Nina Khrushcheva, writing in the Moscow Times:
A pox on both your houses” may be an appropriate individual response to frustration with the political candidates on offer in an election. But it is a dangerous sentiment for governments to hold. Choice is the essence of governance and to abstain from it — for whatever reason — is to shirk responsibility.
But that seems to be the stance of the entire West regarding Sunday’s second round of Ukraine’s presidential election. Because the Orange Revolution in 2004 turned out to be a seemingly unending series of disappointments, most Western leaders are acting as if it makes no difference whether Prime MinisterYulia Tymoshenko or her rival, Viktor Yanukovych, wins.
They are wrong — not only about what the election will mean for Ukrainians, who have stoically endured so much, but also about what it will mean for security and stability across Eurasia. If the Orange Revolution demonstrated one thing, it is that Ukraine’s politics are not those of a pendulum, swinging predictably between opposing forces that agree on the fundamental rules of democracy. Indeed, it is patently clear from his own words that Yanukovych does not accept the legitimacy of the Orange Revolution, which means that he does not accept the bedrock principle of democracy that you cannot cheat your way to power.
Yanukovych’s anti-democratic position should come as no surprise. His criminal record is often noted, but the particular crimes that sent him to prison are rarely spelled out. Let me do it.
Russia’s Rotting Empire
Nina Khrushcheva watches Russia rotting
Writing in the MIT Press Journal, Nikita Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter Nina (a professor at the New School in New York City), offers her perspective on what she calls Russia’s “rotting empire.” She begins by observing: “There is one thing to keep in mind when talking about Russia — it doesn’t change.” Russia has, she argues, no viable alternative to destruction and malfunction except stasis and decay.
That is just about as damning a criticism of a civilization as can be made and, don’t forget, it’s coming not only from a Russian but from a Russian whose ancesor once ruled the country. Khrushcheva’s point is irrefutable: Putin claimed that Yeltsin’s reformers tried to change the country too rapidly into a demcratic republic, and then he turned around and moved back towards a neo-Soviet oligarchy with even more devastatingly breakneck speed and totally without deliberation. She states: “The structures of democracy today are as undeveloped as they were under Peter the Great and will likely remain as underdeveloped in 25 years as they are today.”
That’s because it’s simply not in the interests of Russia’s ruthless authoritarian leaders to empower the mass public. As the legacy of the USSR clearly shows, Russia simply can’t generate the massive wealth that would be required to hold such a population in check — the USSR couldn’t even do so in regard to Russia’s cowed, clueless masses. In Russia, authoritarian rulers need a weak, sick, helpless population in order to maintain control.
So she starts of wonderfully well. Pity, then, that in classic Russian fashion she wanders into confusion and misrepresentation before the end.