Tuesday, December 13, 2011

David Satter's "It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway"

David Satter is senior fellow, Hudson Institute, and fellow, Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He was Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times from 1976 to 1982, then a special correspondent on Soviet affairs for the Wall Street Journal. His  books include Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union and Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past, and reported the following:
Page 99 of It Was a Long Time Ago... contains an interview with a woman who is nostalgic for the Soviet Union and it is part of a chapter that seeks to explain what it was about communism that appealed to Russians. The book as a whole, however, deals not with what was good about the Soviet Union but rather with what was murderous, tragic, inhuman and repellent. Page 99 therefore is not a particularly good guide to the content of the entire book.

What I've tried to show is why Russia is different from the West, what it is about Russians that we need to understand and what they need to understand about themselves. In Russia, as nowhere in the West, the individual is a means to an end. He can be used for any purpose. This underlying mentality provided the psychological base for communism and it led to the deaths of millions. It is also the reason that Russians do not view with horror the crimes that were committed against innocent individuals and find it hard to condemn either the crimes of communism or the society that those crimes helped to build.
Learn more about It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue