Vladimir Putin’s illegal occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, the first anniversary of which is being marked today, has proved comparable to the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in terms of its impact on Russia and will eventually will be recognized and reviled as equally tragic, according to Boris Vishnevsky.
“A year ago,” the Yabloko Party deputy in St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly says, Russia could have stopped short of this. It could have avoided invading a neighboring country whose people it then called “fraternal.” And it could have respected rather than torn up the international agreements it had signed.
“A year ago,” he continues, it could have avoided the step which has left it “the object of distrust in the eyes of the entire world except for cannibalistic, corrupt, terrorist or other regimes dependent on Russia.” And it could have avoided the enormous number of human victims in Ukraine and in Russia itself.
“A year ago,” Russia could have lived according to its own laws which just like those of Ukraine do not make provision for one region to leave one country and join another via referendum or any other action. Indeed, it could have remembered that those who seek to do that in Russia face five years in jail.
And “a year ago, it would have been still possible to stop,” to “stop lying about ‘the will of the people of Crimea,’” as expressed under the watchful eye of Russian troops and so fraudulent that only the most criminal or dependent states are prepared to recognize it as legitimate.
Russia could have stopped “lying about the supposed ‘persecutions of ethnic Russian in Crimea’ … and the supposed threats to Crimea from ‘Banderites’ and ‘nationalists,’ whose horrific hordes supposedly were planning to intervene in Crimea even though no one ever saw them.”
But “as is well known,” Vishnevsky says, “the Russian powers that be went along another path … the path of war and blood and of suffering and victims.” In the process, they “converted the lie into state policy and hatred into the state ideology,” they “transposed good and evil,” and they undermined all the best that had existed.
By their actions, the Russian authorities put Russia on an escalator in which the only direction is down, “into an economic dead end, into political isolation, and into the third world.” And that means that there is “only one means available to change this direction and that is to change the powers who are not capable of going in another way.”
There is a model for this, and ironically, it also occurred on March 18th, but not a year ago. Instead, 25 years ago in 1990, Vishnevsky says. On that day, Russians throughout the RSFSR went to the polls and voted the communists out of office and the opposition in, something those sitting behind the Kremlin walls did not expect.
The country’s leaders at that time as now had the much-ballyhooed “’administrative resources’” in their hands, but, as Vishnevsky points out, “that did not have any importance when tens of millions of citizens began to want change and told the people in power: ‘get out!’” The same thing can and will happen again, he suggests.
The St. Petersburg deputy is certainly right about the extent to which Putin’s Anschluss represents a turning point in Russian history equivalent in its tragic consequences to Lenin’s coup d’etat in October 1917 and one that all people of good will Russians and non-Russians alike can only hope will be rejected and reversed in the future just as the 1917 events have been.