Czar Putin, the Conqueror
By Patrick F. Cannon
Back in the days when the computer was in its infancy, when you registered for classes at Northwestern University, it was a mad dash to grab a course card from the box before they were all gone. First, you made a beeline for required courses, then electives. I tended to look for electives in either art or the more usual kind of history. One day, it turned out to be Russian.
Before that, my knowledge of Russian history was Stalin and his immediate successors. Although I can’t remember exactly what year I took the course, it was likely that the affable Nikita Khrushchev (“we’ll bury you!”) was the current leader. (By the way, Stalin died in 1953. For a chillingly humorous take on the event, I recommend the movie, The Death of Stalin.)
The current dictator, Vladimir Putin, is just the latest in a long line of autocrats that extends back to Ivan the Terrible in the 16th Century; and beyond, to Czars Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and finally, the not so great Nicholas II, who was succeeded by Lenin, Stalin – and now, Vladimir Putin.
The fantasy that Communism would change Russia into a country of peace-loving workers was embraced by the left in this and other countries for far longer than the reality of what became the Soviet Union became apparent. But Communism simply continued the expansionism and autocracy that has been constant in Russia since Ivan. When the Soviet Union began breaking up in 1989, Vladimir Putin was a KGB agent working in East Germany. To put it simply, he was not amused by the events that followed.
So, when former Soviet vassal states began joining NATO, it was rubbing salt on the wound. As we know, he began chipping away at the borders. Chechnya was subjugated in 2000, followed by parts of Georgia and then Crimea. Now Ukraine.
His claim that the Ukrainians are really brother Russians is tragically amusing. I’m sure many of them have reason to remember that Stalin caused the death by starvation of something like 4 million of their ancestors during the forced agricultural collectivization of the 1930s. I suppose that’s like Cain and Abel, with Stalin being Cain.
Let’s not then be surprised that Putin is returning to the old ways. Given Russian history, it would be more surprising if he didn’t.
Copyright 2022, Patrick F. Cannon