Wednesday, September 6, 2017

‘Without an All-Russian Terrorist Organization like the Okhrana, the KGB or the FSB, Russia Can’t Exist,’ Birna Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 5 – For any country, the destruction of monuments to be significant, the ideas that gave rise to those memorialized need to be addressed; and in the case of Russia, in contrast to the countries of Eastern Europe, that idea is one that no one is yet prepared to address in a serious way, according to Irina Birna.

            According to the Moscow commentator, “the idea which gave birth to Russian monuments was not brought in from outside, instead the essence of the idea is deeply national and as such existential. Consequently, to destroy any monuments to the idols of the idea means to destroy Russia” (

                And that idea, Birna argues, arose in tsarist times, extended through Soviet ones, and continues to inform the thinking of Russians today. Put in simplest terms, it is this: Russia can only exist and hold together if there does not exist “an all-Russian terrorist organization” like the tsarist Okhrana, the Bolshevik Cheka and KGB, or the FSB now. 

            She says “it is time for the Russian ‘opposition’ to advance to the next level of historical analysis and understand that Lenin’s ‘communism’ is indivisible from the country’s historical development and was a continuation and development … of the power-forming ideas at the base of ‘the Russian system’ – the ideas of constant expansion at the expense of its neighbors.”  

                From the point of view of Russian history, there is nothing really new in Bolshevik talk about “’a world revolution.” It is simply a new way of talking about the desire to take the straits and then everything else.  And Russian discourse since 1991 has not fundamentally changed either, Birna suggests.

            Everyone should imagine what would have happened if the revolutionary “hot heads” had ignored Boris Yeltsin’s argument that “the country needs the KGB, that without a secret police, not a single country in the world could exist, however democratic it was” and his promises that “the KGB will be transformed.”  

            Had Russians not listened to the first Russian president, had they stormed and destroyed the Lubyanka, many things would be very different now. A free Chechnya would be “guaranteed.” An independent Ingushetia, Daghestan, and several other North Caucasian republics would be likely, and a free and independent Turkestan would be very probable.”

            Moreover, Birna continues, “with varying degrees of probability, other places would have separated as well: the Kuban, Sakha, the Far east, Karelia … and the Urals.”  And still others, like Circassia would raise the issue of their borders and the return of Sochi to within a state of their own.

            But what Russians would have wanted that?  she asks rhetorically. And she answers that almost no one; and “that is why those Russian ‘democrats’ and ‘liberals’ … willingly ‘believed’ Yeltsin and his tales about ‘the reorganization’ of the KGB,’ its ‘subordination,’ its ‘democratization,’ and ‘the imposition of limits’ of the cast of executioners.”

            Because that continues to be the case, because even the most critical liberals don’t want to do away with the idea that underlay not only the tsarist and Soviet systems but also the post-Soviet one, it is a matter of indifference what statues are taken down unless and until Russians will face and reject the idea that they all represent, Birna says.

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