In the past, Russia was run by an "elite" that had evolved as a bunch of
thieves; today there is a pressing need for a new, real elite
Give your soul to God, your life to Motherland, your heart to a woman, but
your honor to no one" - the code of conduct for Russian army officers went
far beyond the military, applying to Russia's entire nobility class. Those
who lost all their money at gambling would put a bullet through their head:
Living in dishonor was more terrible than living in poverty. Pledging one's
word of honor was good enough for taking out a loan or striking deals worth
many millions of rubles. Of course there was stealing and graft even under
the tsars, but no one had ever dared to abolish the notion of honor as such.
No one dared but the Bolsheviks: "Our morality derives from the interests
of the class struggle of the proletariat...We debunk all fraudulent
morality tales." Lenin mocked the traditional moral values, spreading
"class-specific justice." The interests of the proletariat, however, could
be interpreted in any way, to suit a specific objective: Lies and stealing
became endemic in the Soviet society, from top to bottom.
Legends about the selflessness and asceticism of the leaders of the October
coup are refuted by the documentary evidence on record. Not so long ago I
got to read a private letter written by Nikolai Bukharin (it was recently
discovered in the archives), who, compared to others, was regarded as the
epitome of decency. Bukharin, at the beginning of the Civil War, writes to
a friend: "Denikin is near Tula so we are packing up; we already have false
passports and some ready cash in our pockets. Being a great bird lover, I
was toying with the idea of catching parrots in Argentina. Lenin, however,
was as calm as could be. He said - actually prophesied: "The situation
could not be worse. But we've always been lucky, and fortune will continue
to smile on us in the future.'" They did not believe in their good luck all
at once, stashing something away for a rainy day. Jacob Sverdlov's widow,
Klavdia Novgorodtseva, the treasurer of the party's 'contingency funds,'
had three drawers and a trunk packed with jewels.
Ruling with an Iron Rod
"We don't need any evidence or interrogations or even suspicions for an
execution. We just go ahead and carry out an execution as we see fit, and
that's that," Felix Dzerzhinsky categorically formulated the fundamental
Bolshevik "law." This postulate explains why the Soviet elite never really
evolved. The new masters of life from day one behaved like a bunch of
street thugs. There were ringleaders but no elite. Elites can not be built
in a legal vacuum: Even underworld associations have their own "law."
After the October Revolution, Lenin proposed the first formula for a new
elite, saying in particular that everything was of course in the hands of
the working class and peasantry, but they were not as yet ready to run the
state so it was necessary to create an elite group of party revolutionaries
("a dozen talented leaders," as he put it). Presumably that was how the
omnipotent Politburo came about. Can a bunch of criminals run a country? As
it turned out, it can.
Later, on March 3, 1937, having gotten rid of the old intelligentsia, the
nobility, and the scientific, intellectual and to a very large extent
artistic elites, Stalin, who was officially known as "Lenin today,"
clarified: The new elite will be comprised of 3,000 to 4,000 communists -
"the top command level." Then came the "officer corps" - 30,000 to 40,000;
and the "NCO ranks" - 100,000 to 150,000. In all, one percent of the USSR
population. What about the remaining 99 percent? The supreme leader said:
"Rule them with an iron rod."
The class/gang-affiliation principle in selecting the new elites was
followed meticulously. It was then, in the 1930s, that this sad joke was
born: If there were two candidates vying for the position of director of
the Institute of Physics - bourgeois specialist Albert Einstein and Baltic
Fleet seaman Vanya Khryushkin (the surname roughly translates as PiggyMan),
they would have preferred PiggyMan.
The great artist Ilya Repin had tremendous respect for the toiling masses
("I revere the people," he said) - consider, for example, his famous Barge
Haulers on the Volga. But Repin's trust in the rule of the working class
and peasantry ended when drunken marauders broke into his house several
times in a row - with total impunity. Repin chose to leave the country. The
great composer Sergei Rakhmaninov emigrated after his house was sacked,
while his piano (presumably, as a symbol of social justice meted out) was
thrown from the top floor into the street. The great operatic bass Fedor
Chaliapin, who had seen enough, also chose to leave. Need I go on?
The novelist Ivan Bunin, the painter Konstantin Korovin, and the ballet
dancer Sergei Lifar are buried at a famous memorial cemetery near Paris.
The ashes of ballerina Anna Pavlova were buried in London; the ashes of
composer Igor Stravinsky rest in Venice. Is there a need to go on?
The Bolshevik state kicked the people of genius out like junk. Vladimir
Horowitz, a former Kharkhov resident, became the world-famous pianist;
Jascha Heifetz, a former Odessa native, became one of the century's
greatest violinists; Vladimir Zvorykin invented television in the United
States; Vasily Leontyev, also in the United States, won the Nobel Prize in
economics; Igor Sikorsky, a graduate of the Kiev Polytechnic, built his
famous helicopters in emigration. These people, the nation's cream of the
crop, were absolutely vital for the looted and beheaded country, but the
Soviet state found them worse than useless.
A Caste of Upstarts
The new Communist elite was not distinguished by scrupulousness. Mikhail
Kalinin's wife took the fur coat of the slain empress, while Vyacheslav
Molotov's spouse had the USSR State Depository of Valuables hand to her
Catherine the Great's wedding crown, later presented as a gift to the U.S.
ambassador's wife. The "modest" Stalin, who wore an ordinary service jacket
in public, had luxury dachas built for him across the country. It reached
the point of the absurd. The dictator ordered for his new dacha, on the
Valdai lake, to be built precisely on an equidistant line between the two
capitals - to make it more convenient to meet with Zhdanov, the Leningrad
party boss. Yet on the very first night at his new residence the supreme
leader was successfully attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes: He was powerless
to have them arrested or executed. Stalin never returned to that dacha
"Stalin's policy reflects the insecurity of the caste of privileged
up-starts" - Leon Trotsky knew what he was talking about. The Bolsheviks
robbed and looted on a grand scale. There were more than 80,000 Russian
Orthodox churches in the country, each receiving a visit from fighters for
social justice. Gold coins were hauled away by the bags and boxes,
chandeliers and ciboria were flattened with a hammer, and precious settings
and frameworks were torn off of icons and religious books. Had those
treasures, as the Bolsheviks promised, been returned to the people, each
Soviet citizen would have been richer than any Kuwaiti oil baron. But
instead of affluence, milk and honey, the Soviet people were hit by famine
and incredible poverty.
Where did everything that was stolen go? All that remains are the legends
about the secret safe deposit boxes at the impenetrable Swiss banks. How
many generations have to change before the Russian bureaucrats stop
stealing? Even now they are grabbing not only posh apartments and dachas:
They will never miss an opportunity of registering a factory, a bank, a
commercial firm or (if they are lucky enough) a whole oil company to their
wife or nephew or son-in-law or sister-in-law. All of this is of course
being done in the interest of the people whose finest representatives are
indeed living it up.
The Soviet elite is an elite that never was. The Russian elite is being
built on deformed principles, partly inherited from the past century. Yet,
an elite is not a group of time-servers who rose to power by chance. These
are "highbrowed," talented, and - which is very important - moral and
scrupulous people. A society in the 21st century is unable to develop
without an elite - a real elite.
Elite - a group or class of persons or a member of such a group or class,
enjoying superior intellectual, social, or economic status. In sociology as
in general usage, the elite refers to a relatively small dominant group
within a larger society, which enjoys privileged status and, almost
invariantly, exploits individuals of lower social status. Some elites speak
a language that is not shared by the commonality: in Tsarist Russia the
elite spoke French. Elite advantages are the usual ones of a dominant
social class: easier access to capital and political power, more rigorous
education largely free of indoctrination, resulting in cultural influence,
Elite theories - socio-philosophical concepts positing that the elite (top
privileged strata performing managerial functions, developing science and
culture) and the remaining mass of the people are the essential components
of the social structure of any society.
(Source: Filosofskii entsikplopedicheskii slovar)