Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dissecting the Soviet Corpse

I have just posted a comment on the New York Times web page about an article in which the first sentence in my posting appeared:


"But the revelations that poured out in the late 1980s — when Moscow’s evening newspaper featured daily profiles of people murdered by Stalin and pioneering television shows toured Western supermarkets — proved fatal to the Soviet Union."

I beg to differ. What proved fatal to the "unbreakable union of free republics" (as the Soviet national anthem put it) was nationalism. Once Gorbachev introduced free speech (glasnost), nationalists in the union republics were free to urge secession. Oddly enough, the Soviet Constitution had a clause in it guaranteeing the right of the republics to secede. This clause, like the rest of the beautiful language in the Stalin constitution, was a dead letter. Stalin's leading "legal" expert announced that any attempt to actually use that clause would be treason. When the new Brezhnev constitution was being written in the late 1970s, at attempt to take that clause out evoked such anger that the regime actually backed down.

Gorbachev's regime acknowledged the constitutional right to secede, but tried to prevent it from being used by adding all sorts of procedural hurdles that a union republic would need to jump over. But by now the momentum was unstoppable.

I think the actual "credit" for destroying the U.S.S.R. goes to the computer. They had to computerize or fall further and further behind in the world economy. But computers made continuing censorship impossible. Glasnost recognized this and tried to get some credit for it.

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