Crumbling Down

Some people ain’t no damn good
You can’t trust ’em, you can’t love ’em
No good deed goes unpunished
And I don’t mind being their whipping boy

I’ve had that pleasure for years and years
No no, I never was a sinner, tell me what else can I do
Second best is what you get till you learn to bend the rules
And time respects no person and what you lift up must fall
They’re waiting outside to claim my tumbling walls

Saw my picture in the paper
Read the news around my face
And some people don’t want to
Treat me the same

When the walls come tumbling down
When the walls come crumbling, crumbling
When the walls come tumbling, tumbling down

 —John Mellencamp, “Crumblin’ Down” 

 

tsar putin
Cover of Yevgeny Satanovsky, If I Were the Russian Tsar: Advice to the President. Image courtesy of LitRes

Yesterday was a rough day for the anti-imperialist pro-Putin western left (which is basically all that is left of the western left). First, there was the publication of Sir Robert Owen’s report on his inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, in which Owen concluded that Putin “probably” approved Litvinenko’s murder in 2006.

Then the day got rougher.

Vladimir Putin publicly blamed Vladimir Lenin for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

President Vladimir Putin on Thursday blamed Bolshevik revolutionary Vladimir Lenin for planting the ideas that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Interfax news agency reported.

During a meeting of the Presidential Council for Science and Education, one of the attendees quoted a poem by Boris Pasternak describing Lenin as someone who had managed the flow of his thoughts to rule the country.

“Letting your rule be guided by thoughts is right, but only when that idea leads to the right results, not like it did with Vladimir Ilich,” Putin quipped in reply. “In the end that idea led to the fall of the Soviet Union,” he added.

“There were many such ideas as providing regions with autonomy, and so on. They planted an atomic bomb under the building that is called Russia which later exploded. We did not need a global revolution,” he said.

Putin has in the past famously described the fall of the Soviet Union as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century.”

“Putin Slams Lenin for Laying ‘Atomic Bomb’ Under Russia,” Moscow Times, January 21, 2016

So toss out your forty-five volumes of the collected works of Lenin in English, comrades. He is on your new supreme leader’s bad list.

Statue of Lenin in the yard of the Soyuz stationery goods factory in Petrograd. Photo by the Russian Reader
Monument to Vladimir Lenin in the yard of the Soyuz stationery goods factory. Petrograd, June 19, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader

Sergey Abashin
January 21, 2016
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Oh my, it turns out Lenin planted the “bomb under the building known as Russia,” and what he had in mind was the collapse of the Soviet Union as a consequence of “ethnic autonomization”! So said the leader!

There are a few curious points in this statement.

First, the leader has equated Russia with the Soviet Union. Meaning that he has dubbed Central Asia, for example, a part of Russia. But he probably did not even notice it.

Second, the leader clearly indicated that the ideal is the Russian Empire, where, apparently, there were no problems, and which fell apart, apparently, as a result of the revolution and not the imperial elite’s wrongheaded policies.

Busts of the Tsetsarevich Alexei, Emperor Nicholas II, and Empress Alexandra, all identified as "holy martyrs," outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petrograd, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Busts of the Tsesarevich Alexei, Emperor Nicholas II, and Empress Alexandra, all identified as “holy martyrs,” outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin (Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God) Church. Petrograd, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Display case describing the "Russian economic miracle" that was, allegedly, swept away by the October Revolution, outside the Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petrograd, April 23, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader
Outdoor display case describing the “Russian economic miracle” that was, allegedly, swept away by the October Revolution. Theotokos of Tikhvin Church, Petrograd, April 25, 2015. Photo by the Russian Reader

The leader has clearly ignored the fact that Lenin, whatever you might think of him, attempted to reassemble the lands of the former empire, which by that time had virtually collapsed. And he was able to do this (reassemble the former empire) only by making certain compromises with the ethnic elites, by granting them “autonomy.”

Third, the leader’s rhetoric is obvious preparation for the 100th anniversary of the revolution, which is likely to be depicted as a tragedy, imposed [on the country] from the outside.

Sergey Abashin is British Petroleum Professor of Migration Studies at the European University in Saint Petersburg. His most recent book is Sovetskii kishlak: Mezhdu kolonializmom i modernizatsiei [The Soviet Central Asian village: between colonialism and modernization], Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2015. Translated by the Russian Reader

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