemed themselves lucky if they weren’t converted from slaves of the 5-year plan to bondsmen of the Gulag.

12. “The main victor of the Civil War was the Russian people. The Russian Revolution of November 7th 1917 is an achievement, a victory, and a tragedy of the Russian nation. It is fully responsible for it, and has every right to be proud of this momentous achievement that changed the course of world history.

I won’t contest that the Russian people emerged victorious from the Civil War. If many, all too many Russians hadn’t thrown their lot with Bolshevism, either actively or by submission, no Latvian riflemen or Chinese volunteers could have led Lenin and his gang to victory.

The Russians, however, won a victory over themselves and their kin who dared to side with honor, God’s truth, and a tormented Fatherland, the united and indivisible Russia. This victory led all who kowtowed before Bolshevism to decades of poverty, terror, slavery, and Kafkaesque everyday life. Their only daily consolation was the hope of suffering for the greater good, a Grand Project.

No one reminded those people that only recently Tsarist Russia had completed one of the most astounding projects in the history of mankind, the transcontinental Trans-Siberian railway. It was achieved with no waste or exhaustion, no payment of tens of thousand of human lives for an infrastructural breakthrough.

Every human community, including the Russians, has a basic set of values and goals. Spiritual: spreading its worldview and faith, bolstering its national character and original creativity in national culture. Material: increasing the welfare of the nation and expanding their numbers. (Geo)political: increasing its national habitat and the security of its borders.

The Russians failed to achieve any of those goals over the 20th century as a direct consequence of the Bolshevik coup.

The Russian Orthodox Church endured a most savage persecution that put it on the brink of extinction. The originality of Russian culture was forcibly erased, having just reached its fin de siècle apex. Russians were subjected to decades of horrific poverty, terror, and famine, falling into a demographic abyss of enormous proportions.

The Bolshevik period ended with a rapid contraction of Russian borders, a reduction of Russian habitat, and our people turned, even within Russia itself, into second-grade citizens.

If this passes as a victory, then our goal is not to triumph over ourselves in this fashion once again.

Translator’s Notes

[1] This entire paragraph does not appear in the Vzglyad text, but did appear in Kholmogorov’s original draft. I considered it too good not to translate and publish anyway. – AK

[2] A semi-official term for ethnic groups whose name coincided with the name of an autonomy of a full-fledged republic in both the USSR and modern Russia (even though they weren’t/aren’t necessarily the most populous ethnicity), e.g. Kazakhs in Kazakhstan, Ukrainians in the Ukraine, Bashkirs in Bashkortostan, etc. Most of the time, the “titular” ethnicity was/is given the largest leeway possible by the central Soviet/Russian government.

[3] Reference to a recent decree of the Kazakh President proclaiming the shift the Kazakh alphabet from Cyrillic- to Latin-based , to be completed by 2025.

[4] The Prodrazvyorstka was a Soviet policy of forceful grain confiscation, formally reimbursed with a nominal fee much lower than the market price, leading to mass pauperization of peasants and famine. Kombeds (Poor Peasants’ Committees) were organs of Soviet power in rural settlements, mostly charged with enacting said policy.

[5] A 1920-21 peasant insurrection in the Volga region caused by mass grain requisitions and other forms of Soviet-sanctioned abuse, leaving more than 200,000 civilians dead. Often claimed as the first documented use of chemical weapons in internal conflict.

 
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lenin

There is a general consensus that Stalin was a sadistic tyrant. But the ghost of his predecessor remains “handshakeworthy” on the left hand side of the political spectrum. The SWPLy bobos of Seattle, who would not have been long for the Communist world, erected a statue to him in the city center. The New York Times “celebrated” the centenary of the Russian Revolution with odes to the Bolsheviks’ progressivism on the environment, sex, and race (not that Terell J. Starr with his strange ideas of how the USSR “centered the Russian slav” would appreciate it).

Westerners, at least, have a good excuse for subscribing to the self-serving Trotskyite belief that Stalin “betrayed” Lenin’s revolution – after all, the bacillus that Germany unleashed upon Russia during its moment of weakness and disarray did more than anyone else to derail De Tocqueville’s prophesy and ensure that the 20th century would be an exclusively American one.

And yet, as of the centenary of Red October, 56% of Russians – up from 40% in 2006 – maintained a positive view of the grandfather of this dismal experiment. To this day, Lenin’s pyramid-like tomb occupies the center of Moscow, the heart of Russia, as if he was a Pharaoh of old – though perhaps that is ironically appropriate, in light of his zealous drive to drag Russia into the Communist future instead depositing it in a world with the ethical norms of the 3rd millennium BC.

There is thus no better and no more urgent time to consign the “Communist fable of a Lenin supposedly gentler than Stalin” (as Stephen Kotkin put it) to its well-deserved place in the dustbin of history.

Who was Lenin?

The brother of a terrorist. In the totalitarian state that he built, which operated by blood guilt, this would have been as good as a death sentence. Fortunately for Lenin, he lived in the Russian Empire, not the USSR.

Lenin’s “administrative exile” to Siberia – a rite of passage for Russian revolutionaries – might as well have been a holiday. He brought along his mother, wife, and even hired a maid to keep house (how bourgeois). He whiled away his time in Siberia fishing, hunting, and corresponding with other revolutionaries. Needless to say, consequent Siberian vacations would not be near as fun for the 3,777,380 people convicted under the Soviet “counter-revolutionary” articles implemented under Lenin and his successors from 1921-53.

A student who never finished university, a lawyer who never plied his trade. After Siberia, he would spend most of the next seventeen years in European exile, writing articles for low-circulation journals that alternated between rehashing Marx and Engels, engaging in disputes with fellow Marxists who were famous in narrow circles, and penning bromides against “reactionary” Russia from the comfort of London and Geneva, much like latter day liberal Bolsheviks such as Garry Karparov and Ilya Ponomarev today.

Supported and inspired terrorist attacks on Russian police and state bureaucrats. Around 4,500 Tsarist officials were murdered just in 1905-1907. Bolshevik propaganda about “Bloody Nikolashka” aside, only around 6,321 people were executed for all offenses (including purely criminal ones, like murder) in the Russian Empire from 1825-1917. The Red Terror that Lenin would unleash in response to the assassination of just one Bolshevik functionary would claim two orders of magnitude more lives.

Zealotry aside, Lenin wouldn’t be Lenin without a side dish in treason.

Supported Japan in the Russo-Japanese at the 3rd Congress of the RSDRP.

From an article in January 1905:

The proletariat is hostile to the bourgeoisie and all aspects of the bourgeois order, but his hostility does not absolve him from the duty of differentiating between historically progressive and reactionary representatives of the bourgeoisie. It is entirely understandable that the more consistent and decisive representatives of international revolutionary Social Democracy, Jules Guesde in France and Hyndman in England, expressed without reservation their sympathies towards Japan, for its role in destroying Russian autocracy.

On the outbreak of World War I, Lenin happened to be in Krakow, where he was arrested by the Austro-Hungarian authorities as an “enemy alien.” Fortunately, an Austrian socialist leader was there to vouch for him, assuring them that he was no spy, but a “bitter enemy” of Russia and a proponent of Ukrainian separatism. He was dispatched to Switzerland in early September, where he would continue scribbling away.

Letter to Shlyapnikov, 1914:

For us Russians, from the point of view of the laboring masses and the working class of Russia, there can be absolutely no doubt that the lesser evil would be the defeat of Tsarism in this war. For Tsarism is 100 times worse than Kaiserism.

Article in “Social Democrat,” March 1915:

The only correct proletarian slogan is to transform the present imperialist war into a civil war. This transformation flows from all the objective conditions of the current military disaster, and only by systematically propagandising and agitating in that direction can the workers’ parties fulfil the obligations they undertook at Basle. That is the only kind of tactics that will be truly revolutionary working-class tactics, corresponding to the conditions of the new historical epoch.

Article in “Social Democrat”, November 1916:

Whatever the outcome of this war, it is those who say that the only possible socialist way out of it is through a civil war of the proletariat for socialism, who will be proven right. It is those Russian Social Democrats, who said that the defeat of Tsarism and its complete military destruction is the lesser evil.

Letter to Suvarin, December 1916:

Our party has rejected Tolstoy’s teachings, and pacifism, by proclaiming that socialists must work to turn the current war into a civil war of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.

But he was growing despondent: In January 1917, he told a socialist gathering that “we old-timers may not live to see the decisive battles of the coming revolution.”

Fortunately for Lenin, he got a big break with the February Revolution, the elite led coup against the Tsarist regime. Soon after, the Germans arranged for him, along with other Bolshevik activists, to be transported to Russia in a “sealed train” (actually sealed in propaganda only; in practice, there were plenty of stop-overs). It is worth noting that the guy who arranged this, the German Communist Fritz Platten, also tried to enlist Socialist Revolutionary exiles for the purpose of destabilizing Russian. To their credit, none of them accepted, not wishing to be associated with Lenin’s overt treason.

Once he was in Russia, Lenin began to implement his program of “revolutionary defeatism.” First proposed at the Zimmerwald Peace Conference in 1915, publication of the doctrine was squashed by the German Foreign Office, on the fear that its contents would let the Okhrana justify mass arrests of Russian socialists. This didn’t sway Lenin from repeating it in his April Theses, whose slogan “down with the war” and call for the abolition of the Russian Army was so radical than even the Bolsheviks’ newspaper, Pravda, initially refused to print it.

All this was sustained in large part thanks to German money. In 1917, a grand total of around 50 million gold marks were transferred to Lenin’s party in Petrograd (this translates to an amzing $1 billion in today’s currency). This helped fund the Bolshevik printing presses, and there are numerous accounts of money being handed out for protests against the Provisional Government throughout 1917 (all standard features of modern color revolutions). This was all done with the firm knowledge that the Bolsheviks served the interests of Germany. Parvus, aka Israel Gelfand, said in a meeting with the German ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in 1915, “The interests of the German Imperial Government are identical with those of the Russian revolutionaries.” The second key intermediary, Alexander Kesküla, was a one-time socialist who had become a hardcore Estonian nationalist; his motivations for working with Germany were, in his words, simple: “Hatred of Russia.”

To Lenin belongs the dubious honor of carrying out the world’s first color revolution, and its color was red.

map-russia-constituent-assembly-election-1917

Source: @welections
Russian Constituent Assembly election, 1917: Brown = Social Revolutionaries; Red = Bolsheviks; Green = Regional SR’s; Yellow = Local parties.

Rejected the results of the last democratic election in Russian history until 1990 because he didn’t like that the Bolsheviks only won 24.5% of the vote.

Any direct or indirect attempt to consider the Constituent Assembly from a formally legalistic point of view, from within the framework of bourgeois democracy, without taking into account the class struggle or civil war, is treason against the proletariat and a defection to the worldview of the bourgeoisie. It is the duty of revolutionary Social Democracy to warn everybody against this error, which a considerable number of Bolshevik leaders are prone to, apparently unable to properly assess the October Revolution and the tasks before the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Even Rosa Luxemburg, criticizing Lenin for his ultra-liberal attitudes towards small nationalisms, pointed out the irony:

One is immediately struck with the obstinacy and rigid consistency with which Lenin and his comrades struck to this slogan, a slogan which is in sharp contradiction to their otherwise outspoken centralism in politics as well as to the attitude they have assumed towards other democratic principles. While they showed a quite cool contempt for the Constituent Assembly, universal suffrage, freedom of press and assemblage, in short, for the whole apparatus of the basic democratic liberties of the people which, taken all together, constituted the “right of self-determination” inside Russia, they treated the right of self-determination of peoples as a jewel of democratic policy for the sake of which all practical considerations of real criticism had to be stilled. While they did not permit themselves to be imposed upon in the slightest by the plebiscite for the Constituent Assembly in Russia, a plebiscite on the basis of the most democratic suffrage in the world, carried out in the full freedom of a popular republic, and while they simply declared this plebiscite null and void on the basis of a very sober evaluation of its results, still they championed the “popular vote” of the foreign nationalities of Russia on the question of which land they wanted to belong to, as the true palladium of all freedom and democracy, the unadulterated quintessence of the will of the peoples and as the court of last resort in questions of the political fate of nations.

In other words, a German Communist revolutionary, in practice, cared more for Russia’s territorial integrity and the democratic viewpoints of the Russian people than the man whose statues still dot the expanses of the Russian Federation.

In effect capitulated to Germany at Brest-Litovsk, ceded massive territories without military need, and betrayed Russia’s war allies.

map-russia-plans-ww1

What could have been: Map of the “Future Europe” (not like Wilhelm II would have liked it!)

As Winston Churchill wrote in his book The World Crisis (1916-1918):

Surely to no nation has Fate been more malignant than to Russia. Her ship went down in sight of port. She had actually weathered the storm when all was cast away. Every sacrifice had been made; the toil was achieved. Despair and Treachery usurped command at the very moment when the task was done.

Talk of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In December 1917, set up the Cheka. At the outset, they were predominantly staffed by non-Russians – mostly Latvians – headed by the Pole Felix Dzerzhinsky.

Anecdote about Dzerzhinsky: Before the war, he managed to get beaten up by Polish factory workers, whom he had tried to agitate against the Tsar. There must be some kind of achievement trophy for that level of fail.

But the Cheka was another matter, and no laughing matter.

In August 1918, the Cheka’s Petrograd head Moisei Uritsky was assassinated. The killer, incidentally, was one of history’s forgotten heroes, Leonid Kannegisser, who explained his motives thus:

I am a Jew. I killed a Jewish vampire, who drank Russian blood. I wanted to show the Russian people that to Uritsky wasn’t a Jew to us. He was a renegade. I killed him in the hopes of redeeming the good name of Russian Jews.

One successful assassination and one attempted assasination against Lenin was enough to kickstart the Red Terror.

The famous August 11, 1918 cable to the Communists in Penza:

Comrades! The insurrection of five kulak districts should be pitilessly suppressed. The interests of the whole revolution require this because ‘the last decisive battle’ with the kulaks is now under way everywhere. An example must be demonstrated.

  1. Hang (and make sure that the hanging takes place in full view of the people) no fewer than one hundred known landlords, rich men, bloodsuckers.
  2. Publish their names.
  3. Seize all their grain from them.
  4. Designate hostages in accordance with yesterday’s telegram.

Do it in such a fashion that for hundreds of kilometres around the people might see, tremble, know, shout: “they are strangling, and will strangle to death, the bloodsucking kulaks”.

Telegraph receipt and implementation.

Yours, Lenin.

Find some truly hard people

Whereas previously, mass shootings had numbered in the dozens at most, they would now climb into the thousands, once Sovnarkom authorized mass terror on September 5th. The repressions would now directly affect even other leftist groups. Local Soviets were to arrest all Social Revolutionaries, take hostages from the families of Tsarist officers, and summarily execute anyone suspected of involvement in White Guard activities.

Though statistics are much harder to come by than in the better documented Stalinist period, it is plausible that around one million Russians were killed in the Red Terror – two orders of magnitude more than what the Russian Empire was responsible in the preceeding century, and entirely comparable to the victims of Stalinism.

With zero economic education outside regurgitating Marx and Engels, Lenin implemented war communism.

Within a year, an Empire with one of the world’s highest economic growth rates became a desert, where those who could, fled, and those who could not, died of hunger and typhus. Even amidst the instability of two revolutions, industrial production had remained at 80% during 1917 relative to 1913 figures; it plummeted to around 10% by 1920, as the Bolsheviks confiscated everything from banks and factories to ordinary people’s windmills, workshops, apartments, and private savings. You have a complaint? Justice system now consists of black-leather jacketed thugs that operate on hostage taking and mass shootings. Good luck suing them.

Despite not performing a single day’s worth of “productive” work in his life, Lenin loved to call all sorts of people parasites. For instance, those well-known exploiters, peasants.

From a speech in November 1919:

Peasants do not all understand that free trade in bread is a state crime. “I made bread, this is my product, and I have the right to trade with them,” the peasant argues, out of antiquated habit. But we say that this is a state crime. Free trade in grain means enrichment thanks to this bread – this is a return to old capitalism, we will not allow this, we will fight this at any price.

The death toll of war communism: 5-10 million deaths, a number that is once again entirely comparable to the Stalinist famines of the early 1930s (5-7 million) and 1946-47 (1 million), and again, an order of magnitude worse than the worst famine of the Russian Empire in 1891-92 (500,000 victims).

The ruthless grain requisitions (prodrazvyorstka) provoked the Tambov uprising, which the Bolsheviks crushed with the use of poison gas and concentration camps. Upwards of 200,000 deaths.

Finally, it would be amiss to speak of Lenin’s legacy without mentioning his attitude towards Russia and Russians in the widest sense of the word.

Although formally Russian, Lenin was in reality the métis par excellence: Around 1/4 German-Swedish, 1/4 Jewish, 1/4 Russian, and 1/4 token ethnic minority (Kalmyk).

Come to think of it – remarkably representative of 20th century Communism.

In that respect, it is perhaps of little surprise that the state he founded was based on a rather pecular mixture of socialist and nationalist principles.

From On the Question of the Nationalities, 1922:

Therefore internationalism on the part of the oppressing or so-called “great” nation (although it is great only in violence, great only as a gendarme is) must consist not only in observing formal equality of nations but also in such inequality as would be compensation by the oppressing nation, the big nation, for that inequality which actually takes shape in life. …

In these circumstances it is very natural that the “freedom to leave the union,” with which we justify ourselves, will prove to be just a piece of paper incapable of protecting people of other nationalities from the incursion of that the true Russian, the Great Russian, the chauvinist, in essence, the scoundrel and despoiler which the typical Russian bureaucrat is. There can be no doubt that the insignificant percentage of Soviet and Sovietized workers will drown in this sea of chauvinistic, Great Russian riffraff like a fly in milk.

The result: An Affirmative Action Empire, as Terry Martin styled it:

A third and final premise asserted that non-Russian nationalism was primarily a response to Tsarist oppression and was motivated by a historically justifiable distrust (nedoverie) of the Great Russians. This argument was pressed most forcefully by Lenin, who already in 1914 had attacked Rosa Luxemburg’s denial of the right of self-determination as “objectively aiding the Black Hundred Great Russians… Absorbed by the fight with nationalism in Poland, Rosa Luxemburg forgot about the nationalism of the Great Russians, though it is exactly this nationalism that is the most dangerous of all.” The nationalism of the oppressed, Lenin maintained, had a “democratic content” that must be supported, whereas the nationalism of the oppressor had no redeeming value. He ended with the slogan “Fight against all nationalisms and, first of all, against Great Russian nationalism.”

What polemicists against the Stalinist USSR’s destruction of national intellentsias in the Ukraine or the Baltics leave out is that the Bolsheviks started out with Russia’s.

Just one example: There was a Kiev Club of Russian Nationalists operating from 1908, a tea club of conservative intellectuals who promoted the theory of the triune Russian nation, which saw Malorossiyans (Ukrainians) as one branch of the Russian people. It is conceivable that in a surviving Russian Empire or Republic, these intellectuals would have helped foster the growth of a Malorossiyan identity subsumed to an overarching Russian one, as in Bavaria with respect to Germany, or even subsumed them entirely, as with the Occitans with respect to France. A fascinating what if. But this was not to be. The Bolsheviks got a list of their members on capturing Kiev in January 1919, and all 68 of their members were rounded up and shot.

odessa-ukrainization

The 1920s were to be a period of aggressive Ukranization, which Stalin cemented with the Holodomor.

Needless to say, Bolshevik reprisals against the Russian intelligentsia were not aimed exclusively at its overtly nationalist elements.

At the very top, there was, of course, the execution of the Romanov family (the French revolutionaries, at least, had the decency to spare Louis XVI’s children, and the last Chinese Emperor lived out his twilight days as an ordinary citizen of Maoist China).

The cream of Russia’s intellectual elites left the country. There would be no Sikorsky Airlines, no Zworykin TVs, no Dobzhansky Institutes. Just the “philosopher’s ship” carried away names like Sergey Bulgakov, Nikolay Berdyaev, and Ivan Ilyin.

A large percentage of those who stayed out of patriotic considerations would be killed by Stalin in the late 1930s, or forced to work as cognitive slaves in sharashkas.

Those who left, a “White emigration” numbering 2-3 millions, would instead enrich other countries.

russian-success-usa

In the early 1970s, Russian-Americans had the highest median family income, highest % of college graduates (26% vs. 12% US average), highest percentage of white-collar workers relative to all other European ethnic groups in the United States.

There was an aggressive campaign against Orthodox priests, who were conflated with nationalists.

Lenin in a March 1922 letter to the Politburo:

I come to the conclusion that we must precisely now smash the Black Hundreds clergy most decisively and ruthlessly and put down all resistance with such brutality that they will not forget it for several decades.

Lenin had an exceedingly poor opinion of the great classics of the Russian Silver Age. His learned thoughts on Tolstoy and Dostoevsky:

On this topic, Lenin’s judgments were made confidentaly, said directly and sharply, without equivocation. Lev Tolstoy: On the one hand: “A mirror of the Russian revolution,” a “spirited man” who “unmasked everyone and everything,” but on the other hand, he was also a “worn-out, hysterical slave to power,” preaching non-resistance to evil. Fedor Dostoevsky: “Vomit-inducing moralization,” “penitent hysteria” (on Crime and Punishment), an “odorous work” (on The Brothers Karamazov and Demons), “clearly reactionary filth… I read it and threw it at the wall” (on Demons).

Even the Cyrillic alphabet was an expression of Great Russian privilege. As Lenin told Anatoly Lunacharsky, the Soviet Minister of Education: “I am under no doubt that there will come a time when the Russian alphabet is Latinized… when we gather enough energy for this, all of this will be trivially easy.” This moment seemed to arrive in 1929, when a commission on the matter officially proclaimed that “the imminent transition of Russian to a single international alphabet is inevitable.”

Their arguments are too “powerful” not to cite in full:

The Russian civil alphabet is a relic of the class structure of the 18th-19th century of the Russian feudal landowerners and bourgeoisie – the structures of autocratic oppression, missionary propaganda, Great Russian chauvinism, coercive Russification, and the expansion of Russian Tsarism abroad… To this day it ties the Russian-reading population with the national-bourgeois traditions of Russian pre-revolutionary culture.

In the hands of the Soviet proletariat, a unified Latin alphabet will serve as a means of propagating the cultural revolution in the Soviet East on the basis of the socialist reconstruction of the national economy. This is why it will constitute the alphabet of the proletarian revolution in the Soviet East and a weapon of class war here, on the front of the cultural revolution. See the words of Lenin: “Latinization is the great revolution of the East).

Transition to the Latin alphabet will free the laboring masses of the Russian people from the influence of bourgeois-nationalist and religious pre-revolutionary texts. Of course, artistically and scientifically valuable literature from that period should be republished in the new alphabet.

It was none other than Stalin, who had been criticized as a Great Russian chauvinist by Lenin – and I suppose he was, at least by Lenin’s standards, if not by any other one – who put an abrupt stop to this project: “Tell [them] to stop work on the Latinization of the Russian alphabet.”

Incidentally, at this point you might be getting an inkling of the real reason why Western intellectuals like Lenin a lot more than Stalin.

It is also worth emphasizing that Lenin’s famous Testament on Stalin’s unfitness for office, contrary to its presentation as a premonition of Stalin’s capacity for tyranny – hardly a matter of concern to either man – actually arose as a result of a dispute between the two men on the nationalities policy.

Once again citing Affirmative Action Empire:

His anger climaxed during the notorious Georgian affair of 1922, when he denounced Dzerzhinskii, Stalin, and Ordzhonikidze as Great Russian chauvinists (russified natives, he maintained, were often the worst chauvinists). Such Bolshevik chauvinism inspired Lenin to coin the term rusotiapstvo (mindless Russian chauvinism), which then entered the Bolshevik lexicon and became an invaluable weapon in the rhetorical arsenals of the national republics. …

Lenin’s extreme formulation of this principle led to one of his two differences of opinion with Stalin over nationalities policy in late 1922. Stalin had supported the greatest-danger principle before 1922-1923, reiterated his support in 1923, and from April 1923 to December 1932 supervised a nationalities policy based on that principle. Nevertheless, Stalin was uncomfortable with the insistence that all local nationalism could be explained as a response to great-power chauvinism. Based on his experience in Georgia, Stalin insisted that Georgian nationalism was also characterized by great-power exploitation of their Ossetine and Abkhaz minorities. Stalin therefore always paired his attacks on Great Russian chauvinism with a complementary attack on the lesser danger of local nationalism. … Despite these differences in emphasis, Stalin consistently supported the greatest-danger principle.

Ultimately, it was Lenin’s nationality policy that more than anything else doomed his creation.

Once the socialist system – what Lenin and Co. saw as revealed truth – ran into terminal epistemic and economic failure, the Soviet carapace fell away, revealing the petty nationalisms they had nurtured all that while, and, married to the unleashed appetites of the nomenklatura, the resultant centrifugal forces blew the whole artificial contraption apart. And (Great) Russian (chauvinists), the only ethnicity without a place of their own in the Soviet communal apartment (in Yuri Slezkine’s metaphor), had no good incentives to try to keep it together.

As Vladimir Putin himself remarked in 2016:

It is right to steer the stream of thought, only we need this thought to lead to the right results, unlike in the case of Vladimir Ilyich. Because, eventually, this thought led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, that’s what it led to. There were many such thoughts: autonomation, and so on. They planted an atomic bomb underneath the building called Russia, later it blew up. Nor did we need the global revolution either. There was this thought there, too

This brings me to the final point I wish to make about Lenin: The state he built as a failure.

By extension, Lenin was not just a sadist, a Russophobe, and a tyrant.

He was also a failure.

The slogan “Land, Bread, Peace” turned into a lie as soon as it was implemented. In the end, Russia got two much bloodier wars, the Civil War and World War II, for the price of one – the one that it had as good as won by 1917, with Austria-Hungary and Turkey as good as knocked out the war. Nor was there much bread. The Civil War resulted in a famine ten times worse than than anything seen in the ancien regime, and the populations of Petrograd and Moscow declined by around 70% and 50%, respectively, as civilization went into literal reverse. And what had been an increasingly prosperous peasantry thanks to Stolypin’s reforms and the construction of a mass schooling system in the last two decades of the Empire was soon deprived of both its lands and rights under collectivization; Soviet peasants only gained the right to a passport in 1974.

The world that Lenin and his successors built was a world based on lies; lies with aggressive, impudent, and often deadly pretensions to truth, as lampooned from Koestler to Kundera.

This was a world where the fictive dictatorship of the proletariat was almost immediately replaced by an all too real dictatorship of the nomenklatura based on renewed class privileges, judicial “telephone law,” no division of powers, and but a lame parody of an electoral process.

There would be no world revolution. Apart from military conquest in Eastern Europe, and China setting off down its own demented Maoist experiment, the only other Communist takeovers would only happen in irrelevant parts of the Third World, which would quickly fall apart though not before consuming dollops of Soviet foreign aid, which it generously parcelled out even as it gained the dubious distinction of being the first industrialized country to see a sustained rise in infant mortality during peacetime. The last surviving relicts of that world, Cuba and North Korea, stand as testaments to total failure.

communism-failure

Even a robot realizes this.

A world that by the 1970s was a vast expanse of unproductive rustbelts, unable to compete with the capitalist world and kept afloat by an oil windfall that would peter out by the late 1980s.

A world whose own citizens abandoned it for the promise of a pair of jeans, and whose own masters ended up selling it for real estate in Monaco and Miami.

This is the world that Lenin built and which collapsed during the 1990s.

“The intelligentsia is not the brains of the nation, but its shit.” It’s as if he was talking about himself.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Bolshevik Revolution, Communism, Lenin, Soviet Union 
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unsolved-socialism-problem

The latest in our series of translations of Russian national-conservative thinker Egor Kholmogorov.

Translated by: Fluctuarius Argenteus; slightly edited by AK.

Original: http://zavtra.ru/blogs/pravoslavnyij-sotsializm

***

Socialism Not Dead: Paradoxes of an Unsolved Problem

It may seem strange that, at the turn of the 21st century, the word “Socialism” is back in the popular political idiom. The final decade of the preceding century seemed to have been the time of its complete (and, so it would seem, irreversible) annihilation.

Soviet-style “Real Socialism” ended in a pathetic disgrace, striking its colors at the sight of a sausage pointed at its heart. Who would have thought that churning out missiles, dams, and factories wouldn’t be enough to sustain a planned economy based on communal property? It was also necessary to grant the Socialist people access to consumer goods at least remotely comparable to those available under Capitalism; otherwise, falling behind not only in living standards but also in technology became inevitable. Soviet Socialism collapsed under the weight of this contradiction, while China enacted reforms so deep that, while looking at Chinese billionaires, one can’t help but wonder whether it’s still Socialism or a “Red Capitalist” oligarchy of the Chinese Communist Party – quite probably no worse than any other oligarchy in history.

Meanwhile, the Capitalist world with its triumphant Liberalism seemed to have scored a doubtless moral victory. Not only did it outpace Socialism, it completely consumed it. All more or less sensible Socialist ideas were incorporated into the structure of the “welfare state”, leaving “Real Socialism” with such dubious achievements as complete socialization of property or pedantic ideological censorship. Socialism appeared to have been entirely devoured and digested by a Capitalism that had reached in this struggle a new stage in its historical evolution.

A quarter of a century after this victory over Socialism, the foundations of the global Liberal order are more and more visibly shaken. Within the US Democratic party, Hillary Clinton’s Liberalism, oriented at racial and sexual minorities, has been challenged by “Democratic Socialist” Bernie Sanders who is cajoling White American workers into rising against the 1%, the Wall Street loan sharks. Socialist? US Presidential candidate? Early 21st century? It seems patently absurd. Meanwhile across the pond, the Labour party in the UK eschewed fine-looking bureaucrats in favour of Jeremy Corbyn, a Socialist, an anti-militarist, and general diehard Leftist. One of his first acts as leader of the Shadow Cabinet was creating a committee for a new economic policy, including such anti-inequality fighters as Thomas Piketty and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz.

All of a sudden, we not only see a ressurection of Socialism in two of the leading countries of the Capitalist world, but positioning itself as a powerful political political alternative to the dominant Liberal mainstream. If we take into account that this mainstream is also under attack by right-wing populism of the likes of Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen (the program of the latter replete with anti-Capitalist and anti-Globalist vocabulary), the Liberal “end of history” seems to have ended quite rapidly. If this wave hasn’t reached us yet, it is only because both our Liberalism and our Capitalism are quite peculiar, and our political system doesn’t operate under Western-style rules. However, one cannot completely shut oneself off from a revolution of ideas, and it seems likely we will soon hear the march of a new Socialism here in Russia.

What is the cause of this 2010s Socialist re-revolution? The return of economic conditions that had caused the heyday of Socialism in the 19th century and were drastically changed in the 20th. The driving force of the Socialism of two centuries ago was a contradiction between the ideals of civil liberty and equality brought about by the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, and an absolute economic inequality typical of ancien régime Europe. The latter became more prominent and intolerable at the start of the Industrial Revolution, when hundreds of thousands of proletarians became concentrated in the stench and stuffiness of the working-class suburbs of developed countries.

Liberalism was faced with a monstrous and insoluble contradiction: why, after declaring human rights and liberties in thought and politics, giving equal rights to all social strata and doing away with the feudal ladder of estates, should it remain the guardian of a gap between wealth and misery, the protector of economic inequality? The situation of defending equality in the sphere of ideas, less important for most of the people, and championing inequality in the sphere of the stomach, of much greater everyday importance, seemed entirely ridiculous.

Excuses invented for explaining why some people are poor and some rich pushed those who considered this to be an injustice to certain solutions. “Private property is inviolable, you have no right to infringe upon it, therefore, you dare not touch the wealth of others,” said the wealth apologists. “It simply means that property is theft, and it must be destroyed or redistributed to close the gap between wealth and poverty,” replied the champions of the poor. “Liberty is not the equality of results but that of opportunities. We should be equal at square one, and then let each one gain according to his energy and talents,” said the wealth apologists. “Then we should socialize the work effort, and then we’ll have a common result: From each other according to their ability, to each other according to their needs. Also, let’s create truly equal opportunities, because the prospect of equal chances for millionaires and have-nots is a bald-faced lie,” replied the champions of the poor.

The ideas, methods, and moral high ground of the Socialism of yesteryear stemmed from a European yearning for equality, described by Alexis de Tocqueville, and the angst caused by the monstrous material inequality in the Europe in an age when the gaps between wealth and poverty were insurmountable. These gaps are the subject of a spirited dialogue between a young Rastignac and a cynical, conniving Vautrin in Honoré de Balzac’s Le Père Goriot. Vautrin explains to Rastignac, then a young idealist, that his chances of making good money thanks to learning, personal qualities, and industriousness are equal to zero. The only way of winning a fortune is getting it from somebody who already has it, by way of inheritance or marriage. The only way of becoming rich is being rich.

The world that spawned most Socialist theories, especially those of Saint-Simon, Proudhon, and Marx, was not a liberal world of free competition and equal opportunity. It was a polarized world devoid of a middle class: the 1% of haves and the 99% of have-nots.

What did this mean in practice? All talk of alleged opportunity in life granted by a Liberal version of Capitalism seemed naught but a myth. Big money was a magnet that attracted even bigger money. The lion’s share of national income, regardless of the pace of its growth, was distributed in the same proportion that was fixed in the structure of national capital. Simply put, those who controlled the majority of wealth gained the majority of income while making little to no effort.

America was the sole exception, with a lower concentration of wealth and a higher share of income distributed through free competition. Hence the image of the USA as a Promised Land, a land of opportunity, a magnet for migration. A good way of making money in Europe was moving to America (with the possibility of returning to the Old World with newfound wealth in tow left open).

No industrial growth, no Socialist attacks on the government or the bourgeoisie could change anything in the structure of this world until the start of World War I. This explains the revolutionary character of European socialism and the borderline utopian radicalism of its proposed solutions: Total socialization of industry, expropriation of the ruling classes, dictatorship of the proletariat, dreams of a World Revolution.

piketty-capital-income-ratio-europe

Source: Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty. Not part of Kholmogorov’s article.

This World Revolution did come to pass – but it started not in 1917, but in 1914. As brilliantly demonstrated by Thomas Piketty in Capital in the 21st Century, the Great War kickstarted a default of old European wealth. The horrors of war, the collapse of world trade, the Russian Revolution with its devastation and expropriation of the wealthy classes, the defeat and hyperinflation in Germany and Austria, the demographic crisis and budget deficit in the UK and France, the impeding dismantlement of colonialism – all of this led to a catastrophic decline in capital concentration in Europe.

piketty-russia-inequality-history

Source: From Soviets to Oligarchs: Inequality and Property in Russia 1905-2016 by Filip Novokmet, Thomas Piketty, and Gabriel Zucman (2017). Not part of Kholmogorov’s article.

The revolutionary role of Russia, whose bourgeoisie was sacrificed at the altar of transformation, consisted not so much in socializing property and launching the Socialist experiment as in crashing the world rent. The enormous Russian debt that had fed millions of rentiers all over Europe turned into dust in the blink of an eye and doomed the rentier civilisation to extinction.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, the level of capital concentration in the world capitalist system continued its decline. Contributing factors included the Great Depression that had finally made its way to America, the devastation of World War II, the post-war wave of nationalisations, and tax deductions for national reconstruction. The ratio of capital to national income fell from 6:1 under the old regime to 2:1, i.e. the entirety of concentrated capital (be it in the form of real estate, shares, or foreign assets) became equal to only two years’ worth of national income.

What were the socioeconomic consequences of this Great Default? The grip of Capital loosened, its magnetic effect wasn’t as far-reaching, and the problem of economic equality was tackled within the framework of global Capitalism, without employing the radical recipes of fin de siècle Socialism. More precisely, those radical recipes were relegated to countries that were lagging behind in industrial development, such as Russia and China. The main goal of this radicalism was a wilful, determined achievement of an industrial breakthrough. Socialism in so-called Socialist countries was most concerned with productivity and not wealth redistribution.

Western countries, however, having no need for a “great leap forward”, were able to afford the luxury of a “Socialism sans Socialism”. Social Democracy, Christian Socialism, Swedish Socialism, Social Reformism all followed the same model. Without abolishing private property as such, without creating a dictatorship of Leftist parties, by limiting themselves to a selective nationalisation, they achieved economic equality by fostering a system of high wages and a well-developed social sphere, ushering in the welfare state. Essentially, it was a huge Ponzi scheme organized according to Keynesian precepts: The state took away a sizable portion of incomes via taxation in order to redistribute this money, also as income but under a more egalitarian distribution.

This was the zeitgeist of the treinte glorieuses of 1945-1975, when all Western governments followed, with slight variations, a single socioeconomic policy targeted at bringing social inequality as far down as possible, raising national income redistributed as salaries to the detriment of rents, dividends, etc., and widening the social responsibilities of the state. It was the age of a rising middle class, the 40% that follow the 10%-strong strata of the wealthy; this class laid claim to 30-40% of national wealth as opposed to just 5% before World War I. The 50% of the poor were stuck with the same 5% as before, but at least they gained a much greater chance of breaking out of poverty by dint of education, good work, entrepreneurial spirit and general savvy.

The social lifts seemed to be working. A peculiar anthem of the era is Chuck Berry’s tongue-in-cheek 1964 song You Never Can Tell, the accompaniment to John Travolta’s and Uma Thurman’s wild gyrating in Pulp Fiction. It’s the story of a young Black couple from New Orleans that makes decent money, buys a house, mail-order furniture, a fridge, a phonograph, even a used jalopy… New capital growth was slow but steady, not in the form of rent or foreign bonds but mostly as real estate, shares and equity.

The most positive Soviet-era memories of those who were impacted by the system are based on largely the same processes, just disguised with red banners and “Glory to the Communist Party” posters. The income levels of Soviet workers were incommensurably lower, as was the quality of consumer goods offered by the market (it took a long time to realise that the Western market of the era was just a mechanism for redistributing wealth that was gained through not entirely market-based means). However, the Soviet system was infinitely more helpful with regards to restoring and accumulating… capital. It was even explicitly called “capital construction.” Most Soviet citizens were granted, entirely free of charge, real estate that was worth many years of individual income and still commands an impressive market price. And so construction proceededly rapidly apace to build the cosy, even slightly bourgeois world of 1970s Soviet comedies.

The Socialist system, like that of the West, followed the route of reconstructive capitalism. Meanwhile, Socialism as an idea gradually fell out of favor over the 20th century as its main raison d’être, inequality, disappeared. The semi-Socialist policies of Western countries created a perfect model village of Capitalism: Low inequality levels, broad opportunities, intensive social lifts, high levels of welfare, a wide availability of consumer goods thanks to a developed and flexible market. All of it seemed like a brilliant alternative to Socialist experiments: Socializing not wealth, not industry, but revenue, redistributing it so that everyone could decide where to spend it within a wide spectrum of options.

An ideal world of freedom and equality finally seemed to be within grasping distance. It also had a place for racial and gender equality, the 1960s becoming a triumph for equal rights activists of all stripes. At the same time, Socialism was quagmired in internal antagonism, the total control of the state eroding all freedom and neutering the enjoyment and variety of everyday life.

piketty-top-income-tax-rates

Source: Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty. Not part of Kholmogorov’s article.

However, the economic developments of the treinte glorieuses were the gravedigger for both Soviet Socialism and Western Welfare Capitalism. They signed their own death warrants themselves. A natural accumulation of capital was underway, via saving a part of income in the West or direct capital giveaways by the state in the USSR. But a feature of capital is that it “magnetizes” and draws income. The owner of capital tends to rent-oriented, not work-orientated, behavior. This “capitalist” wants to gain interest and rent, to make his capital inheritable, to pay the lowest taxes he can, and thoroughly despises the have-nots whose claims to a share of his income seem to him most outrageous.

The late 1970s saw the rise of a new Capitalism with many faces, from British Thatcherism to US Reaganomics to the waves of privatization that swept away the Soviet system and its socialist economy. It was a massive uprising of capital that wanted back its right to extract revenue and spend it on itself without sharing with society. Just like the pendulum swinging towards Socialism in the early 20th century, its return towards pure Capitalism at the end of the century was most pronounced and most socially destructive in Russia. A savage, dog-eat-dog oligarchic Capitalism that took sway in the country freed itself from practically all burden of social responsibility. It was a tyranny of wealth limited only by the garrotte in the hands of thugs, be they mafia racketeers or bureaucrat raiders.

However, it would be unreasonable to claim that the nature of the processes that transpired in those decades was drastically different in Russia, Europe, and the US. It was a time of large predatory fortunes, scams and profiteering, social polarization, and growing inequality everywhere. Americans and Western Europeans, accustomed to slogans of “equal opportunity,” suddenly once again found themselves in the era of Rastignac, when the only way to get rich – was to be rich. Also, the very notion of wealth had changed: It was no longer a reasonable, comfortable prosperity, but a blatant, tacky luxury.

In The Price of Inequality, Stiglitz describes the behavior of modern American business as “rent-oriented.” Nobody wants to improve real economic indices, nobody wants to make money, everybody wants to live as a rentier off unfounded bonuses, “golden parachutes,” and other forms of self-financing so common in American corporations. Is it that different from Gazprom cleaning women?[1]

At the other end is the growth of inflamed poverty: according to Stiglitz, the life expectancy of US White men with no college education is plummeting at the rate of 1990s Russia. Over the last 15 years, everyone and their mother have talked about the “death of the middle class.” Piketty projects that at the current rate of increasing inequality, Europe will return to 19th century levels by 2050: 10% of the population will own 80% of capital, and 60% of all income.

The society built by the global anti-Capitalist uprising of the early 1900s is becoming a thing of the past, as is faith in market-based self-regulation of Capitalism, allegedly evolved enough to solve social issues. It turns out that self-regulation played no part whatsoever, and the growth of economic equality occurred due to a catastrophe that had wiped out the “old money,” paving way for a unique Social-Capitalist system. Conversely, growing capital concentration, seemingly normal for a self-regulating capitalism, simply reproduces inequality.

A Neo-Socialism is the natural response of a society that enshrines equality to the emergence of a new inequality. Will it be different from classic Socialism? It will be, and rather strongly so.

Destruction of private property and socialization of the means of production proved to be a rather dubious road to Socialism. In practice, they only led to the creation of a new class – the nomenklatura, a decline in individual initiative, logistic and planning errors leading to shortages and even famines. And, in the long run, they failed to prevent the restoration of Capitalism in its most savage incarnation. In addition, small-scale private property continued to develop even if when it all private property was nominally abolished.

The utopia of complete socialization is opposed by the following fact: As material progress unfolds, a human being demands more, not less space for individual existence and self-expression. The ideal of a normal human, as it turns out, is his own house, not an army barracks. Collectivism invariably leads to a tyranny of mediocrity and dooms the societies that adopt it to backwardness in scientific-technical development.

Under these conditions, Neo-Socialism presupposes, above all, the socialization of income and prohibitive measures on capital concentration. The world of future Socialism is a world where all offshores are annihilated and each and every fatcat is subjected to high income and property taxes, with inheritance laws hampering the transfer of super-wealth. This nullifies the magnetic effect of large capital, and most of income is redistributed as wages in the context of free labor and a free market. From an instrument of optimizing income, the market turns into an instrument of optimizing expenditure.

Here, however, the New Socialism faces several classic pitfalls, already singled out by Joseph Schumpeter in the mid-20th century. The impossibility of super-wealth, limiting unfair and imperfect competition, monopolism, and profiteering lead to the waning of that very entrepreneurial spirit that nurtures the Capitalist economy. There will a dearth of those interested in starting a new business to beat all competitors and make a nice buck. And, needless to say, an “inventor and innovator” certificate[2] is a feeble substitute for super-incomes.

The only remedy to entrepreneurial crisis within Neo-Socialism could be a change in business philosophy: Stop chasing big money and instead take pride in the individuality of your business, its attractiveness and social relevance. This, however, only works for small and middle-sized businesses, while bigger enterprises require investments (including non-returnable ones) and risks so enormous that a small-time businessman can only afford it if he is aiming for a super-income. An alternative is a planned, state-run innovation policy, a “Communism of ideas” that will be of dubious long-term efficacy.

A society that guarantees a relative equality of income would be doomed to low economic growth. However, it is precisely the form of economic growth stabilization – especially within the core of the Capitalist system – envisioned by Neo-Socialist economists, Piketty above all.

Another question inevitably brought forward by Neo-Socialism is its relations with globalization. In a Neo-Liberal world, globalization is a world market system that forces the expenses of wealthy and developed countries on the poor and undeveloped by creating “common markets” that stifle economic development. They confine poor countries to the lower stages of technological chains while keeping the rights to ideas and the final product in the hands of developed countries. This is exactly the principle of the Transatlantic and Trans-Pacific Partnerships, modern attempts to cement the eternal commercial dominance of the US.[3]

An alternative to this economic globalism is economic Nationalism; the greater the drop in economic growth and surge in inequality, the more that will it be visible. Countries with independent industrial potential and inner market resources will isolate themselves from the rest of the world as much as they are able to, from imports to economic immigrants, in order to maintain their development level despite in spite and at the expense of others.

This Nationalist alternative is seen as the greater threat to the Neo-Socialist project. Its defenders keep putting a lot of effort into criticising Nationalist and Protectionist ideas and rallying to the defence of Smithian dogmas of “relative advantage” that lead to international division of labor and creation of common markets.

Nevertheless, preserving global markets under a Neo-Socialist policy would require a serious “leveling of fortunes” everywhere on the planet. Wealthy countries, much like wealthy people, would be compelled to spend most of their wealth to improve the living standards of the poor up to a certain “golden mean.” According to modern GDP per capita statistics, it would be represented by the living standards of a Turkey or a Mexico – probably even lower in reality, because rich countries create much of their GDP and national income by virtue of being rich. Were they to be more modest in their lifestyle, much of their national product simply wouldn’t be produced.

Is it possible to downgrade the living standards of rich countries and prop up the poor ones to even slightly reduce global inequality? One may well doubt this, especially considering that for most of humanity, it is the quality of life in the developed countries that really matters, not the tyranny of averages. Everyone in the world dreams of a Lexus, not a Zaporozhets.[4]

And now we re-encounter a fundamental contradiction within the Socialist dream. It is inspired by a global historical trend towards equality and social justice, but the justice in question turns out to be a tyranny of mediocrity, the erasure of extremes of arrogant wealth and abject poverty. But how is the value of this justice comparable with the imperative of development that presupposes certain extremes? To move forward, one must desire to be the best, which is impossible without a certain, sufficiently wide score chart – even if it comes at the expense of others.

Combining the values of justice and equality with the values of development is a task yet unsolved by the New Socialism.

***

Notes

[1] Allusion to a news item at around the time of this article’s writing featuring a woman employed as a cleaner in the Gazprom office who had reported the theft of her Christian Dior handbag worth $26K.

[2] Allusion to the Soviet practice of rewarding technical and industrial innovators with honorary diplomas and certificates, as opposed to patent rights or other, more substantial awards.

[3] A cheap rear-wheel-drive supermini mass-produced in the USSR (and then, briefly, in independent Ukraine) in 1958-1994 that became a byword for shoddy, uncomfortable, and breakage-prone cars in (post-)Soviet culture.

[4] On January 23, 2017, the US announced its withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific trade agreement.

***

Translator’s Note

The article was written in April 2016 and reflects the political and economic situation of the era.

 
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Surviving political repressions in Communist regimes is one of those rare problems that don’t seem to be at all g loaded.

When someone like spandrell talks of “IQ shredders” he refers to the role of modern cities as fertility vortices for society’s best and brightest. But in the 20th century those shredders could be all too literal. One can’t help but shudder reading through the lists of scientists and intellectuals judicially murdered under Stalin in the 1930-40s. (The Old Bolsheviks at least usually had the minimal decency to allow them to emigrate).

This “aristocide” was replicated on higher IQ groups further down the social ladder, including the liquidation (to varying extents) of the kulaks, the priesthood, and the national intelligentsias of the countries that fell under Red dominion.

To what extent did this unravel the gains of centuries spent under the Malthusian grindstone? What was the cost in terms of national IQ?

The only people who ask such questions tend to be, almost by definition, anti-Communists (self-explanatory) and far right (by dint of their indulgence of the hereditary theory of IQ).

Therefore, unsurprisingly, their answers tend to be extremely pessimistic.

Fortunately, James Flynn has Done The Math on Cambodia, the country where Communist bloodlust far surpassed that of any other by about an order of magnitude.

Rulers can cause mass exterminations that have dysgenic effects no matter what their intent. Between 1973 and 1976, Pol Pot killed millions of Cambodians (Kampucheans). His criteria were purely political but discriminated to some degree against those with superior genes for IQ. He tried to eliminate urban dwellers (mildly superior because people abandon impoverished rural areas when they find they can be viable elsewhere) and anyone with “elite” qualifications (superior because access to education is to some degree competitive favoring those with greater talent). Those who wore spectacles were used as a criterion: they needed spectacles for a literate occupation and they had the money to afford them. He also destroyed all bicycles.

How much did Pol Pot do to lower the mean IQ of the Cambodian people? Sunic (2009) puts Croatians at a mean IQ of 90. He asks whether the communist massacre of hundreds of thousands of the Croat middle classes in 1945 was the answer. He accuses communists in general of “aristocide” in the sense that much killing, whatever the rationale, was motivated by hatred for those more successful and intelligent than oneself. He generalizes (p. 3/5) that communist aristicides have crippled the whole of Eastern Europe: “A large number of intelligent people were simply wiped out and could not pass their genes on to their offspring.” None of these nations suffered massacres anything like the scale of Cambodia. It is hardly surprising that there has been public speculation about how much Cambodia’s average IQ was reduced (Learning Diary, 2009).

This question can be settled by a few calculations. Pol Pot killed somewhere between 1.7 and 2.5 million people. I will put this at 2.1 million or 26% of Cambodia’s 8 million people (Kiernan, 2002). If he had done it using IQ tests, eliminating the top 26% would have lowered the IQ of the remaining parents by 6.4 IQ points and a good portion of this deficit would have been handed down to their children. However, as we have seen, he in fact used occupation as his criterion.

We do not know the correlation between the occupational status of the parent and the IQ of their (no longer to be born) children, but in a semirural society it would be below that of the United States. At that time in the United States, it was 0.300 (Flynn, 2000b). If you eliminated the top 26% of the US population by occupation, the mean IQ of their children would drop by only 1.92 points. Moreover, Pol Pot did not really use a pure criterion of occupational status. For example, a lot of his henchmen doing the killing were intellectuals (Pol Pot attended the Sorbonne, although he did flunk all of his courses). When he tried to eliminate everyone who lived in the capital city of Phnom Penh, this included many in humble occupations. The genetic capital of the Cambodian people was lowered by not much more than an IQ point. The people were hardly stripped of intellectual talent. …

Pol Pot provides not only an estimate of the quality of Cambodia’s genes but also something more. He sets a probable limit on the dysgenic consequences of even the most horrific events of world history. …

Sunic (2009, p. 2/5) speculates about negative selection of genes for other behavioral traits: “Did communism … give birth to a unique
subspecies of people predisposed to communism?” For example, did it produce people who felt comfortable only with little personal freedom? I may be excused for not addressing that question.

One can rejoinder that the impact must have been heavier on individuals who were more effective at converting their intelligence to scientific/artistic eminence (“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is perhaps nowhere truer than under totalitarian Communist regimes).

And it seems likely that this was further amplified by the “family responsibility” and guilt-by-association principles that many Communist regimes operated under, meaning that the consequences of repressions would reverberate most strongly against the clusters of interest groups and blood relations that surrounded its prime targets; that is, against those people who most helped society cultivate eminence, and who had the highest chances of becoming eminent themselves.

Nonetheless, even those caveats aside, since even the Khmer Rouge couldn’t have cardinally dented Cambodia’s national IQ, it certainly couldn’t have done anything substantial to Russia, where the scale of Stalinist aristocide didn’t exceed 1% of the Soviet population. (The Soviet famines, with far higher numbers of victims, would if anything have been marginally eugenic; one wonders if some bold Communist will ever try to tout this argument?).

In the Communist world as elsewhere, the main eugenic/dysgenic driver must have been fertility patterns.

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Cambodia, Communism, Dysgenic, IQ, Soviet Union 
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PAPER REVIEW

Grigoriev, Andrey & Lynn 2009
Studies of Socioeconomic and Ethnic Differences in Intelligence in the Former Soviet Union in the Early Twentieth Century


Abstract:

This paper reviews the studies of socioeconomic and ethnic and racial differences in intelligence carried out in Russia/USSR during the late 1920s and early 1930s. In these studies the IQs of social classes and of ethnic minorities were tested. These included Tatars (a Caucasoid people), Chuvash and Altai (mixed Caucasoid-Mongoloid peoples), Evenk (a mixed Caucasoid-Arctic people), and Uzbeks (a Central-South Asian people). The results of these studies showed socioeconomic differences of 12 IQ points between the children of white collar and blue collar workers, and that with the exception of the Tartars the ethnic minorities obtained lower IQs than European Russians.

This is essentially a short history of psychometrics in the USSR/Russia.

(1) The first measurement of Russian IQ was performed in 1909 by A.M. Schubert, who used the French Binet test with n=229 children: “She concluded that the Binet test appeared to be too difficult for Russian children and the scale should be moved on 1 to 2 ages to be appropriate for them.” Since Mental age ÷ Physical age × 100 = IQ, this implies their average IQ was perhaps one S.D. lower than that of the French, though later researchers pointed out those children were drawn from lower socio-economic strata.

In 1930, now in the USSR, another study found the following:

They tested 414 children aged between 8½ and 11½ with the American Stanford– Binet (administered in Russian translation). The sample consisted of 200 children of peasants,141 children of blue collar workers, and 73 children of white-collar workers. All children were from Moscow or the Moscow region. The results were that the children of peasants obtained a mean IQ of 87 (the standard deviation=10), the children of blue-collar workers a mean IQ of 91 (SD=8.6) and the children of white-collar workers a mean IQ 98 (SD=8.4). The mean IQ (unweighted) for three groups was 92… Thus, the total weighted mean for Russian children in this study was 90.3 (these IQs are in relation to American Stanford–Binet norms).

Capture This brings to mind a 1920s study quoted by Anne Anastasi in her book Differential Psychology (pp.524), in which Russian immigrant children to the US got 90.

This 10 point difference was presumably there because Russia was a more economically backwards country, with a more repressed average IQ due to gaps in schooling, malnutrition, parasitic load, etc.

(2) As in the West, consistent differences were found in the IQs of people from different socio-economic strata.

Another study of relation of IQ to social class was carried out by M. Syrkin (М.Сыркин)(Сыркин,1929) who compared the intelligence of fourth grade children (N=338, age approximately 10 years) belonging to six socio-economic groups. The lowest group was described as “ blue collar workers and at least one of parents illiterate”and the highest group was described as “white-collar workers and at least one parent educated in an institute of higher education”. Intelligence was assessed with five verbal tests measuring comprehension and verbal reasoning. There was a difference of 1.42d(equivalent to 21.3 IQ points) between the lowest and highest socioeconomic groups.

The USSR really did expel, kill off, or otherwise limit the reproductive fitness of its best and brightest.

In 1928, E.I. Zverev (Е.И. Зверев)(Зверев, 1931) tested the IQ of 114 children just admitted to school and aged about 7½– 8 years, in and around the city of Kursk, about 500 km south of Moscow. The children were tested with the Binet– Bert test (a Russian adaptation of the Binet). The mean IQ of these children was 80.8. This is much lower than the IQ of children obtained by Gurjanov, Smirnov, Sokolov, & Shevarev (Гурьянов, Смирнов, Соколов,&Шеварев, 1930) for Moscow and the Moscow region. Probably this difference was due to methodological and sample differences, but there is a possibility that the regional factor was also involved.

The latter hypothesis is likely the correct one.

In the 2009 PISA test, there was a 12 IQ point difference between Kursk and Moscow, which is an incredibly concentrated cognitive cluster.

(3) Now we go on to the most “controversial” part – ethnic differences in IQ.

Central Russia

There were also some studies of the IQs of non-Slavonic but predominantly Caucasoid peoples.I. Bektchentay (И .Бикчентай) and Z. Carimowa (З.Каримова )(Бикчентай &Каримова, 1930) tested the IQs of 380 Tartar children aged 8– 18 in fi ve Tartar schools in Moscow with the Boltunow–Binettest(aRussian adaptation of the Binet). The Tartars are indigenous to the Caucasus in the far south of Russia and the former Soviet Union, but a number of them live in central Russian towns and cities. The mean IQ of the Tartar children in this study was approximately the same as that of Russian children. The correlation between the Boltunow– Binet test and school achievements (assessed by teachers’ estimates) in their study was 0.84.

Yes, this is a pretty major distinction.

The Volga Tatars – the Muslim and Christianized Tatars of central Russia – have an average IQ of around 100 (about equal to modern Russia/Europe). Population genetics studies have found them to be basically acculturated Slavs.

The first of these was reported by F.P. Petrov (Е.П. Петров) (Петров, 1928) who tested the IQs of 1398 Chuvash children aged 3–13 in 1926–1927 with the French Binet–Simon test… The figures inTable 2 show a median IQ of 87 for boys and 84 for girls, and means (unweighted) of 89 for boys and 86 for girls. These are in relation to 100 for French norms, but no normative data are reported for Russian children. The IQs of the Chuvash children show a decline with age, with the lowest IQs among the 12 and 13 year olds.

Chuvashia is currently about average for the Russian regions.

Tundra

Also tests carried out on indigenous tundric peoples, such as the Evenks (Bulanov 1930):

The results are presented as typical for Evenk children, but because of the small samples, their IQs may not be regarded as reliable. The results are as follows. For the Binet test the mean IQ was 70.16 (for 5 children, and in relation to French norms). The results obtained with the Rossolimo test showed lower average IQs of the Evenk (Tungus) compared with a Moscow sample on some abilities, namely, memory for pictures and words, ability to comprehend combined pictures, ability to comprehend visual incongruities, and, according to Bulanow’s interpreta- tion, ability to retain a high level of attention. As regards memory for pictures, the results contradicted the sometimes described capacity of Evenk (Tungus) to remember exactly long routes on wild territory (Encyclopedic Dictionary by Brockhaus & Efron (Энциклопедический словарь Ф .А . Брок – гауза и И.А .Ефрона ), 1902, vol. 67, p. 66)….

Bulanow also reported some observations on Evenk (Tungus) children and adults concerning their great difficulty in understanding the concepts of measurement and number. He reported that when Evenk children were questioned about devices for measurement, they did not have the concept of an absolute unit of measurement. They thought that the unit changed with the material measured. Bulanow reported further that when he asked Evenk adults how many children they had “ It was difficult, almost impossible, to get from parents precise information as to how many of their children were alive, how many of their children had died, what was the age of their children, and so on.” (p. 198).

… and on the Altai (Zaporochets 1930):

The results for the Binet test were as follows: mean IQ for total group was 66.9 (sd. 8.5), mean IQ for children aged 8– 12 was 69.15, and the mean IQ for children aged 13–16 years was 64.8. As noted by Zaporojets, this test was tedious for the Altai children. Some tasks were especially difficult for them. These were tasks involving calculation, logical operations, and the fluency task to name as many as words as possible during 3 min. As for the Rossolimo test, the most diffi cult tests for Altai children were those requiring the ability to retain a high level of attention and to comprehend visual incongruities. Their mean IQ for the Pintner–Peterson test was 75.

Zaporojets noted that the Altai children did not have a clear understanding of units of measurement. He observed that when they were questioned about the length of a meter, the Altai would often ask: “Which meter?”They thought that the meter in one shop could be longer than in another. An adult Altai said about distance: “It is 100 big versts (approximately 100 kilometers)” (he apparently thought that the number of small versts must be more).

Zaporojets’ paper contains some interesting observations on adult Altai. Although adult Altai performed calculations poorly at the time of study, they showed a remarkable ability for visual estimation of large quantities. A herdsman, who could count only to 20–30, noticed very well the absence of one horse, cow or sheep in a herd of many hundreds. He looked at a huge herd and noted that a particular cow was absent. Another example of the great visualization ability of the Altai was that they could remember and showed the way through wild territory, where they had been only once many years previously.

Common theme: No numeracy (they’d have a very bad Whipple’s index), very premodern and non-abstract ways of thinking, but quite well suited for their environment.

In PISA 2009, Yakutia had the lowest score of any tested Russian region, including Dagestan (though Chechnya and Ingushetia were not included). Ethnic Yakuts, who probably have similar IQs to the Altai and Evenks, constitute 50% of its population, though probably more like 2/3 amongst the children taking PISA due to their higher fertility rates. This might imply that the average Yakut IQ is in the low-to-mid 80s.

Central Asia

First test was carried out in 1926 by A. Schtelerman: He did not give IQs but reported that the scores of the Uzbek children were lower than those of children in Moscow.

A series of studies by V.K. Soloviev on Russian and Uzbek army cadets and professionals found that “the test scores and the educational level of the Uzbeks were lower than those of the Europeans.”

The third study of the intelligence of the Uzbeks was carried out in 1931 by A.R. Luria (А.Р . Лурия ), at that time at the Institute of Psychology in Moscow. Luria did not use intelligence tests but gave a descriptive analysis of the Uzbeks’ cognitive abilities. He distinguished two modes of thought designated graphic recall (memories of how objects in the individual’s personal experience are related) and ca- tegorical relationships (categorisation by abstract concepts). He found that the thought processes of illiterate Uzbek peasants were confined to graphic recall and that they were not able to form abstract concepts. For example, they were shown a hammer, an axe, a log and a saw, and asked which of these did not belong. The typical Uzbek answer was that they all belonged together because they are all needed to make firewood. People who are able to think in terms of categorical relationships identify the log as the answer because the other three are tools (an abstract concept). Illiterate Uzbeks peasants were unable to form concepts of this kind. They were also unable to solve syllogisms. For instance, given the syllogism “There are no camels in Germany; the city of B is in Germany; are there camels there?” Luria gave as a typical Uzbeks answer “I don’t know, I have never seen German cities. If B is a large city, there should be camels there.” Similarly, Luria asked “In the far north, where there is snow, all bears are white; Novia Zemlya is in the far north; what color are the bears in Novia Zemlya?”. A typical Uzbek answer was “I’ve never been to the far north and never seen bears”(Luria,1979, p. 77–8). Thus, Luria concluded that these peoples were not capable of abstract thought: “ the processes of abstraction and generalization are not invariant at all stages of socioeconomic and cultural development. Rather, such processes are pro- ducts of the cultural environment” (Luria, 1979, p. 74). Luria proposed that the ability to think in terms of categorical relationships is acquired through education. He did not suggest that the Uzbeks have any genetic cognitive deficiency.

I wrote about Luria back in the late 2000s when I still agnostic about genetic racial differences in IQ.

Today those factors no longer really hold, but Central Asians do very poorly on international standardized tests.

Kyrgyzstan came at the very bottom of PISA 2009, with a PISA-equivalent IQ of around 75.

Table below is from David Becker’s database of national IQs:

National Ethnic Age N Test IQ Study
Kazakhstan 8 to 16 617 SPM+ 87.30 Grigoriev & Lynn (2014)
Kyrgyz 85.60 Lynn & Cheng (2014)
Tajikistan 13 to 15 674 SPM+ 88.00 Khosimov & Lynn (2017)
Uzbekistan 10 to 15 51 SPM+ 86.00 Grigoriev & Lynn (2014 )
Uzbekistan 11 to 13 614 SPM+ 85.00 Salahodjaev et al. (2017)

Still, Luria has some of the best arguments against that position, so its a bit surprising that the blank slatists don’t cite him more.

stalin-the-tajik(4) Or maybe not, because it still didn’t save him him from the SJWs’ ideological predecessors, Sovok Justice Warriors:

These early studies carried out in the years 1926– 1931 found that there were substantial socioeconomic and ethnic/ racial differences in intelligence in the Soviet Union. These conclusions were not consistent with Marxist orthodoxy which held that these differences would disappear under communism. Accordingly, these studies, particularly that of Luria, attracted a great deal of criticism in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. This has been described by Kozulin (1984): “Critics accused Luria of insulting the national minorities of Soviet Asia whom he had ostensibly depicted as an inferior race. The results of the expedition were refused publication and the very theme of cultural development was forbidden” . In 1936 intelligence testing was banned in the Soviet Union. It was not until the 1960s and early 1970s that this prohibition was progressively relaxed (Grigorenko & Kornilova, 1997). Luria’s work was not published in Russian until 1974 and English translations were published in 1976 and 1979 (Luria, 1976, 1979).

As Lynn and Grigoriev point out, this was closely correlated to the suppression of genetics research, though at least Luria and Co. weren’t outright murdered like Vavilov.

The history of work on intelligence in the former Soviet Union parallels that of genetics, where mainstream Mendelian theory represented by Nikolai Vavilov in the 1920s was likewise suppressed in the 1930s and replaced by the environmentalist pseudo-genetics of Trofi m Lysenko. The domination of science by political theory was relaxed in the 1960s and 1970s, and in recent decades both intelligence research and Mendelian genetics have been rehabilitated in Russia.

Scientifically, there is real work being done on psychometrics in Russia, though in comparison to the US it is very meager and basically inconsequential.

Since it is not politicized in the US, it is neither promoted nor prosecuted.

If psychometric considerations were to move closer to politics, e.g. by tying them to the hot potato that is Central Asian immigration, things can go any which way. Although Russians have a more commonsense take on these matters – if 25% of Americans seriously think intelligence is a “social construct,” it’s probably more like 5% in Russia. On the other hand, the Leftists, Stalinists, and even many Eurasianists are aggressively opposed to the idea that intelligence is heritable and differs significantly between races, and in the event that the authorities side with them, Russian scientists don’t have the First Amendment or an fair and impartial court system to hide behind.

 
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About two thirds of the USSR’s 27 million casualties were civilians – that is, almost 10% of its prewar population. Had those percentages been applied to Nazi Germany, it would lost 8 million people – an order of magnitude than the 400,000 civilians it lost due to Allied strategic bombing, and the 600,000 who died during the expulsions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe (the vast majority of which were carried out by local authorities, not the Red Army or the NKVD).

About 3.3 million out of 5.7 million Soviet POWs died in Nazi custody (compared to 15% of German POWs in the half-starved USSR, and low single digit figures for Allied POWs in Nazi Germany). Had the Soviets treated its 4.2 million German POWs as harshly, with a death rate of 60%, the German number of military dead would have risen from 5.3 million to around 7.3 million. That’s not far off the figure of 8.7 million Soviet military deaths (9.2 million taking into account unregistered militia in 1941).

It’s now well known that Nazi long-term plans called for the eventual genocide of about 75% of the Soviet population, and the helotization/expulsion of the rest. If we count probabilities, assuming there was a 50% chance of Nazi victory over the USSR in 1941-42, and a 50% chance of Generalplan Ost being implemented in its full scale, that translates to around 200 million times 25% equals 50 million additional deaths. This means that in the average of all possible timelines, about 75 million Soviet citizens died, or 37.5% of its prewar population. That translates to around 30 million if these percentages are applied to Germany and its East European diaspora.

And yet for some people – for the most part, the most Rusophobic neocons and Cold Warriors, the more Nazi elements of the Alt Right, and deranged Poles and Balts who don’t quite realize what Hitler had in store for them – the Soviet rape of about 2 million women in Eastern Germany at the end of the war is supposed to be a really huge, defining war crime, even something that delegitimizes the overall Soviet victory.*

How many rapes is one death/murder “worth”? My intuition is that murder is quite a lot worse, perhaps by an order of magnitude if I had to quantify it, and I suspect that most people will agree. It just so happens that so do sentencing guidelines. The typical term for murder in the US is 30 years to life (which might functionally translate to an average of 50 years). The average term for rape is 10 years, of which about 5 are served. This is a differential of five. It also happens to be almost exactly the differential between the murder rate in the US (~5 cases / 100,000 anually) and the rate of rape and sexual assault (~30 / 100,000 annually, as per police records and self-victimization surveys). Let us then provisionally estimate that rape is on average 20% as “bad” as murder. (Note: I actually think it’s considerably less, because sentencing for murder is range constricted by biological ageing. And the homicide problem is usually considered to be worse than the sexual violence one, even though there are usually far fewer of them than there are rapes).

Therefore, let’s say 2 million rapes translates to 400,000 deaths. Compare this to 27 million Soviet civilian deaths (of which two thirds were civilians) in a war started by Nazi Germany, or the 75 million or so Soviet deaths across all timelines. Even assuming that the worst estimates of the Red Army rapes are accurate – they were still, at most, equivalent to far less than 1% of the Nazi crimes against Russia.

Now to be sure you can argue that not all “murders” are equal, especially in war. Direct genocide, like the gassings of Jews or the massacres of Belorussian villagers, seems to be worse than deaths incurred by incidental effects of war, such as bombings of industrial facilities or famine incurred due to the stresses of the war effort, which in turn are worse than military deaths, since society tends to consider soldiers as pretty much “fair game” (though it is questionable to what extent this can be applied to conscripts on the Eastern Front, who did not even get the theoretical possibility of opting out by applying for a “conscientious objector” status at the cost of their social reputation, as in the less “total” conflict of World War I). But there are many different types of rapes as well. There were traumatic gang rapes, to military brothels relying on considerable degrees of coercion, to women semi-voluntarily hooking up with one particular soldier in return for security, or just trading their bodies for food.

dyukov-what-soviets-fought-for Furthermore, contrary to the myth of the “clean Wehrmacht” spread by retired Nazi generals and their wehraboo admirers after the war, there was plenty of rape amongst German soldiers in the USSR. For instance, here is a quote from historian Alexander Dyukov’s 2007 book “What the Soviet People Fought For”:

Rape continued, and acquired an organized character. From time to time “hunting groups” ventured out of Wehrmacht positions. “We ventured out to the village near Rozhdestvenno near Gatchina,” said Peter Schuber, a private who was at the Seversky airport, “We had orders to bring girls to the officers. We did the operation successfully, surrounding all the houses. We grabbed a truckload of girls. The officers held the girls all night, and gave them to us soldiers in the morning.”

In the large cities, permanent brothels were organized. This was standard Wehrmacht practice. “There were military brothels, called Puff,” recalls SS officer Avenir Benningsen, “They were present on almost all fronts. Girls from all Europe, all nationalities, gathered up from all camps. By the way, the two condoms regularly handed out to men and officers were indispensable posessions.” But whereas in the European countries the Wehrmacht brothels were staffed more or less voluntarily, in the USSR there were no such considerations. Girls and women were forcibly rounded up, in scenes seared into the memories of people undergoing the occupation. In Smolensk, for instance, women were dragged off by the arms, by the hair, dragged along the pavement, into the officers’ brothel in one of the hotels. Those who refused to remain there were shot.

After Red Army soldiers drove the Germans out of Kerch, they encoutered a terrible sight: “In the courtyard of the prison there was a shapeless heap of naked female bodies, horrifically mutilated by the fascists.”

So even if we are to tally sexual crimes completely separately, the rapes of the Wehrmacht carried an organized, long-term character – similar to the Japanese Army’s abuse of Chinese and Korean comfort women – whereas Red Army rapes happened in a concentrated orgy of violence in the last few months of the war. That fury in turn was fueled by a regrettable but very understandable hatred for the death and devastation the Germans had wreaked in the USSR, made all the more inexplicable by the overwhelming prosperity of the Germans relative to the ramshackle poverty of Soviet life.

Incidentally, soon after the war, as the follow-up to his “toast to the Russian people,” Stalin presided over another famine that took 500,000 Russian lives (more than fifty years after the worst famine of late Imperial Russia, in which a similar number died). Why? Because the USSR was exporting grain to support its new Communist client states, including East Germany. (Functionally, Stalin agreed with the Nazis that German lives were worth more than Russian lives). This one event alone is by utilitarian metrics considerably more horrific than all the Red Army rapes in Germany.

The real “Soviet Story“: Stalin mutilates Russia. Hitler mutilates Russia. Stalin mutilates Hitler, then mutilates Russia some more. Russophobe ideologues conclude that Russia is as bad as Hitler (if not worse).

Just people who insist on questioning the lethality of Zyklon B or how many people the shower rooms in Auschwitz could accomodate tend to have motives that are suspect, to put it mildly, so it is a pretty good bet that anyone who consistently gives primacy to the Red Army rapes and looting in Germany when discussing the moral weightings of the USSR vs. Nazi Germany might sooner be looking to replay Hitler’s/Stalin’s joint genocide against Russia.

* I would note that there are questions about whether there actually were that many Red Army rapes in Germany; for instance, there are arguments that they are based on unrealistic extrapolations from a small sample of abortion statistics. I haven’t studied this issue in any depth myself and will assume that the conventional mass rape narrative is broadly correct. If this is not the case and there actually were much fewer rapes, that makes the main argument even stronger.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Rape, Soviet Union, World War II 
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stalin-the-tajik

Stalin waxing lyrical about the friendship of peoples in April 1941, a famous period of international idyll when there were no other important concerns:

… I want to say a few words about the Tajiks. The Tajiks are a special people. They are not Uzbeks, Kazakhs, or Kyrgiz – they are Tajiks, the most ancient people of Central Asia. The Tajik – that means the one who wears the crown, that is how they were called by the Iranians, and the Tajiks have justified this title.

Out of the all the non-Russian Muslim peoples of the USSR, the Tajiks are the sole non-Turkic ethnicity – they are an Iranian ethnicity. The Tajiks are the people whose intelligentsia produced the great poet Ferdowsi, and it is no surprise that the Tajiks draw their cultural traditions from him. You must have felt the artistic flair of the Tajiks in the past decade, that their ancient culture and unique artistic talent as expressed in music, and song, and dance.

Sometimes our Russian colleagues mix them up: The Tajiks with Uzbeks, the Uzbeks with Turkmen, the Armenians with Georgians. This is, of course, incorrect. The Tajiks are a unique people, with a huge and ancient culture, and under our Soviet conditions they are marked out for a great future. And the entire Soviet Union must help them with that. I want their art to enjoy everyone’s attention.

I propose a toast to the flowering of Tajik art, to the Tajik people, and so that we, Muscovites, are always prepared to help them with everything that is necessary.

This is approximately a bazillion times less well known than Stalin’s toast to the Russian people at the end of World War 2, which is often cited by anti-Russian Cold Warriors (and many deluded Russian nationalists) to equate Stalinism with Russian nationalism.

While I don’t have anything particular against the Tajiks, the above toast does not strike me as something that would be uttered by any Russian nationalist like… ever.

The reality is that Stalin hated and persecuted Russian nationalism as much as any other Bolshevik ideologue, but opportunistically adopted some of its talking points every now and then to shore up his regime. Of course actual Russian nationalists who took him at his word seriously enough to return to the USSR tended to meet sticky ends.

The main thing that distinguished Stalin from his multinational predecessors was that he was more consistent and also went after the other national minority – Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, etc. – nationalisms that the Old Bolsheviks had fostered. Considering the ethnic composition of the most active Cold Warriors and neocons explains a lot about their curiously specific hatred of Stalin and (regrettably, rather successful) efforts to associate him with Russian nationalism in the Western discourse.

 
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stalin-worship

It’s hard to view Stalin as any sort of Russian national hero considering the demonstrable idiocy of his apologists’ arguments.

Trying to portray him as such involves descending into a fantasy world in which no country had ever managed to industrialize itself without killing off millions of its most intelligent and productive people or have won a war against a European Great Power without the indispensable strategic wisdom that you could only get from a Georgian dropout who spent his youth robbing banks and sitting in jail with his fellow Bolshevik comrades and sundry ethnic minority activists. A more rabidly Russophobic outlook could scarcely be imagined.

So its pretty sad to see that Russian sentiments towards Stalin generally are (and have been) positive, despite the Kremlin’s half-hearted attempts to disassociate him from the Great Victory cult that is now the primary spiritual glue used to keep Russia together.

russian-sentiments-on-stalin

That said, it is very valid to ask why said apologetics industry for Stalin developed in Russia from the 2000s in the first place. Was it Kremlin propaganda? Nope. Only people whose only exposure to Russia is through the dregs of Western journalism can seriously believe that. Putin’s own statements on Stalin have been consistently ambivalent, and even the infamous “Stalinist” textbook episode of 2009 – just one minor textbook of many dozens, which the Western media portrayed as a state-backed “rehabilitation” of Stalin – contained sentences such as “ruthless exploitation of the population.”

So if this wasn’t due to a Kremlin propaganda campaign, then why the enduring Stalinophilia? My view is that it was Russian society’s response to the wholesale “blackwashing” of Stalin that took place in the 1990s with rhetoric about “muh 72 million victims of Communism” lifted from Cold War scholars in the West who had to speculate in the absence of archival access.

Such extreme positions were uncritically pushed by the Westernizing ideologues who constitute Russian liberalism once society opened up in the late 1980s and 1990s, to the extent that the phenomenon even got its own ironic meme (“billions shot dead personally by Stalin”). Considering some of the truly crazy stuff that was floating about – there were entirely serious articles in the liberal press arguing that Nazi conquest could have been better for Russia than Stalin – this was not too surprising in hindsight.

One would think that given Stalin’s actual record, which was sordid enough, you would not need to “blackwash” him any further, but ideologues will be ideologues, so what happened happened, and next thing you know many people started suspecting that given the false facts and figures being pushed about Stalin – demonstrated so by the newly accessible archival evidence itself – then maybe they were lying about everything else as well, and well maybe Stalin was actually the good guy after all, maligned by his bitter and limp-wristed successors who “sold out” the Glorious Leader.

And thus a huge strand of the Russian “patriotic” opposition to the liberal neocon hegemony of the 1990s, which had decidedly triumphed by the end of Putin’s first term, had in the process also become infested with Stalinophilia – even though it is not really compatible with Russian patriotism, let alone Russian nationalism (which the Communists, including Stalin, ruthlessly persecuted). The tendency of Stalin’s popularity to wax and wane in sync with the state of Russia’s relations with the West – lower when they are good, and higher when they are bad – strongly suggests that the debate over Stalin in Russia has nothing to do with real history. Instead, it is merely one of several tribal identifiers in politics, much like denial of global warming is a tenet of the Red Tribe and blank slatism is a tenet of the Blue Tribe, both of which have everything to do with American-specific politics and nothing to do with science. In Russia’s case, this Stalinist identifier – like the broader patriotic Great Patriotic War ideology onto which it has affixed itself – gets deflated and boosted whenever Russia veers between globalist integrationism and siege mentality, respectively.

This is not critical in the short term. To be sure, it generates negative headlines in the West, but that’s irrelevant because even if Russia were to uneqivocally start condemning Stalin, Western editors would just find something else to latch onto so long as Russia remains a sovereign country. In the longer term, however, these contradictions will have to be resolved.

 
• Category: History • Tags: Iosef Stalin, Russia, Soviet Union 
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Commentator jimmyriddle finds statistics about the ethnic composition of scientific cadres in the Soviet Union in 1973 via Cassad (the original comes via the blogger Burkino Faso).

ethnicity-of-soviet-scientists-1973

 

Drawing on earlier statistical data, although on a more limited sample of different ethnicities, we have the following sets of correlations:

  • 1926 Census, literacy amongst 50 years olds+ – r = .92
  • 1926 Census, overall literacy – r = .72
  • 1939 Census, overall literacy – r = .61
  • 1939 Census, high school graduation – r = .93
  • 1939 Census, higher education – r = .99

Considering this without Jews who are huge outliers everywhere here:

  • 1926 Census, literacy amongst 50 years olds+ – r = .82
  • 1926 Census, overall literacy – r = .74
  • 1939 Census, overall literacy – r = .72
  • 1939 Census, high school graduation – r = .91
  • 1939 Census, higher education – r = .93

So the two best predictors are:

(1) The literacy rate amongst the last Tsarist era generation, i.e. people who were 50+ years old in 1926, hence were born before 1876. That was before the advent of mass schooling in the Russian Empire, so I suspect that was when the literacy rate amongst the various regions of the Russian Empire was also the most “g loaded” (apart from places where the Protestant factor was also at play).

(2) Even more so, the share of people with higher education according to the 1939 Census. This stands to reason.

***

PISA suggests that the Georgians have very low IQs. I mean literally India-like, in the low 80s. However, the above suggests that its underperformance is more a result of massive brain drain – as in other countries that score ridiculously lower than expected based on their ethnic composition, such as Moldova and Puerto Rico, and before the 1990s, Ireland – as well as possibly the collapse of the schooling system to an extent that didn’t happen elsewhere. Probably the two most highly achieving Georgians today are historical detective fiction writer and political oppositioner Boris Akunin (Chkhartishvili) and the controversial but undoutedbly very talented Moscow based sculptor Zurab Tsereteli.

Armenia does not participate in PISA, but its results from TIMSS were significantly lower than Russia’s, at around Ukraine’s or Romania’s level. However, it might be grossly underperforming for the same reasons that Georgia is. First off, a massive amount of the brainier Armenians have emigrated to Russia and the West. In both places they are prominent relative to their numbers, with a powerful lobby in the US (even if it has nothing on the Jewish lobby) and a very powerful lobby in Russia that one could argue stretches all the way to Sergey Lavrov himself, who is half-Armenian. Former chess champion and oppositionist Gary Kasparov is half-Armenian, while the older Soviet chess champion Tigran Petrosian was fully Armenian. They are also the closest cousins of the Jews in terms of genetic distance. A mischievous observation one can make is that like the Jews, Armenians also seem to be unduly prone to political radicalism when abroad, from Sergey Kurginyan and Gary Kasparov (in their own ways) in Russia to Maoist nutjob Bob Avakian and SJW figurehead Anita Sarkeesian in the US, but maintain a safely homogenous and culturally rightist (if dumber) society at home.

In the overall scheme of things, from Jews down to Gypsies, there are no really big surprises.

 
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More info against the Department of Russia Only Produces Oil and Vodka: Here are some graphs of Russian aerospace manufacturing courtesy of the Reality vs. Myths blog. (2013 figures are projections).

russia-helicopter-construction-gloriaputina

Total helicopter construction has now basically converged with the levels of the late RSFSR.

russia-aircraft-construction-gloriaputina

Aircraft construction is only halfway there, but its state is nonetheless leagues better than it was in the depths of the post-Soviet freefall. As the blogger points out, its poorer performance via-a-vis helicopters can be explained by the fact that the technologies used in Soviet civil aircraft was outdated, so the Russian industry essentially had to start over from scratch. Nonetheless, it seems to have reached the point of a rapid further up-trend, presumably driven by the Sukhoi SuperJet 100 as it enters mass production. The United Aircraft Corporation, the holding company into which independent Russian aircraft companies were consolidated in 2006, projects production increasing to 160 units by 2020.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Economy, Manufacturing, Soviet Union 
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My latest for VoR/US-Russia Experts panel. Hope you like the title. :)

The political fragmentation of the Soviet Union was one of the major contributing factors to the “hyper-depression” that afflicted not only Russia but all the other constituent republics in the 1990′s. The Soviet economy had been an integrated whole; an aircraft might have its engines sourced from Ukraine, its aluminium body from Russia, and its navigational ball-bearings from Latvia. Suddenly, border restrictions and tariffs appeared overnight – adding even more complexity and headaches to a chaotic economic situation. Although the region was in for a world of hurt either way, as economies made their screeching transitions to capitalism, disintegration only served to further accentuate the economic and social pain. In this respect, Putin was correct to call the dissolution of the Soviet Union one of the 20th century’s greatest geopolitical tragedies.

It is no longer possible – and in some cases, even desirable – to restore much of the productive capacity lost in that period. Nonetheless, renewed economic integration across the Eurasian space – with its attendant promise of less red tape (and hence lower opportunities for corruption), significantly bigger markets offering economies of scale, and the streamlining of legal and regulatory standards – is clearly a good deal for all the countries concerned from an economic perspective. There is overwhelming public support for the Common Economic Space in all member and potential member states: Kazakhstan (76%), Tajikistan (72%), Russia (70%), Kyrgyzstan (63%), Belarus (62%), and Ukraine (56%). The percentage of citizens opposed doesn’t exceed 10% in any of those countries. A solid 60%-70% of Ukrainians consistently approve of open borders with Russia, without tariffs or visas, while a further 20% want their countries to unite outright; incidentally, both figures are lower in Russia itself, making a mockery of widespread claims that Russians harbor imperialistic, “neo-Soviet,” and revanchist feelings towards “their” erstwhile domains.

This I suppose brings us to Ariel Cohen, neocon think-tanks, Hillary “Putin has no soul” Clinton, and John “I see the letters KGB in Putin’s eyes” McCain. They studiously ignore the fact that the Eurasian Union is primarily an economic association, and not even one that insists on being exclusionary to the EU. They prefer not to mention that the integration project has strong support in all the countries involved, with Russia not even being the most enthusiastic about it – which is quite understandable, considering that as its richest member it would also be expected to provide the lion’s bulk of any transfer payments. In this respect, it is the direct opposite of the way the Soviet Union was built – through military occupation, and against the will of the vast majority of the Russian Empire’s inhabitants. Though expecting someone like McCain, who one suspects views the “Tsars” and Stalin and Putin as matryoshka dolls nestled within each other, to appreciate any of that is unrealistic and a waste of time.

Enough with entertaining the senile ramblings from those quarters. Integration makes patent economic sense; it enjoys broad popular support throughout the CIS; and there are no global opponents to it – official China, for instance, is supportive – barring a small clique of prevaricating, anti-democratic, and perennially Russophobic ideologues centered in the US and Britain. Neither the West nor any other bloc has any business dictating how the sovereign nations of Eurasia choose to coordinate their economic and political activities.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Hard as it is to believe, but in the wake of the Boston Bombings, many Western commentators actively trying to find the roots of the Tsarnaev brothers’ rage in Russia’s “aggression” or even “genocide” of Chechnya.

This is not to deny that Chechens did not have an exceptionally hard time of it in the 1990s. That said, what strikes one is the pathological one-sidedness of some of the commentary, such as this vomit-inducing screed by Thor Halvorssen, a self-imagined human rights promoter from Norway. In their world, it is a simple morality tale of small, plucky Chechnya being repeatedly ravaged by the big, bad Russian imperialist – and it is one that many people, conditioned in appropriate ways for two decades by the Western media, swallow hook, line, and sinker.

It’s not that simple. But rather than (re)dredging up many words and sources, let’s just suffice with one of the most telling graphs on the matter: The population graph of Chechnya since 1989.

chechnya-population-by-ethnicity-to-2010

Some people are certainly getting ethnically cleansed there alright, but it’s not who you might think it is. So this, essentially, is what the Russian “genocide” of Chechens boils down to: 715,306 Chechens & 269,130 Russians in 1989; 1,206,551 Chechens & 24,382 Russians in 2010. Russians almost entirely gone from there, even though the lands north of the Terek River – that is, about a third of Chechnya – were first settled by Cossacks during the 16th century and had never been Chechen until the 20th century. Those Russians (and other minority ethnicities) were terrorized out of Chechnya during the rule of “moderate nationalists” Maskhadov and Zakayev, whom the likes of Halvorssen describe as the “legitimate government of Chechnya,” with several thousand of them murdered outright. This ethnic cleansing continued unimpeded into the 2000s with the complicit silence of the “nationalist” Putin regime.

I really wish all the (non-Chechen) “Free Chechnya!” people could be reborn as minorities in 1990′s Chechnya in their next lives so that the likes of Halvorssen can experience firsthand the extent to which Chechens “share the democratic values of a Western civilization.”

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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It’s no real secret that many Russians have a positive impression of Stalin; it was 49% in February 2013, insignificantly down from 53% in 2003. (This is not a view that I share). There are probably a few big reasons for this: (1) The mistaken notion that without him Russia would have remained in the age of plows, not rockets; (2) The relatively low corruption and perceived social justice in that time; (3) His role in securing victory in WW2, the latter of which carried away far, far more Russian lives than Stalinist repressions; (4) Last but not least, the liberal-promoted defamation of Stalin and associated efforts to equalize the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany; this is deeply repugnant to the majority of Russians – especially as while the majority did have someone die or go MIA in their families during 1941-45, many fewer had relatives sent to the Gulag for political crimes let alone shot – and as such there was a regrettable but entirely understandable angry reaction to such slanders in the 2000s.

What it is almost certainly not, however, is part and parcel of some “neo-Soviet revanchism” that seeks to forcibly reincorporate former territories into Russia (Russian nationalism today is primarily of the contemporary European kind that seeks to limit immigration in its moderate form, and expel ethnic minorities in its radical form). It’s certainly not because of some Putin imposed blackout on discussions of Stalin’s crimes; only retards who read neocon media would believe that. Nor is it something that is specific to Russians and the long-abused meme of their “yearning for a strong hand“. Because according to Levada polls, pro-Stalin sentiment in “democratic Georgia” is actually substantially higher than in Russia.

Russia Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia
Positive emotions 28 21 30 49
Negative emotions 23 37 35 19
+/- Ratio 1.2 0.57 0.86 2.6
Indifferent emotions 50 43 36 33

The table above shows the sum of positive emotions (adulation, respect, sympathy), negative emotions (dislike, fear, repugnance, hatred), and indifferent emotions (don’t know who was Stalin – 1% in Russia, 4% in Georgia, a remarkable 20% in Azerbaijan, refuse to answer) towards Stalin. Georgians have by far the most positive opinions towards him in net terms, and are also the least indifferent to him; while pro-Stalinists slightly outnumber anti-Stalinists in Russia, it also has the highest percentage of people who are indifferent to him.

georgians-russians-approve-stalin

“Stalin was a wise leader, who brought the USSR to greatness and prosperity” – 47% of Russians agree, 38% disagree; 69% of Georgians agree, 16% disagree.

georgians-russians-stalin-tyrant

“Stalin was a cruel and inhumane tyrant, guilty of the annihilation of millions of innocent people” – 66% of Russians agree, 20% disagree; 51% of Georgians agree, 26% disagree.

russians-georgians-strong-hand

The strong hand theory: “Our people could never cope without a leader of Stalin’s calibre, who would come and restore order” – 30% of Russians agree, 52% disagree; 29% of Georgians agree, 47% disagree.

russians-georgians-want-to-live-under-stalin

“Would you personally like to live and work under a national leader like Stalin?” – 18% of Russians want to, 67% don’t; 27% of Georgians want to, 60% don’t.

russians-georgians-repressions-justified

“Are the losses sustained by the Soviet peoples under Stalin justified by the great aims and results that were achieved in a short time period?” – 25% of Russians agree, 60% disagree; 28% of Georgians agree, 45% disagree.

ukrainians-on-stalin

Finally, a poll on how Ukrainians view Stalin: “Stalin was a great leader.” Not directly comparable with the polls in Russia and the Caucasus countries, but still, if you believe that Stalin was unequivocal ruin and evil, you are unlikely to say that he was a “great leader”; at the least, a positive answer implies some level of ambiguity. And as we can see a majority of Ukrainians in the east and south view him positively. Even from those from the center, who suffered most from the collectivization famines, more say he was a great leader than not. The only part of the country which definitely says he was not a “great leader” is the far west but of course it too has its own historical cockroaches.

Of course I have to stress that I don’t condemn Georgians for loving Stalin; the aim of this post is just to clear up some misconceptions that idiot Westerners have about how Russian Stalinophilia is somehow “exceptional” in the post-Soviet context and worthy of endless harping in the media. If I was a Georgian I too would probably love a countryman who administratively expanded the borders of Sakartvelo and subjugated those one hundred million Russkies up north under his heel. But it does also show the hilarious hypocrisy of Saakashvili who used to rant on about how Georgians are inherently more democratic-minded and historically responsible than Russians.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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As I write the book, I create a lot of graphs. Here is one of them.

russia-automobile-production

So in manufacturing terms, as far as cars are concerned, the “deindustrialization” era is decidedly over.

Of course it’s also important to note that in 1985 they were producing this whereas today they are producing this as well as various foreign brands. Plus for every two cars produced and sold in Russia today, one is imported, for total yearly sales of 2.9 million in 2012 (about the same as in Brazil – 3.6 million, Germany – 3.3 million, and India – 2.7 million).

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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One of the standard memes about Russia’s demographic trajectory was the “Russian Cross.” While at the literal level it described the shape of the country’s birth rate and death rate trajectories, a major reason why it entered the discourse was surely because it also evoked the foreboding of the grave.

russian-cross

But this period now appears to have come to a definitive end. Russia’s population ceased falling around at about 2009; in the past year, it has increased by over 400,000 thanks to net immigration.

Meanwhile, against all general expectations, the birth rates and death rates have essentially equalized. Whereas in 2011 natural decrease was still at a substantial 131,000, preliminary figures indicate that it has subsided to a mere 2,573 for this year. It could just as easily turn positive once the figures are revised. For all intents and purposes, the “Russian Cross” has become the “Russian Hexagon.”

russian-hexagon

This is a momentous landmark in many ways.

(1) More than anything else, Russia’s demographic crisis during the past two decades has been advanced as a quintessential element of its decline. Phrases such as the aforementioned “Russian cross”, the “demographic death spiral”, and “”the dying bear” proliferated in respectable journals and books. Until a few years ago, some entirely serious demographic projections had Russia’s population falling to as low as 130 million by 2015. This “deathbed demography” imagery was in turn exploited by many journalists to implicit condemn the rottenness of the Russian state in general and Putin in particular. Will they now rush to trumpet Russia’s demographic recovery, which was only possible through directed state intervention to improve the population’s health, cut down on the alcohol epidemic, and provide generous benefits for families with second children? For some reason I suspect the amount of ink that will be spilt on this will be but a tiny, minuscule fraction of that used to herald Russia’s demographic apocalypse. They will predictably move on to other failures and inadequacies – both real or perceived.

(2) For many years there has existed the notion among some demographers that once a society’s total fertility falls to a “lowest-low” level, there can be no return. It was theorized that the social values of childlessness and small families would spread, and that the resultant rapid aging would make it impossible for young families to have many children anyway. Russia’s total fertility rate fell to a record low of 1.16 children per woman in 1999, but rose above 1.30 in 2006, reached 1.61 in 2011, and rose further to an estimated 1.70 in 2012. It is thus so far the biggest and most important exception to this “lowest-low fertility trap hypothesis.” In reality, what was actually happening was that many Russian women were postponing the formation of families – a process common to most nations that reach a certain level of development. This in turn laid the foundations for the mini-baby boom that were are now seeing.

(3) There was likewise widespread pessimism that Russia’s life expectancy would ever significantly improve for the better. In the best case, it was assumed it would creep upwards, reaching 70 years or so in another few decades. However, the experience of other regions with Russia’s mortality profile, such as North Karelia in the 1980′s or the Baltic states in the 2000′s – very high death rates among middle aged men who drank too much – suggested that rapid improvements are possible with the right mix of policy interventions. This has happened. Russia’s life expectancy in 2012 was about 71 years, still nothing to write home about; however, it was higher than it ever was in the USSR, where it reached a peak of 70.0 years at the height of Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign in 1987, and equal to Estonia’s in 2002, Hungary’s in 1998, and Finland’s in 1973. If it were now to follow in Estonia’s mortality trajectory – and this is not an unreasonable supposition, considering Russia is now passing the tough anti-alcohol and anti-smoking taxes and regulations typical of developed countries – it would be on track to reach a life expectancy of 75 years by 2020 (Putin’s goal of 2018 is however probably too optimistic).

russia-deaths-from-external-causes

In particular, it should be noted that the worst types of deaths – those from external causes – have been cut down the most radically. Though they only account for a small proportion of total deaths, they tend to happen at earlier ages and thus have a significant impact on the workforce and overall life expectancy out of proportion to their actual prevalence. A calculation from 2005 showed that the effect of a 40% decline in deaths from external causes would be as good as a 20% decline in deaths from all circulatory diseases at extending male life expectancy. This has been achieved; as of 2012 it was at 125/100,000, down from an average of about 250/100,000 during the “demographic crisis” period but still far, far short of the 40/100,000 rates more typical of developed countries with no alcoholism epidemics. But as I’ve said before and will say again, while Russia’s “hypermortality” crisis isn’t anywhere near as severe as it once was, it is nothing to write home about; a great deal remains to be done. But the trend-lines are pointing firmly down, and the economic crisis of 2009 had zero effect on the underlying processes. This is extremely encouraging, as it implies that Russia has now become a “normal country” in which improvements in health and mortality steadily advance regardless of economic fluctuations.

I have anticipated many of these developments, and indeed, ventured forth with projections of my own. Here are some predictions made on the basis of my research and analysis from 2008:

  1. Russia will see positive population growth starting from 2010 at the latest. CHECK.
  2. Natural population increase will occur starting from 2013 at the latest. CHECK.
  3. Russia’s total life expectancy will exceed 68 years by 2010 and reach 75 years by 2020. Looks increasingly LIKELY.

There is no need for false modesty. I put my neck on the line and came out best against most of the established expert opinion.

But this is no time to rest on laurels and reminsce on past glories. The 2010 Census is out. Demographic data up till 2012 is available. It’s been a long four years since I wrote that model. It is high time to update it. I’ve been planning to do that for my book anyway, but now that I think about it, why not publish a paper at the same time? I have long been a fan of open access anyway, especially as regards academia.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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There’s tons of criticism that Russia no longer has a “national idea.”

The sentiment comes from almost everyone: Nationalists, liberasts, Communists, foreign critics, Russian “experts” with far too much time on their hands, and even some otherwise astute observers.

I don’t disagree with the thesis, but do ask: Why is that such a bad thing?

Grand narratives and universal theories tend to be poor at describing the world as it really is, and not infrequently lead to large-scale mistakes and suffering when pursued with excess zeal. The USSR is a classic example of a country with a “national idea.” So was the US under the neocons.

Even when they don’t lead to stupid outcomes they are almost inevitably farcical when promoted by politicos, under virtually any political system. Instead of inspiring, the only thing “universal” about them is that everyone mocks them. Suffice to mention “The Big Society” (Tories, UK); “sovereign democracy” (Surkov, Russia); “harmonious society” (the Chinese Communist Party).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5c3BrylMLc]

Putin himself put it best, in response the question, “When will Russia get an idea for which one can live for and create for?” He said, “Galina Dmitrievna, – for our children, our grandchildren, for our Motherland, Russia, it always was, is, and will be worth living for and creating for. What else is there? However we might try to come up with a national idea, it has to be said directly: There is nothing closer to someone than his family, his close ones, and his own country.”

Alternatively, the joke website Lurkmore too has a good article on the concept.

National ideas suck. Putin emphasizes pretty mundane things like conservatism, patriotism, pragmatism, and a growing GDP and I for one am more than satisfied with that.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Just to hammer down the myth of Russian impoverishment one more time (with the help of graphs from Sergey Zhuravlev’s blog)…

In the past few years, in terms of basic necessities (food, clothing, housing) Russia has basically (re)converged to where the Soviet Union left off. Here is a graph of food consumption via Zhuravlev. At the bottom, the dark blue line is represents meat; the yellow, milk; the blue line, vegetables; the pink line, fish; the cyan line, fruits and berries; and azure line, sugar and sweets. At the top, the purple line are bread products, and the dark blue/green line are potatoes.

Meat consumption has essentially recovered to late Soviet levels, although it still lags considerably behind Poland, Germany, and other more prosperous carnivorous cultures. Milk fell and hasn’t recovered, but that is surely because it was displaced in part by fruit juices and soft drinks (which isn’t to say that’s a good thing – but not indicative of poverty either), and the fall in sugar consumption is surely a reflection of the near doubling of fruit consumption. We also see that bread and potato consumption peaked in the 1990′s, especially in the two periods of greatest crisis – the early 1990′s, and 1998. This is what we might expect of inferior goods like bread and potatoes.

There is a broadly similar story in housing construction. The chart left shows the annual area (in m2) constructed by 1,000 people. As we can see, after holding steady from the mid 1950′s to the late 1980′s, it more than halved by the late 1990′s; since then, however, construction has recovered almost to Soviet levels, the recent crisis barely making a dint.

Note that during the Soviet period, however, there were tons of peasants migrating into the cities, whereas today the urban population is more or less stable (after having declined by about 5 million). In general, mass housing construction once it got started in the 1950′s was one of the overlooked but significant achievements of the Soviet era – this, along with population migration controls, allowed urban Russia to avoid the slums you see even in relatively rich Third World places like Mexico or Thailand today. Nonetheless, apartments were cramped, and there were long waiting lines; while prices might be high today, the rationing in the Soviet period was just as real – it just took the form of scarcity and long queues. Today a big chunk of the new construction involves knocking down and replacing the Soviet-era housing stock with better buildings.

As shown in the graph above, also compiled by Sergey Zhuravlev, Russian consumption of food products, meat, fish, milk, and fruit was by 2008 essentially equal to US and West European levels. (Consumption of tobacco and alcohol is unfortunately significantly higher). But spending on clothing, housing, furniture, healthcare, transport, holidays, and restaurants is below 50% of US levels, even after accounting for price differences. (The situation vis-a-vis Western Europe is slightly better). On the one hand, this means that whereas Russians now have full bellies, the country still lags on life’s perks and luxuries – most especially on restaurants and holidays. On the other hand, it may well presage strong growth in the years to come.

The final graph shows the housing area constructed in 2012 per 1,000 people (red, upper axis), and the total number of apartments built per 1,000 residents (green, lower axis). Much maligned Belarus emerges as the star performer, building more housing than any other country listed. Whatever one’s thoughts on Lukashenko’s rule but this along with its (surprisingly good) overall relative economic performance should give one pause before insisting on privatization and deregulation as a sine qua non of socio-economic development. Russia is second after Belarus, followed by Kazakhstan; Poland; Slovakia; Denmark; Uzbekistan (also a socialist economy albeit a very poor one); Azerbaijan; Ukraine; Hungary; Estonia; Latvia; Armenia; Bulgaria; Lithuania; Moldova; Kyrgyzstan; Tajikistan.

This is part of a long list of basic indicators on which Russia in the past few years on which Russia has either caught up with (e.g. life expectancy) or far exceeded (e.g. automobile ownership) Soviet levels.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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From what I generally knew of contemporary Eastern European attitudes towards Jews (in two words “not good”) I expected that the Russian public’s attitude towards Israel would be decidely frosty, if not outright hostile… But what seems noteworthy to me is not the downward blip in 2006 but the generally high level of Russian support for Israel over the past 9 years and the generally small number of Russians who will outright say they relate poorly towards it (the balance being made up by people who said they have a hard time answering).Mark Adomanis.

There are several reasons as far as I can see, some of them obvious, some of them not so obvious because they are clouded over by noxious PC fumes.

* There are now simply a lot fewer Jews in Russia. There were 1.4mn in 1989 in the USSR, and 550,000 in the RSFSR; as of 2010, only 158,000. Jews typically occupy positions in the economy, culture, etc. out of all proportion to their population size. This is typically ascribed to conspiracies whereas in fact it is a simple function of their IQ’s which are about one S.D. above the white European average. This typically causes resentment in places where Jews settle with a few major exceptions like the Anglo-Saxon world. In fact much of Tsarist and Soviet “discrimination” against Jews was (in modern US terms) an affirmative action plan for the indigenous population.

* While Jews in the late Soviet era were heavily associated with dissidence, a function of their relative exclusion from mainstream politics, now they range all over the spectrum. While a majority are still probably more liberal than not you now have Jews like the TV games star and Stalinist blogger Anatoly Wasserman not to mention Zhirinovsky (aka Eidelstein) who is a half-Jew as well as the head of the biggest nationalist party.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6eZd1x3M0g]

* Migrants from the South Caucasus who are seen as more criminalized and dependent on welfare (“Stop feeding the Caucasus!”) – and not mistakenly so, regardless of what the PC brigade wants to claim – are far more of a everyday concern than ZOG conspiracies. For a typical Muscovite there is simply far more reason to fear the Chechen who will beat up his nerdy son in school than the besuited Jewish IT professional who would hire him.

* While the USSR supported the Arabs, today’s Russia balances between them. There is military cooperation between Russia and Israel, e.g. on drones, and there exists a visa-free travel regime between them. Something on which the EU not to even mention the US has long dragged its feet on.

* Critically Israel does not criticize Russia for HR abuses, illiberalism, etc. as most Western countries love doing. This makes sense because Israel is hardly a very liberal state itself and besides it is not in its interests to make additional enemies if it can possibly help it. Even on a site like Inosmi where commentators tend to be pretty nationalist Israel does not get bad rap. Whenever “Gayropean” do-gooders sail a “freedom flotilla” to Israel, the good people of Inosmi sympathize with the Israelis, and wish Russia could retaliate in similarly uncompromising fashion against foreign liberal interventionists who undermine its sovereignty.

* As Mark Adomanis correctly noticed, both Russia and Israel have problems with Islamist terrorists. Who happen to be supported by liberal forces abroad.

* Jews and Israelis are seen as distinct. Jews are the rootless cosmopolitans, more loyal to their in-group than their country of residence. Israelis on the other hand are a nation of blood and soil.

* According to (Russian Jewish-American) historian Yuri Slezkine the history of the 20th century is one of peoples around the world “becoming Jewish” in terms of values. This has been especially true in post-Soviet Russia. Case in point: While most of the oligarchs were Jewish, most Russians would still rather emulate than dispossess them. Among Europeans, Russians and Israelis are the two peoples who most agree that “it is important to be rich, have money and expensive things.” This is no longer a picture of peasant, honest Russians vs. urban, mercantile Jews as it was a century ago. There are no longer any irreducible value differences between the two peoples. (The same of course cannot be said for urban Russians vs. clannish Chechens, Avars, etc., from the mountains).

Hope that goes some way to explaining things.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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I will be jetting off tomorrow to Washington, but before I do – a translation of Edward Lozansky’s interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda (Америка ненавидит Россию, которую сама себе придумала). Lozansky, who used to be a Soviet dissident, is the organizer of the World Russia Forum and has many strong, pertinent views on why it’s a good idea to develop the US – Russian partnership.

An American politologist and a Russian journalist from Komsomolskaya Pravda tried to find out whether it’s possible to change Washington’s attitude to Moscow.

America Hates The Russia That It Invented Itself

Discussion with Edward Lozansky, Alexei Pankin, and KP’s Aleksandr Grishin.

A new period is beginning in US – Russia relations at the start of Vladimir Putin’s new term as Russian President. Washington doesn’t hide its critical attitude to Moscow, despite mutual assurances that the Reset is here to stay. American politologist Edward Lozansky and Russian journalist Alexei Pankin are with us at Komsomolskaya Pravda to discuss what we can expect from these new developments.

For some – a partner, for others – a competitor

Lozansky: I would identify two schools of political thought and public opinion. One of them is more influential than the other. It considers Russia to be not far removed from the Soviet Union, and while there may no longer be ideological differences, geopolitical conflicts remain unresolved. That is why Russia is seen as an unfriendly country. And how do you deal with an unfriendly country? You use hard power – the Pentagon, and soft power, including the media. And you take other opportunities to portray this country in a bad light. The vast majority of the American media holds these positions.

The second school consists of pragmatists, who consider that Russia has made certain progress in areas such as freedom, human rights, and democracy. They understand that it is not perfect – there are no perfect countries. Nonetheless, Russia is an important geopolitical partner of the US, and has to be treated accordingly. No interference in its internal affairs, but a search for common problems and their solutions.

This is the main difference. The first group assumes that Russia is a competitor and an adversary. The possible future President, Mitt Romney, even claimed that Russia is Enemy Number One, a characterization to which even his fellow party members objected. The second group considers your country a partner. Unfortunately, the second school, to which I attach myself, is less significant. Its voice only occasionally seeps into the mass media, while the first one dominates.

Pankin: As the editor of the Russian version of an international publishing journal, I have a lot of contacts with foreign journalists. And I am surprised that they, who monitor the state of freedoms in Russia and – one might think – would be a highly informed public, live in a world of strange stereotypes. I was recently in Tunis, where UNESCO was marking World Press Freedom Day. I was struck by the attitudes there towards me, as if I was someone who had escaped from Putin’s torture chambers. I was unable to explain to them that I was not some kind of downtrodden person, because they simply refuse to see anything which doesn’t coincide with their stereotypes.

For instance, they tell me: “What bad luck for you, that you guys elected Putin again.” And when you try to grind in the point that Putin got a MAJORITY OF THE VOTES in the country, that he was ELECTED by the people, you can see them becoming flabbergasted as their frames of reference are challenged.

Grishin: Well doesn’t this mean that for the American political majority it doesn’t matter who’s in power in Moscow, democrats or conservatives. Putin comes in, goes out, but Russia remains a geopolitical rival or enemy. It is Russia’s very existence in its current form that the US has a problem with. Is that not so?

Lozansky: It is likely that ultimately a few things will change, if people who are prepared to help the US more come to power. Much depends to what extent your policies support American interests. Take Georgia. They got colossal financial support. The biggest in per capita terms, by the way, of all the other countries that get American aid. For all its debts – and America has huge debts – it is still able to find the funds to support Georgia, because it considered to be a country that performs certain functions that answer to US geopolitical interests.

***

You can also watch a detailed discussion with Lozansky on Prosveshenie TV.AK

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLqsjKQHWxo]

***

Fear and loathing in Washington

Grishin: Anyone in particular in Washington that Russia bothers, and how?

Lozansky: I would identify four groups, whom Russia bothers for one reason or another. First, the neocons. For them, Russia is always wrong. And they believe that it’s necessary to change the situation in Russia, relying on both hard power, and soft. This is a fairly influential group. It was especially dominant under Bush, when Cheney was one of its main leaders. And relations between Russia and America under Bush slipped below the levels of the Cold War.

The second group of the anti-Russian lobby are the ethnic communities of the East European countries, the Baltics. Those, who suffered under the USSR. For them, the new Russia might not quite be the USSR, but it is still a threat to their security. They retain the fear that Russia might at any time occupy them. The third group is the military industrial complex. For them, Russia isn’t only an enemy, but a bogeyman which they can trot out in order to earn orders and attract funding.

There is also a new element – oligarchic capital. Those are billion dollar fortunes, uncompromising hatred towards Russia’s leader. With such capital, it is possible to hire any journalist’s pen, the media. This factor, which previously did not exist, is very significant: This powerful group creates a certain background, applies pressure on the US Congress.

Grishin: Pressure on Congress – isn’t that from the realm of fantasy?

Lozansky: Every week Congress holds hearings in which Russia is subjected to the harshest criticism. Representatives of the Russian opposition take the floor. By the way, about this lack of freedom. They arrive there without ruffle or excitement, the leaders of this very opposition, from Bolotnaya. There they say the most dreadful things. Surprising even to the Americans. This is not accepted among us. You can criticize anyone you want at home, but when you go to another country, it is not acceptable to besmirch your own country… Such demeaning criticism, which Congressmen hear from Russian citizens, doesn’t happen in any other country. And then they come back to Russia.. And nobody arrests them, or throws them into any dungeons.

Pankin: What, in the opinion of Americans, now characterizes Russia? Rollback of democracy, suppression of freedom. They feel that only under Yeltsin was there a true democracy. They have forgotten Gorbachev and don’t want to understand that Yeltsin didn’t add anything to Russian freedoms, relative to the Secretary General of the CPSU Central Committee Gorbachev.

But with that very same freedom of speech, we’ve advanced very far. It has become a market. People got the opportunity, and learned to earn themselves a decent living. But all this is tossed to the side and ignored.

Our non-systemic opposition decided to ascertain the road to democracy with the American ambassador, coming as guests to Michael McFaul almost on his first day of work in Moscow.

For a large part of the US, Russia doesn’t exist

Grishin: There’s this anecdote, some people are on a famous radio station and having a live discussion on how there is no free speech in Russia and are not allowed to express their views. (AK: Refers to Echo of Moscow)

Lozansky: As regards this radio station, it truly amazes me. The majority shareholder is a structure, in which the government has a controlling stake. (AK: Gazprom) In the US we have “Voice of America”, which exists on government money. And they have no right to criticize either US policies, nor any individuals in government. In your country, this radio station almost acts as an opposition organizer. Here Russia is ahead of us on democracy.

Pankin: By the way, there are now some very interesting developments in the “Arab Spring” countries. From the stands come the same speeches which we heard back in the early 90′s, but when you climb down, you hear entirely different conversations in the gullies. That it was iPad-toting people who came out on the streets, but entirely different people came to power. In Cairo today there is panic among female professors: They fear that they’ll have a hijab forced over their heads.

Lozansky: Did you know, that after the Arab revolution, the Egyptian authorities raided the offices of Freedom House and arrested their employees, accusing them of interfering in the internal affairs of the state. And this was all after Mubarak. Also arrested were members of the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, which all continue to operate entirely freely in Moscow. And they had to be bought back.

Grishin: Let’s leave the Arabs aside, return to Russia and America and press freedoms. Edward, do you, with you views, get printed in the US? You do have, after all, many more freedoms than we do, according to US opinion.

Lozansky: Of course we have freedom – nobody is imprisoning me for my views. But there are problems with publication. The editors say, as you here put it, “Newspapers aren’t made of rubber.” And so it’s good when just one out of 15 articles goes through. But I also have an alternate path. I have a small business – “Russia House” in Washington – and I can sometimes just buy a page in the Washington Times newspaper and write everything I want to there.

But in general, I’m amazed by the significance that you attach to what they say about Russia in America. I can tell you that in America few people are actually interested in Russia. The Russian factor is mostly raised by those groups, which I described above, and they do it to advance their own interests. For the average American, especially during election season, the most important issue is the economy. The budget, gas prices, the unemployment rates are what most concern the American family. These are simple and human things, to which Russia is irrelevant.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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Sergey Zhuravlev is a Russian economist who runs a wonky but eminently readable and very useful, interesting blog and writes for Expert (author profile), which I may add is an excellent publication. You have met him previously on my blog as the inventor of a clever – if, in my opinion, flawed – argument that the 2011 Duma elections were marred by 5%-6% fraud, but were clean in Moscow; and if you read the Russia blogs, you may also have come across Mark Adomanis’ translation of one his articles about Russian regional inequality. Now I am presenting a translation of his Feb 13 article on what I called as the end of Russia’s demographic crisis: The Reversal of the Russian Cross. In my opinion, it has a few weaknesses; in particular, he is too cavalier about dismissing the “alcohol hypothesis” about post-Soviet Russia’s “supermortality”. But overall it is a brilliant and deeply informative survey of the origins of the Russian Cross – the crossover of the births and deaths graphs in 1992 – as well as of its recent reversal, to the extent that natural population decline is now almost stabilized and the overall population is able to grow due to net migrants.

The Reversal Of The Russian Cross

Last year our country’s population increased, for the first time in 20 years. Although positive growth in aggregate was only enabled by immigration from the Near Abroad, existing trends in rising fertility and falling mortality were maintained.

If we are to go by Rosstat’s figures, in the past year Russia’s population – for the first time in virtually the entire twenty years of Russia’s existence as a sovereign state – increased, exceeding 143 million people. The maximum population size was reached in 1992, at 148.56 millions, and has since decreased at a practically monotone rate. That said, it should be added that small population growth was previously observed in 1994 and 2009, and that the population fall in 2010 was, most likely, explained by cumulative errors over the period since the 2002 Census, and by the abnormal mortality during that summer’s heatwave [AK: There were c.56,000 excess deaths during the anomalous 2010 heatwave, which is basically equivalent to population decline of 48,300. Furthermore, the 2010 Census showed there to be 143.9 million Russians, which was one million higher than projections based on the 2002 Census; this implied that during the period, net immigration was underestimated by more than 100,000 per year. So its likely that even despite the heatwave, Russia's population still eked out an increase in 2010].

Caucasian Mountains only bested by Urals Mountains

The aggregate growth in our country’s permanent population was 165,000 for the past year [AK: This was a preliminary estimate that seems to have discounted December's migration stats; the final figure is population growth of 189,000]. Although overall positive growth is only enabled by migrants – net immigration is estimated at 296,000 for this year – the rate of natural population decrease continued to decline at a fast pace. Whereas in 2005 there were 828,000 more deaths than there were births, this past year it declined to 131,000.

Russia’s population is substantially affected by the effects of migration from the former Soviet Union. In the 22 years after 1990 – the year when ethnic problems in the former USSR exploded – some 7 million people have moved to Russia for permanent residency. This figure is in net terms, accounting for reverse flows from Russia, and discounting temporary labor migrants. Although net population outflow from Russia into countries of the Far Abroad constituted 80,000 annually throughout the 1990′s – in total, 1,050,000 Russians have officially moved into countries of the Far Abroad for permanent residency since 1990 – it has practically ceased from 2006 [AK: The Far Abroad is the world outside the former USSR, minus the Baltics and (recently) Georgia. Note also that Russia's "brain drain" came to a dripping halt at precisely the time when hacks in the Western media began to propagandize it].

Russia hosts the world’s second largest migrant population, after the US; it slightly exceeds Germany in this respect, and doubly so the next five largest migrant centers: Saudi Arabia, Canada, Great Britain, Spain, and France. A third of Russia’s migrant inflow from 1990 to 2010 from the former Soviet bloc accrued to Kazakhstan. But in the noughties Kazakhstan ceded leadership as a source of migrants to Uzbekistan, and after the Orange Revolution Ukraine caught up with them, and Kyrgyzstan after the Tulip Revolution [AK: Zhuravlev has a separate blog post noting that emigration waves typically accompany revolutions in the former Soviet space. I guess its something to look forwards to if the White Ribbon crowd seizes power.]

The only former Soviet republic with which Russia has had a negative migration balance these past 21 years – in which more people left than came in – is Belarus. That said, it should be noted that starting from 2005 the migration balance with Belarus too has turned positive, albeit it remains modest (net immigration from Belarus constitutes less than 8,000 people over the past six years). It is unclear why more people left for Belarus before this date; perhaps because the Russian provinces neighboring Belarus, such as Belarus, aren’t exactly the richest ones. Maybe it was tied to family reunification – parents returning to their children, or Belorussians returning to their homeland, for instance from Komsomol construction projects. Perhaps for this same reason Russia had a net outflow of migrants into Ukraine in the very early 1990′s.

As regards internal migration, the statistics do not reveal any special revelations that could refute or even complement intuition. There are three main destinations for internal migrants: The city of Moscow and Moscow oblast (in the past year the entire agglomeration absorbed 125,000 people, or three quarters of Russia’s population growth), and St.-Petersburg (33,000 migrants in the past year). There is also substantial migration into the Southern Federal District (in significant part from the neighboring North Caucasus) and into the Urals Federal District.

An important caveat is that in the two latter cases, population growth carries an exclusively point-like character. In the Urals Federal District, it is almost entirely concentrated around Tyumen oblast, the richest province in Russia today. Due to the high levels of social support in Tyumen oblast, fertility is also high: Young families get generous housing benefits, there are special programs for families with children. On its part the situation is similar for the Southern Federal District, which grows entirely thanks to Krasnodar krai, which is also understandable: Sochi.

It is clear that Russia’s demographic situation has improved in substantial part on account of the Northern Caucasus, where a strengthening baby boom started from about 2005. The other more or less demographically balanced Russian region, experiencing positive natural population growth, is the Urals Federal District thanks in turn to Tyumen. But contrary, perhaps, to popular belief, the Northern Caucasus isn’t the main source of migrants to the Central Federal District. In 2010, the most recent year for which internal migration data is available, only 16,000 people from the North Caucasus got permanent residence in the Center. This is but a drop in the ocean to the 19 million population of the Moscow region.

The biggest “donors” to the Moscow agglomeration are the Center itself and the Volga Federal District. These two regions, which constitute the primordial Russia as it developed in the 16th-17th centuries, experience not only the maximum natural population decrease in Russia but also the maximum mechanical loss of population, which in its turn is getting fairly intensively replaced by migrants from Central Asia (and in Siberia, apparently, from China [AK: Here I disagree with Zhuravlev. While there are significant numbers of Chinese labor migrants and shuttle traders in the Far East, very few of them choose to stay. This is not the case for Central Asians.])

Wartime Losses in Peacetime

Russia’s natural population decrease has declined as a result of a significant improvement in mortality, as well as a modest increase in fertility. The fall in mortality, just as its rise earlier in the 1990′s and early 2000′s, for the most part affected men, and substantially affected their expected life expectancy. From a remarkably low level for a civilized country of 58.9 years six years ago (the minimum was 57.4 years in 1994) it has now improved to 63.6 years. This is still far from a result to write home about, but at least it is now almost equal to the best Soviet-era indicators in the early 1960′s and late 1980′s. As for mortality among under 40′s, which has always been the scourge of Russian men, the current curves are even better than the Soviet ones (granted, the share of men living to 35-40 years is now higher mostly thanks to significantly lower infant and child mortality rates).

The phenomenon of “supermortality” from 1991 to 2009 – the 6.24 million excess deaths in the past 19 years, of which 3.2 million accrue to the 1990′s, that would not have occurred had age-specific mortality rates remained fixed at 1990 levels – has yet, in my opinion, to be endowed with a rational explanation [AK: This is the weakest point of Zhuravlev's essay. Yes, there is a rational and very convincing reason: Alcohol. There is a very close correlation between alcohol consumption and mortality since the late Soviet period, when an anti-alcohol campaign reduced consumption and improved life expectancy, to local peaks in consumption - and mortality - around 1994 and the early 2000's, to the past few years, when mortality reductions have occurred in lockstep with less boozing. There are similar correlations between alcohol consumption and mortality by geography, sex, and socio-economic sex; see the evidence here.]

Despite the hugeness of the number itself. It is equal to or even exceeds the “supermortality” caused by collectivization, is almost an order of magnitude greater than the number of victims of the Great Terror, and has the same order of magnitude as the rear losses of the USSR during the Great Patriotic War.

Falling living standards? This fit the maximum in 1994, but not the second local maximum in 2003, when normality was returning. And on the whole, while living standards fell during the transition period and reattained Soviet levels only in 2003-2005, the depth of the fall was nowhere near deep enough to explain this “supermortality” as during the war years with reasons such as malnutrition, poor sanitation, and the unbearable conditions of mobilized labor. The “supermortality” of the past twenty years carried some war front characteristics: Excess mortality among males from 25 to 44 years of age in percentage terms relative to Soviet norms was maximal, at 57%. As if Russia had a war.

To this day another very popular explanation is the “alcohol hypothesis.” Booze became more accessible, people got more free time on their hands, and parasitism was no longer a jailing offense. It is probable that more accessible spirits, and especially drugs – which were little known in the USSR – played their role. However, during the period, people didn’t start to buy fewer spirits; it remained at a constant 9-10 liters of ethanol per capita annually (the contribution of homemade moonshine is purely evaluative, often they add on about 10 liters of ethanol per capital, but who’s doing the counting?).

Be that as it may, the reduction in external (“non-natural”) causes of death in the past few years was very significant and was visibly faster than the reduction in mortality from all other causes. For instance, if aggregate mortality declined by 2.9% in 2011, for non-natural causes – homicides, suicides, alcohol poisoning – it fell by 9%-17%. Albeit, mortality from traffic accidents did increase by 1.3%.

The causes for this reduction in “non-natural” mortality should probably not be sought for beyond rising living standards. Especially revealing in this context is a comparison between large megapolises, especially Moscow, with the rest of Russia. In the capital, the numbers of murders and suicides, not to even mention alcohol poisonings by counterfeit vodka, are many times lower – by up to five to ten times lower – than in the rest of the country.

In aggregate drunkenness, banditry, the increasing number of auto accidents, and the war in Chechnya explain much less than 100,000 of the annual number of abnormal deaths, which in some years have reached up to 600,000 in the past decade. Furthermore the rise in mortality also affected women, albeit to a lesser extent, for whom the chances of meeting one of the deaths described above are much less characteristic.

The melancholy arising from a career loss is surely an important factor, especially when it comes to people near the end of it. But then its unclear why mortality increases afflicted 25 year old youths; there are cases of suicide even among party and Komsomol activists of this age, even though they fit perfectly into the new capitalist economy.

The mere fact of the demise of the state of “Kuzmich” could hardly have caused such an overpowering depression, as to invoke the desire to end it lethally [AK: Кузьмичи refers to a person who grew up on Soviet kitsch and later became disillusioned by it, but was forced to continue living the lie to retain his power. This cynicism and obscurantism described the Soviet nomenklatura by the 1970's-80's.] To be honest, it was sooner the other way round: They had annoyed everyone by then. One final consideration: We may be dealing with a statistical artifact from Soviet times. It’s well known that to a Soviet economic statistics were just rubbish to a significant extent. Is it possible that similar techniques were applies to mortality statistics, even though its more difficult? [AK: I very much doubt it, not only because falsifying demographic stats is more difficult but because the picture they reveal is damning nonetheless: Stagnant life expectancy (an overall decline for men) and an infant mortality rate that actually, unique among industrialized countries in peacetime, that actually increased under the late Brezhnev period.]

Girls, Ask your Girl Friends

The shifts taking place in fertility were no less interesting. In the 1990′s, the quantity of children per woman younger than 25 years nearly halved. This decrease barely affected older women; however, because it was specifically “youth fertility” that was high in the USSR, the aggregate result was dramatic. The total fertility rate (TFR) – the number of children a woman can expect to have in her lifetime – fell from 1.89 children in 1990 to 1.16 (!) in 1999, which is, of course, very far from level required to assure population replacement. Although the noughties observed an increasing TFR on account of more births among older women – in 2009, the TFR reached 1.54 children – the total “shortfall” of births from the reduction in “youth fertility” during the 1991 to 2009 period consisted of 11.292 people.

Up until 2007, the influence of these changes on the crude birth rate – the numbers of births per 1000 people – was slightly offset by the increase in the numbers of women in their childbearing age.

In the graph below, it is clear that in this indicator, adjusted for changes in age-specific mortality, was actually growing in the 1990′s and the first half of the 2000′s. This is not surprising, as fertility was mostly formulated on account of women born in 1975 or younger, when we had a repeat demographic spurt (an echo of the baby boom of the 1950′s). After 2007, the crude birth rate is starting to be affected by the echo of its own collapse in the 1990′s and by population aging. That is why the birth rate has remained almost flat since that year, despite the number of children per woman markedly increasing. This “echo effect” is going to influence fertility in the coming decade, since women from the small 1990′s cohort will be reaching child-bearing age.

It is difficult to say with certainty what caused this fertility shift towards women of greater age. In the Soviet period, a significant contributory factor to early childbearing was that it was figured as a condition for registration for the provision of housing. Apparently, postponed childbearing was enabled by growing income inequality (as a result of which, women began to take more care in choosing a mate, with economic factors playing a significant role in the process), new opportunities for international migration, or something else.

It’s clear that under the Soviet Union, the presence of kindergartens, schools, the Constitution’s guarantee – which was more or less followed in practice – of free housing constituted significant social supports, which enabled high fertility rates. One can also add that many Soviet cities – maybe, all of them – were developed like a “company town”, with social and housing infrastructures closely tied to the town-forming enterprise. When markets were introduced, and it became clear that nobody wanted so many tractors or so many tanks and the revenues of these enterprises dried up, all this infrastructure were left hanging in thin air. There was nothing left to finance the kindergartens and nurseries, no funds to build housing. And the destruction and uncertainty, of course, also influenced decisions on having children.

The economic stabilization of the 2000′s, and especially the new social support measures introduced in 2006-2007 – maternity capital, credit programs, etc. – launched a “delayed fertility” effect, a shift of births towards older women. In general fertility has matured, albeit one shouldn’t exclude the possibility that further concerted efforts to provide social support for families and children will return TFR back to Soviet levels. In any case, more than half of the movement back is already behind us.

(Republished from Sublime Oblivion by permission of author or representative)
 
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Anatoly Karlin
About Anatoly Karlin

I am a blogger, thinker, and businessman in the SF Bay Area. I’m originally from Russia, spent many years in Britain, and studied at U.C. Berkeley.

One of my tenets is that ideologies tend to suck. As such, I hesitate about attaching labels to myself. That said, if it’s really necessary, I suppose “liberal-conservative neoreactionary” would be close enough.

Though I consider myself part of the Orthodox Church, my philosophy and spiritual views are more influenced by digital physics, Gnosticism, and Russian cosmism than anything specifically Judeo-Christian.