Russia after the War: Hopes, Illusions, and Disappointments, 1945-1957

By Elena Zubkova; Hugh Ragsdale | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Historical analogies can be deceptive, but they are often useful. In any event, an attentive and impartial examination of the past sometimes spares the statesmen of the present the repetition of the most futile paradigms of discarded policy. Notwithstanding the caprices of historical fate, the experience of the past sometimes suggests how to avoid dangerous confrontations with unexpected obstacles, including those that have stood as an insurmountable barrier across the path of Russian reform.

Let us consider the factor of timing, the choice of the most favorable moment for the introduction of reform. Obviously, such a moment must involve the common consent of the government and the public. In the postwar period, there was no such moment. The Stalinist regime was determined to restore the essentials of the prewar order, and the public, dreading above all reforms that would make matters worse, consented to "temporary difficulties" as the lesser of two evils. Thus the government, counting on the people's patience, let slip the two opportunities most favorable for reform, one in 1945- 1946 and another in 1956.

The authorities were concerned, of course, to maintain themselves and their power, and the different leaders were concerned to pursue policies enhancing their own positions in the government. As both their conservative nature and their rivalry with each other militated against systemic reform, the demand for progressive change devolved upon other elements of society. In the absence of a parliamentary tradition, the most conspicuous support of reform came from the literary intelligentsia. The activism of the literary movement, however, frightened the authorities, who then stiffened their opposition to reform.

Malenkov's efforts perhaps held out the promise of something bet-

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