Saturday, August 20, 2011

Russia--Twenty Years Later

A Russian women who remembers the events of 1991 has this to share on the 20th anniversary (August 19th) of an attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev:

“I felt more comfortable in the U.S.S.R.,” she said. “You always had a piece of bread. You always had work. Yes, sure, you can go overseas now, but you have to have money for that and you have to go into debt. Now, if you don’t have money you can’t do anything.” 


A recent poll by the Levada Center, a respected polling agency, found that 20 percent of Russians share her wish for a return of the Soviet Union, a number that has bobbed up and down between 16 percent and 27 percent over the past eight years. 

You shouldn't be. For those of us who remember the events of 1989-1991, from Tienanmen Square to the opening of Eastern Europe, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in the Soviet Union, it was a heady time. But with the euphoria came the reality of massive change, and many people don't prosper from massive change. If the change makes your life worse, why would you support it?

There are a number of articles that discuss this event from The Miami Herald to The New York Times, and many of them use the word "quietly" to describe how the Russians today are commemorating the event. There are good reasons for that: Gorbachev is now seen as the man who pretty much destroyed whatever international power Russia had at the time, and the promise of democracy has not planted itself in the country. They have voting, of course, but not democracy.

And it looks as though Prime Minister Vladimir Putin,the once and probably future president, will continue to wield extraordinary power for the foreseeable future. If you're a fan of democracy, having a former KGB man at the head of your government is not a promising turn of events.

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