“Dostupnost obshchestvennomy obsuzhdeniyu, kontrolyu; pubichnost.” This is the definition of glasnost according to the 1930s official Soviet encyclopedia. It means “the quality of being made available for public discussion or manipulation” (Tolkovyy SlovarRusskogo Yazyka (Explanatory Dictionary of the Russian Language), ed. D.N. Ushakov (Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia State Institute, 1935), Vol. I, p. 570).
“Originally it meant, literally, publicizing, i.e., self-promotions” (“Disinformation”, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa and Prof. Ronald J. Rychalak; p.13).
Glasnost is making the leader look good.
Does it surprise you that the word “openness” isn’t in the meaning? It’s not, and the Soviet “experts” during Gorbachev’s rise to power seem to have missed it also. Gorbachev was made to look like a hero, a champion of peace. He even won the Nobel Peace Prize. His resume would say different. Little is known of Gorbachev, his KGB records being hermetically sealed, but he was described as Andropov’s “crown prince,” graduated from Moscow State University where he studied law, and interned at the state security headquarters (Lubyanka). Andropov, head of the KGB, got Gorbachev appointed to the Soviet Politburo. Just being so closely connected with Andropov and the KGB should raise red flags, red for the rivers of blood from the hands of the Soviet State Security Police.
Sometimes we want something so badly that we’ll overlook red flags and historic data. The west wanted “peace” so desperately that we didn’t care if we were being manipulated. Gorbachev was made to look good for Western powers, all the while still promoting Marxism. The Soviet economy was a disaster, and the U.S. dollar looked good. If Western nations could be convinced to infuse the Soviet economy with hard cash, maybe the U.S.S.R. could be saved, but it was too far gone.
Since Ivan the Terrible, all of Russia’s rulers have used glasnost to advance and enhance their image inside and outside the country. In his journal, the French Marquis de Custine opined, “Everything is deception in Russia, and the gracious hospitality of the Czar, gathering together in his palace his serfs and the serfs of his courtiers, is only one more mockery” (Journey For Our Time: The Journals of The Marquis de Custine, p. 161). He also stated, “Russian despotism not only counts ideas and sentiments for nothing but remakes facts; it wages war on evidence and triumphs in the battle” (Ibid at 14). The Count went to Russia to observe their monarchy, having the idea that the new, rising democratic nations would only lead to chaos, being unable to govern themselves. Instead, he went away with little positive remarks about the Russian way of governing. “Despotism” is a strong term.
And the Soviets were despotic: the great Ukrainian famine of 1936–1937, the gulags, religious persecution, political persecution, the atrocities of the KGB, NKVD, the Great Purge, and other atrocities racked-up the murder rate into the tens of millions. Nonetheless, Stalin’s glasnost still has him as a champion of the people in the minds of many Russians. We can see similar propaganda with China’s Mao Tse-tung.
I remember when Vladimir Putin became Prime Minister of Russia. News outlets began portraying him as a moderate, Europeanized leader. Many in the west, it seems, fell for the scheme. In reality, Putin was a KGB officer assigned to Soviet East Germany. He worked with the communist East German political police — the Stasi. Within a few years of becoming head of Russia, Putin had placed some six thousand former KGB officers into federal and local governments. Sometime after that, he was quoted as saying about the fall of the Soviet Union, “[It was a] national tragedy on an enormous scale,” and “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” His true colors.
The tensions that we are seeing between the Ukraine and Russia have made me look into glasnost. What’s the spin to make Putin look good and innocent? Is he really concerned about the Russian expatriates? I doubt it. The only thing Putin ever wanted is power, and a resurrected Soviet Empire wouldn’t be turned down. The USSR’s dominance over the Ukraine insured there would always be a Russian satellite group in the Ukraine. Ukraine is the great buffer zone between Russia and Europe/NATO. Hitler used the same type of manipulations to invade Austria. Even if there is some cause for Russian aggression, my default mode is “everything is deception in Russia.” It’s all about the history. The question is, “What glasnost will we hear about Putin? What disinformation will we hear in the Western media?
This writing isn’t about slander or choosing a side. It’s about the way the world is run, in particular Russian politics. It’s about being aware of political chess and who the players are who move the pieces. We, as individuals, may have little to say about international politics, but we can prepare ourselves for possible outcomes if we’re aware of how the game is played.
I suggest reading the book “Disinformantion: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies For Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, And Promoting Terrorism” by Ion Mihai Pacepa and Professor Ronald J Rychlak. It’s a great place to start a deeper study.
Stay strong and prepared!