Most Russians regard the loss of the USSR as a negative event, according to a poll conducted this month by the independent Levada Center. Some 63 percent see the collapse “negatively” while just 14 percent think it was a “positive” event. Asked which type of political system they would prefer to live under, only 13 percent named “Western democracy,” 23 percent said the present Russian setup was best, while 37 percent said the Soviet system would be most desirable, The Christian Science Monitor reports.
“There is nothing new here. We regularly ask people their views on the Soviet collapse, and we regularly get these results,” says Alexei Grazhdankin, deputy director of the Levada Center.
Russia expert Mark Galeotti, a professor of global affairs at New York University, says the Night Wolves are not part of the counterculture; they are “countercountercultural”, acting as “outlaws yet tools of the state”. In other words, the Kremlin has brought them in from the fringes to exploit their pro-Putinism, fervent Orthodoxy and anti-American rhetoric as a potent source of soft power. A Harley-Davidson rally from Moscow to Berlin last April retraced the Red Army’s route to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany; in August, in Sevastopol, the bikers staged a second world war re-creation in a performance complete with lasers, rock music and motorcycle stunts. Meanwhile, opposition activist Alexei Navalny has uncovered the flow of millions of roubles from the Russian government to the club, including funds to perform anti-western children’s shows.
“Who could ever have imagined that people would start to idealize that past?” asks Oleg Orlov, chairman of Memorial, Russia’s largest grassroots human rights movement. “But the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, and now we see many people believing the USSR was some kind of fairy-tale life that has disappeared.”
“I remember how enthusiastic people were when the USSR collapsed, how they hoped to break away from the Soviet past and build a better life,” says Mr. Orlov of Memorial. “I’m appalled. If we have to talk about it, I just wish we could speak the whole truth.”