In 1929, the Riga newspaper Segodnya
put out a special issue
in which it surveyed the “leaders of public opinion” about how they saw Russia in 10 years. Ivan Bunin wrote: “Russia will be anything but not Bolshevik. I think, nevertheless, that the Bolsheviks will not hold on for 10 years.Yet in the end, 11 years later, Latvia itself was occupied and annexed by the USSR. What were the hopes that the Bolshevik regime would not last based on?
It seemed to everyone that the regime was something completely unreal, unlike anything else. It was impossible to imagine that, with such ideas, they could last for more than a few months.
Compared with the Bolsheviks, Putin’s regime is completely straightforward. A typical right-wing autocrat who does everything like other right-wing dictators, whether Latin American or Southern European. Meanwhile, the Soviet country, especially at the beginning, was not even a state. The people who were building it said that we are steadily moving toward a world revolution.
The thoughts and plans of the Bolsheviks can be expressed like this: a civil war must take place on a global scale during which the working class must overthrow all the capitalists. What makes you think that there should be states and borders? What a strange idea! You are just used to it. There used to be theocracies and feudal principalities, then empires and nation-states arose, and now everything will be different. An entire internationale of a classless society, the dictatorship of the proletariat, was to arise. The civil war in Russia was [seen] not as a battle between Whites and Reds, but as part of a world war where all the workers of the whole world would raise this fire of global revolution. It just started here, but would soon take over the whole of Europe, and then the world. How could you believe that these people would really hold on to power?Could the Bolsheviks really have lost power in Russia?
Yes, but they managed to do the near impossible. Vladimir Lenin and his party made the most effective use of situational opportunities to achieve their goal. They definitely cannot be said to have lacked professionalism and a subtle sense of the moment. That is why they came to power and won the Civil War.How did White emigrants reflect on what had happened?
The reflection was immense. Two thousand media emerged, among other things, for what social networks exist now: expressing opinions or finding out how to rent an apartment in Berlin. A guy is working on a construction site in Serbia, he has a bunch of thoughts about Russia, he can write to a local emigre newspaper, and he will be published for free. And getting a fee is not important for him, he just needs to speak his mind. And this endless reflection also breaks down into political factions.Were there people who began to return to the USSR in the 1930s?
Of course, they started back in the early 1920s. Moreover, the Soviet authorities regularly organized campaigns to get them to return. A very large number of Cossacks and peasants returned from Constantinople to the USSR. Military specialists did too. White generals then taught courses for the Red Army.
The biggest split in the White emigration occurred precisely over the question of whether to return and whether to recognize the Soviet regime. The journal Smena Vekh
began to call for recognition of the Bolsheviks as the successors of Russian imperial ideology. Almost everyone who returned ended up in the Gulag. All the smenovekhovtsy
, the Cossacks, the peasants – everyone ended up on execution lists in the 1930s.