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Public Discussion: A century after the Russian Revolution: consequences and expectations
on the organization of the debate “A century after the Russian Revolution: consequences and expectations”. Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. Public debates series held by the news agency IPN in its conference room with the support of the German Foundation “Hanns Seidel”
Held on 10 November 2017, Debate 80 brought together Victor Stepaniuc, president of the People’s Socialist Party; Valeriu Munteanu, vice president of the Liberal Party; Virgil Pâslariuc, historian; Vitalie Sprînceană, sociologist; and Igot Boțan, director of ADEPT, as the Project’s standing expert.
Why this subject and this selection of speakers?
The event commonly referred to as the Russian Revolution was a course-changing event of the 20th century that had an immense influence over a great chunk of the planet, including over what is now the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, it is considered that the centenary also marks the advent of “practical communism”, as opposed to the theoretical kind.
The selection of speakers allowed us to address the issue from multiple perspectives - politically, socially, economically, historicall – an event that continues to be intensely studied. Concerning the selection of participants, it is worth noting that the Party of Moldovan Communists, as the rightful successors of the 1917 communist ideology, were the first to be invited, but in the end, rather surprisingly, they couldn’t delegate a representative.
The debate, which involved a very complex, controversial and very broad subject, started traditionally with explaining basic notions and definitions, as the instructive component of the Project requires.
In particular, Igor Botan, the standing expert of IPN’s project, said a lot of time passed since the so-called Russian Revolution and things got settled and the people brought their ideas in order. “When we speak about revolutions, we mean the dramatic change in all the sociopolitical relations witnessed in 1917. I think it is logical to see what the impact was on us, those who now live in the Republic of Moldova. I think the impact of that revolution was an extraordinary one and it influenced many fates,” noted the expert.
According to him, when speaking about the Bolshevik Revolution, one should not forget about the currents that developed then, the Socialist theory, the Manifesto of the Communist Party and others so as to realize their impact. It wasn’t an explosion. It was a specific Russian event in an international context. Those were objective historical events and inevitable events. The current Republic of Moldova is a consequence of those events. The political class that declared the independence and later developed a multiparty system in our country has deep roots there. “A generation changed. A new generation of politicians comes and we see what is going on in our country. As a citizen, I want to know if there are political forces in Moldova that make use of communist and socialist traditions. We do not have parties that care a lot about traditions that are 100 years old,” he stated.
Victor Stepaniuc, chairman of the Socialist People’s Party of Moldova, said some consider the Bolshevik Revolution was a follow-up to the revolution of February the same year that failed. The Revolution started with uprisings by the poor as the people suffered famine even in the largest cities. The Bolsheviks didn’t stage a coup in Russia. They took over the power that “was lying in the street”.
“The Russian Revolution of 1917 and, in general, what is called the phenomenon of the Soviet Union, of building of the Socialist system in the European space contributed to the democratization or what is now called realization or practical implementation of the contemporary social state. In the 19th century, we had reform after reform at political level and at the start of the 20 century in the field of social policies, concretely implemented social ideas, and the USSR was a leader in this regard,” stated Victor Stepaniuc.
Valeriu Munteanu, deputy chairman of the Liberal Party, said that what happened 100 years ago was a classical coup when a party with insignificant weight took over in Russia. The Bolsheviks took over by ousting the state power. “During a particular period of time, they had spoken about those events like about a coup, but later started to create this illusion about the big October revolution and Lenin’s efforts. We should admit that they had social adherence. The people were poor and hungry and were waiting for benefits for them, but what was promised and offered to them was shortly taken back,” stated the politician.
He noted that the consequences for the whole Soviet Union were dramatic because at least 80-100 million people died in the period after the coup and until the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. “Undoubtedly, that negative event had a deep imprint on the body and face on the territory between the Prut and Nistru – the Republic of Moldova – and beyond the Nistru. Definitely, the political decision-makers of the past, present and future learn and will yet learn the lesson and will still feel the effects of the habits acquired during the Soviet occupation, paying tribute to an occupation regime,” stated Valeriu Munteanu.
Historian Virgil Pislariuc, lecturer, said it was an epochal event that radically changed the fate of the region and transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people. From historical viewpoint, the context in which such large-scale events are treated is very important. The Russian Revolution was mainly the product of World War I, which was the first all-embracing war that resulted in the extraordinary mobilization of society.
According to the historian, the social transformations witnessed later in the ex-USSR were not exclusively the result of the Russian Revolution and many people forget that Otto fon Bismarck is the one who can be considered the real promoter of those social changes. The big problem related to the perception of the Soviet past is that big discrepancy between theory and practice because it is one thing what the initiators of the Revolution projected and it is another thing how the goals were achieved.
Sociologist Vitalie Sprinceana said the Russian Federation, and not only this, but also an alliance of populist forces, remains a kind of exporter of conservative revolution or counterrevolution in a way. No visible events were seen after the revolution that occurred 100 years ago, either at the level of political parties – Party of Socialists Party of Communists – or at the level of messages delivered by historians. “In a way, such a big event passes as a non-even at least for our society and we can speculate about the reasons here,” he stated.
The sociologist considers these discussions that are now not topical will be resumed later as neither the politicians, nor the historians have clarified other closer events. This theme is not discussed because it is shadowed by other addressed themes which started to be revealed by archives. It is about the Soviet Union, the Holocaust, deportations and others. These are yet regarded as separate elements, but when they are placed together in a historical past, their origin and the context will start to be addressed.
The Agency published 6 news stories on the debate (see the English version of www.ipn.md): on 10.11.17, „A Century of Russian Revolution: consequences and expectations, IPN debate” - http://ipn.md/en/special/87526; „Igor Botan: Bolshevik revolution was a specific Russian event in an international context” - http://ipn.md/en/special/87527; „Russian Revolution had a deep imprint on the body and face of Moldova, opinion” - http://ipn.md/en/politica/87529; „Virgil Pislariuc: Russian Revolution transformed lives of hundreds of millions of people” - http://ipn.md/en/special/87531; on 11.11.17, „Vitalie Sprinceana: Building social state of welfare is best strategy for liquidating nostalgia” - http://ipn.md/en/special/87532; „Victor Stepaniuc: Industrialization done by Soviets after 1960 is categorically a positive factor that was yet lost” - http://ipn.md/en/special/87534.
IPN promoted the debate before and after the event, in particular the ensuing news stories, using all the available channels, including social networks. Confirmatory materials of deliverables, as well as a media coverage dossier are attached.
Valeriu Vasilica, director of IPN
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Public Discussion: A century after the Russian Revolution: consequences and expectations