One year the USSR did not live up to its 70th anniversary. December marked the 31st anniversary of the Belovezhskaya Agreements. Photo: Yuri Ivanov/RIA Novosti
We summarized the main results of 2022 in terms of the most significant historical dates on Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda with historian Yevgeny Spitsyn.
– Let’s start with the 350th anniversary of Peter I, who was born on May 30, 1672. Why is his legacy in Russia so important?
– President Vladimir Putin attaches special importance to the figure of the first emperor, considering himself the successor to the traditions of Peter the Great. First of all, in the field of state construction. In establishing Russia as one of the most influential players in world politics. The victory in the Northern War, the signing of the Treaty of Nystadt and the proclamation of Russia as an empire and the presentation of the title of Father of the Nation and Emperor to Peter – put Russia on a par with the leading powers of the then world. And these traditions, established by Peter, now have a special sound.
– And the renewal of the country?
– Even in the Soviet period, its outstanding innovative role in the transformation of Russia was especially noted. At the same time, serfdom was finally established under Pedro. And the factories also became serfs.
– Which of Peter’s achievements did you highlight in particular?
– About the fact that Peter cut a window to Europe – this is a metaphor. Both under Ivan the Terrible and under Boris Godunov, we had fairly close contacts with foreign powers. As for the creation of a professional army, it was created even before Peter the Great. Peter had to restore the very regiments that were destroyed during the reign of his mother and his uncles. But it is important to note that under him the order of conscription was changed, the duty of conscription was introduced, which lasted until the reforms of Alexander II. As for the fleet, yes, Peter was at the origins of its creation. But many ships, specially created at the Petrozavodsk and St. Petersburg shipyards, did not outlive their creator, as many of them rotted.
– But Peter was called a revolutionary on the throne?
– This is how the great Russian historian Sergei Mikhailovich Solovyov described it. But it must be said that all of Peter’s transformations were seriously prepared by all the previous development of Russia, especially during the time of his father, Alexei Mikhailovich. And the main achievement of him, it seems to me, was a serious reform of the state apparatus. Peter is the first Russian tsar who seriously wrested power from the land and gave it a truly autocratic and strictly bureaucratic character.
– In 2022, we celebrate 250 years of the first partition of Poland…
– The initiator of the division of the Commonwealth in 1772 was not Russia. Catherine II opposed this section. The then Polish king, Poniatowski, was her lover. First of all, Prussia and Austria insisted on this, that is, Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa … And Catherine was forced to do this because she understood that the eastern Polish counties or provinces were the original Russian lands. As a result of this section, she largely accomplished the centuries-old foreign policy task.
– Which was established by the great princes of Moscow, in particular, Ivan III and Vasily III. It was under them that the Russian-Lithuanian border wars began in 1487, which lasted until the end of the Starodub War of 1537. Then a significant part of the former Russian lands that were part of the Lithuanian crown returned to the bosom of Moscow. But the problem was resolved during the entire sixteenth century and only the seventeenth, and a significant part of the eighteenth. And only Catherine II managed, as a result of the first and then the second partition of Poland, to return almost all Russian lands, with the exception of Galicia, under the scepter of the Russian monarch. In 1939 we also returned these lands, but the situation there changed radically.
– On November 7, 105 years of the October Revolution were celebrated
– The Bolsheviks themselves called the event of October 1917 an armed coup. In fact, it was. But a hit is different from a hit. 105 years ago, the very essence of power, the social, political, economic, social system, changed. In this sense, the coming to power of the Bolsheviks was essentially a revolution. And the term “Great October Socialist Revolution” is quite appropriate. Although the period of revolutionary perestroika took more than a decade. Only in 1939, at the 18th Party Congress, did Stalin declare that socialism had completely triumphed in our country. But definitely not.
– And the inevitability of the revolution?
– It did not happen according to Marx. The classics of Marxism believed that the proletarian revolution would take place in the most developed bourgeois countries, where the level of proletarianization of the population would reach its maximum. And that the revolution will take place not in one, but in several of the most developed countries, and this will create the necessary conditions for a more peaceful transition from one social formation to another. But in 1914, Lenin wrote the work “Imperialism as the Highest Stage of Capitalism” and argued that the proletarian revolution under imperialism could take place in the weak link of imperialism, which he considered to be the Russian Empire.
The same Bolsheviks called the event of October 1917 an armed coup.
– What did the revolution solve 105 years ago?
– The first task is to liquidate the latifundia and redistribute the land in favor of the billionaire Russian peasantry. And the second problem is the problem of war. The failure of the Provisional Government to solve these problems made it possible for the Bolsheviks to saddle the revolutionary process and come to power. The Bolsheviks at the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets adopt three decrees: a decree on power, a decree on peace, and a decree on land.
– Wasn’t the revolution itself bloody?
– Not in Petrograd. And the head of the Provisional Government, Kerensky, was allowed to flee the capital.
– October was the centenary of the end of the civil war.
– A full-scale civil war would never have started if it were not for the massive assistance of foreign powers to the leaders of the White movement. First of all, Kolchak, and he was a direct protege of the Entente. Next – to the leaders of the armed forces of the south of Russia. First of all, Denikin, who, after the death of Kornilov and the death of Mikhail Alekseev, became the de facto leader of the white movement in the south, as well as the troops of Miller, Yudenich.
– Denikin and Kolchak would not have lasted long without Western help?
– No. And not only financial assistance, but also the supply of weapons, weapons, uniforms, etc. And why the hell is Anton Ivanovich Denikin now considered a true patriot of the Fatherland? And to put him on the same level as Brusilov or Bonch-Bruevich and other generals of the tsarist army, by God, it’s not worth it.
– 100 years ago, on December 30, 1922, the Soviet Union was formed
– The first union was signed in the summer of 1919 – it was mainly a political-military and economic union. Then, in June 1920, this union was prolonged, and then, taking into account that the RSFSR delegation was invited to participate in the Genoa Conference, the question arose as to how other Soviet republics would be represented at this conference, in en in particular Belarus, Ukraine and Transcaucasia. And then a diplomatic alliance was also signed. And this circumstance prompted the creation of a new, broader form of State of the Union.
– When did the outlines of the USSR emerge?
– In the summer of 1922. Lenin was ill then. By decision of the Orgburo and the Politburo of the Central Committee, a commission headed by Kuibyshev was created. She is drafting the Union Treaty. Initially, the so-called Stalin’s autonomization plan was considered. He assumed the entry of all Soviet republics into the RSFSR on the basis of the autonomy of the national state. A significant part of this commission was “for”: Narimanov, Chervyakov, Myasnikov. These are representatives of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus. And the representatives of Georgia and Ukraine, in particular, Budu Mdivani and Christian Rakovsky, opposed it. Georgians did not want to be part of a new union within the framework of the Transcaucasian federation. And the Ukrainians opposed the creation of any federation. They believed that it was necessary to create a soft and amorphous confederation. And give the union center only two functions. In the field of foreign policy and defense. This circumstance created an artificial conflict, which then inflated to the heavens.
– Confrontation between Lenin and Stalin?
– Yes, they say, Lenin supported a union of equal republics, and Stalin presented a plan for autonomization. But Molotov later said that, up to a point, Stalin did not deviate one iota from Lenin’s position. But at some point, Stalin stopped and Lenin moved on. I think that it was the position of the Georgian and Ukrainian Central Committees that had a great influence on Lenin. The Fronde that arose in September 1922. The second important circumstance. In fact, we do not fully know Lenin’s position on the issue of creating an equal federation. Because it was interpreted his way.
– But was it Lenin who offered a free exit from the USSR to any of the republics?
– Yes. But this is only in Kamenev’s interpretation. However, at the Politburo meeting on the 27th, all Politburo members, including Trotsky, Stalin and others, voted in favor and decided to convene the Central Committee Plenum for October 6. And that plenum of the Central Committee approved the draft of the new treaty and the date of its signing is December 30, 1922.
– And why was there no one from Asia?
– But because before that, meetings of two working groups headed by Molotov took place and there the decision was made for the time being to withdraw Khorezm and the Far Eastern Republic from the framework of the Union Treaty. They have not yet fully understood how to build relationships with these fragments of the Russian Empire.
– One year the USSR did not live up to its 70th anniversary. December marked the 31st anniversary of the Belovezhskaya Agreements.
– In 2022 Kravchuk, Shushkevich and Burbulis, who signed that agreement, died. And also Gorbachev, who allowed it. This is the bitter mockery of history: on the 100th anniversary of the formation of the USSR, the main destroyers of this Union die. (except Yeltsin).
– It turned out that the leaders of the three republics: Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, which created this union a hundred years ago, participated in its dissolution.
– Gorbachev could have everything. He had legal influence. But I suspect they advised him not to.
– First of all, Yeltsin does not call Gorbachev, but Bush and says that we have signed such a paper. And then Bush calls Gorbachev. I think that during this phone call, he must have told her: Mikhail Sergeevich, don’t do stupid things, don’t take any measures to arrest these wonderful heroes of our time. Otherwise, from the universal favorite of the Western world and the best German, you will turn into an outcast dictator.
Gorbachev might as well have it all. He had legal influence
Photo: TASS Newsreel.
– Do you assume such a call from Bush to Gorbachev, or did it definitely take place?
– It was, this call, but we don’t know its content. Because the archives where there is a printed copy of it are closed. Georgy Shakhnazarov, then Gorbachev’s assistant for domestic policy, told him: Mikhail Sergeyevich, you have all the legal powers as the head of state to defend the integrity of the state and fulfill your duty not only civil, but also professional. But Gorbachev did not. The question is why didn’t he? I think after a conversation with Bush Sr.