Feature

Russia: Sympathy for the putschists

“The euphoria that accompanied the defeat of the coup was followed by a colossal disappointment,” said an editorial at Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

EditorialNezavisimaya Gazeta

Twenty years ago, when Boris Yeltsin stood on that tank and defied a coup, many Russians cheered, said the Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta. We were angry with the hard-line communists who’d put then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev under house arrest and sent tanks to government buildings, threatening to destroy perestroika and reverse our newfound freedoms. But these days, we’re feeling “some compassion for the coup leaders” instead. “The euphoria that accompanied the defeat of the coup was followed by a colossal disappointment.”

Russia lost an empire and its superpower status when the Soviet Union broke up. That would have been acceptable if we had gained democracy and wealth. We didn’t. Those are things we would have had to struggle for, and we failed to follow through. It was as if all our political activism “was spent in fighting the coup attempt.” Russians wanted stability, “and they did not want to make too many sacrifices” to achieve true reform.

The result is that today we have a “managed democracy,” which is just another name for authoritarianism. To change it, we would have to become people who care about something other than ourselves. Now that would be a revolution.

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