Soviets Without Communists

And now that is what the years passed after the split of the Soviet Union demonstrated. It appeared that almost the entire system of the soviet governing with some minor modifications almost cosmetic ones can survive without communist ideology! It just had to recover its wind after the great turmoil, squeeze the organized crime hustling around the ruins, and drive away the flock of oligarchs and… As the poet said, erase random features and treasure… you know what.

It also appeared that there was no need to press literature and art or to be more precise sometimes you had to but only as a perfunctory measure because literature does not influence the political situation. It did not influence the political situation before either therefore the Politburo worried needlessly. They could have printed Doctor Zhivago alongside with Ivan Denisovich and the books would have gathered dust on the shelves of the regional libraries. It appeared possible to let people go abroad – to visit, to live and to stay because they could easily do without those people.

It became more evident that those features of the “soviet civilization” survived not only AFTER, but they happily existed BEFORE. And many things that once seemed the determinant attributes of “the soviet” today increasingly frequently seem the essential features of governing and not only in an individual country.

Thus from the times of “soviet civilization” there stayed in people’s memory flags, portraits, badges, leaflets, cheap piroshky and the legendary Russian salad for the New Year table. By the way, in the Crimea on the New 2013 Year holiday people crowded around the legendary salad.
I think that crowd of people freeloading Russian salad was one of the preludes before the annexation of the Crimea.

And the old songs about the main things. And the old governors on their last legs. And humor, and political anecdotes they ineffectively try to adjust to the present time. Not funny.

Whereas the Stalinist camps, censorship, poverty and brutal lines were gone. Nobody is interested.

I would like to add at least three points to that:

  1. The Soviet civilization is a modified Russian civilization. The farther it goes back to the past, the more important some minor trappings become to us. Since the nineteen-thirties, they do not mean anything either in the life of the country or in the lives of the citizens. What we now regard as a restoration of the Soviet civilization is, in fact, consolidation of the traditional Russian civilization with its traditional set of symbols. It is impossible and almost funny to resist this process. Even the confrontation of the national and left wings is deeply rooted in the Russian history – I would take as a conditional benchmark not even the epoch of Peter the Great where all that already explicitly manifested itself but the earlier events that include the traditional escape of the oppositionists to the West then associated with Lithuania. I think I already saw (or seem to have seen?) those “force fields” in the correspondence of Ivan IV and Prince Andrey Kurbsky. And even my friend, a poet, seems to be some Kurbsky who escaped contemporary Lithuania (USA) and is writing his angry essay-letters from there. The present regime will never dignify those messages with an answer though. And if it did – what a great monument of the epoch this correspondence would be!
  2. Criminal, prison culture (subculture) as a no less traditional part of the Russian – Soviet! – civilization. Prison-camp songs and other samples of the criminal folklore like sentimental stories – so-called novels –“printed” in the camps by the intelligentsia to entertain the Pakhans (crime bosses)… Doesn’t this romanticization of the criminal world begin with F.M. Dostoyevsky’s “Notes from a Dead House”? Or with Nekrasov’s Legend of the Twelve Robbers and Ataman Kudeyar? Are 12 apostles-robbers better or worse than The Twelve by A.Blok? “Oh, train, could you stop? And the wheels don’t be noisy!”- what a triumph of the criminal world this song has become after breaking into film programs and picked up by the whole country! I say nothing about the previous examples like Utesov for he belongs to Odessa’s sacred images.
    And now even more heretical thought. The people who desperately hated the criminal world (A.Solzhenitsyn + V.Shalamov) in accordance with the principle of opposites furthered the infiltration of the prison-camp subculture into the wide circles of liberal intelligentsia… Would we ever know the difference between “code-bound thieves” and “sold-out thieves” if it were not for “The Gulag Archipelago”!
  3. The most painful for a believer is the role of Church in the present day processes… At the same time, this role does not differ from the traditional roles of Church in Russia – decorative, state police, and bearing symbols and images aimed at solidating national identity. Sergianstvo in the USSR was in every sense an unsuccessful attempt of Church to restore those roles. The Metropolitan (patriarch) Sergius got his voice finally heard – 12 years later in hard times of war. Here one can’t but remember “in hoc signo vinces” (“in this sign, you will conquer”) in the times of emperor Constantine.

The cross was his “invincible weapon” not in the spiritual battle but in a usual feud. Christianity in Russia has always been part of a war cult. Therefore we shouldn’t be too much surprised at Saint Barbara, the patron saint of air forces…

The radical anticlericalism as if waiting for those faults of the hierarchy has risen to its full length and its rhetorics has achieved the level of the famous “Godless Five-Year Plans”…

Boris Khersonskij

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