It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past

It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past

by David Satter

In this book David Satter, a former Moscow correspondent and longtime writer on Russia and the Soviet Union, presents a striking new interpretation of Russia's great historical tragedy, locating its source in Russia's failure fully to appreciate the value of the individual in comparison with the objectives of the state.Satter explores the moral and spiritual crisis of Russian society.

Through a wide-ranging consideration of attitudes toward the living and the dead, the past and the present, the state and the individual, Satter arrives at a distinctive and important new way of understanding the Russian experience.

  • Language: English
  • Category: History
  • Rating: 3.92
  • Pages: 400
  • Publish Date: December 13th 2011 by Yale University Press
  • Isbn10: 0300111452
  • Isbn13: 9780300111453

What People Think about "It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past"

(Utilitarianism says that, when more than one choice is available, the one that produces the most good for the most people is morally correct.) People were killed under the totalitarian rule of the Communist party. Numerically, the utilitarian equation seems to balance in the black because there were more people in the (conditional) "win" column than in the "lose" column. It is worse when children are killed for a political end. It is worse still when children are killed for a poltical end that has no function. This means that, even if the quantity of people in the "win" column is greater than that in the "lose" column, the accounts may not balance in the black, depending on who the "losers" and "winners" are. This is the author's main point, though he piddles around in the process of getting there. Satter uses the Katyn massacre to "drive home" his point about the inhumanity of Soviet violence. Satter points to evidence that at least two alternative plans for the Polish officers were scheduled prior to their execution (they were either going to be sent to labor camps in the East or selected for repatriation). Because the orders were changed as a result of developing security threats (coinciding with the breakdown of Molotov-Ribbentrop and a weakening of the Soviet military that aren't mentioned), it is at least possible to call the execution order a war order - which makes it a different matter, even if it doesn't necessarily justify it. Satter opted for the easy road and compromised the whole point he was making about Katyn.

I think we ought to study the 20 million people killed in the USSR the way we study the loses of the Holocaust. People can cry all they want about things they don't like about the way the US did things in the past, we take our freedom and safety for granted. It's so interesting that people don't study the millions of people murdered by their government in the USSR the way they study the holocaust. One of the reasons why they said they were happy under the system was that no one had to work hard.

Complicit people and organizations, like the secret service, are understandably hostile to discussing their own crimes, but Satter notes that even victims and their families are often very indulgent toward the state that brutalized them. Ominously, Satter asserts that Russia, which has never been anything but authoritarian, has a national psychosis that devalues individual lives, which are expendable in the service of unchecked state power.

Unfortunately, the initial steps towards a civil society were soon arrested by election of Putin and his attempts to make Russia strong again. An organisation called Memorial which had done a lot to discover graves of communism victims and improve democracy has been declared a foreign agent and shut down by the authorities. My other notes: During the period 1929 to 1953, 18 million persons passed through the Soviet labour camp system. In all, the number of persons who died in peace time as a result of the actions of the Communist authorities is estimated at 20 million. He created a new holiday on 4th of November Peoples Unity Day, to celebrate the expulsion of the Polish invaders from Moscow in 1612.