The Future That Never Was
Russia has always done the unexpected. The Soviet system emerged suddenly after 1917. When it seemed fragile, it...
Russia has always done the unexpected. The Soviet system emerged suddenly after 1917. When it seemed fragile, it thrived. When it seemed invincible, it collapsed. After the demise of communism in 1991, Russia was supposed to go to the opposite extreme. Communism would give way to Western-style capitalism and parliamentarianism; dogmatic party apparatchiks would be replaced by open-minded liberal intellectuals. An epoch of liberal democracy would begin, just as a person cured of a disease becomes healthy.
Instead, surprising changes have come from surprising directions. It was not the Communists but the democrats who launched a shamelessly chauvinistic campaign against Chechens in Russia and then last autumn unleashed the war in Chechnya. The Westernizer Anatoly Chubais and the fascist Aleksandr Prokhanov used the same vocabulary of militant nationalism in an effort to rally the Russian elite. And their "new deal" worked. With their patriotic demagogy, they easily eclipsed their pro-Communist opponents. Have the actors forgotten their parts, or are they enacting a different play altogether?