Sunday, April 14, 2013

history of russia

History of Russia from Peter the Great to Gorbachev

Alexander II instituted land reform and "freedom" of serfs in 1860s. He had initially seemed rather conservative (and followed in the footsteps of a very conservative Tsar.) It seems that the best "reformers" are those that have conservative views and are able to make reforms pragmatically, rather than idealistically. The radical elements, however, assassinated him after he had drawn up plans for an elected parliament. This brought the changes to a screeching halt. It seems there was very little time when the peasants actually "tasted" freedom. The oppressive nature of communism may not have seemed significantly different to the common man. The people in control and the "dogma" may have changed, but lack of personal autonomy would not be seen as anything of serious concern.
The comunist era seems to have been giving fuzzy coverage here. We get a smattering of social anecdotes, but I wasn't clear how Stalin came to power. I did get the impression that communism was initially a hippie ideal of individualistic free love and shared everything. However the iron hand wad needed to run the state and force the ideal. World war II provided a foil. The state relaxed and mobilized the people in defense of the fatherland. People loved it. (And Hitler botched it. Some were willing to treat nazis as liberators, but they were instead treated as serfs). After the war, however, through state came back.

The portrayal of Gorbachev was enlightening. He was seaking an idealist socialism. However, his reforms failed, leading to the collapse of communism rather than its perfection. In the end, perhaps Marx was right. Communism can't be forced. People like to aspire to something. Russian peasants have historically had little to aspire to. Czar. Communists. Oligarchy. What's the difference?

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