Archive for April 2009
Window of Eurasia’s Paul Goble has come upon an interesting argument, to wit, that modern Russia can trace its institutions directly to Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Soviet and Federative Socialist Republic that he created.
Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader who seized power in Russia in 1917 has been praised and condemned for many things, but now a Bashkir scholar has celebrated him for a role few have yet acknowledged: Lenin, Rustem Vakhitov argues, deserves recognition and honor for his role as the founder of the Russian Federation.
In a 4,000-word essay posted online this week, Vakhitov, an Ufa-based academic who writes frequently on contemporary affairs, says that that Lenin’s importance for Russians today lies in his role as the creator of the Russian Federated Soviet Socialist Republic, the predecessor of the Russian Federation (contrtv.ru/common/3111/).
Arguing that “the cult of Lenin” in Soviet times was not only something the man himself did not want but also has gotten in the way of focusing on what Lenin actually did, Vakhitov says that the best way to begin is by asking the question: “When did the state by the name of the Russian Federation in which we live arise?”
“Many people consider that this took place in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR, but this is not true,” Vakhitov insists, adding that in fact “on December 25, 1991, the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR passed legislation according to which the RSFSR was renamed [Vakhitov’s italics] as the Russian Federation.”
In support of that contention, the Ufa scholar notes that the law began with the following words: “The Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR affirms: 1. The State the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) from now on will be called the Russian Federation (RF),” as it is known to this day.
What that means, Vakhitov continues, is that in 1991, the RSFSR simply changed its name, out of which were eliminated the words ‘soviet’ and ‘socialist’ as an indication that the Russian Republic had changed its political system and state ideology.” “But,” he continues, “no new state arose as a result.”
This points to a fascinating quasi-duality about modern Russia. Russia is the heir apparent to the Soviet empire in its entirety: the United Nations Security Council seat, the military might including of the nuclear arsenal, the Soviet interpretation of the Second World War and its associated traumas, the claimed sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and even beyond, and so on. Russia is clearly the superpower’s successor. But what is it? At the same time, Russia is very nearly as much of a nation-state in formation as (say) Ukraine, since as Hélène Carrère d’Encausse pointed out in her The End of the Soviet Empire, that while the smaller republics of the Soviet Union had their own national cultural and other organizations, the Russian federative republic often lacked these entirely. The republics each had their own branch of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, for instance, while Russia had to wait until 1991 to get its own Russian Academy of Sciences. Russian national identity, in this reading, is uniquely troubled in a way that didn’t afflict the cores of other multinational empires, since there never was a Russia at all as distinguished from Estonia or Ukraine or Tajikistan. At least, not until Lenin came around.
One obvious outcome of all of this is that Russian national identity will revolve even more tightly than it has around the Soviet experience, since as Vakhitov points out Russia as such owes its existence to the Soviet experience. Another, equally obvious, outcome of this is that neighbouring nation-states with differing views on the Soviet experience will come into conflict with Russia.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
His truth is marching on.
The more that I think about it, the more that I’m certain that the 1861 US Civil War classic, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic, is one of my favourite songs. I first learned it in choir practice at L.M. Montgomery Elementary School, back when I was in Grade 5 and under the tutelage of Mrs. Gay. I love its rousing music, its lyrics’ call to determined holy war against a pitiless enemy, its uplifting chorus. I say this as a citizen of a nation, I might mention, that probably formed only as a confluence of mostly Civil War-related factor: official sympathy for a Confederate secession that would weaken the Union, popular opposition to slavery, cross-border terrorist raids that the post-Civil War Union let bitter Irish-American wages against Britain’s remaining North America possessions, et cetera. The ungovernability of the Province of Canada is probably the chief cause of Canadian unification that’s internal to Canada.
It’s still a powerful song for me. It might be my vestigial interest in Christianity post-secularization that attracts me to the language, it might be the knowledge of Confederate society under slavery that makes me think as well of the song aimed against the Confederacy as I do (and, incidentally, gives me one of several reasons not to take to Firefly), it might just be because it’s a good song written for a good cause. Regardless, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is grand.
[The protesters] have been there for three long days, amid complaints from drivers. But now Toronto Police have finally moved in on Tamil demonstrators who have been occupying the busy intersection of University and Dundas.
At least nine people have been taken into custody and there were reportedly some violent scuffles as the authorities tried to get them out of the street. One woman was said to have been injured in the melee when she was trampled by a police horse.
For days, cops have refused to take any action against the protestors, who are trying to get U.S. and Canadian governments to intervene in the genocide in their native Sri Lanka, because the standoff was peaceful and no laws were being broken.
But when some of the hundreds assembled learned that China had used its veto power at the United Nations to stop the world from intervening in the country, tempers flared. And when the multitude tried to move onto Dundas St., cops ordered them back.
Torontoist’s Jerad Gallinger reports that the protesters, aimed at pressuring the United States into intervening in Sri Lanka, were starting some sort of internal dispute when the police intervened. The complications of this protest for traffic in the downtown core can only be imagined, while the links of the protest with the LTTE–reportedly some protesters were waving Tamil Tiger flags–likely has done even less to endear them to Torontonians in general.