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12 May, 2009 10:01

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review, May 12

ROAR: Russian Opinion and Analytics Review,  May 12

This Tuesday ROAR presents a sketch of Georgian politics and a review of a new book on war and peace.

In KOMMERSANT political scientist Boris Makarenko writes that the current state of Georgian politics causes many an analyst to feel totally disoriented. Leaders of the opposition change at will on a weekly basis. One name is prominent for a couple of weeks, while another name is recognized as the name of the main opposition leader, but come negotiations with the government, there is one more name and one more leader.

Besides, writes Makarenko, all the opposition leaders of today are yesterday’s cohorts of the incumbent president. It also seems, he says, that today they are busy with one and only problem: how to oust that very incumbent president, Mikhail Saakashvili, while no thoughts are presented about another important problem: what, in the end, is going to happen to Georgia? The only person who is trying to make peace between them all is the Patriarch serving in that capacity since the early Brezhnev period of Soviet history.

The situation is comparable to that of Moscow, October 1993, writes the author: the same deep antagonism between the government and the opposition (when everyone understands that neither side wants or needs to negotiate, and that neither side is capable of a compromise), a wide-spread sense of national catastrophe and personification of the responsibility for this catastrophe in the figure of the president. Plus the recently learned lesson that if one shakes and rocks a government well enough, it may eventually fall.

Russia in 1993 was saved by the common sense of the majority of the elite: it was rationally decided that Yeltsin is better than the restoration of the old (Communist) system. Nothing in modern Georgia looks like a thinking rationalist elite. Georgia has its own political surgeons – the charismatic leaders for grand events – but no therapists, says Makarenko: and there’s no sense in attempting to cure an amputated limb. The West could have helped with training the ‘therapists’ but the whole vaudeville character of Georgian politics causes Europe to keep a permanent distance.

The author says that under the current circumstances the rot and rust of the Georgian government machine and its leadership may be suddenly exposed and the leader will have to go. But it doesn’t seem likely at the moment. Most probably, he says, the conflict will be dragged along by both sides till the next election – but even that wouldn’t mean that Georgia has managed to create a state that really works.

ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA publishes an article by Aleksandr Sabov dealing with a new book penned by a group of most respected Russian war historians: “War and Society in the XX Century.”

The book presents stunning statistics: in the XX Century the list of nations that were longest in the state of war is headed by Great Britain with 33 years and 9 months out of the century, followed by Russia with 27 years and 6 months, the US with 27 years, Japan with 24 years and 1 month, followed by Spain, China, Turkey, Italy. Germany is on the bottom of the list with just 14 years – but the ‘short’ period includes both World Wars.

The book, says Sabov, confirms that history is cyclic by nature, and so is war: it always happens after a period of peace, and a ‘peace-war cycle’ – coined by Professor I. Danilenko of the General Staff Academy, Russian Armed Forces – becomes a highly important factor in historical research.

War-peace cycles (that would have been a proper name for centuries before the 20th Century) have been known to war historians for a long time. The author quotes the Encyclopedia of Military and Naval Science (St. Petersburg, 1881) in which the average war-peace ratio was calculated for mankind for the previous 3,000 years; it amounted to one year of peace against 13 years of war. It was different from civilization to civilization, and ancient Greece (213 years at war out of total 375) and Rome (411 years at war out of 876) showed that the ratio can be even close to 1:1.

The 20th Century, says the author, looks even better than that. For Russia it’s one year of war per three years of peace, for Germany – one year of war per five years of peace. The author says that the statistical analysis should not be considered as the primary tool of historical research: for instance, it doesn’t take into consideration the fact that with technological development wars become more devastating and call for bigger and bigger human sacrifices. A year at war in the time of Ancient Rome and a year of WWII are totally different in that sense.

He says, because of that fact, and because the next war, if it happens, is going to be a nuclear one, humankind needs to do everything within its capability and beyond, to prevent it from happening. To do that, continues the author, we need to remember previous wars – not by abstract figures but by flesh and blood – the flesh of our own ancestors sacrificed, and their blood spilled in defense of our ancestral lands. We need to celebrate their great victory every year, honor their faith and their graves. The author concludes: “To those whose minds are in limbo about WWII, uncertain about the meaning of that war for our country and for the world, I would advise to read the book which prompted me to write these words.”

Evgeny Belenkiy, RT.