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9 Jan, 2008 05:21

The Media Mirror: what's in today's Russian newspapers?

This is the third installment of the review of EXPERT magazine’s first January issue of 2008. The history of Russia from a modern perspective is still the focus.

Alexander Mehanik says that historically Russia has always been moving from chaos to firm and sometimes cruel order and back again, with long periods spent between the two. He explains this phenomenon by the extreme social stratification of Russian society. The best example would be, he writes, the pre-revolutionary period in the early twentieth century.  It was a time when the city-dwelling middle class and intelligencia were already against the Romanov Monarchy, the rich land owners were conservative, and the peasants – comprising 80% of the population – were uneducated and unable even to understand the ideas expressed by the upper classes of society.

Nicholas I is seen by the author as a leader of a period of order drifting towards stagnation. Alexander II, who liberated the serfs, presided over a period of chaos and became its victim, killed by a terrorist’s bomb. Stalin represents cruel order while Khrushev – another instance of chaos and reform  – followed by Brezhnev’s stagnation. The author places the eight years of Vladimir Putin’s presidency in the middle, as a period when order was brought out of chaos.

Maksim Sokolov brands the 1917 revolution a catastrophe on a scale that doesn’t happen every century. The only period comparable to that, he writes, is the inter-regnum and the chaos at the beginning of the XVII Century, before the enthronement of the Romanov dynasty.  Or the catastrophe that the Thirty Years’ War became for Germany. The writer says the overall European optimism of the first decade of the twentieth century based on the lack of major wars in the previous hundred years facilitated the mass suicide of European states – WWI. For Russia, participation in that war could have meant nothing but chaos and revolution.

Georgy Derlugian, a U.S.-based sociologist of Soviet origin – considers the emergence of the Soviet Union out of the ashes of the Russian Empire as a logical continuation of a pre-WWI process. He writes the USSR became Russia’s answer to the great leap forward performed by the West in the previous centuries. The Soviet Union managed to overcome Russia’s backwardness, and did it within a very short period of time. However, when it became necessary to make the political system democratic, says Derlugian, this mission proved to be impossible for the USSR.