#RussiaIsCollapsing: wishful thinking or prescience?

Not much that is pleasant or enlightening ever happens on Twitter. I suppose I should therefore know better than to check the site first thing in the morning. But sometimes we can’t help ourselves.

This morning Twitter gave me the usual list of trending hashtags. One involves a campaign to boycott Hershey Foods over that company’s decision to name a biologically male, female-presenting spokesperson to represent Hershey for International Woman’s Day. We’ll leave that one for another time. Gender identity-related controversies, after all, have been like dandelions on a May lawn in recent years.

Trending hashtags on Twitter this morning

Of more interest at the moment is the hashtag #RussiaIsCollapsing, which has been trending on Twitter for a number of consecutive days now.

For the record: I’m rooting for Ukraine, and I despise Putin as much as anyone. I’m furthermore irked at the Russian people that, a full generation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they still can’t manage to elect a reasonable leader and become a “normal” country. 

I also have no doubt that Russia is collapsing, as any Westerner would define “collapse”. I’m sure life in Russia is anything but pleasant now, for the average Russian.

But then, we should not forget that it took the Russian people more than 70 years to overthrow the USSR, one of the modern world’s worst experiments in governance. 

And one can make the case that the Russian people never really dismantled the USSR. The Soviet-enslaved peoples of East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and the Baltics were at the forefront of that dismantling. So was Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who represented a real oddity: a genuinely enlightened Russian head of state.

But the Russian people, rising in righteous fury against tyranny and injustice? Not so much.


Ivan the Terrible, Russian czar

What about the pre-Soviet era, then? Here there is even less reason for optimism. In pre-Soviet times, Russia was a czarist dictatorship. While most Western European countries were moving toward republicanism or constitutional monarchy, Russia remained mired in an uneasy state of absolutism.

Only for a very brief period–during the Provisional Government of 1917–did pre-Soviet Russia experience anything approaching real democracy. But this short period of quasi-normalcy was swept away by the Bolshevik Revolution, which began that same year. 

History suggests that the Russians can collectively endure far worse conditions before they overthrow Putin, if they overthrow him at all. Russia, moreover, being a nuclear-armed state, is capable of taking down the rest of the world with it.

Which brings us back to the Russian people themselves, and the question of what’s wrong with them. A generation after the collapse of the USSR, why have they not done a better job of becoming a normal country? 

A popular uprising against the Soviet system–in East Germany