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November 11, 2019 No.
8358

Russian Journalist Petr Akopov: Russians Have Begun To Forget Their Difficult Past; However, The Past Is Worth Remembering To Avoid Repeating Mistakes, Including The One That Led To The USSR's Collapse

Ahead of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall,[1] the conservative Russian journalist Petr Akopov wrote, in the Russian media outlet Vzglyad.ru, that Russians are starting to forget their difficult past. According to Akopov, Russians do not accept references to the Soviet past and arguments with the thrust of "it used to be bad, but now it's better." Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well, observed that "what yesterday was an achievement today is often perceived as the norm."

Akopov, however warned Russians to remember their past to avoid repeating the same mistakes, since capitalism in no better than socialism. "And it is worth remembering the past to avoid repeating its mistakes. This includes, by the way, the one that led to the collapse of the USSR - when a part of the society had enough faith in the manna coming from the heavenly capitalism to destroy the [Russian] social system and the state," Akopov wrote.

Below is Petr Akopov's article:[2]

Petr Akopov (Source: Politkus.ru)

Putin’s Generation Grew Up And Forgot About The 'Jolly' 1990s And The Collapse Of The USSR

"At a meeting of the Presidium of the State Council in Kaliningrad [on October 31, 2019], Vladimir Putin spoke not only about the healthcare problems to which the meeting was devoted. The President also touched on more general but nonetheless important issues: on what the authorities should focus in their work. And these are not the achievements of the past.

"The Kaliningrad meeting focused on the work of the regions in the health sector. A lot has been done in the field of healthcare in recent years, which is confirmed primarily by the steady increase in life expectancy. But in his opening remarks, Putin spoke not only about this worrisome topic. He noted that in recent years quite a lot has been done in the realm of health care as demonstrated first of all by the steady growth of the average life expectancy the President specifically underscored:

"'All of our achievements are a confirmation that we are capable and, at the same time, obliged to do more, in particular we must take into account already high and constantly growing demands [coming from] society. In fact, everyone understands that we all are (I’m talking not only about the healthcare sector, but about any field in general ) evaluating today's results not against how bad it was yesterday, but by the requirements of today and by what we should and would like to receive tomorrow. And what yesterday was an achievement today is often perceived as the norm, and this is just.'

"As a follow-up to his thesis, Putin cited survey data, according to which now more than 60 percent of citizens are dissatisfied with the quality of healthcare - and this mainly refers to primary care. That is, society is dissatisfied with the state of clinics and hospitals, the quality of medical care and the professional level of specialists. But Putin used the particular case of public health to reach general conclusions: the growing demands of society.

"Indeed, it is difficult to argue with the fact that people assess the state of affairs not by how bad it was yesterday, but by what their requirements are for today and what they would like to receive tomorrow. This is human nature. And this is not a matter of short memory or even of stagnation of the situation: before, everything grew and developed, and later the rate of improvement of [the quality of] life decreased or even reached zero and everyone became resentful. And it is not due to the fact that Putin’s generation grew up and blotted out the 'jolly' 1990s and the collapse of the USSR.

"No, of course, all this has an impact, but the main thing is still different: a person gets used to everything - both good and bad. This is especially when things are stable. But once the changes begin, people start to worry. Moreover, in the event of a worsening situation, anxiety is logical and understandable, however, in the event of an improvement, the causes for dissatisfaction are more complex. Here we have pessimism accumulated during years (especially [due to] bad life), distrust and disbelief in changes for the better and even a general dissatisfaction with change.

"The effect of the 'old woman with a washtub'[3] is also important - desires grow as they are realized. And if the growth stops, then immediately you have the beginning of panicky anticipation and speculations that all is lost.

"It is clear that this is not characteristic of society in its entirety: each sector and age group [of society] has its own characteristics. But, in general, it turns out exactly the picture that Putin described with the words 'what yesterday was an achievement today is often perceived as the norm.' The President termed this attitude as just.

A Part Of Society Had Faith In Capitalism

"Justice is a key concept for the Russian people and for our civilization. People do not accept references to the past, arguments along the style of 'it used to be bad, but now it's better, [so] what are you dissatisfied with?' Our people are ready to endure, tighten their belts and wait. But [they will do so] only when it concerns a question of life or death for the Fatherland and for the people e.g. during a war. Or when there is social harmony in society and everyone understands that 'we must be patient.' Here the burden falls on everyone, from the people in power to the last private.

"But in capitalism, even a mild one, social hostility grows since the gap between the rich and the poor [also] grows, or even simply persists, rather than shrinking. And any reference to past problems does not produce any effect. But is the government taking advantage of something similar?

"On the contrary: if we talk about Putin, he, of course, periodically recalls in what state of degradation the whole country previously was, in one sector or another (industry, army, etc.). But he does it for fully understandable reasons.

"Like any other person, he cannot help but compare the situation in which the country was when he started his presidency with what it is now and rejoice over the changes that have occurred. By the way, what transpired is thanks to his participation. But Putin never brags or highlights his contribution. And even more so, he is not trying to justify the current problems or failures with past achievements or merits. This is not his style completely. He can talk about growth or compare what happened to what has become, but not for the sake of complacency, and even less to encourage people to appreciate what has been done and not to demand more.

"Society expects constant development and improvement. And the state, or rather the government, consisting of representatives of the same society, should proceed from this assumption. People need to see and feel how [their] life is changing. Possibly, [the change] is not as fast as everyone would like, but [it takes place] steadily and constantly.

"Putin constantly urges everyone and everything to take this attitude. And, of course, first of all, [the call is directed] at the people in power on all levels. It turns out that [the power] is not [the same] everywhere: the life of a huge country is uneven and diverse, and the stratum that we call the 'elite' (managerial and not only), consists of very different people. Some are looking for explanations as to why this or that thing cannot be done. Others are looking for ways to do what they need to do. Putin supports and promotes the latter. And they are gradually and increasingly becoming the management elite.

"Also, we do not need mindless cheerful forecasts, that often conceal incompetence or larceny, nor tedious despondency mixed with gloating, behind which sometimes there is outright meanness. We need to work hard according to our plans. Yes, they are not ideal, [they are] imperfect, not universal and not all-inclusive, and they cannot be liked by everyone. But, by implementing them, we will [nevertheless] achieve a significant improvement in the quality and standard of living.

"Of course, we will not stop to make comparisons with the past. But we will not justify [what happens] today [with what happened in the past], nor we will rub it in to the people, who are dissatisfied. Because. our people do deserve a better life. Not just a richer and better one, but [they deserve] also a fairer, more honest one with solidarity. Everyone understands that. And it is worth remembering the past so as not to repeat its mistakes. This includes, by the way, the one that led to the collapse of the USSR - when a part of the society had sufficient faith in the manna coming from the heavenly capitalism to destroy the [Russian] social system and the state."

 


[1] The fall of the Berlin Wall was celebrated on November 9, 2019.

[2] Vz.ru, November 1, 2019.

[3] Reference to "The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish", a fairy tale in verse by Alexander Pushkin.