Sunday, August 8, 2021

Getting The Time Scale Right-I

For us, humans, our time zone, or horizon, if one wishes, within which we live with the illusion of understanding this world, is usually 40-50 years, not counting roughly first 20 years of our youth, the time when we generally don't give a damn. After those 40-50 years, the march to wisdom and profundity is usually interrupted by the breaks for taking Metamucil, visits to general surgeons, colonoscopies and trying to remember some inconsequential shit, like what was the name of your political economy professor in naval academy or what is the fucking password to your credit card on-line account, which seemed so easy to remember first 5-6 hours and which mysteriously evaporated into the vastness of your brain's neurons without a trace after a couple of weeks. But that is us, humans. States and nations have different time scales and those are measured in many decades, centuries and even millennia. Reconciling our personal human times scales with those of the nations is, realistically, a tall order. Our experiences simply oscillate with different frequencies. 

Why it is important. Paul Robinson wrote a piece on Gorbachev and collapse of the USSR. 

Almost nobody in Russia celebrates the collapse of the USSR. Now, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev – a man who gets much of the credit in the West but is generally poorly judged back – home is trying to defend his legacy. Speaking this week, the one-time leader admitted mistakes were made during his time in office, but maintained that his policy of perestroika – the restructuring of the crisis-hit superpower – was the right thing to do. Those criticizing the plan “have either forgotten or don’t want to remember what the moral and psychological situation in Soviet society was like by 1985 … The country was sinking deeper into stagnation. Economic growth had virtually stopped,” he said. What destroyed the USSR wasn’t perestroika, says Gorbachev. Rather, it was the communist hardliners who mounted a failed coup against him in August 1991 – a move that torched the Union Treaty Gorbachev had drawn up to redefine the way the USSR was managed.
Gorbachev, as usual, lies in describing the reasons for Soviet collapse and to Robinson's greatest credit he challenges this assertion. 

In short, the ex-leader is right that the Soviet Union was in need of reform, but wrong to say that the country’s collapse was not his fault. Reform could have taken many directions. The one he chose was catastrophic. At the same time, Gorbachev isn’t wrong to blame others, either.

Read the whole piece by Robinson, especially a short expose' of Gorbachev's classlessness and vapidity. In general, the Soviet collapse was an enormously complex phenomenon, in which the nationalism issue and Soviet elite's large segment desire to integrate with the combined West played one of the most important roles in disintegration of the USSR. Yet, after 30 years since the Soviet collapse one has to accept the fact, that Putin's assertion, that those who do not miss the USSR have no heart, those who want to restore it have no brains, is spot on. The reason I bring it up is because I always knew, since the early childhood, that Russia, as the core of the Soviet Union was a main donor of Soviet national fringes, from highly developed Ukraine to paying bills for Trans-Caucasus republics with the exception of oil-rich Azerbaijan, but especially so for the whole of Middle Asia, where major programs of industrialization and agricultural development have been implemented in post-WW II period. Needless to say, much of those efforts were at the expense of historic Russia. 

Very few Russian localities embodied this Russia's "sponsorship" of national Soviet fringes better than the famous "city of brides" (it had also, other, much less appropriate handle) and center of Soviet textile industry, the city of Ivanovo. My late father hailed from that locality and till recently, Ivanovo served as an Exhibit A of Central Soviet Russia's problems in which gray drabness, dirt, worn out infrastructure, lack of investment, social ills were a direct result of Russia working hard to maintain USSR in the working order. Today, however, very few people in Russia want any kind of "union" with former Soviet republics and explanation for this attitude is extremely simple--investments got reoriented inside Russia and even such, frankly, a shithole of a city as Ivanovo was, started to get, no, no, don't expect from me beaten to death cliche about a "facelift", this is not a "facelift", this is a deep surgery to save the patient's life. Believe me, if Ivanovo looked bad in 2011, I can tell you that it looked even worse in 1985, let alone 1995. But here we are in 2020 (the time of video shoot). 

You can see how life reclaims this 16th century Russian city and how it turns into a place where it is pleasant to be. Ivanovo together with many central Russian cities and towns simply stopped being shitholes. Some of them, like ancient Ryazan, have become top-notch tourist destinations and will never be used in a pejorative sense when "Ryazanskiy" would mean often a low-brow, low taste, primitive Russian-derived. Especially since Ryasan Higher Paratroop Military Academy is located there. Ryazan today is a first-class city. Ryazan's population is growing. Historic, Central Russia is becoming unrecognizable in the best meaning of this words. Do you think Russians want the USSR back? Think again. Think also about reasons all those former "brotherly" people from now independent states of former USSR assault Russia's borders trying to get inside Russia to become Russia's "Mexicans". Right. Would I have thought about such a situation in 1985 or even in 2005? Nope. 

But this is precisely the case when picture is worth a thousand words. But here is the catch--this all would have never be possible if not for a tremendous industrial acceleration Soviet system provided for historic Russia in the 20th century, even when considering a profoundly harmful, for Russia and her people, distortions of Soviet internationalist ideology which afforded the development, now largely rolled back, of USSR's national republics at the expense of Russia. Yet, I mentioned Gorbachev and Robinson's piece for a reason, especially when related to Gorbachev and his late wife's preference of spending many of their vacations abroad, especially in Italy, when Gorbachev was still just a member of Central Committee and was enjoying his and Raisa's drives in rented car in the middle of the capitalist West. It was then that his idiotic ideas of catastrophic reforms were born, not least through the influence of his domineering wife, and we all know where it all ended--a demographic, economic and political catastrophe Russian people had to endure, especially when at Gorbachev's coming USSR was winning the arms race against the United States. 

I am on record--the history of the Cold War 1.0 IS NOT written yet. And I mean real history not propaganda which was succinctly defined by George F. Kenna when he wrote:

What did the greatest damage was not our military preparations themselves, some of which (not all) were prudent and justifiable. It was rather the unnecessarily belligerent and threatening tone in which many of them were publicly carried forward. For this, both Democrats and Republicans have a share of the blame. Nobody -- no country, no party, no person -- "won" the cold war. It was a long and costly political rivalry, fueled on both sides by unreal and exaggerated estimates of the intentions and strength of the other party. It greatly overstrained the economic resources of both countries, leaving both, by the end of the 1980's, confronted with heavy financial, social and, in the case of the Russians, political problems that neither had anticipated and for which neither was fully prepared.         
This issue needs to be addressed, because  without addressing it, there is NO rational explanation to the current events in the world and many, still many, wrong conclusions and estimates making it into the public sphere, obfuscating the answer to a burning question of geopolitical stability and global peace...

To Be Continued...

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