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Gorbachev Again With One Side of the Issue

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message James Brett       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   10 comments

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Mikhail Gorbachev has an op-ed piece in the NYT this morning. It is about as one-sided as you could imagine. It is nationalistic and deliberately ignores the antecedents to the Georgian crisis. Why, I ask myself, would a person like Gorbachev squander his goodwill in the west with a screed like this? Perhaps he believes it, or perhaps there is a logic that is so compelling to him that he has no other choice. The fact is that the nationalities problem in Tsarist Russian and then the Soviet and now the new Russian empire again is at once more complicated than most have been taught. It goes back to the Civil War of 1917-1921. It goes back to the intervention of Great Britain, France, and the U.S. in that Civil War. It goes back to the purges and to the madness of Joe Stalin. It was finessed, papered over, given lip service, and never really dealt with in a modern way. The Soviet government legislative branch was a bicameral body composed of a Soviet (Council) of Nationalities, and a Soviet of the Union, the latter composed of one deputy per 300,000 people, the former by varying numbers of deputies per Union Republic and lesser designated nationality areas. These two parts of the Supreme Soviet (counterpart of our Congress) had no real power and merely rubber stamped decisions made outside the formal government in the Commmunist Party of the Soviet Union. Thus, and this is important, the attention drawn to nationalities in the Soviet period was a fraud ... complete and utter fraud. The effect of the recognition of ethnicities and nationalities was seen immediately in 1988-1991 as the republics broke away from Russia, and the "Autonomous" Republics and Regions and Areas remained part of their "home" republics. Thus was South Ossetia a constituent part of Georgia. The new Russian government under Yeltsin ignored the "autonomous" areas and tried to consolidate the core of Russia. Putin inherited the results of ignoring them and the Chechen situation erupted, clearly demonstrating that the Soviets never solved their empire's nationalities and ethnicities problems. The South Ossetian situation was not Russia's to solve because it was a disagreement in a now separate and sovereign state. Moreover, Georgia was not interested in staying in orbit around Moscow, so it opened to the west. This, of course, irritated Moscow and so since 1991 Russia has been slowly but surely cultivating the separatist emotions of the Abkhasians, South Ossetions (but not the North Ossetians) thus to create problems for Georgia. Gorbachev is wrong that Russia is innocent. He is dead wrong. Russia is behind the problems that Georgia had hoped to fix by negotiations, but was thwarted by Russian strength buoying up the South Ossetians delusion that they were a viable country, an ethnic group that has never been a sovereign nation. On the other side, the Cheney-Bush doctrine of stoking up a new cold war to feed the military-industrial complex is fully to blame for President Saakashvili's truculent incursion into South Ossetia. There is plenty of blame to go around, you see. Gorbachev is merely echoing the Russian jingoist mantra. He sees Georgia as part of the empire and certainly Ossetia as part of Russia, not part of Georgia. His beliefs are not warranted by the facts! JB


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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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