- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Walter C. Uhler
Friday, Jun. 02, 2006 at 12:03 PM
It was Friday evening, May 19, 2006. My spouse (Carol DePrisco) and I were dining at Barron - the house restaurant of St. Petersburg's recently refurbished Petro Palace Hotel (located on Malaya Morskaya street, just one block east of St. Issac's Cathedral and two blocks west of bustling Nevsky Prospect).
We were dining with a retired professor of English from St. Petersburg State University. At the very outset of our conversation, the professor inquired: "You are not a Republican, are you?" I assured her I wasn't, thus breaking the ice for a very pleasant and engaging conversation during dinner and afterward in our spacious hotel suite.
Nevertheless, she was quite astounded by my immense admiration for Mikhail Gorbachev, disdain for Boris Yeltsin and concern about Vladimir Putin. Because Gorbachev leaves her cold, the most she was willing to concede was that each of the three was the appropriate ruler for his time. Yet, by evening's end, our guest grudgingly conceded: "You'll be a satisfactory President [of the Russian-American International Studies Association], if only because you occasionally say something good about one or more of Russia's leaders -- and because you don't like Bush."
Many Russians, you see, don't care much for Americans these days. Like most of the rest of the world, many Russians especially despise the Bush administration for its invasion of Iraq and for its "arrogance." How do I know? I know, because this growing dislike was much discussed at the 15th Annual Russian-American Seminar, held at St. Petersburg State University during May 16-23, 2006. (I served as cochairman of the seminar.)
During his May 16th keynote speech to our seminar, Mikhail Gorbachev claimed that it was not totally correct to assert that the Russian people have a negative view of America. But he added: "The growth of anti-American sentiment is a fact."
Moreover, a subsequent seminar paper examined Russians' Internet chats about the United States. To nobody's surprise, the data revealed that the least educated Russians - those demonstrating poor or unsophisticated Russian language skills - most frequently and most intensely despised the United States. Although weak on details, the study concluded that approximately 75% of these uneducated Russians criticized America's invasion of Iraq. Another 25% emphasized America's arrogance.
Due to their size and xenophobia, the uneducated masses dwarf the small minority of Russians, who not only are knowledgeable about world affairs and America, but who also travel abroad. Moreover, they have much in common with the large (if dwindling) numbers of ill-read, ill-traveled, xenophobic Americans who still steadfastly support President Bush's illegal, immoral war in Iraq. Which is to say that Russian nationalism is as readily subject to manipulation as was post 9/11 American nationalism during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. That's not good news, especially when considering the recent unflattering allusion to the Bush administration made by the immensely popular President Putin on May 10, 2006.
Putin asserted: "We also need to build our home and make it strong and well protected. We see, after all, what is going on in the world. The wolf knows whom to eat, as the saying goes. It knows whom to eat and is not about to listen to anyone it seems.
How quickly all the pathos of the need to fight for human rights and democracy is laid aside the moment the need to realize one's own interests comes to the fore. In the name of one's own interests, everything is possible, it turns out, and there are no limits."
Putin's words constituted Russia's official response to statements made a week earlier in Vilnius, Lithuania by Vice President Cheney. Mr. Cheney called on Russia to cease its attempts to reverse the democratic gains of the past decade, to cease using gas and oil exports as "tools of intimidation or blackmail," and to "return to democratic reform." It comforted few Russians to hear Cheney assert: "None of us believe that Russia is fated to become an enemy."
In fact, many Russians were furious. Even before Putin's speech, the Kremlin described Cheney's speech as "completely incomprehensible. Mikhail Zygar, writing in Kommersant, called it the "sharpest attack on Russia an American leader has made since the end of the Cold War." Mr. Zygnar also saw parallels between Cheney's diatribe and Winston Churchill's "Iron Curtin" speech, delivered in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946.
Yuli Vorontsov, former Russian ambassador to the U.S. (with whom I had a few conversations during our seminar), asserted: "We do not have an American democracy, but we have a Russian one. And America will have to accept it."
Even Mikhail Gorbachev, during his keynote address to our seminar, observed that Cheney's address is being called "the new Fulton speech." Yet, Mr. Gorbachev's speech looked to the future of the world in the 21st century and especially to the future of Russian-American relations.
Not only did he assert that President Putin "does not want an authoritarian regime," Mr. Gorbachev also observed that "criticism in relation to Russia has resounded more stridently now that the country has begun to lift itself up."
Moreover: "To the question of Americans about democracy, I answer: Do you consider us a talented people? Yes, you must consider us the most talented of all. For what it took you 200 years to build, you want us to create in 200 days?"
Mr. Gorbachev added that the ultimatums have no place in Russian-American relations and suggested that those American politicians who believe that "there are things more important than peace" have lost their minds. In that context, Mr. Gorbachev asserted: "Military action in Iraq gave birth to chaos and tensions throughout the Middle East." In his view, that war, along with American unilateralim, have made it enormously more difficult for the world to attend to the three urgent problems - security (terrorism and nuclear weapons), poverty and the ecological crisis - that make peace more necessary now than ever.
Mr. Gorbachev closed his speech by quoting from President Kennedy's June 10, 1963 Commencement Address at the American University in Washington: "The most important topic on earth is world peace. What kind of peace do I have in mind? Not a Pax America enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of a slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children. Peace not only for Americans, but peace for all men and women. Peace not only in our time, but peace for all time."
After answering a few questions from the audience, including mine -- which asked about the need to cultivate an electorate capable of holding its leaders accountable, before genuine democracy in Russia can take hold - Mr. Gorbachev left the stage.
And so did I, catching up with him in the hallway to the right rear. Speaking Russian (here translated into English), our conversation went as follows:
Uhler: Mikhail Sergeevich, hello. My name is Walter Uhler (which I pronounced "Yooler").
Uhler: Well, in the proper German, it's pronounced "Oohler." (the pronunciation undoubtedly given to him by our seminar's administrators)
Uhler: Mikhail Sergeevich, I simply want to say that, in my opinion, you are the greatest statesman of the twentieth century.
Clearly moved by my assertion, Mr. Gorbachev looked directly into my eyes, firmly shook my hand and proceeded to talk about his attempts to reform Russia, as well as current attempts, by placing them in the context of the Westernization and reforms initiated by Peter the Great.
Perhaps it was the intensity of the moment that caused most of his specific words about Peter and reform to escape my recollection. More likely, what he said next best explains my faulty recall. Not only was it out of character, when compared with his seminar speech, it was out of character with what he had just spoken to me.
For, just as he's about to leave, I hear:
Gorbachev: Cheney is a fool (Cheney "durak.").
And, without missing a beat:
Uhler: I agree. I agree.
Note: I'm solely responsible for the translations from both the unpublished Russian language transcript of his speech to our seminar and his comments to me.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).
Report this post as:
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
Nuclear Shutdown News March 2018
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Join The Protest Rally in Glendale on April 10, 2018!
Spring 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Anti-Eviction Mapping Project Shows Shocking Eviction Trends in L.A.
Steve Mnuchin video at UCLA released
Actress and Philanthropist Tanna Frederick Hosts Project Save Our Surf Beach Clean Ups
After Being Told He's 'Full of Sh*t' at School Event, Mnuchin Demands UCLA Suppress Video
Resolution of the Rent Strike in Boyle Heights
What Big Brother Knows About You and What You Can Do About It
Step Up As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Steps Down
Our House Grief Support Center Hosts 9th Annual Run For Hope, April 29
Don’t let this LA County Probation Department overhaul proposal sit on the shelf
Echo Park Residents Sue LA Over Controversial Development
Former Signal Hill police officer pleads guilty in road-rage incident in Irvine
Calif. Police Accused of 'Collusion' With Neo-Nazis After Release of Court Documents
Center for the Study of Political Graphics exhibit on Police Abuse posters
City Agrees to Settle Lawsuit Claiming Pasadena Police Officer Had His Sister Falsely Arre
Professor's Study Highlights Health Risks of Urban Oil Drilling
Claims paid involving Pasadena Police Department 2014 to present
Pasadenans - get your license plate reader records from police
LA Times Homicide Report
More Local News...
Book Available about Hispanics and US Civil War by National Park Service
The Shortwave Report 04/20/18 Listen Globally!
The Republican 'Prolife' Party Is the Party of War, Execution, and Bear Cub Murder
Paraphysique de la dictature étatique
Book Review: "The New Bonapartists"
The West Must Take the First Steps to Russia
Théorie générale de la révolution ou hommage à feu Mikhaïl Bakounine
The Shortwave Report 04/13/18 Listen Globally!
“Lost in a Dream” Singing Competition Winner to Be Chosen on April 15 for ,000 Prize!
The World Dependent on Central Banks
Ohio Governor Race: Dennis Kucinich & Richard Cordray Run Against Mike DeWine
March 2018 Honduras Coup Again Update
Apologie du zadisme insurrectionnel
ICE contract with license plate reader company
Black Portraiture(S) IV: The Color of Silence...Cuba No...Cambridge Yes
Prohibiting Micro-Second Betting on the Exchanges
Prosecutors treat Muslims harsher than non-Muslims for the same crimes
Amy Goodman interview on cell phone safety
Mesa, Arizona police officer kills unarmed white man
Israeli leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes
Paraphysique de l'autorité
Two Podcasts on fbi corruption
Fbi assassins assault & try to kill DAVID ATKINS
EPA Head Scott Pruitt: Of Cages And Sirens
The Shortwave Report 04/06/18 Listen Globally!
Nicaraguas Conflic with native Peoples on the Caribbean Coast Near Bluefields in Decade80
More Breaking News...