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What if the USSR hadn’t collapsed? History isn't always on your side

Russian Communist party supporters march in support of Stalin (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)

Russian Communist party supporters march in support of Stalin (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images)


December 30, 2022   7 mins

Even if you care nothing for ballet, the very name of the Bolshoi Theatre carries a romance and glamour unmatched by any other theatre in the world. The company was founded under Catherine the Great, and first held performances in a private home before its famous white neoclassical building was opened in 1825. But it was under the Soviet Union that its international prestige reached its greatest height, as it became a touring advertisement for the virtues of the Communist system. When the Bolshoi first visited London in 1956, the excitement was such that people began queuing three days before the ticket office even opened. Three years later, when the company visited New York, touts were reportedly selling tickets for $1,200 in today’s money. Not even the Wolverhampton Grand can compete with that.

At the time, the Bolshoi’s relationship with the Soviet authorities made perfect sense. The two had been intertwined from the very first moments of the state’s existence, for it was in the main hall of the Bolshoi Theatre, on 30th December 1922, that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was unveiled to the world. Most people find this slightly surprising, because we assume that the Soviet Union must have been proclaimed immediately after the Bolshevik Revolution. In fact, it only came into existence after a horrendous civil war that killed an estimated 10 million people, in which the deep national and ethnic tensions inside the old Russian Empire had been laid bare for all to see.

Even for people as ruthless and fanatical as Lenin and Stalin, putting this fragmented mosaic back together was no easy undertaking. It took weeks of negotiations before the 2,000 delegates at the theatre agreed a new treaty, and not everybody was happy with the outcome. Stalin — ironically, a Georgian — wanted to see the other republics absorbed into a Greater Russia. Lenin — ironically, a Russian — insisted that their new state should respect the national autonomy of the Ukrainians, the Belarusians and the Transcaucasians. For the time being, it was Lenin who got his way, and the republics were even given the right of secession. At the time, nobody seriously imagined they would ever get to exercise it. But as one well-known Russian history enthusiast recently remarked, the Bolsheviks had “planted in the foundation of our statehood the most dangerous time bomb”. That history buff’s name, of course, was Vladimir Putin.

A century after its foundation and more than three decades after its collapse, the Soviet Union still casts a baleful shadow. In some ways it was the defining state of the 20th century. A beacon to Marxists and a bogeyman to everybody else, it became Hitler’s ideological arch-enemy, then his blood-soaked partner and finally his blood-soaked victim, before its troops bludgeoned their way into Berlin and brought his regime crashing down. Meanwhile, its admirers included some of the cleverest people on the planet, such as H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, whose pilgrimages to Moscow ought to have demolished forever the idea that literary types have the slightest atom of political wisdom. The high-minded British socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb even hailed it as a “new civilisation”, a land of milk and honey, with fair shares for all and not the slightest hint of a genocidal famine.

For most people, though, the Soviet Union remained the supreme antagonist, the Great Satan of the Western cosmos. Winston Churchill might have been rude about Indians, but he was dead right about the Soviet Union. It was, he told a crowd in Edinburgh in 1924, “one of the worst tyrannies that has ever existed in the world. It accords no political rights. It rules by terror. It punishes political opinions. It suppresses free speech. It tolerates no newspapers but its own. It persecutes Christianity with a zeal and a cunning never equalled since the times of the Roman Emperors.” And throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union remained a kind of moral barometer, an object lesson in fanatical utopianism and a terrible warning about what happens when you hand power to people who dream big and implausible dreams about a better world. Addressing an evangelical conference in March 1983, Ronald Reagan infamously called it an “evil empire”, run by people who “preach the supremacy of the State, declare its omnipotence over individual man, and predict its eventual domination of all peoples on the earth”. His critics accused him of dangerous exaggeration. But you don’t have to read too deeply in Soviet history — the shootings, the famines, the Terror; the paranoid conspiracies, the psychiatric wards, the suffocating, all-consuming fear and conformity — to think that Reagan was on to something.

Tasteless though it might be to admit it, however, there was also something oddly reassuring about the Soviet Union. The longer it endured, and the more obvious its failings became, the more it emphasised the virtues of the capitalist model. When the Western democracies ran into trouble in the mid-Seventies — crippled, then as now, by surging energy prices, high inflation and a pervasive sense of political breakdown — their voters could console themselves that at least they weren’t living in Leningrad. And when the Olympics were held in Moscow in 1980 — an event that made the World Cup in Qatar look like a celebration of freedom and human rights — many Western visitors were astonished at how drab and dreary everything was.

Outraged by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter had ordered the Americans to stay away, arguing that the games would only be a propaganda coup for the Kremlin. But he was wrong. As the British embassy reported to London, the atmosphere was “singularly joyless. The continuous rain has not helped. Nor has the fact that Moscow is still half-empty.” The police had blocked major routes into the city, while foreign visitors were easily outnumbered by men in uniform. Plain-clothes policemen were everywhere: to get into their hotel for dinner, journalists had to spend at least half an hour filling in forms. To cap it all, the embassy reported, “the oppressive feeling of the city is increased by the virtual absence of children”, since thousands of families had been deported to the countryside for the duration. So much, then, for the Webbs’ new civilisation.

If you had told people then, in the summer of 1980, that the Soviet Union would be gone in just 11 years, I doubt many would have believed you. As late as March 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev succeeded Konstantin Chernenko as General Secretary of the Communist Party, the USSR seemed an unshakeable fixture of the international landscape. But we all know what happened next. Vladimir Putin called its demise a “genuine tragedy” and “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”. Very few people outside Russia, I imagine, would agree with that verdict. Even so, we’re still struggling with the consequences today.

For me, reflecting on the collapse of the USSR amid the headlines about the carnage in Ukraine, the most striking thing is simply that we think about it so little. The disintegration of a trans-continental union into 15 different nation-states, the destruction of the Marxist fantasy of an egalitarian paradise, the implosion of the centuries-old Russian dream of a vast empire from the shores of the Baltic to the mountains of Central Asia — this was a gigantic geopolitical turning point, more transformative, more seismic than the collapse of the Habsburg and Hohenzollern Empires at the end of the First World War.

Yet it’s telling that in the West, the man who presided over this extraordinary collapse, Mikhail Gorbachev, is remembered as a kind of martyr, even a saint. The second line of the Guardian’s obituary when he died in August, for example, tells us that “almost singlehandedly he brought an end to 40 years of east-west confrontation in Europe and liberated the world from the danger of nuclear conflagration”. All this is true, and the obituary also observes, quite rightly, that Gorbachev was a man of impressive dignity and decency, whose reluctance to use violence (with a few well-known exceptions, such as in Lithuania) made for a stark contrast with his more ruthless predecessors.

And yet, if you changed the names — if Gorbachev had been a Roman, Byzantine or Ottoman Emperor, the master of some sprawling medieval kingdom or the dominant statesman in some modern Western power — it’s hard to imagine the historical verdict being so tolerant. His defenders insist that without his reforms, the Soviet Union would have died anyway. Maybe they’re right, maybe not. Either way, the fact is that in just six years, Gorbachev contrived to bring about the last thing he would have wanted when he took over in 1985 — the total collapse not just of his predecessors’ ideological vision, but of the entire Soviet state itself. It’s not surprising that we in the West thanked him for it. But is it any wonder that so few Russians remember him fondly?

This autumn, while the news was full of Ukrainians celebrating the liberation of Kherson, I watched Adam Curtis’s series Russia 1985–1999: TraumaZone, an utterly addictive montage of BBC footage from the last years of the Soviet Union and the chaotic Nineties, Russia’s Weimar decade. It captures, better than any book I’ve ever read, the anguish and bewilderment of millions of ordinary people as their assumptions completely fell apart, and as the shops emptied of goods, the cupboards were stripped bare of food, criminals roamed the streets and shiny-suited entrepreneurs looted the industries and utilities on which they had long relied. It’s also a reminder that while we in the West were whipping ourselves into a frenzy about Monica Lewinsky and the chart battle between Blur and Oasis, tens of thousands of people were dying, every year, in the ruins of the Soviet empire. Perhaps 100,000 in the first Chechen war, another 50,000 in the second, another 100,000 or so in Tajikistan
 and all this long before the Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, Crimea or eastern Ukraine.

Would the world have been better off if the Soviet Union had never fallen? That almost certainly seems a monstrous thing to say, not least because it probably would have meant condemning countries such as Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine and Georgia to three more decades of imperial bondage. Perhaps there’s a parallel universe, though, in which a more conservative figure like Yegor Ligachev became General Secretary instead of Gorbachev in 1985, and a stagnant, sclerotic USSR stumbled miserably through the next decade before reviving on the back of higher gas and oil prices in the early 21st century. Or perhaps there’s another universe in which Gorbachev proceeded much more slowly and cautiously with his reforms, allowing the Baltic states to secede but persuading the other republics to accept a much looser federation, more Leninist than Stalinist.

Or perhaps things in both those universes would have ended even more horribly than in our own. Perhaps, as the defenders of Gorbachev and Yeltsin argue, the inevitable economic meltdown would have been even worse. Perhaps even more people would have died, and there would have been more crime, more chaos and more conflict. Or perhaps they’re wrong, and the world we have is the worst of all possible worlds.

The truth, of course, is that we’ll never know for sure, and anybody who claims that he does know is a fool. History is messy, and there’s no shame in admitting it. And if somebody tells you that it’s easy — that they know which direction it’s heading in, and they’ve found the secret formula by which human affairs are governed — then you need merely point to those people gathered in the Bolshoi Theatre on 30th December 1922. They knew for sure, because they were certain that history was on their side. We all know what happened next.


Dominic Sandbrook is an author, historian and UnHerd columnist. His latest book is: Who Dares Wins: Britain, 1979-1982

dcsandbrook

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Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago

A shining jewel in Unherd’s listing of articles is this article. My thanks to the author.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 year ago

A shining jewel in Unherd’s listing of articles is this article. My thanks to the author.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
1 year ago

When I was a student of Soviet Studies around 1985 & on, we learned about Schumpeter’s theory of convergence: that all economies would merge and start copying each other.
I’ve noticed the UK becoming ever more Soviet; the authoritarianism demonstrated during covid, the way neighbours were weaponised to police each other, and before all this, creeping bureaucratisation, and the facade of fairness & justice falling away to expose the tattered fabric of a country left to look after itself on a diminishing budget.

Phil Jones
Phil Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Just so Alex. As referred to above Churchill told the crowd in 1924 “one of the worst tyrannies that has ever existed in the world. It accords no political rights. It rules by terror. It punishes political opinions…” With the present woke indoctrination & bullying & the recent tyranny of COVID restrictions our society today is not a great deal different.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phil Jones
Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Jones

It is enormously different. One single person who died from police brutality creates national headlines and years of investigation. 10,000 per day in the USSR? A statistic.

Last edited 1 year ago by Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
1 year ago
Reply to  Phil Jones

It is enormously different. One single person who died from police brutality creates national headlines and years of investigation. 10,000 per day in the USSR? A statistic.

Last edited 1 year ago by Roddy Campbell
Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Yesterday I was in the County Council Building and there was a ‘No Photography’ sign!! I commented that I had only seen such notices in the Soviet Union and I believe photography is also discouraged in North Korea. The receptionist chuckled that it wasn’t that bad and I chuckled “We’ll see”.

Phil Jones
Phil Jones
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Just so Alex. As referred to above Churchill told the crowd in 1924 “one of the worst tyrannies that has ever existed in the world. It accords no political rights. It rules by terror. It punishes political opinions…” With the present woke indoctrination & bullying & the recent tyranny of COVID restrictions our society today is not a great deal different.

Last edited 1 year ago by Phil Jones
Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Stonor

Yesterday I was in the County Council Building and there was a ‘No Photography’ sign!! I commented that I had only seen such notices in the Soviet Union and I believe photography is also discouraged in North Korea. The receptionist chuckled that it wasn’t that bad and I chuckled “We’ll see”.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
1 year ago

When I was a student of Soviet Studies around 1985 & on, we learned about Schumpeter’s theory of convergence: that all economies would merge and start copying each other.
I’ve noticed the UK becoming ever more Soviet; the authoritarianism demonstrated during covid, the way neighbours were weaponised to police each other, and before all this, creeping bureaucratisation, and the facade of fairness & justice falling away to expose the tattered fabric of a country left to look after itself on a diminishing budget.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Its a truly incredible documentary about the chaos in Russia, referenced in the article and which is available on BBC IPlayer – the best documentary I’ve seen in years, maybe ever.
And watching it begged the question
..perhaps the west should have done more to help Russia during the nineties.
The Russians were begging for assistance and we largely ignored them – except for our capitalists who didn’t miss the opportunity to exploit it for fantastic rewards.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

My thoughts for a long time Ian. After the implosion of the USSR there was such a gung ho “ra ra” we won attitude across the west and, as so often, no thought about winning the peace. Lots of talk about a peace dividend and cutting defense budgets but little else.
And, to me, an unseemly rush to embrace the old Eastern Europe as “friends” (lots of people to sell things to!), financial support for Poland and the Baltic States and little but a thumbed nose to the new Russia.
Could things have turned out differently? Who knows, but some thought to supporting the new Russia through it birth ups and downs would have been helpful I am sure and, perhaps, have reduced recent problems.
After all, both Germany and Japan received a lot of support after WW11 and wouldn’t something along similar lines have helped stability and peace if offered to Russia even though no actual war had happened?

Catherine McMullen
Catherine McMullen
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Buckley
Catherine McMullen
Catherine McMullen
1 year ago
Reply to  Andrew Buckley
Liam Brady
Liam Brady
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

What exactly do you think the West could have done to help that would have been accepted by Russia? I remember those times, the West bent over backwards to be friendly to Russia and its leaders. So genuine question, what should we have done?
Thanks for the recommendation re BBC IPlayer, I’ll watch it.

Andrew Buckley
Andrew Buckley
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

My thoughts for a long time Ian. After the implosion of the USSR there was such a gung ho “ra ra” we won attitude across the west and, as so often, no thought about winning the peace. Lots of talk about a peace dividend and cutting defense budgets but little else.
And, to me, an unseemly rush to embrace the old Eastern Europe as “friends” (lots of people to sell things to!), financial support for Poland and the Baltic States and little but a thumbed nose to the new Russia.
Could things have turned out differently? Who knows, but some thought to supporting the new Russia through it birth ups and downs would have been helpful I am sure and, perhaps, have reduced recent problems.
After all, both Germany and Japan received a lot of support after WW11 and wouldn’t something along similar lines have helped stability and peace if offered to Russia even though no actual war had happened?

Liam Brady
Liam Brady
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

What exactly do you think the West could have done to help that would have been accepted by Russia? I remember those times, the West bent over backwards to be friendly to Russia and its leaders. So genuine question, what should we have done?
Thanks for the recommendation re BBC IPlayer, I’ll watch it.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Its a truly incredible documentary about the chaos in Russia, referenced in the article and which is available on BBC IPlayer – the best documentary I’ve seen in years, maybe ever.
And watching it begged the question
..perhaps the west should have done more to help Russia during the nineties.
The Russians were begging for assistance and we largely ignored them – except for our capitalists who didn’t miss the opportunity to exploit it for fantastic rewards.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

“What if the USSR hadn’t collapsed?”
Maybe the West would be a saner place today !

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
1 year ago

“What if the USSR hadn’t collapsed?”
Maybe the West would be a saner place today !

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago

‘They knew for sure, because they were certain that history was on their side. We all know what happened next.’

And then, 80 odd years later Blair and Bush invade Iraq, convinced of exactly the same thing, partly because of the collapse of the USSR
.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I am surprised that anyone believes that Blair and Bush believed the WMD narrative. Nobody else did, surely it’s obvious they didn’t themselves.

Iraq got invaded for one simple reason: to show global Islamism the price of attacking the USA. The reason Iraq was chosen as the target is simply that Saddam Hussein’s regime was the most prominent example of an Islamic nation that had defied America’s will in the past and had got away with it.

The first Gulf War was the first major geopolitical event that I experienced as an adult. I may have been still a callow youth at the time, but I was still surprised that so few people called the ejection of the Iraqi forces from Kuwait a victory. It wasn’t, it was a draw at best, leaving Iraq’s regime mostly unpunished. The Gulf War in 2003 was a belated attempt to undo that mistake as far as I’m concerned – a failed attempt justified through lies, carried out in the face of colossal public opposition and with colossally damaging unintended consequences, but that’s still what it was.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Mark C
Mark C
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Iraq had nothing to do with “global Islamism”. It was a secular regime.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark C
Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark C

Quite.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark C

Quite.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I agree with that…the planes that hit the twin towers and pentagon, and fell short of the White House were stuffed with Saudis, and I am not sure there was even one Iraqi in them, but we invaded Iraq.
I also agree the Gulf War was just finishing off the unfinished business of the earlier operation in Kuwait.
It was Bush and America of course, Blair was incidental. He was happy to go along with it of course, to stay close to America, but he was just a ‘go-along guy’ really, along with the other members of the freedom alliance or whatever it was called.
In the spirit of counterfactual history. If we hadn’t gone into Iraq and created an utter mess we may have had more success focusing on Afghanistan , which was where they were all training, and creating a more stable society with more chance of standing against the Pakistani supported Taliban.
And we wouldn’t have had the same mess in Syria, or any of the Isis created chaos of the last decades.

But all that on one side; there is no alternative universe in which the twin towers ‘War on Terror’ decision to invade Iraq was not the very worst possible decision in the wide range of possible course of action.

Mark C
Mark C
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Iraq had nothing to do with “global Islamism”. It was a secular regime.

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark C
Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  John Riordan

I agree with that…the planes that hit the twin towers and pentagon, and fell short of the White House were stuffed with Saudis, and I am not sure there was even one Iraqi in them, but we invaded Iraq.
I also agree the Gulf War was just finishing off the unfinished business of the earlier operation in Kuwait.
It was Bush and America of course, Blair was incidental. He was happy to go along with it of course, to stay close to America, but he was just a ‘go-along guy’ really, along with the other members of the freedom alliance or whatever it was called.
In the spirit of counterfactual history. If we hadn’t gone into Iraq and created an utter mess we may have had more success focusing on Afghanistan , which was where they were all training, and creating a more stable society with more chance of standing against the Pakistani supported Taliban.
And we wouldn’t have had the same mess in Syria, or any of the Isis created chaos of the last decades.

But all that on one side; there is no alternative universe in which the twin towers ‘War on Terror’ decision to invade Iraq was not the very worst possible decision in the wide range of possible course of action.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I am surprised that anyone believes that Blair and Bush believed the WMD narrative. Nobody else did, surely it’s obvious they didn’t themselves.

Iraq got invaded for one simple reason: to show global Islamism the price of attacking the USA. The reason Iraq was chosen as the target is simply that Saddam Hussein’s regime was the most prominent example of an Islamic nation that had defied America’s will in the past and had got away with it.

The first Gulf War was the first major geopolitical event that I experienced as an adult. I may have been still a callow youth at the time, but I was still surprised that so few people called the ejection of the Iraqi forces from Kuwait a victory. It wasn’t, it was a draw at best, leaving Iraq’s regime mostly unpunished. The Gulf War in 2003 was a belated attempt to undo that mistake as far as I’m concerned – a failed attempt justified through lies, carried out in the face of colossal public opposition and with colossally damaging unintended consequences, but that’s still what it was.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Riordan
Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago

‘They knew for sure, because they were certain that history was on their side. We all know what happened next.’

And then, 80 odd years later Blair and Bush invade Iraq, convinced of exactly the same thing, partly because of the collapse of the USSR
.

Peter Drummond
Peter Drummond
1 year ago

One thing I do know: Chelsea FC would have continued being mediocre and the Premiership might have been spared some of the current excess.

Peter Drummond
Peter Drummond
1 year ago

One thing I do know: Chelsea FC would have continued being mediocre and the Premiership might have been spared some of the current excess.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

The USSR was simply the last of the early modern empires, of which Putin’s Russia is but a pale reflection.
Half its population wasn’t even Russian. Moscow had no more chance of dominating the Baltics, the Caucasus, and Central Asia than Paris had of dominating Algeria, or London had of dominating India.
Marxism also insured it was a very inefficient empire. That made it impossible to compete in the modern world. It was either autarky or collapse. Even then it could not survive without relatively high petro prices.
Nothing is inevitable in history. But for the USSR to have survived, it needed to become a very large North Korea, sealed off from the rest of the world, and armed to the teeth. That’s the path Putin is pursuing right now.
For any Muscovite state, no other model is possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by martin logan
martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago

The USSR was simply the last of the early modern empires, of which Putin’s Russia is but a pale reflection.
Half its population wasn’t even Russian. Moscow had no more chance of dominating the Baltics, the Caucasus, and Central Asia than Paris had of dominating Algeria, or London had of dominating India.
Marxism also insured it was a very inefficient empire. That made it impossible to compete in the modern world. It was either autarky or collapse. Even then it could not survive without relatively high petro prices.
Nothing is inevitable in history. But for the USSR to have survived, it needed to become a very large North Korea, sealed off from the rest of the world, and armed to the teeth. That’s the path Putin is pursuing right now.
For any Muscovite state, no other model is possible.

Last edited 1 year ago by martin logan
Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

As Fred Kite (Peter Sellers) put it in “I’m alright Jack”: “All that wheat and ballet in the evenings”.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago

As Fred Kite (Peter Sellers) put it in “I’m alright Jack”: “All that wheat and ballet in the evenings”.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
1 year ago

I recently watched the latest Tom Clancy / Jack Ryan series on Prime, and although it stretched the bounds of plausibility to breaking point, it warmed the cockles that the CIA was back to its core business of dealing with rogue Russians. Who doesn’t love traditional rivalries.
Contra Jack Ryan, I also recently watched Cambridge Spies. I can do without my traitors being given sympathetic go-overs, thank you very much.
Oh. And the West needed the USSR like Rome needed Carthage.

Last edited 1 year ago by Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
1 year ago

I recently watched the latest Tom Clancy / Jack Ryan series on Prime, and although it stretched the bounds of plausibility to breaking point, it warmed the cockles that the CIA was back to its core business of dealing with rogue Russians. Who doesn’t love traditional rivalries.
Contra Jack Ryan, I also recently watched Cambridge Spies. I can do without my traitors being given sympathetic go-overs, thank you very much.
Oh. And the West needed the USSR like Rome needed Carthage.

Last edited 1 year ago by Tony Taylor
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

And who knew that the US would adopt so enthusiastically the hideous Stalinist surveillance/punishment state only 30 years later?

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
1 year ago

It hasn’t. Don’t be silly.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
1 year ago

It hasn’t. Don’t be silly.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

And who knew that the US would adopt so enthusiastically the hideous Stalinist surveillance/punishment state only 30 years later?

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
1 year ago

There’s still a strange attachment to Russia amongst a weird bunch of people in weird parts of the internet. Rabidly anti-USA figures who probably claim to be communists are willing to shelve their self-proclaimed anti-war/anti-imperialist principles when Russia rolls in with the tanks.

Steve Farrell
Steve Farrell
1 year ago

There’s still a strange attachment to Russia amongst a weird bunch of people in weird parts of the internet. Rabidly anti-USA figures who probably claim to be communists are willing to shelve their self-proclaimed anti-war/anti-imperialist principles when Russia rolls in with the tanks.

Ben Dauber
Ben Dauber
1 year ago

Great stuff Sandbrook. The collapse of the Soviet Union hasn’t had its historic day in the sun that it probably deserves. This, coupled with the fact that most people in the West have no real idea of how bleak life was in 90’s Russia, makes it easy to chalk up the 21st-century Putin state as wanting a return to the “glory days.”
History is messy
Putin does look back with admiration on the former empire. Yet he is no communist. And he knows that trying to recreate the USSR would be to rebirth all of the eternal contradictions that killed it.
As he said himself:
“Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.”

L Walker
L Walker
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Dauber

Sounds stolen to me. He really said that?

Daoud Fakhri
Daoud Fakhri
1 year ago
Reply to  L Walker

Sounds similar to what Churchill is supposed to have said: “if you aren’t a liberal in your 20s, you haven’t got a heart. If you’re still a liberal in your 30s, you haven’t got a brain.”

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Daoud Fakhri

There’s an identical Socialist /Conservative, & heart/brain duopoly quote as well.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
1 year ago
Reply to  Daoud Fakhri

There’s an identical Socialist /Conservative, & heart/brain duopoly quote as well.

Daoud Fakhri
Daoud Fakhri
1 year ago
Reply to  L Walker

Sounds similar to what Churchill is supposed to have said: “if you aren’t a liberal in your 20s, you haven’t got a heart. If you’re still a liberal in your 30s, you haven’t got a brain.”

L Walker
L Walker
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben Dauber

Sounds stolen to me. He really said that?

Ben Dauber
Ben Dauber
1 year ago

Great stuff Sandbrook. The collapse of the Soviet Union hasn’t had its historic day in the sun that it probably deserves. This, coupled with the fact that most people in the West have no real idea of how bleak life was in 90’s Russia, makes it easy to chalk up the 21st-century Putin state as wanting a return to the “glory days.”
History is messy
Putin does look back with admiration on the former empire. Yet he is no communist. And he knows that trying to recreate the USSR would be to rebirth all of the eternal contradictions that killed it.
As he said himself:
“Whoever does not miss the Soviet Union has no heart. Whoever wants it back has no brain.”

Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
1 year ago

Tell the woke warriors, who proclaim that ‘history is on their side’, the story of the Bolsheviks.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
Simon Diggins
1 year ago

Tell the woke warriors, who proclaim that ‘history is on their side’, the story of the Bolsheviks.

Last edited 1 year ago by Simon Diggins
John Dewhirst
John Dewhirst
1 year ago

The central theme in the history of the USSR is surely that of economic failure. Of how the USSR ultimately failed to keep up with the west not only in terms of individual standards or qualities of living. Its inability to maintain military competitiveness and its technological backwardness notwithstanding the conquering of space.
 Even in 1990, metropolitan Russians were relatively ignorant about the west. But how long could the USSR have maintained its firewalls? Not surprisingly the collapse of the USSR was initiated from its loss of control over Eastern Europe and the aspirational demands of citizens in Poland and East Germany etc. Given the rise of the Internet it is difficult to see how Soviet control could have been maintained indefinitely over Eastern Europe and the loss of the vassals was surely inevitable. In turn the USSR – and metropolitan Russia – would have struggled to control the curiosity of its citizens about developments in Eastern Europe which would have led to demands for the sort of material improvements that the USSR could not afford to provide.
The survival of Communist regimes in Cuba and North Korea benefited from relative geographical isolation and racial homogeneity, neither of which the USSR possessed. Ironically it seems that Putin’s Russia has rested upon disillusionment about the West / democracy. However the collapse of the USSR was still necessary to give people the lived experience of capitalism albeit with the cronyism and particular characteristics of Russian capitalism.
 As the Curtis BBC series demonstrates, the USSR was dysfunctional and had been proven backward in so many areas by the 1980s that some form of painful transition was both unavoidable and inevitable. Given the economic and nationalist contradictions of the USSR, with hindsight the implosion of the USSR was always going to be on the cards.
 As to why no-one in the west saw the collapse of the USSR coming is a massive question. The lack of understanding about the USSR might also explain how the west responded to its collapse. The demise of the USSR was considered a validation of liberal capitalism and there was a naive belief that Russians would instantaneously become transformed into the mirror image of western consumers. It seems that very little thought had been given in the west to what a successor(s) to the USSR might be and arguably the same errors may be repeated about a post-Putin Russian Federation.
 Putin has revived Russian imperialism but faces the same contradictions of the Soviet Union in terms of satisfying material and nationalist aspirations within his empire. The current isolation of Russia also condemns the empire to future economic weakness and the prospect of a painful correction in the future. As in 1991 there remains the question of what happens to all those nuclear weapons.
 The Soviets understood the contagion risk of bordering states from Poland through to Afghanistan and so too does Vladimir Putin, as the special operation in Ukraine demonstrates.
 That the USSR – or indeed a modern day Russian empire – is not a viable proposition is the worrying issue. Thirty years after its collapse and a century after its creation we still have little idea about what a viable successor to the USSR could be. Existing tensions in the Balkans postdate the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by a century and something similar seems likely to persist in the former territories of the USSR.
In years to come, maybe the west will become equally nostalgic as Putin about the USSR and the old certainties of the Cold War. 

John Dewhirst
John Dewhirst
1 year ago

The central theme in the history of the USSR is surely that of economic failure. Of how the USSR ultimately failed to keep up with the west not only in terms of individual standards or qualities of living. Its inability to maintain military competitiveness and its technological backwardness notwithstanding the conquering of space.
 Even in 1990, metropolitan Russians were relatively ignorant about the west. But how long could the USSR have maintained its firewalls? Not surprisingly the collapse of the USSR was initiated from its loss of control over Eastern Europe and the aspirational demands of citizens in Poland and East Germany etc. Given the rise of the Internet it is difficult to see how Soviet control could have been maintained indefinitely over Eastern Europe and the loss of the vassals was surely inevitable. In turn the USSR – and metropolitan Russia – would have struggled to control the curiosity of its citizens about developments in Eastern Europe which would have led to demands for the sort of material improvements that the USSR could not afford to provide.
The survival of Communist regimes in Cuba and North Korea benefited from relative geographical isolation and racial homogeneity, neither of which the USSR possessed. Ironically it seems that Putin’s Russia has rested upon disillusionment about the West / democracy. However the collapse of the USSR was still necessary to give people the lived experience of capitalism albeit with the cronyism and particular characteristics of Russian capitalism.
 As the Curtis BBC series demonstrates, the USSR was dysfunctional and had been proven backward in so many areas by the 1980s that some form of painful transition was both unavoidable and inevitable. Given the economic and nationalist contradictions of the USSR, with hindsight the implosion of the USSR was always going to be on the cards.
 As to why no-one in the west saw the collapse of the USSR coming is a massive question. The lack of understanding about the USSR might also explain how the west responded to its collapse. The demise of the USSR was considered a validation of liberal capitalism and there was a naive belief that Russians would instantaneously become transformed into the mirror image of western consumers. It seems that very little thought had been given in the west to what a successor(s) to the USSR might be and arguably the same errors may be repeated about a post-Putin Russian Federation.
 Putin has revived Russian imperialism but faces the same contradictions of the Soviet Union in terms of satisfying material and nationalist aspirations within his empire. The current isolation of Russia also condemns the empire to future economic weakness and the prospect of a painful correction in the future. As in 1991 there remains the question of what happens to all those nuclear weapons.
 The Soviets understood the contagion risk of bordering states from Poland through to Afghanistan and so too does Vladimir Putin, as the special operation in Ukraine demonstrates.
 That the USSR – or indeed a modern day Russian empire – is not a viable proposition is the worrying issue. Thirty years after its collapse and a century after its creation we still have little idea about what a viable successor to the USSR could be. Existing tensions in the Balkans postdate the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire by a century and something similar seems likely to persist in the former territories of the USSR.
In years to come, maybe the west will become equally nostalgic as Putin about the USSR and the old certainties of the Cold War. 

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago

“What if” in an historical context is the most redundant of questions. The past simply cannot be undone. To pretend otherwise is to engage in a delusion. Better to challenge ourselves with the question “So, what now?” When trying to address that question, lessons from history can be very helpful – albeit that the last century and more of Russian history is somewhat depressing in that regard. Maybe, in that context, it very much matters who is writing the history.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

In the politest possible way I disagree! ‘What if’ is usually an interesting diversion, but more usefully a sort of ‘gaming’ exercise. Historical situations recur time and time again, so thinking how they might have turned out is a way of considering how to handle any current crisis, or would be if we had any sane, historically aware politicians in power (how Blair let the invasion of Afghanistan proceed given the abject failure of every previous attempt is still a mystery).
I have just read a fascinating book on the New Model Army in the English Civil War. Cromwell’s Commonwealth decided into military dictatorship after his death, which very quickly unravelled into the Restoration of the monarchy as the army commanders realised that without popular support it was simply untenable – but that was in a country where liberty from oppression, albeit slowly evolving over centuries, was built into the national psyche – and no following you around with your smartphone!

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Thanks – I will buy the book! But I have to beg to differ too! I fear the repeated mistake is to believe that, with a slightly different approach to last time, history can be repeated but more successfully this time (though it in truth everything has changed so it never can be) – though maybe that is what Blair thought? – and on that I completely agree with you – that is a real mystery .

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

The New Model Army by Ian Gentles. Excellent although as I try to evolve my previously dire knowledge of the middle of the 17th century every book seems to assume that I start from a greater knowledge than I actually have! This one is very good if it meanders a bit towards the end, but the dear reader is supposed to know something more than I do about the basis of the politics and economics – I guess that I shall have to find a book to tutor me on that now!

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

The New Model Army by Ian Gentles. Excellent although as I try to evolve my previously dire knowledge of the middle of the 17th century every book seems to assume that I start from a greater knowledge than I actually have! This one is very good if it meanders a bit towards the end, but the dear reader is supposed to know something more than I do about the basis of the politics and economics – I guess that I shall have to find a book to tutor me on that now!

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

Thanks – I will buy the book! But I have to beg to differ too! I fear the repeated mistake is to believe that, with a slightly different approach to last time, history can be repeated but more successfully this time (though it in truth everything has changed so it never can be) – though maybe that is what Blair thought? – and on that I completely agree with you – that is a real mystery .

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Malcolm Webb

In the politest possible way I disagree! ‘What if’ is usually an interesting diversion, but more usefully a sort of ‘gaming’ exercise. Historical situations recur time and time again, so thinking how they might have turned out is a way of considering how to handle any current crisis, or would be if we had any sane, historically aware politicians in power (how Blair let the invasion of Afghanistan proceed given the abject failure of every previous attempt is still a mystery).
I have just read a fascinating book on the New Model Army in the English Civil War. Cromwell’s Commonwealth decided into military dictatorship after his death, which very quickly unravelled into the Restoration of the monarchy as the army commanders realised that without popular support it was simply untenable – but that was in a country where liberty from oppression, albeit slowly evolving over centuries, was built into the national psyche – and no following you around with your smartphone!

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
1 year ago

“What if” in an historical context is the most redundant of questions. The past simply cannot be undone. To pretend otherwise is to engage in a delusion. Better to challenge ourselves with the question “So, what now?” When trying to address that question, lessons from history can be very helpful – albeit that the last century and more of Russian history is somewhat depressing in that regard. Maybe, in that context, it very much matters who is writing the history.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

To judge whether it’s better that the USSR collapsed sooner rather than later, surely we need to know the cost in lives per year of its continued survival, to be compared with the admittedly atrocious costs following its collapse?

That said, I personally have no doubts. It was a vicious anti-human system that didn’t deserve to last a week, let alone 70-odd years. Communism was and remains a disgrace to our species.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 year ago

To judge whether it’s better that the USSR collapsed sooner rather than later, surely we need to know the cost in lives per year of its continued survival, to be compared with the admittedly atrocious costs following its collapse?

That said, I personally have no doubts. It was a vicious anti-human system that didn’t deserve to last a week, let alone 70-odd years. Communism was and remains a disgrace to our species.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

A work in progress, Russia. Who could have imagined the Union collapsing and turning into a kleptocracy? And of the citizens who must accept their fate, those who get the crumbs hail their masters, others silent in fear. But we saw much the same with the restrictions of the pandemic. Fear prevailed among nearly all liberals accepting the diktats of their leaders. Nearly constant repression of the people via controlled media. The West not so different from Russia aside from accepting the kleptocracy of capitalism wrought anew via the pandemic. Mr. Gates investments gaining 20:1 as an example. Wonder if the history of the 1920’s is set to repeat, but in the West as a growing inequality arrives. Lets hope that cycle does not repeat.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

A work in progress, Russia. Who could have imagined the Union collapsing and turning into a kleptocracy? And of the citizens who must accept their fate, those who get the crumbs hail their masters, others silent in fear. But we saw much the same with the restrictions of the pandemic. Fear prevailed among nearly all liberals accepting the diktats of their leaders. Nearly constant repression of the people via controlled media. The West not so different from Russia aside from accepting the kleptocracy of capitalism wrought anew via the pandemic. Mr. Gates investments gaining 20:1 as an example. Wonder if the history of the 1920’s is set to repeat, but in the West as a growing inequality arrives. Lets hope that cycle does not repeat.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 year ago

The Russians are different, they just are. They were shaped by centuries of serfdom. It’s in the DNA.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

“Ronald Reagan infamously called it an “evil empire”, run by people who “preach the supremacy of the State, declare its omnipotence over individual”
Ah, the irony. If he could see what views are espoused and imposed by certain influential groups in Western politics and academia.

The crossroads in history, the what if moment, was not the collapse of the USSR. In retrospect, that was bound to happen.

The biggest decision point rather was what happened AFTER that. Whether
A. the Western countries would step in to help Russia become strong and prosperous. Or
B. Enjoy the spectacle as Russia imploded, while encouraging “businessmen” to loot the country and “invest” those billions in London and elsewhere.

What we are reaping today is the impact of the West choosing option B. But not only that decision, but the mindset behind it.
Because the West did, after all, choose option A in 1945 for the far more evil Germany and Japan (at that time).

The underlying problem is that the West has always had a virulent contempt and hatred for the “inferior” Russians.
All the talk of evil Putin and how he is going to invade Sweden, scratch the surface and you soon figure out it’s not the leader but his people that are detested.
There is no way the West would have pumped in the equivalent of a Marshall plan to help Russia become powerful and robust. Ironically, that would have made Russia much more pro West, immensely strengthened the Western coalition, and cost far LESS than what the West are burning in Ukraine. But that would have meant considering the Russians as equals.

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Oh dear! It really is the regime that is despised, Samir. And of course its apologists.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Which regime are you referring to in 1990-2000 Russia? Which was also the period of rapid expansion in NATO towards Russian borders, incidentally.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Of course NATO expanded – those states released from the Russian yoke wanted some form of guarantee against Russia coming back to take them over again. The shame is that more of them, especially Georgia and Ukraine, didn’t immediately join NATO, then maybe Russia would have realised that further imperial expansion was untenable, instead of releasing death and destruction once again to its West. Actually in hindsight what might have been a more acceptable solution would have been all of the previous Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact states to start their own version of NATO to bind together in a US and nuclear-free Pact of mutual defence co-operation, which would give Russia fewer paranoid excuses to destroy them again. Is it too late for that?

Stephen Wright
Stephen Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

yes the irony is that in the West we were cautious and timid with Russia worried about their feelings, so not allowing Ukraine and Georgia in. So Ukrainians and Georgians had to pay with their lives. So when Putin complains and brainwashes Russians about NATO what he is really saying is ‘I want to be able to control and invade those countries, killing the citizens if it suits me’. He knows NATO is not a threat to Russia, it is a threat to him controlling and killing his neighbours. Thats why they are desperate to join. It is a sorry tale.

Stephen Wright
Stephen Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

yes the irony is that in the West we were cautious and timid with Russia worried about their feelings, so not allowing Ukraine and Georgia in. So Ukrainians and Georgians had to pay with their lives. So when Putin complains and brainwashes Russians about NATO what he is really saying is ‘I want to be able to control and invade those countries, killing the citizens if it suits me’. He knows NATO is not a threat to Russia, it is a threat to him controlling and killing his neighbours. Thats why they are desperate to join. It is a sorry tale.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

So if you were Lithuanian you’d have welcomed the Russians back then?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Putin’s regime, the one that invaded a sovereign nation and is now deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. That regime.
I call such actions war crimes. What do you call them Samir?

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Of course NATO expanded – those states released from the Russian yoke wanted some form of guarantee against Russia coming back to take them over again. The shame is that more of them, especially Georgia and Ukraine, didn’t immediately join NATO, then maybe Russia would have realised that further imperial expansion was untenable, instead of releasing death and destruction once again to its West. Actually in hindsight what might have been a more acceptable solution would have been all of the previous Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact states to start their own version of NATO to bind together in a US and nuclear-free Pact of mutual defence co-operation, which would give Russia fewer paranoid excuses to destroy them again. Is it too late for that?

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

So if you were Lithuanian you’d have welcomed the Russians back then?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Putin’s regime, the one that invaded a sovereign nation and is now deliberately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. That regime.
I call such actions war crimes. What do you call them Samir?

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Which regime are you referring to in 1990-2000 Russia? Which was also the period of rapid expansion in NATO towards Russian borders, incidentally.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Agree with you about the options, and we failed to pick A. But disagree with you about Putin – he’s a standard evil megalomaniac on a par with Stalin – and the submissive Russian culture unfortunately keeps producing these bampots.

Stephen Wright
Stephen Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

The collapse of the USSR is a little different to the situations post WW2 Samir. You seriously think the USA could have gone in and taken control of that massive dysfunctional state? The West had just got through the Cold War by the skin of their teeth, where the USSR had stockpiled and insistently tested a huge collection of nuclear weapons as a threat to the USA and you expect them to immediately trust that state and help them get going?
People love to blame the USA for their own failures – and the USSR was their own failure. At the same time lets blame USA for not helping create a great society such as modern day Japan or Germany. lol. Russia has everything it needs in resources and human capital to succeed yet it fails because of it’s own decisions and frankly I find it depressing and would welcome a prosperous, functional Russia. Yet it spends all its time creating insane conspiracy about the USA because of its own ego problems, but also you expect the USA to come in and fix it and make it great….

Last edited 1 year ago by Stephen Wright
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I do not know why you were down voted. Seems a reasonable analysis to me

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

To say that The Western powers miscalculated is an analysis that I think has merit. But Samir goes far beyond that. He is trying to clear Putin and his regime of responsibility for its actions. Putin is a grown man, and is as responsible for his actions as the rest of are for our actions. It is Putin’s army that is murdering women and children in The Ukraine – Not mine.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I do not think he is trying to clear Putin. I think he is offering a reasoned explanation of why we ended up where we are now in much the same way as historians explain the origins of the Second World War in terms of the failures at the end of the First Wold War.
Instead of extending an olive branch to the Russians following the collapse of communism the Americans took the opportunity not just to beat down on them but also to asset strip the country.
This may have been motivated by purely predatory instincts. Then again it could have been motivated to ensure that a prosperous and successful Russia did not emerge from the ashes as a global rival particularly with the likely outcome of Europe being weened off dependence on the US.
Before the invasion of the Ukraine I think the above analysis was fairly mainstream, and the invasion of the Ukraine does not make it any less valid. Nor does referencing the analysis make you a support of the invasion any more that critiquing the Treaty of Versailles makes one a supporter of Hitler.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I do not think he is trying to clear Putin. I think he is offering a reasoned explanation of why we ended up where we are now in much the same way as historians explain the origins of the Second World War in terms of the failures at the end of the First Wold War.
Instead of extending an olive branch to the Russians following the collapse of communism the Americans took the opportunity not just to beat down on them but also to asset strip the country.
This may have been motivated by purely predatory instincts. Then again it could have been motivated to ensure that a prosperous and successful Russia did not emerge from the ashes as a global rival particularly with the likely outcome of Europe being weened off dependence on the US.
Before the invasion of the Ukraine I think the above analysis was fairly mainstream, and the invasion of the Ukraine does not make it any less valid. Nor does referencing the analysis make you a support of the invasion any more that critiquing the Treaty of Versailles makes one a supporter of Hitler.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

To say that The Western powers miscalculated is an analysis that I think has merit. But Samir goes far beyond that. He is trying to clear Putin and his regime of responsibility for its actions. Putin is a grown man, and is as responsible for his actions as the rest of are for our actions. It is Putin’s army that is murdering women and children in The Ukraine – Not mine.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

“the West did, after all, choose option A in 1945 for the far more evil Germany and Japan.”
Granted that all three were loaded with evil, by that time already the USSR had accumulated an unsurpassable record of it, in the shooting of the Czar’s entire family, the civil war, the creation of the gulag archipelago, lethal slave-labor projects to create grandiose boondoggles, the violent suppression of religion, the manufactured famine in Ukraine, the late 1930s show trials, Stalin’s quotas for mass-executions of other disfavored groups and nationalities, his 1939 deal with Hitler that divided Poland between the two and started WWII, the Katyn massacres … I’m sure there was more yet, but does this help?

Last edited 1 year ago by Wim de Vriend
Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

You must not think much of Russia & Russians if you think they couldn’t make it by themselves; you also seems to embue the USA/West with God like power. Japan & Germany rebuilt themselves after the war, and South Korea, China, many ex SSRs and other countries pulled themselves into relative wealth and happiness through their own choices.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

“The underlying problem is that the West has always had a virulent contempt and hatred for the “inferior” Russians.”

Complete nonsense and a gross exaggeration. Our (England’s) first major chartered joint stock company was the Muscovy Company founded in 1555, (well before we got around to pillaging India). This Company happily traded with Russia up until 1917.

We also welcomed Peter the Great to the Royal Dockyard at Deptford to learn the ‘secrets’ of warship construction in the late 17th century.

During the Napoleonic Wars we were delighted with Czar’s massive contribution to the destruction of the Corsican pygmy.

True in the 19th century we became suspicious of Russian designs on the Mediterranean and also in Central Asia However we were quite happy to see them seize larger areas of China in the 1860’s.

In 1914 and 1941 we were delighted that they were our Allies were we not?

The only nation of the West with similar historical links is France and there is little evidence of them regarding the Russians as “inferiors”, particularly during the period 1970-1914.

Perhaps you are the confusing the “West’s contempt” with that say of England with regard to Scotland?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

In 1914 and 1941 we were delighted that they were our Allies were we not?
In 1941 I think Churchill justified the alliance with Russia in terms of making a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons. He had no illusions about the nature of the Soviet regime.
In 1914 and even in the Napoleonic wars it was more a case of my enemies enemy is my friend.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Yes but I don’t think we thought of them as “inferiors”. Leaving aside our political ties, how could we, given their vast contribution to both literature and music?

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago

Yes but I don’t think we thought of them as “inferiors”. Leaving aside our political ties, how could we, given their vast contribution to both literature and music?

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago

In 1914 and 1941 we were delighted that they were our Allies were we not?
In 1941 I think Churchill justified the alliance with Russia in terms of making a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons. He had no illusions about the nature of the Soviet regime.
In 1914 and even in the Napoleonic wars it was more a case of my enemies enemy is my friend.

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Sorry, the character of Russians themselves determined their country’s fate in the 80s and 90s, not the cruel Dickensian West.
Both Germany and Japan lost millions in the war, and saw much of their industry obliterated. Yet neither Germans nor Japanese post-WW2 engaged in mass theft of every valuable enterprise. Both nations took decades to recover, but they also had something called Rule of Law.
In sharp contrast, Russia’s infrastructure was entirely intact, and it had not suffered millions of battlefield deaths. But Marxism, as practiced in Russia, made everyone a criminal in order to survive.
And because Putin never tried to change it, he’s destroyed his country.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Oh dear! It really is the regime that is despised, Samir. And of course its apologists.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Agree with you about the options, and we failed to pick A. But disagree with you about Putin – he’s a standard evil megalomaniac on a par with Stalin – and the submissive Russian culture unfortunately keeps producing these bampots.

Stephen Wright
Stephen Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

The collapse of the USSR is a little different to the situations post WW2 Samir. You seriously think the USA could have gone in and taken control of that massive dysfunctional state? The West had just got through the Cold War by the skin of their teeth, where the USSR had stockpiled and insistently tested a huge collection of nuclear weapons as a threat to the USA and you expect them to immediately trust that state and help them get going?
People love to blame the USA for their own failures – and the USSR was their own failure. At the same time lets blame USA for not helping create a great society such as modern day Japan or Germany. lol. Russia has everything it needs in resources and human capital to succeed yet it fails because of it’s own decisions and frankly I find it depressing and would welcome a prosperous, functional Russia. Yet it spends all its time creating insane conspiracy about the USA because of its own ego problems, but also you expect the USA to come in and fix it and make it great….

Last edited 1 year ago by Stephen Wright
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I do not know why you were down voted. Seems a reasonable analysis to me

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

“the West did, after all, choose option A in 1945 for the far more evil Germany and Japan.”
Granted that all three were loaded with evil, by that time already the USSR had accumulated an unsurpassable record of it, in the shooting of the Czar’s entire family, the civil war, the creation of the gulag archipelago, lethal slave-labor projects to create grandiose boondoggles, the violent suppression of religion, the manufactured famine in Ukraine, the late 1930s show trials, Stalin’s quotas for mass-executions of other disfavored groups and nationalities, his 1939 deal with Hitler that divided Poland between the two and started WWII, the Katyn massacres … I’m sure there was more yet, but does this help?

Last edited 1 year ago by Wim de Vriend
Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

You must not think much of Russia & Russians if you think they couldn’t make it by themselves; you also seems to embue the USA/West with God like power. Japan & Germany rebuilt themselves after the war, and South Korea, China, many ex SSRs and other countries pulled themselves into relative wealth and happiness through their own choices.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

“The underlying problem is that the West has always had a virulent contempt and hatred for the “inferior” Russians.”

Complete nonsense and a gross exaggeration. Our (England’s) first major chartered joint stock company was the Muscovy Company founded in 1555, (well before we got around to pillaging India). This Company happily traded with Russia up until 1917.

We also welcomed Peter the Great to the Royal Dockyard at Deptford to learn the ‘secrets’ of warship construction in the late 17th century.

During the Napoleonic Wars we were delighted with Czar’s massive contribution to the destruction of the Corsican pygmy.

True in the 19th century we became suspicious of Russian designs on the Mediterranean and also in Central Asia However we were quite happy to see them seize larger areas of China in the 1860’s.

In 1914 and 1941 we were delighted that they were our Allies were we not?

The only nation of the West with similar historical links is France and there is little evidence of them regarding the Russians as “inferiors”, particularly during the period 1970-1914.

Perhaps you are the confusing the “West’s contempt” with that say of England with regard to Scotland?

martin logan
martin logan
1 year ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Sorry, the character of Russians themselves determined their country’s fate in the 80s and 90s, not the cruel Dickensian West.
Both Germany and Japan lost millions in the war, and saw much of their industry obliterated. Yet neither Germans nor Japanese post-WW2 engaged in mass theft of every valuable enterprise. Both nations took decades to recover, but they also had something called Rule of Law.
In sharp contrast, Russia’s infrastructure was entirely intact, and it had not suffered millions of battlefield deaths. But Marxism, as practiced in Russia, made everyone a criminal in order to survive.
And because Putin never tried to change it, he’s destroyed his country.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
1 year ago

“Ronald Reagan infamously called it an “evil empire”, run by people who “preach the supremacy of the State, declare its omnipotence over individual”
Ah, the irony. If he could see what views are espoused and imposed by certain influential groups in Western politics and academia.

The crossroads in history, the what if moment, was not the collapse of the USSR. In retrospect, that was bound to happen.

The biggest decision point rather was what happened AFTER that. Whether
A. the Western countries would step in to help Russia become strong and prosperous. Or
B. Enjoy the spectacle as Russia imploded, while encouraging “businessmen” to loot the country and “invest” those billions in London and elsewhere.

What we are reaping today is the impact of the West choosing option B. But not only that decision, but the mindset behind it.
Because the West did, after all, choose option A in 1945 for the far more evil Germany and Japan (at that time).

The underlying problem is that the West has always had a virulent contempt and hatred for the “inferior” Russians.
All the talk of evil Putin and how he is going to invade Sweden, scratch the surface and you soon figure out it’s not the leader but his people that are detested.
There is no way the West would have pumped in the equivalent of a Marshall plan to help Russia become powerful and robust. Ironically, that would have made Russia much more pro West, immensely strengthened the Western coalition, and cost far LESS than what the West are burning in Ukraine. But that would have meant considering the Russians as equals.

Last edited 1 year ago by Samir Iker