Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Correlation between Healthy and III Forces Is Not in Our Favor

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

The Correlation between Healthy and III Forces Is Not in Our Favor

Article excerpt

INTERVIEW WITH TATYANA I. ZASLAVSKAYA

Tatyana I. Zaslavskaya is a professor and department head in the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences at the Academy of National Economy under the government of the Russian Federation. Zaslavskaya played key academic as well as political roles during the Soviet reforms. Academically, she spearheaded the acceptance of sociology as a respected science in the Soviet Union (USSR). Politically, she was also a key architect of perestroika as the pioneer of public opinion research in the USSR, as director of the All-Union Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM), as well as, since 1989, a member of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies. A sociologist and economic specialist of the rural sector, Zaslavskaya joined a Novosibirsk research institute headed by Abel Aganbegyan in 1963, which allowed more freedoms than other academy of sciences branches to conduct controversial research on the conditions of the Soviet countryside. A report she authored on the dire situation of Soviet agriculture (what came to be known as the "Novosibirsk manifesto") leaked to the West in the early 1980s. Nonetheless, Agriculture secretary Mikhail Gorbachev consulted with Aganbegyan and Zaslavskaya and retained them when he became general secretary. In this interview, Zaslavskaya speaks about Gorbachev, perestroika, her research and life in Novosibirsk, her transfer to Moscow, her uphill battle to establish VTsIOM, the political repercussions of her research, serving briefly as Boris Yeltsin's advisor, and her views on Russia's current situation.

Demokratizatsiya: In retrospect, what do you think of Gorbachev, now that we are celebrating twenty years since he came to power?

Zaslavskaya: Generally speaking, I highly value Gorbachev. I consider him one of those great figures of history, without a doubt. If Gorbachev had not come to head the Politburo in 1985, that half-existence, half-life we had in Russia would continue still several decades. Furthermore, I also highly value the personal qualities of Gorbachev, which manifested themselves not only in 1985, but continued for the next twenty years. And in the first place among them I would put his personal decency. This is a quality that is lacking among most of our present-day politicians. Gorbachev was a man of state, and his interests first and foremost were the interests of the Soviet Union, of Russia. We hardly see men of state these days. Those people that today become deputies, governors, and ministers, they know that they will not be there for long and their only task is to take as much as possible for themselves, their grandsons, great-grandsons, and more. And the interests of Russia are used in some demagogic sense. But not Gorbachev. He is a man of state, and he had his dream, to build socialism with a human face, a social-democratic society, even if not always exactly being aware of what this entailed, but trying to reach new grounds within the framework of socialism. But, nevertheless, examples did exist, in the Scandinavian countries, in Germany, these social states, and we can say that broadly this was, so to speak, his dream.

But Gorbachev landed in some very rigid historical circumstances, and therefore he could not realize that which he wanted. And being a deputy of the USSR Congress of People's Deputies in 1989 myself, I know this physical, this psychophysical pressure, of this mass of people, which Yuri Afanasev famously called the "aggressively obedient majority." The atmosphere of the Congress was transmitted by radio and television. Many people listened to it, but they listened mostly to the democrats. That hall was filled not with the air of the democrats but of that aggressively obedient majority that was against everything. The Inter-Regional Group had approximately 300-350 people out of the 2,250 deputies, and managed to speak at the podium at a rate of one for every ten. So, such were the difficult conditions. …

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