Review of: David Satter, It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012).
Dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, the holder of IWP’s Kościuszko Chair of Polish Studies, has reviewed David Satter’s recent book on post-Soviet Russian attitudes towards its communist past, and, in particular, the Bolshevik crimes which formed the very essence of the not-so-ancient regime. The title of the book sums up succinctly the mentality of the Putinist regime and many post-Soviet Russians, argues Dr. Chodakiewicz.
Moscow’s rulers have traditionally displayed a callous disregard for human lives, albeit the Soviet system undoubtedly surpassed the Muscovite tsars in this regard. This lack of empathy had its historic origins in attempts by Moscow’s princes to emulate the Mongol khans, whose subordinates they had been for over two centuries. Thus, Russian political culture became permeated with the notion that individuals were merely dispensable servants of the state, whose might and power were the only relevant considerations.
But there is another reason why Russia’s current rulers whitewash Soviet crimes. Quite simply, the country’s current ruling elites are descended directly from the Bolshevik regime, including its terror apparatus. Rather naturally, they are unlikely to voluntarily condemn and bring themselves to justice. In light of this, how can one seriously view a Russia which refuses to face its communist, totalitarian past by righting its wrongs as anything but a threat to other nations and, in fact, its own people?