Monday, April 25, 2005

Putin deplores collapse of USSR

This must sound strange to readers outside Russia. It may even make sympathetic readers worry if my choice of residence (in Moscow) is a wise one for a verbally-incontinent libertarian.

But Putin's purported longings for "the good old days" are no more realistic than a Tory "buffer" longing for the days when the British "Greeks" did not follow meekly in the wake of the Yankee "Romans". Or for that matter a Labour grandee longing for the heady days of 1946, when the illusions of "nationalisation" (yet another government euphemism for theft) had not yet been exposed to harsh reality.

Putin knows the past is gone. His people know it too. But can they be blamed for missing their former status in the world? Russia is a big country with a strong (and -culturally- quite justified) sense of its own importance. If you can't be loved, being feared comes a good second. To many proud Russians, being the "bad superpower" of a bi-polar world was better than not being a superpower at all. Almost every Russian seems angry about President Gorbachev's (real or perceived) mishandling of a transition which most of them accept had to happen.

They compare and contrast Russia's situation to the changes in China, where economic reform is happening without several generations being forced to admit that they lived a lie.

That President Putin should makes the occasional nod to such bitter nostalgia is not surprising. Some Americans may have enjoyed Condy's lecture in Moscow last week on democracy and freedom, but it was a hard pill to swallow for a Russian political class raised on enmity to, and moral superiority over, the United States.

BBC NEWS World Europe Putin deplores collapse of USSR

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