Nostalgia at propaganda’s service. Op-Ed by Victor Pelin

“Nostalgia for the empire, in any form, is sublimated through the agency of military aggression, with goals that are revealed by the propaganda machine – destruction of Ukraine and the Ukrainians, of the Ukrainian language. War propaganda does not stop at Ukraine and covers also Kazakhstani, Georgia, Moldova, the Baltic States”.

Origins of censorship and propaganda

Ahead of the centenary of the USSR, for nostalgia to be cured, it is important to highlight not only the crimes committed by the Soviet empire, but also the instruments used to incite hatred and to justify the most horrible abuses against large sections of the population. The imposition of censorship for substituting the informing of citizens with propaganda was one of the main instruments for building the Soviet empire. The importance of the propaganda flows for influencing the people is confirmed by the fact that on November 9, 1917, in only two days of the Bolshevik putsch of November 7, there was signed a decree on the press by which the temporary closure of all the media outlets that criticized or opposed the Bolshevik putsch somehow was imposed. It is curious that in that decree, the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin mentioned not the proletarian revolution, but the coup mounted by the Bolsheviks. This note is important for underlining that the Bolsheviks realized that in a poorly developed country from industrial viewpoint, such as Russia, where the working class represented only approximately 11% of the population, it was absurd to speak about a proletarian revolution in the terms used by the Marxist theory.
Despite the forced closure of all the media outlets, others than the Bolshevik ones – several hundred in number – in the elections for the constituent Assembly of November 25, 1917, the Bolshevik party obtained only 13.5% of the seats of MP. It should be noted that the absolute majority (~54%) was won by Socialist parties (Essers, Mensheviks, Ukrainian Socialists, etc.), which were later destroyed together with their notable members. This is the cause for which, with the force of arms, the Bolsheviks dissolved the constituent Assembly right on the day this was convened, starting this way the fratricide civil war that lasted for five years and destroyed over 10 million citizens. The civil war included the red terror and the so-called prodazverstka, which is the war against peasantry that represented over ¾ of the population of Russia. After the civil war, six transitory periods occurred until 1991, during which justifications were found for maintaining censorship.

The details mentioned above are important for the people who are currently nostalgic for the Soviet power and the late USSR to realize why writer Venedikt Yerofeyev compiled with dedication My Little Leniniana based on quotes from authentic sources. This succinct compilation of quotes from official documents is very useful for realizing the inhuman methods used by the Bolshevik leader – the most human of the humans, as Vladimir Mayakovski named him. It should be noted that recently, the nephew of the famous Vyacheslav Molotov pronounced on the Bolshevik leader’s capacity not to value human lives when he needed to achieve his goals.

From the aforementioned examples, the nostalgic people should deduce the most important aspect – the temporary banning of press institutions others than the Bolshevik and Communist ones lasted until the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. This means that since the founding and up to the dissolution of the USSR, society had been uninterruptedly in the toils of censorship and propaganda.

2. Current impact of censorship and propaganda

The brainwashing of citizens through the agency of propaganda amid ferocious censorship during approximately 70 years in the USSR and 50 years in the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR) left a deep imprint on people’s perceptions. Up to now, over 40% of the Moldovan citizens remain nostalgic for the USSR even if they had been forced to study in the USSR Marxism-Leninism that was based on Hegelian dialectic, especially the formula: what is real is rational, and what is rational is real. This formula is designed to justify any historical process. Respectively, the main conclusion is that the USSR, which was born from the Bolshevik putsch, existed as long as it was served by a totalitarian system based on censorship, propaganda and terror. When the totalitarian system became fully irrational, the USSR collapsed. A consequence of the given conclusion is that those who are yet nostalgic for the late USSR are also irrational and they should be therefore commiserated, comforted and guided towards rational normality, in accordance with Hegelian dialectic.

But not all the nostalgic people deserve compassion as there are those who admit that the USSR wasn’t only an ideological empire, but was also a substitute of the tsarist empire, while the empire should last one way or another. This category of nostalgic people deplores the collapse of the Soviet empire, pleading for its restoration in any form. For example, the publication Komsomolskaya Pravda, which has a branch in the Republic of Moldova, in an aggressive and xenophobe way promotes the idea of renaissance of the Russian empire, especially in the context of the military aggression against Ukraine. The imperialist gasps are manifested according to the formula – unaccomplished dreams of Putin impose restoration of empire. For the purpose, the journalists from Komsomolskaya Pravda, who are nostalgic for Stalinist, Soviet methods, suggest reforming the GULAG for Ukrainians and special detachments as in the case of a series of dissidents in the period of the USSR. Let someone yet say that nostalgia is something inoffensive, deriving from heart...

It should be noted that while the central branch of Komsomolskaya Pravda deals with the propaganda of hatred and xenophobia, its Moldovan branch struggles for the freedom of expression, against censorship here, in the Republic of Moldova, accusing the government in Chisinau of inventing false pretexts for fighting Russian fake news and propaganda against the background of news about the eventual Russian invasion of Ukraine. The irony of fate is that in only a week of its pleading in favor of the freedom of expression, Russia attacked Ukraine and the validity of the arguments of the government in favor of the necessity of limiting the Russian propaganda was this way confirmed. In such circumstances, the Moldovan branch of Komsomolskaya Pravda preferred to tacitly and timidly renounce the calls to censure the media outlets in the Republic of Moldova, which informed the citizens about the danger of the Russian aggression, citing President Biden and Premier Johnson. But the anti-censorship and pro-freedom of expression élan of the Moldovan branch of Komsomolskaya Pravda recidivated in a hypocritical manner amid the anarchy in the country of origin of this publication, where hundreds of persons and organizations were declared foreign agents and were striped of rights, while other hundreds are being persecuted for posting the word peace and some of the citizens are sentenced to long jail terms for publicly expressing their disagreement with the war. This is how the nostalgia for the USSR, which seems to be innocent, is converted into an instrument for rebuilding the empire with a different face.

3. Conclusions

The Soviet empire was a totalitarian one and annihilated tens of millions of people who were declared enemies of the people according to different criteria. It replaced the tsarist one that was a prison of the nations, according to the Bolshevik leader. Currently, nostalgia for the empire, in any form, is sublimated through the agency of military aggression, with goals that are revealed by the propaganda machine – destruction of Ukraine and the Ukrainians, of the Ukrainian language. War propaganda does not stop at Ukraine and covers also Kazakhstani, Georgia, Moldova, the Baltic States, etc. As we convinced ourselves, this is done for the purpose of substituting the unfulfilled dreams of President Vladimir Putin. Unquestionably, the citizens should not be nostalgic for such imperial structures.

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