The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse

By Alexander Dallin; Gail W. Lapidus | Go to book overview

2 A Usable Past

S. FREDERICK STARR

"Scratch a Russian and you'll find a Tatar." In 1839 the Marquis de Custine used these dyspeptic words in dismissing all possibility of liberal reform in Russia. A two-month tour had left him convinced that Russia was a land of slaves ruled by knout-wielding bureaucrats. Only the hopelessly naive could imagine that its inhabitants could ever institute a reign of law, parliamentary government, and civic comity.

The view that Russia's political culture has been inhospitable to anything but brute autocracy (whether czarist or Communist) has long been shared by some very thoughtful American scholars all along the ideological spectrum. Among leftists, this view has sometimes been invoked as an implicit apology for authoritarian Soviet rule, and among right-wingers it has been used to fend off claims that the Soviet Union might gradually evolve toward a more open and pluralistic government and economy.

On the left, Leopold Haimson of Columbia University has argued that Russia's liberal movement collapsed before the revolutionary parties did because it was cut off from the masses, extremely narrow in its social base, and hopelessly fragmented. On the right, Richard Pipes of Harvard University emphasizes the "missing bourgeoisie" in Russian history, arguing that the late development of a propertied middle class and of ideas of civil rights and law left the field to radicals and reactionaries, which in turn led to the rise of state-sponsored terror. Similarly, James Billington claims in The Icon and the Axe that liberalism took root in Russia only in the 1890s; before that, nearly everyone looked on it with disdain. Constitutional liberalism was "more than any current of ideas in 19th-century Russia the work of college professors," he argues, and was "lost between the frozen Russia of Pobedonostsev and the flaming Russia of social revolution."

If this were the whole picture—if free elections, a free press, the rule of law, and individual economic initiative were truly so alien to Russia's essence as it has existed from Ivan the Terrible through Stalin and his heirs—then Mikhail Gorbachev would be in big trouble. In his efforts to build a more open society he could call on no usable past, invoke no cultural memories, tap no received skills or aspirations. Reform would be foredoomed. There would be little reason to think that the recent elections, and the cascade of other extraordinary events, were more than a flash in the pan. But Russia's heritage isn't so ill-suited to current needs. Russia and the peoples of the Soviet Union possess another tradition as well, a classically liberal heritage in many ways analogous to that of Western Europe and North America.

-11-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Soviet System: From Crisis to Collapse
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this book
  • Bookmarks
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
/ 725

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.