Friday, April 1, 2011

RUSSIA - The spirit of the generation of perestroika is still alive

There are occasions when it is appropriate to remember a time breaking news, riots in the Arab world or the wave of bombings in Russia. In this year 2011, these opportunities are numerous, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of 1991, which was arguably the most turbulent years in recent history of our country.

It was marked by the referendum on the preservation of the USSR, the first universal suffrage election of the President of Russia, the coup [reactionary] August, Biélovej agreements and dissolution of the Soviet Union, the end of price regulation - these events that have occurred at full speed before our eyes twenty years ago, have determined our lives for years and years.

Today, it is necessary to look back on this era, among others to better understand what will happen in the near future. Dates to celebrate not lacking at the moment: the beginning of February, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the birth of Boris Yeltsin [born February 1, 1931 in the Urals, died April 23, 2007 in Moscow], and early March, Mikhail Gorbachev is which celebrated its 80th birthday [he was born March 2, 1931 in the Stavropol region, southern Russia].

The proximity of the dates of birth of our first two presidents, key players change in our country, is not a mere coincidence. These are two politicians of the same generation, the latest generation of Communist leaders, who understood that the Soviet system should be reformed and did not know how to go about to change.

The view begins to prevail at present is that Gorbachev "method to real reform, he gradually gave people real freedom, organized the first free elections," then what happened " Yeltsin's ambitious who wanted to seize power "and" ruined everything ". For me like many people I know, for us who live in the USSR in the late 80's and we remember that time well, this view is in vogue now hard to accept.

We remember how the charm of the beginnings of Gorbachev's perestroika had quickly vanished, replaced by a deep weariness with his procrastination, hesitation and mistakes. We review the famous "first free elections" Soviet of Deputies in 1989, where the majority of the seats had been allocated through the Communist Party.

They had brought Boris Yeltsin to the Supreme Soviet, which he had obtained 92% of the vote in his district of Moscow. For us, this "managed democracy" as Gorbachev was an insult, pure and simple. We have not forgotten his reluctance to carry out genuine economic reforms, the maneuvers programs Abalkine economists, Shatalin and Yavlinsky.

Consequence of all this, in the second half of the 90s, the economic situation had become untenable. We remember the enormous public expenditures for programs such absurd that the accelerated development of machine building, disastrous experiments in the field of financial policy, procedures and inexplicable to dismantle the mechanisms of central management while no genuine market liberalization was launched in parallel.

We remember the revenge of the conservatives, their statements about the "so-called democrats", the currency reform of Pavlov. The outburst of violence in Tbilisi, Vilnius Sumgait or to retain the republics is still fresh in our memories. Violence that had only accelerated the collapse of the USSR ...

We have not forgotten how Gorbachev, despite our expectations, could not bring himself to establish a direct universal suffrage for the election as President of the USSR, and was elected, "exceptionally" by the Congress of People's Deputies in March 1990. This was probably one of his worst mistakes, which completed discredit the USSR.

No one did now want to save a country whose leaders had never been elected freely and directly by the people. Thus, when Gorbachev announced his resignation in December 1991, many of us welcomed it. The country's situation was so bad that many of us think it was better to take decisive action, even to charge into the unknown rather than continue to procrastinate as Gorbachev had stopped doing so.

That's where came the radical differences in the assessment of reforms Yegor Gaidar [father of shock therapy] as compared to previous. For some, the price to go to the market economy was too high. Me, I was ready for anything, without any fear of the future in a market economy, however painful it had to be.

The result was indeed complex, but it was not so bad after what we experienced during the last years of the USSR. With everything I have described, the 0.5% real voice of Gorbachev in the 1996 presidential easily explained. Less than five years had passed since his departure, people still had vivid memories of his time in power.

Nostalgia for the excitement associated with the beginnings of perestroika had not embellished the table, and voters had preferred political figures who offered a more determined, as Boris Yeltsin, Gennady Zyuganov [Communist Party leader] or General Lebed. I feel that proponents of both theories of change, "Gorbachev" and "Yeltsin" will never come to an agreement.

They will debate endlessly without coming to determine whether the six years in power from Gorbachev represented a loss of valuable time when it should be real reform, or if they saw the flowering of genuine democracy. Do they have created the beginnings of dramatic events that occurred thereafter, or is it that democracy emerged so soon after was annihilated by cynical reformers? The 80 years of Mikhail Gorbachev as an opportunity to reconcile the supporters of both points of view.

The twenty years have helped increase awareness of the magnitude of the dramatic changes and essential that our country has known. Seeing China or Cuba, we realize that the changing political and civil freedoms in Russia was not plotted in advance. It was quite conceivable that for many of our daily actions, we are still asking permission to communist officials.

However, we are now free to do as we please, and do not care quite a bit of notice of authoritarian leaders to current interim balding. The credit goes primarily to Mikhail Gorbachev. I must say that our history has seen few figures of this magnitude, who played such an important role. These words are all the more notable that they emanate from an old supporter of Boris Yeltsin, who had always regarded with skepticism Gorbachev.

There is something that inevitably brings these two men. Both, after carrying out key actions for the History of Russia by democratizing the country, were unable to manage the new situation which had resulted from these radical changes. Both have committed a fatal error by failing to establish a selection mechanism that would have given rise to new leadership suited to the task.

So, the only companions Gorbachev at the end of his term were the conservatives who organized the putsch of August 1991 against him, Yeltsin was left to appoint Putin, who has not done things as well . But all these tactical problems are of secondary importance when compared to what is essential to the political legacy of Mikhail Gorbachev.

Today, it is no longer so important to know if, when he launched his perestroika, he was testing a especially skillful maneuvering in a battle inside the party, nor what were the concrete results of its management in 1991 . It is for historians to take stock. The key is elsewhere. Past three years, I have seen in more than half of Russian regions and chat with thousands of people.

I can therefore assert that the 30-50 years (which can be clearly called perestroika generation) are those who feel most concerned by the present and the future of the country. This age group gathers the largest concentration of people with initiative, officers, equipped with a clear and independent things.

It's that generation, and unfortunately not the youth, who plays a decisive role in economic development, maintains the entrepreneurial spirit and desire to create, despite all the difficulties of our reality authoritarian. It is very likely that this is the same generation who, in the next decade, driving the most positive changes in the country.

The spirit, always active, the generation of perestroika, these people who have not lost hope that anything could have happened, is probably the main result of the passage of Gorbachev to power. This spirit still alive a quarter century later managed to break the yoke of authoritarianism.

The changes brought about by Gorbachev taught us to think and act freely, and these are valuable skills that no Putin will take us. So damn the hurt and historical debates. Suffice it to wish a happy birthday to Gorbachev, to wish him to live many more years. We have much to be grateful.

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