22 June 2021
by Dmitry Bykov, writer, poet, journalist
Looking at the fate of Anatoly Lysenko, you can’t help but ask yourself who is going to regenerate our country’s television when all of this comes to an end?
Today there is virtually no disagreement as to the inevitability that “all of this” will end; people are even calculating who’s going to act how. What remains fundamental is just whether there will be anything to regenerate. A dismal conclusion suggests itself: the Soviet Union had opportunities for changes, although ultimately it went unreformed; Putin’s Russia doesn’t provide for mechanisms like that.
In the empire of the late Brezhnev that was breaking apart there were still professionals on TV, Andropov had in reserve the future “foremen of perestroika,” and the future creators of Vzglyad were toiling away in foreign broadcasting, since foreign broadcasting was less crude and more inventive than the usual propaganda “just for us.” The analog of foreign broadcasting today is Russia Today, which outdoes the federal channels for cynicism and straightforwardness.
The last generation to trust television are now pensioners; present-day university students, the main beneficiaries of the changes, learn everything from their iPhone. The political field has been cleared and paved over, and there isn’t a single intellectual among advisors and potential successors. That is, it’s clear that someone is going to have to be Gorbachev (this time it will likely be someone from the economic bloc, where remnants of professionalism have survived), but it will be a bad Gorbachev. Much worse than the previous one.
That is, there won’t be any intermediate forms, nothing like a Soviet Vzglyad – kind of Soviet, but hard-hitting and pugnacious. There’s no one to organize a Thaw or Glasnost. The system has lost the last of its flexibility and transitioned to a rigid stage. Any successor will be swept away by the course of time, and swept away, like Kerensky, before he has time to undertake anything.
Any regime is under an obligation to think about its smooth transformation. Then there’s a chance that the country will at least survive as such. The total reluctance to hear the signals of the era are leading to one thing: the change of power turning into the nullification of everything. Brezhnev’s successors and pupils could retire peacefully, even head up the changes (as in fact happened); those who are getting old today have no chance of anything after Putin – only an eternal Putin, but that is a problematic chance.
Actually, that’s even better. As history shows, changes headed up by former bonzes and bosses lead to an impasse anyway. Perestroika fails for them, despite their subjective honesty and undisputed talent. The years 1985-1991 were interesting but spurious. It’s good they won’t be repeated.
Translated by Marian Schwartz