CPSU leaders

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CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-24 02:13am

From a PM exchange with Shep.
About Brezhnew wrote:Brezhnew family photos
Brezhnew wrote:What kind of communism are you speaking about? The Tsar was killed, churches blown up - the people had to have some idea to stabilize society!
Brezhnew wrote:Give us freedom and we'll cut each other's throats.
- Brezhnew was the first to start the tradition of Annual New Year Adress (1970) to the nation done on New Year through TV, this tradition became pretty big since that.

- Brezhnew's speech was bad even during his younger years; despite numerous jokes, his speech manner ("sh") was not a result of senility or marasmus, but of a Great Patriotic War wounding. He was wounded in the jawbone, and it made his accent go worse as he got older and his muscles became more relaxed.

- Brezhnew's favorite game was domino. He might have had some cheap laughs over "domino effect" the US touted :lol:

- Brezhnew was a fan of CSCA (Central Sport Club of the Army).

- 9 Feb 1961 a French plane attacked Brezhnew's diplomatic transport en route to Algeria. Brezhnew remarked that this episode was a strong display that even in peacetime, Soviet leaders were not safe from what he called "provocations".

Interesting recollection:
Vyacheslav Kirillovich Pankin, Soviet detective corps chief wrote:The Gensec came out of the railway car in a sporting suit and light boots. The Kursk oblast government met him. He often adressed me directly for some reason. Asked a lot about the village Brezhnewka, which his parents were born in: "How's the forest there?" Someone hastily said that it was cut down, and Leonid Ilyich became saddened. Then he recalled how he and his friends ambushed village girls carrying forest nuts when he was young. "We caught their boobs!" "Leonid Ilyich! Please!" - Chernenko tried to calm him down. Brezhnew continued: "I had a friend who played the harmonica, once we played so hard that only the press remained, all buttons fell off". He boasted a little about how good a swimmer he was, that could swim for days.

The regional government always tried to use his good mood for requests, for example: "Give us combines for beetroot harvest". "If only I was a Tsar!" - smiled Brezhnew. - "If I go giving out stuff like this, I'll give away all the nation before I even reach Crimea"
- Brezhnew was indeed a good swimmer and also a courageous person during Great Patriotic War. During 1943, he crossed the straights via ships, under German bombs and fire, a total of fourty times. During these trips, Brezhnew's cargo ship was once sunk. He was thrown off-board by the explosion, and later rescued by sailors. Another occasion included him taking direct command of a stationary machine gun whose operators panicked, and stopping a German platoon advancing right towards the nest, killing most of them and forcing them to retreat.

- Brezhnew was not a single-power ruler. Along his side, substantial power in the Brezhnew-era USSR was wielded by Shelepin, Podgorniy and Kosygin. However, Brezhnew slowly sidelined them, replacing with more trusted aides: Andropov, Tikhonov, Schelokov, Chernenko and Tsvigun. Kosygin's influence was minimized despite him still holding power positions.
Lyubov Brezhnewa wrote:To be fair I recall my uncle [L.I. Brezhnew] calling daily to Dmitry Ustinov and asked: "When willl this fucking [Afghan] war end?". He went red and angry, often shouted: "Dima, you said the war would not last long! Our children are dying there!"
- Brezhnew collected automobiles, though he did not own them - they were owned by the Foreign Ministry and teh Central Commitee. His collection reached 49 machines. Many were given to him as gift by foreign leaders, foreign communist party members, etc., as well as Soviet factory leaders (GAZ, ZIL), knowing Brezhnew's passion for fast riding.

- Brezhnew crashed a car once when driving around Moscow, he collided with a truck. He also shocked Kissinger and Nixon with his fast driving (each on a separate occasion). His penchant for fast driving was as many say from Great Patriotic War days when Brezhnew first learned to drive.

- Nixon's present, a "Lincoln Continental" used to be Brezhnew's favourite car according to the memories of most witnesses. A sporting Mercedes SL-class that the FRG tried to present Brezhnew also was subject to a funny occasion. Brezhnew liked the car but noted that the blue color was inappropriate and for a communist, the car should be red. The factory repainted it red.

- Brezhnew recalled in his memoirs about a stupid casus with the foreign media (though he could've manufactured it, but it does sound as something say Middle Eastern journalists could bump on): when Gagarin flew into space, some reporter during the meeting with Gagarin said: "It's no wonder they sent you to space, Gagarin is probably a very noble Russian family name", which Brezhnew then mocked and went to say that only labour and courage matter in socialism.

- Brezhnew during his youth wrote a poem (!) about a murdered Soviet diplomat (Vorovsky), dedicating it to a friend. The poem is ridden with errors, but uses a lot of common classical poetical words and phrases, indicating Brezhnew was familiar with some Russian poetry. The style is Nekrasovian, and it's likely Brezhnew admired Nekrasov and the "narodnichestvo" movement.

- The first nation to depict Brezhnew on postal stamps was... Iran. ;)

- A memorial to Brezhnew was erected in Russia in 2004, in Novorossiysk, depicting a young Brezhnew as Party secretary overseeing the industrialization of the city. This indicates Novorossiysk owes a lot to L.I. for making it one of the industrial centers of Russia.

- According to memories, Brezhnew did not support collectivization and tried to distance himself from it; eventually it led his party career to crash and begin anew.
About Andropov wrote:
Andropov wrote:Strict order does not require capital injections, but promises massive returns
Andropov to his successor as KGB chief wrote:Hold those KGB guys on a tight leash and dont' let them mess in your plans
By memories, Andropov was intellectually superior to most of the Politbureau, indeed making him somewhat at odds with them. He wasn't also incapable of self-ridicule. Among peers, he allowed himself rather liberal statements both about himself, and the Soviet Union in general.
Andropov wrote:In this room there's open talk, totally free, no one hides his opinion. Not like when you leave that door, then you follow the common rules of course!
Unlike Brezhnew, he wasn't fond of luxury items, "collections" and "presents' which were little but veiled bribes - in fact he loathed bribes and started massive anti-luxury campaign. He "took away" Brezhnew's family car collection (officially they never owned it anyway), restoring proper ownership by the Central Commitee, giving some cars to factory directors, some were destroyed. The anti-corruption campaign was especially strong in Leningrad, where even school children were reported to their parents and teachers for missing classes.

Andopov maintained his popularity by openly speaking to the people in TV and radio adresses about the problems of the USSR ("I don't have ready recipes", "Our nations' technical inferiority is something we have to openly admit"). He never wore anything but his single Hero Star, compared to Brezhnew's vainglorious appearances it generated lots of sympathy.

Andropov had a lot of feuds in Politbureau due to his open and harsh talk and probably quite a lot of antipathy towards the Party members who indulged in corruption. Smug remarks which Party members made about Andropov often made him seclude for a while. He replied with a simple, relatively-non menacing phrase when faced with insults:
- I am not the last man in this state...
Andropov to his aide Shahnazarov wrote:The political system needs correction. But you can only touch the state after we really move the economy forward. When people really feel it's becoming better to live, then we can start earnestly liberalizing, giving more air. But here you need limits. You, intelligents, love to make a lot of noise: give us democracy, freedom. But there's a lot you know not. If you did, you'd be more careful.
Andropov never went to theater, but read all the plays by himself. Never smoked, never raised his voice on subordinates preferring "serious talks". He sang well, knew many folk and cossack songs. Loved hockey, was an avid fan of "Dynamo" (Moscow hockey club). Played domino as well as Brezhnew. Wrote poetry. Once Bovin and Arbatov wrote him some congratulations and remarked that power often corrupts people. Andropov wrote a poetic response in which he semi-seriously reversed the common phrase to "people corrupting the power".

After rising to power, Andropov was not happy and said something around the lines "I was driven over by the history wheel once again" and "You think they await me in the Central Commitee? Kirilenko once told me - 'if you come to the Commitee, you'll disband us all!"

Andropov was also not without a rather morbid sense of humour (hence why I chose him as my role model in SDNWorld :lol: ):
Oleg Troyanovsky, a Soviet diplomat, once got a call from the KGB and it was Andropov on the line, wondering why the diplomat wasn't seen at several high-profile meetings: "Oleg Alexandrovich, where did you vanish? Come visit us, we will offer you a seat (in Russian "posadim" means the same as "incarcerate" and "give one a seat") - then Andropov made a long pause and ended the joke - and we'll give you some tea (also a double-meaning: prison inmates drink tea, very strong, as their main drink)"
Another interesting fact: the "Alpha" unit of the KGB (FSB) was created by Andropov in 1979 (you probably know that), as a counter-terrorist "best of the best" unit, especially considering that terrorism was rising against Soviet targets as well.
Other CPSU Politbureau members wrote: Aleksey Nikolayevich Kosygin was Andropov's main "foe" in the Party. Both intensely disliked each other. However, the economic course both pursued in the 1970s was similar (which allowed them to work together). Unlike early Kosygin's reforms to make enteprises more independent, the late Kosygin policies consisted of relentless drive to cut down expenses, making everyone to "work with their means" and "not ask the state for more". Kosygin invoked Stalin's behaviour in 1941 as an example to follow: when the industries demanded that Stalin open up the state economic Reserve Fund to prop war economy, Stalin replied that a minimal reserve has to be maintained for the most dire circumstances always.

Andrey Pavlovich Kirilenko - apparently they didn't get along well with Andropov. After a tomography determined Kirilenko has brain core atrophy, Andropov sent Kirilenko for medical procedures, effectively firing him on teh grounds of health.

Shelepin, Alexander Nikolaevich - in 1975 removed from the Central Commitee since he was met with worker antipathy during a visit to Great Britain. Was a fan of Dynamo.

Arvid Yanovich Pelshe - architect of the forced industrialization of Latvia. In Latvia was unpopular, perceived as a vehicle for "russification" of the nation. Had lung cancer.

Viktor Vasilyevich Grishin - perceived as a "corruptioneer" by Yeltsin and Gorbachov, in reality he was a pretty spartan man. He died without even getting his pension since Yeltsin's reforms defaulted all Russian savings of the Soviet era.

Dinmukhamed Akhmedovich Kunayev - unquestioned Party authority and popular among the people in the Kazakh SSR, his removal led to protests when ethnic Russian was placed instead of him by Gorbachov in the late 1980s.

Vladimir Vasilyevich Shcherbitskiy - thought to have been the closest person to Brezhnew. Thought he'd be the successor, but lost to Andropov whom Brezhnew selected as a more trusted aide after some very private talks.

Andrey Andreyevich Gromyko
Andrey Andreyevich Gromyko wrote:If we aren't strong, we will get crushed to pulp
A quote that alone is a good characteristic :lol:
Gromyko wrote:To leave, you don't need a lot of cunning. To leave a position is a hundred times easier than taking it. We earned our military presence in Central Europe with the price of millions of lives. Which politician can forget this? Leave? We'll leave, after we get an agreement to disband NATO, and then the WARPAC. How would we leave, and the great war machine, created to threaten us, will remain? This can only happen if the Warsaw Pact nations are defeated militarily
Gromyko about Khrushev's ravings in the UN wrote:Best to be forgotten in history, than to be remembered as a fool
Gromyko was highly intellectual; he read a lot of classic works. He was also somewhat religious, not losing all his orthodox roots; he sometimes talked about religion with his son. He was instrumental in supporting Gorbie, but soon regretted it and lamented even after the results of Gorbachov's policy became clear.

Grigoriy Vasilyevich Romanov - architect of the Kronshtadt dam project from the 1940s to the 1980s (only now it's being finished, one of the most massive artificial dams in history). A lot of bullshit was poured his side by lunatic greenies about "butcher of the Gulf of Finland", "fishies will die" and other crap when it became clear the anti-flooding dam will be finished.

Dmitriy Fyodorovich Ustinov - "Stalin school" some referred to him - like Stalin, Ustinov took very little time to rest and worked a lot, sleeping often 3-4 hours in a day. Brezhnew managed to win Ustinov's support since he was apparently very interested in industry and had a good understading of industrial process unlike Khrushev who had no clue.

Nikolay Aleksandrovich Tikhonov - critiqued Kosygin and Brezhnew often, was one of the more open-minded speakers in the Politbureau, which made him closer to Andropov.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2008-11-24 03:20am

So how popular were the latter Soviet leaders, well everyone after Stalin in other words, with the common citizen of the Soviet Union? I get the impression that Gorbachev was highly unpopular, but the others are something of a mystery in what he hear about them I the west. I’m also curious as to how much power they really had over the day to day policy of the Union.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-24 04:04am

Sea Skimmer wrote:So how popular were the latter Soviet leaders
Depends on which part of Soviet society, and which period are we talking about. Brezhnew for example was very popular initially when he took over Khrushev's place, he was young and energetic, and he wasn't marasmatic at all. That led to a huge popularity boost, especially as Khrushev's policies were inconsistent and often caused economic damage, as in case of Novocherkassk riots.

Andropov entered when Brezhnew was at peak un-popularity - the corruption which grew under Brezhnew, the partocracy (before Brezhnew, the Party and Government at least had some sort of "opposing" momentum). Himself awarding medals and writing large self-glorifying tracts like the infamous Brezhnew Trilogy led to massive ridicule and loss of respect between the older, Stalin-era, and newer, Brezhnew-era populations alike.

Andropov was initially popular but he died too soon. Gorbachov was initially popular but as soon as he made his first steps (rumors of destroying WARPAC, economic freefall and inflation) he went to "reviled" towards the end of Perestroika - essentially the culmination of this antipathy spread to the top echelons of Soveit power leading to the 1991 coup to try at least save the Union, when it became really clear Gorbachov's policies are self-destructive.

Khrushev never enjoyed much popularity in the general populace, and his power hinged upon Party and Army top brass support. When both grew irritated with Kh., he was forced to resign and he was pretty much a lame duck in the eyes of the general people as well. He wasn't also rememberd too fondly for trying to just "wink away" Stalin, the man who was essentially the Soviet leader during First Wave of industrialization and the Great Patriotic War.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Akhlut » 2008-11-24 01:40pm

How's Stalin remembered? I've heard from several polls that he's one of the best loved leaders in Russia, after Lenin; that true?
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by TC Pilot » 2008-11-24 08:16pm

I personally regard Gorbachev as a criminally incompetent moron. I know there are a lot of arguments on crippling systemic problems and whatnot inherited from the Brezhnev and Zombie Andropov period, but I just can't bring myself to let that moron off the hook for essentially killing the Soviet Union in the blink of an eye with his so-called reforms.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-24 09:25pm

Akhlut wrote:How's Stalin remembered?
Now or then? If now - he's popular, yeah. 2nd after Putin actually. Lenin is 3rd after Stalin. Those who lived in Stalin's time and did not suffer repression, were and are mostly fond of him as well (this was explored to some extent in Kotkin's "Magnetic Mountain", a work I highly advise anyone trying to grasp the Soviet 1930s).
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by ray245 » 2008-11-24 10:53pm

Stas Bush wrote:
Akhlut wrote:How's Stalin remembered?
Now or then? If now - he's popular, yeah. 2nd after Putin actually. Lenin is 3rd after Stalin. Those who lived in Stalin's time and did not suffer repression, were and are mostly fond of him as well (this was explored to some extent in Kotkin's "Magnetic Mountain", a work I highly advise anyone trying to grasp the Soviet 1930s).
Does the people in Russia know about certain oppressive measure Stalin has taken? Seems to me, it is common of people of any country to forget about the negative actions that was taken by their founder.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by TC Pilot » 2008-11-24 11:22pm

ray245 wrote:Does the people in Russia know about certain oppressive measure Stalin has taken?
Yes.
Seems to me, it is common of people of any country to forget about the negative actions that was taken by their founder.
Stalin wasn't the USSR's founder. Even if he had wanted to, Stalin couldn't have managed the rewriting of history of such magnitude.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Darth Hoth » 2008-11-25 06:37am

TC Pilot wrote:I personally regard Gorbachev as a criminally incompetent moron. I know there are a lot of arguments on crippling systemic problems and whatnot inherited from the Brezhnev and Zombie Andropov period, but I just can't bring myself to let that moron off the hook for essentially killing the Soviet Union in the blink of an eye with his so-called reforms.
Is its death not a good thing, though? You know, freedom for Eastern Europe and stuff?
TC Pilot wrote:Stalin wasn't the USSR's founder. Even if he had wanted to, Stalin couldn't have managed the rewriting of history of such magnitude.
He was one of its founders, in the same sense you could say certain Founding Fathers were, as being part of the clique around Lenin and a high-ranking early-day Bolshevik leader.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-25 06:57am

Darth Hoth wrote:Is its death not a good thing, though? You know, freedom for Eastern Europe and stuff?
Depends on "quo prodest" as usual. Yeah, Gorbie scored big on foreign policy. However, you confuse the fall of WARPAC - for which Gorbie is loved in the West - and the fall of the USSR proper. You didn't need to destroy your own nation so badly.

Tell "isn't that a good thing" to a person who lost relatives in Karabach, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Moldova, dozens of ethnic/nationalist conflicts all over the place, or to the citizens in Central Asia who are now undereating so badly FAO considers them one of the centerpoints of hunger. To millions of impoverished people in the f. USSR.

I doubt they would take their impoverishment, or deaths of their relatives as a "necessary price" for the abstract "freedom" of Eastern Europe.
Darth Hoth wrote:He was one of its founders, in the same sense you could say certain Founding Fathers were, as being part of the clique around Lenin and a high-ranking early-day Bolshevik leader.
Well to be fair by that logic there are many founders of USSR (which there are indeed), while ray specified Stalin as a single one.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Darth Hoth » 2008-11-25 07:28am

Stas Bush wrote:Depends on "quo prodest" as usual. Yeah, Gorbie scored big on foreign policy. However, you confuse the fall of WARPAC - for which Gorbie is loved in the West - and the fall of the USSR proper. You didn't need to destroy your own nation so badly.
How about the small nations that were part of the USSR itself (e.g., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)? I would say a pretty much total collapse was needed for them to regain their freedom.

On the topic of Gorby, it is frankly amazing what the popular view of him is here in Sweden (the foreign popularity you mentioned, I guess); people here appear to view him as some sort of Manchurian Candidate for democracy who secretly engineered his own rise to power, a master planner who all the while worked tirelessly to destroy the USSR and the Communist system from within . . . :lol:
Tell "isn't that a good thing" to a person who lost relatives in Karabach, Chechnya, Tajikistan, Moldova, dozens of ethnic/nationalist conflicts all over the place, or to the citizens in Central Asia who are now undereating so badly FAO considers them one of the centerpoints of hunger. To millions of impoverished people in the f. USSR.

I doubt they would take their impoverishment, or deaths of their relatives as a "necessary price" for the abstract "freedom" of Eastern Europe.
I am not very knowledgeable of the situation in the Central Asian states, so I cannot really comment on that. With regards to the separatist conflicts, I get the feeling from the media reporting that usually it is not just one side that is to blame. There appear to be legitimate grievances in many cases.

And I would not say freedom is a mere abstract - it is the absence of government repression, something that was very real in the past. This applies both on the individual level and for the states, which were in turn pressured from above.
Well to be fair by that logic there are many founders of USSR (which there are indeed), while ray specified Stalin as a single one.
*Checking* Ah, my mistake then; lazy reading. Ignore that part of my post.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-25 08:01am

Darth Hoth wrote:How about the small nations that were part of the USSR itself (e.g., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)? I would say a pretty much total collapse was needed for them to regain their freedom.
You are correct. The main question is whether nation-state freedom outweighs the suffering of people, and that's all. Everyone can decide that for themselves.
Darth Hoth wrote:With regards to the separatist conflicts, I get the feeling from the media reporting that usually it is not just one side that is to blame.
Oh, that is mostly the case. However, the fact that quite a lot of those conflicts only became possible due to Gorbachov (and some of them were really fucked up, like you know replacing a Kazakh SSR top official with an ethnic Russian, leading to Zheltoksan) and the downfall of USSR proper.

Armenia and Azerbajan waged a brutal war between them; of course both were at fault, but really, without the dismemberment of the USSR, that would not have been ever possible. Or the massive three-way Georgia-Ossetia-Abkhazia wars, also leaving those nations in ruins - how would those be possible if the USSR did not fall?
Darth Hoth wrote:This applies both on the individual level and for the states, which were in turn pressured from above.
I do not believe in the concept of "opressing" a nation-state. Either that opression results in the real opression of individuals within that state, and thus produces human suffering of some kind, if those individuals are very numerous, you could say that it is a collective real opression of the society of that state.

But the nation-state itself, and "self-determination" is a construction that does not have any inherent value unless it serves to reduce human suffering, at least for me.

I therefore cannot justify the existence of nation-states to be of greater importance than direct human suffering. In case there is human suffering involved in both cases, one would be inclined to compare it. For example, I doubt the suffering of a common 1970s USSR citizen is any way even comparable to the, well, dead people from local wars - hence my comment about evaluation.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2008-11-25 09:36am

Darth Hoth wrote:
Stas Bush wrote:Depends on "quo prodest" as usual. Yeah, Gorbie scored big on foreign policy. However, you confuse the fall of WARPAC - for which Gorbie is loved in the West - and the fall of the USSR proper. You didn't need to destroy your own nation so badly.
How about the small nations that were part of the USSR itself (e.g., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)? I would say a pretty much total collapse was needed for them to regain their freedom.
Is freedom worth living without electricity? I would point out that nations such as Armenia have instead regressed technologically and also in the standards of living.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by TC Pilot » 2008-11-25 11:01am

Darth Hoth wrote:Is its death not a good thing, though? You know, freedom for Eastern Europe and stuff?
As pointed out already, the freedom of Eastern Europe is not mutually exclusive with a Soviet Union. I just hope you haven't fallen for that dumbass Reagan's "Evil Empire" crap.

Whether or not it's "good" or "bad" that the USSR collapsed doesn't really have anything to do with what I'm saying, although we can be thankful it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been, no thanks to Gorbachev, mind you. The Soviet Union could have been a grimdark, Chaos-worshipping, puppy-puching Nazi extravaganza, for all I care, but that doesn't change the fact that Gorbachev was an utter buffoon of monumental proportions.

Oh yeah, and I can't stand that birthmark. Wear a hat, god dammit! :P
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-25 11:18am

Fingolfin_Noldor wrote:I would point out that nations such as Armenia have instead regressed technologically and also in the standards of living.
Central Asia, Georgia, Armenia suffered rapid de-electrification, as did Moldova. It sent their economies into an abyss of human suffering - and for some central asian nations that meant (a) hunger (b) totalitarism unseen even during Stalin days - how'd ya like Turkmenbashi who proclaimed himself a living God, forbade school education and outlawed most personal freedoms which were considered "okay" even in Stalinist USSR? Never been to Turkmenia - take a tour, eye-opening... these people are now happy their new ruler at least re-installed the universal "Soviet" 8-year primary education after the "living God" kicked the bucket :lol:

Funnily enough, the USSR's collapse did not cause the collapse of a true Stalinist regime, the DPRK. It carried onwards, while moderate socialist nations were crushed by the collapse.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Darth Hoth » 2008-11-25 01:15pm

Stas Bush wrote:You are correct. The main question is whether nation-state freedom outweighs the suffering of people, and that's all. Everyone can decide that for themselves.
I suppose that is my main problem with utilitarianism; it "democratises" morality, in that the suffering of the few (a few small nations in this case) is acceptable if it prevents the suffering of the many. To some degree, this is of course only reasonable - in fact, the only reasonable judgment at times - but it feels hard to be the small people on the receiving edge. As a Swede, a member of a small nation, and to some extent a minority here as well (part Finn), I suppose I have grown very attentive to the plight of the less numerous peoples. I think it is wrong that one particular group should suffer so that another can suffer less, even if the latter one is larger.

On another note, as I understand it grinding poverty in Russia today is more the result of post-USSR decisions (in particular, botched privatisations) than the abolition of the Union itself; how does that compare with your view?
Oh, that is mostly the case. However, the fact that quite a lot of those conflicts only became possible due to Gorbachov (and some of them were really fucked up, like you know replacing a Kazakh SSR top official with an ethnic Russian, leading to Zheltoksan) and the downfall of USSR proper.

Armenia and Azerbajan waged a brutal war between them; of course both were at fault, but really, without the dismemberment of the USSR, that would not have been ever possible. Or the massive three-way Georgia-Ossetia-Abkhazia wars, also leaving those nations in ruins - how would those be possible if the USSR did not fall?
Well, to take the last first, I am somewhat doubtful whether South Ossetia would be viable as a fully independent nation-state; there comes a point when a people is too small for that. I do believe that conflict was unnecessary and could have been avoided with smarter diplomacy. More generally, my understanding is that many grievances were only held down by the USSR, and would not go away within any reasonably short timespan; they were merely dormant. I do agree that the arguments for freedom pretty much apply only to the closer-to-Europe provinces, which had the history and infrastructure to allow for relatively successful transition to a free, democratic market economy.
I do not believe in the concept of "opressing" a nation-state. Either that opression results in the real opression of individuals within that state, and thus produces human suffering of some kind, if those individuals are very numerous, you could say that it is a collective real opression of the society of that state.

But the nation-state itself, and "self-determination" is a construction that does not have any inherent value unless it serves to reduce human suffering, at least for me.
Here I disagree, as a nationalist and member of a small nation. I do believe the nation-state is the best way to protect the rights and culture of a people - in a multi-ethnic empire, minority concerns tend to be a "lesser problem". I also believe preserving individual national cultures from assimilation is a desirable end in and of itself.
I therefore cannot justify the existence of nation-states to be of greater importance than direct human suffering. In case there is human suffering involved in both cases, one would be inclined to compare it. For example, I doubt the suffering of a common 1970s USSR citizen is any way even comparable to the, well, dead people from local wars - hence my comment about evaluation.
I suppose gauging the freedom of the Western republics against the suffering further East and South is a more complicated game than commonly supposed in the West. It certainly does merit further consideration.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Base Delta Zero » 2008-11-25 05:55pm

I suppose that is my main problem with utilitarianism; it "democratises" morality, in that the suffering of the few (a few small nations in this case) is acceptable if it prevents the suffering of the many. To some degree, this is of course only reasonable - in fact, the only reasonable judgment at times - but it feels hard to be the small people on the receiving edge. As a Swede, a member of a small nation, and to some extent a minority here as well (part Finn), I suppose I have grown very attentive to the plight of the less numerous peoples. I think it is wrong that one particular group should suffer so that another can suffer less, even if the latter one is larger.
But, from my understanding, he's not talking about 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few'. He's saying that the needs of the actual populace outweigh the needs of the 'nation'.
Here I disagree, as a nationalist and member of a small nation. I do believe the nation-state is the best way to protect the rights and culture of a people - in a multi-ethnic empire, minority concerns tend to be a "lesser problem".
Which works fine in monoethnic nations, as long as you're insular enough to keep them that way. A large, multi-ethnic nation tends not to have vast majorities of one particular culture. Furthermore, a wide variety of ethnicities dilutes the majority of any one of them, making the others more important - even if you're a dictator, at least as much as you care about anyone. For example An ethnic nation that's 99% Alphans and 1% Betans would be able to easily (and probably gladly) oppress/ignore the Betans. A larger nation that's 25% Alphans, 10% Betans, etc... would have less motive and means to do so. Also, it may not relate directly to the Soviet Union, but a federation can help with addressing the specific needs of each region/group
I also believe preserving individual national cultures from assimilation is a desirable end in and of itself.
There is no such thing as an 'individual national culture'. Culture is collective by definition, and assimilation or annihilation the ultimate end result of any contact. Guess which one I prefer...
Finally, this ignores that a nation's culture is not a single homogenous unit, as some imagine, but the interaction of numerous sub-cultures and, more importantly, individuals. Some of which might like the 'interlopers' culture better.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-25 09:18pm

Darth Hoth wrote:...grinding poverty in Russia today is more the result of post-USSR decisions (in particular, botched privatisations) than the abolition of the Union itself; how does that compare with your view?
They are tightly interconnected. The fall of the Union meant the collapse of socialism - not reform of socialism. But, even if you take the USSR as a whole and make it more capitalist, the suffering would be lessened greatly - the Republics had a united economy, with enterprises selling to each other and such. When this economic infrastructure was forcibly torn apart by carving national borders in what was a single nation, the damage was enormous
Darth Hoth wrote:I am somewhat doubtful whether South Ossetia would be viable as a fully independent nation-state
Well, Gamsakhurdia in the early 1990s held the same view; he sent paramilitary thugs to ethnically cleanse Ossetia (the same thugs later were vying to remove him from power) and Abkhazia. Result? Extremely brutal three way war in the 1990s and another one 15 years later - doesn't sound too good. The over-arching rule of the USSR prevented such things.
Darth Hoth wrote:I also believe preserving individual national cultures from assimilation is a desirable end in and of itself.
What if those cultures promote downright Dark Age ignorance, like the aforementioned Turkmenia, destroying any semblance of modern society the USSR at least tried to uphold? Is it desireable to allow such a culture to exist? Perpetuate itself? Protect it from "assimilation"? Is "gangsta culture" a part of the minority culture of black people? No? Does it not deserve any protection as such?

I would love to agree that cultures and nation-states have some inherent value, but it's not as clear cut as it would seem, at least to me.

You said you have doubts about "South Ossetia as a nation-state". What's really different is in that statement, if I say I see Turkmen, Kazakh states etc. as entities with rather doubtful value? Both suffered social and technological regression and do not really hold much hope for it's people, isn't it?
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-25 09:37pm

To elaborate a little on united economy and how precisely separation causes damage: imagine a very large nation supporting a very large factory in the small region of Georgia. Or, better yet, a huge dam which supplies 1,8 GWt of energy, fuelling all of Georgia's electrical needs actually.

A large state can easily support this with it's huge budget, but now you cut the state in part. The small independent state of Georgia will not have the necessary funds to maintain this critical piece of infrastructure, regardless of whether it's capitalism or socialism. It will fall into disrepair, leading to energy shortages, which will lead to collapse of more factories until the snowball hits a dead end with a collapsed economy.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Darth Hoth » 2008-11-26 04:17am

Stas Bush wrote:They are tightly interconnected. The fall of the Union meant the collapse of socialism - not reform of socialism. But, even if you take the USSR as a whole and make it more capitalist, the suffering would be lessened greatly - the Republics had a united economy, with enterprises selling to each other and such. When this economic infrastructure was forcibly torn apart by carving national borders in what was a single nation, the damage was enormous
Hm, that does make sense. I suppose the ideal would be a slower, more peaceful dissolution, perhaps with the very most backwards elements retained. But from what I gather that was not an option.
What if those cultures promote downright Dark Age ignorance, like the aforementioned Turkmenia, destroying any semblance of modern society the USSR at least tried to uphold? Is it desireable to allow such a culture to exist? Perpetuate itself? Protect it from "assimilation"? Is "gangsta culture" a part of the minority culture of black people? No? Does it not deserve any protection as such?

I would love to agree that cultures and nation-states have some inherent value, but it's not as clear cut as it would seem, at least to me.
Politically incorrect as it may sound, I would agree that not all cultures are of equal worth - I would not dream of defending, say, the culture of the Aztecs in Central America who sacrificed tens of thousands of humans yearly. In case of Turkmenistan, yes, I would be inclined to agree with you. Not all cultures should be "propped up", and some should be downright suppressed.

However, most cultures, in the civilised world at least, do not suffer from such inherent problems. If one takes Estonian or Ukrainian culture, those problems are completely absent.
You said you have doubts about "South Ossetia as a nation-state". What's really different is in that statement, if I say I see Turkmen, Kazakh states etc. as entities with rather doubtful value? Both suffered social and technological regression and do not really hold much hope for it's people, isn't it?
In these particular cases, I have a hard time doing anything but agreeing. I agree that the nation-state is not the be-all, end-all solution; socioeconomic/ethnic/geopolitical factors are sufficiently complicated that you cannot state any one solution to be the best in every single case. Some nationalities are just too small to function independently, others are too spread out or else geographically unsuitable, and in other cases still a culture might be backwards or repugnant enough not to merit support even when all other criteria are met. In a way, I also suppose my view is overly Eurocentric; I would not apply it to, say, Africa, where nationalities and national cultures do not work like they do here, with our rather different history.

Still, when you have functional, territorially contiguous national areas, such as the Baltic states, I do believe national independence is generally the best solution for them.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-26 05:18am

Darth Hoth wrote:But from what I gather that was not an option.
Well, actually it was even if some "fell off". Even if the Baltics left the Union, the fate was decided by the main three Republics - Russia, Belorus and Ukraine. But yeah, catalyst for the coup was the possibility of USSR falling apart; if you never go with any half-assed "wink-wink" at independence the Soviet Union will probably survive as a united nation through the 1990s, capitalist or not, but individual nations within it would never come to exist at least in the nearest future.
Darth Hoth wrote:Still, when you have functional, territorially contiguous national areas, such as the Baltic states, I do believe national independence is generally the best solution for them.
I agree that they are better off under the European Union. But I guess I'm the one ready to sacrifice a better situation for a minority of people for lesser suffering of a majority of people.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Darth Hoth » 2008-11-26 12:01pm

Base Delta Zero wrote:But, from my understanding, he's not talking about 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few'. He's saying that the needs of the actual populace outweigh the needs of the 'nation'.
That was not how I understood it. The argument always seemed to be that since the Kazakhs, Turkmen, &c would be better off, the USSR remaining would have been an overall positive, even if Lithuanians and others were oppressed for it.
Here I disagree, as a nationalist and member of a small nation. I do believe the nation-state is the best way to protect the rights and culture of a people - in a multi-ethnic empire, minority concerns tend to be a "lesser problem".
Which works fine in monoethnic nations, as long as you're insular enough to keep them that way. A large, multi-ethnic nation tends not to have vast majorities of one particular culture. Furthermore, a wide variety of ethnicities dilutes the majority of any one of them, making the others more important - even if you're a dictator, at least as much as you care about anyone. For example An ethnic nation that's 99% Alphans and 1% Betans would be able to easily (and probably gladly) oppress/ignore the Betans. A larger nation that's 25% Alphans, 10% Betans, etc... would have less motive and means to do so. Also, it may not relate directly to the Soviet Union, but a federation can help with addressing the specific needs of each region/group
I also believe preserving individual national cultures from assimilation is a desirable end in and of itself.
Really? I would say that depends on its history. Traditional multi-ethnic empires have usually been based off a common base of one (or a few similar) nationalities, though this does not match the arbitrary borders in Africa or some areas in Asia, of course. And however you do it, some ethnicities will be larger than others, and they will override the smaller ones when it suits their purposes. Austria-Hungary before the First World War is sometimes idealised as a cosmopolitan multiculture, but it was still ruled by Austrians and Hungarians, with the latter taking particular advantage of it. In the case of the USSR the Russian domination was all the more noticeable, if rather far from what it could have been in a worst-case scenario. A federation does not really solve this either, unless you mean a looser confederation; we can see in the EU today how power is steadily consolidated to the great powers (France and Germany, primarily) and how they look after their own interests first and everyone else's if there is spare time left before lunch. In any democracy, the larger nationalities will wield the larger influence by influencing the vote the most, and in a dictatorship chauvinism will ensure oppression of "dissident" minorities.

A state divided up between numerous small nationalities faces even more severe problems; even if they do get along (which is often not the case, in modern days at least), the language barrier alone will cause severe problems in administering such a state. Then you will have to agree on common languages and such, which also impacts on ethnic minorities, especially small ones.
There is no such thing as an 'individual national culture'. Culture is collective by definition, and assimilation or annihilation the ultimate end result of any contact. Guess which one I prefer...
Individual as in "single, national", as opposed to "melting pot" and "collective imperial, supranational" culture, not a culture held by an individual. Could I have expressed that better? Always looking to improve my English . . .
Finally, this ignores that a nation's culture is not a single homogenous unit, as some imagine, but the interaction of numerous sub-cultures and, more importantly, individuals. Some of which might like the 'interlopers' culture better.
Differences within a national culture are much smaller than differences between cultures. And in most cases nationally aware cultures do know of their uniqueness and want to preserve it - else, why do they desire national freedom? I would not doubt that there were (or are), say, Russophilic elements in Lithuania, but the majority of the ethnic Lithuanians clearly wished for independence.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by Darth Hoth » 2008-11-26 12:11pm

Stas Bush wrote:I agree that they are better off under the European Union. But I guess I'm the one ready to sacrifice a better situation for a minority of people for lesser suffering of a majority of people.
My problem is when it is one particular nationality (or several) that has to suffer so that the majority of other, larger nations have a better situation. Being of a small nation, I am probably biased in their favour, but I do think they have much less ability to protect themselves. To exemplify, even without overt repression, Russian immigration and socioeconomic factors would place the Baltic nationalities in decline; even as it is, Estonia and Latvia have huge problems with their large Russian minorities.

However, generally speaking I am partially reconsidering. Evidently a lot of people in the USSR did not have the positive experience of its dissolution that Estonians or Ukrainians did, and I knew before it was not all sunny like the prevailing view here still has it. Looking at the situation more locally, closer to Europe, or more globally, with the Soviet threat disappearing, I would still say the break-up of the old empire was positive, but it was clearly more nuanced than my OP would have implied.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by K. A. Pital » 2008-11-26 08:53pm

Darth Hoth wrote:Evidently a lot of people in the USSR did not have the positive experience of its dissolution that Estonians or Ukrainians did
Actually Ukraine was hit rather badly, and a nearby area (Moldova) suffered a small conflict. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania got quickly integrated into Europe; they also had a largely homogenous culture as you already implied, preventing ethnic conflicts and allowing smooth cooperation. Other nations were not so lucky. Ukraine's current political mess, and the constant teethering on the brink of bankrupcy - economical and political alike - is also in my view a result of neglect. First of all by "Soviet" leaders who did not care for the plight of people in the newly created nations, adn second, Europe's neglect when it came to helping out the people in the crisis-stricken post-Soviet nations.

The initial support for breaking up the USSR does not mean the supporters had a 'positive experience' after their economy collapsed like a house of cards; it only meant they were willing to break off in the 1990s, not knowing what the future holds. For the Baltics, I agree they received better conditions than most in the post-Soviet lands could dream of.
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Re: CPSU leaders

Post by irishmick79 » 2008-11-27 10:34am

It's my undertsanding, that under Putin, that a lot of Stalinist-era history relating to some of the KGB's atrocities have become a taboo subject. How true is that, and what role would you say the government has had in discussions of that history?
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