The Last Years of the Soviet Empire: Snapshots from 1985-1991

By Vladimir Shlapentokh; Neil F. O'Donnell | Go to book overview

REAGAN WILL FACE A RUSSIA IN DEEP INTERNAL CONFLICT MAY 1988

This snapshot, like the previous one, captures a people struggling to find a
moral and ideological direction. This struggle--between returning to the
old, familiar system, with all its flaws, and embracing a new, unknown
system, with problems of its own--will epitomize the Soviet condition
throughout the remainder of the snapshots.

When visiting the Soviet Union, President Reagan and other American politicans should take care to understand the extent of the hostility directed by the Politburo and by millions of Soviet people toward what the West sees as Gorbachev's admirable reforms. Although most Westerners see the Soviets' hostility as misguided, perhaps they would feel differently if they could put themselves into the shoes of the Soviet people, particularly the conservatives.

The hostility of the conservatives, with whom I have no sympathy whatsoever, reflects a greater national uncertainty about the direction that the Soviet Union will take at this historic crossroads: Will it become a more liberal society, or will it remain an authoritarian, aggressively chauvinistic state?

The true depths of the conservatives' discontent first came to light on March 13, when the newspaper "Sovietskaia Rossiia" published a full-page article openly critical of Gorbachev's regime. The article, which was written by Nina Andreieva and which Pravda characterized as a "manifesto against perestroika," was immediately reprinted in local party newspapers, photocopied by the thousands, and recommended by party committees as appropriate political-education material.

In the manifesto, Gorbachev's enemies in the Kremlin hit him with everything they had, including the major trump card of all Soviet reactionaries: anti-Semitism. After praising Stalin and Stalinism, the manifesto suggested that behind "left liberal socialism" (the author's characterization of Gorbachev's ideology) lay "militant cosmopolitanism" and "the counter-revolutionary nation." These are common Soviet code words for Jews, who are supposedly bent on destroying the fundamentals of Russian statehood and culture--that is, Russian patriotism.

Three weeks passed before Gorbachev could put an end to the conservatives' open rebellion. Confirmation that he had repelled the Stalinists'

____________________
This article originally appeared in the New York Times on May 21, 1988.

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