Intermountain Jewish News

Aug 20th

So, Mr. Putin, the bully, wants his empire back

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Perhaps Mr. Putin has a short memory of the disasters of the Soviet Union. To mention just one: Chernobyl

As Vladimir Putin grasps to retrieve the Soviet empire, whose dissolution he has called one of the greatest disasters of recent times, it is pertinent to focus on what he is focusing on: Ukraine. The same place where the greatest impetus to the dissolution of the Soviet Union took place: the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.

Recall the pre-Chernobyl hyperbole with which the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics bloated itself. The nuclear power plant at Chernobyl was evidence of the USSR’s superior technology, advanced solution to the world energy shortage, exemplary management and economic genius. After all, virtually every one of the 50,000 people in the Chernobyl region — about 60 miles north of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine — worked in or for the nuclear facility.

Oh, and remember all that drab, cramped, socialist housing of “the people” that left virtually every Russian with the desire to leave the country? Not so in Pripyat, the city a few miles from Chernobyl that housed its workers. Pripyat, as set down in The Underground, a recent work on the Soviet Jewish spiritual revolution in the USSR, “was blessed with wide streets, open and spacious dwellings, a large shopping center, restaurants and parks.” Pripyat and Chernobyl were the pride of the Soviet Union.

Perhaps Vladimir Putin would like to recall that.

And also recall the initial Soviet lies to Pripyat’s nuclear workers when Reactor #4 exploded, telling them that nothing had happened.

And also recall that within 48 hours Pripyat had been reduced to a permanent ghost town.

And also recall that no one has ever returned to live there.

And also recall that 140,000 people who took part in the clean-up have died.

And also recall that the affected area was larger than Switzerland.

And also recall that Pripyat today is an overgrown, sickly place, with its original buildings still standing,  but now surrounded by unkempt trees and wild brambles and grasses —“looking like an ancient ruin in a jungle” — a testament to technological failure, a textbook case in energy waste and civil mismanagement, a totalitarian’s nightmare of an economic plan that committed suicide.

This is the Soviet Union that Vladimir Putin is bragging about. This is the political system he wishes to recreate.

This is the Ukraine that the Soviet Union tended to with ever so much solicitude, and now lusts to take back into its merciful embrace. A hammer and a sickle still hang from a rooftop in Pripyat, the symbol of the geopolitical empire that Vladimir Putin so passionately praises and wants to promote. Just as Jews praise their own, rather more blessed origins as a people on Passover — the date, incidentally, when the Chernobyl nuclear explosion took place. An explosion that spread 10 times the radiation as Hiroshima — the pride and joy, the lovliest representative, of the Soviet empire that Vladimir Putin, the bully, wishes to retrieve.

Because, of course, democracy, human rights, capitalism, freedom — the post-Soviet themes of Russian life — have failed miserably. O for the days of Chernobyl! For the glory of Chernobyl, duly masked, officially veiled, the ugly reality shunted aside, now to be revised by Mr. Putin in the best Soviet tradition of deception and self-deception.

This is what is at stake in the current confrontation between Putin and the West: totalitarian lies vs. true freedoms. Do we really wish to go down the path again, of a revived Soviet empire that literally melted into the ground in Chernobyl, but now, under the recru- descence of the KGB mentality, under the “leadership” of the Russian bear and its bully Mr. Putin, threatens to remold itself in the old image?

Wasn’t the 20th-century Union of Soviet Socialist Republics enough? Doesn’t the prospect of its revival under Mr. Putin deserve more than a verbal denunciation?

Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News


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