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Fascinating Video of Putin from 1991 - Explaining His Views on Lenin

Russians are split by their President’s remarks on Bolshevism

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Vladimir Putin’s recent remarks on how modern Russians should see the role of the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin have stirred quite a controversy.

In a statement that got the most attention, he said:

"They [Bolsheviks] planted an atomic bomb under the building called Russia, later it blew it up"

This is how the famous Russian writer Alexander Prokhanov reacted to this assessment in an interview to a liberal opposition leaning weekly Sobesednik headlined “Putin Is Grossly Mistaken”:

“He said that Lenin planted a bomb under the USSR and then it blew up. He talked about the ethnic and territorial divisions that the USSR was based on and which Lenin initiated. Putin believes this division fomented  dissent and eventually split the Soviet Union. But the Russian Empire didn’t have any national and territorial divisions – it was divided into provinces. The Empire collapsed the same way the USSR did, with nationalist movements in Georgia, Armenia, the Caucasus and in Ukraine.  

“And it was Lenin, not Putin, who brought this Empire together. He gave the large Eurasian state back its territorial integrity, building a great new state. It broke up after 70 years, not because it had been divided into federal states but because the Soviet elites – Gorbachev and Yeltsin – split the country along those borders. That’s why Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is grossly mistaken.

It’s worth noting that Alexander Prokhanov, whose recent article titled “Putin Is the Keystone Upon Which the Russian State Rests” was published in RI, is a devout Russian Orthodox Christian and nationalist, who since the Gorbachev perestroika was contemptuously referred to by liberals as ‘The Empire’s Nightingale’.

On the other hand, Sobesednik openly rejoiced at Putin’s condemnation of Lenin, although they dream of regime change.

Whatever one may think about the Russian President’s historical outlook, there’s no denying that it is consistent and well thought through, or as Russians would say,  suffered-through.

This video is a compilation of Putin’s interviews since late 1991 when he was St. Petersburg’s Assistant-Mayor, to his more recent statements as President. At one point, we see him watching and commenting on the earlier interview eleven years later.

He even uses similar terms. What in 2016 he referred to as an ‘atomic bomb’ under Russia laid by Lenin, in 1991 he referred to as a ‘time bomb’.

In 1991 as in 2016, he considers the collapse of the USSR as a tragedy of historic proportion.

He sees modern Russian ‘non-systemic’ opposition as direct heirs to the Bolsheviks who advocated the defeat of the tsarist government in World War I in order to  precipitate regime change. Compare this to recent statements by liberal opposition leaders Grigory Yavlinsky and Mikhail Kasyanov demanding the unconditional “return” of Crimea to the Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin’s sophisticated observation is that Russian-style Communist ideology derives – albeit in perverse form – from the Orthodox tradition, and was responsive to the popular mood in a situation when all traditional authority collapsed following the overthrow of the Romanov monarchy by pro-Western liberal intelligentsia and bourgeoisie.

No matter what you think about Putin’s view of history, one thing is clear: the interpretation of Soviet history is contentious in Russia. And it will become more so as the 100th anniversaries of the February 1917 democratic and October communist revolutions approach.

As Putin’s stated in the 1991 interview: “History has already happened and you can’t improve it.”

These words in bold letters should decorate every school and every high office not just in Russia, but everywhere!

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