Art critic, journalist
The magic of round numbers and jubilees has always helped to reinterpret the past. If it’s a jubilee, then a certain boundary has been crossed.
November 7 is such a boundary, which for decades has been marked with distinctive pomp and vigour. The 1917 Bolshevik revolution was glorified with widespread parades and celebrations, and everyone was required to become a participant. To become by not being. Including also Soviet Armenia.
November 7 was a total holiday in a totalitarian system. More precisely, a forced holiday, which apart from being an absurdity, was also a tool for control. And with the help of this tool, controlled was the most delicate material — historical memory.
Remembering and transmitting memories is an activity of vital significance for Armenia and Armenians, since only by remembering can we overcome trauma and loss (it was no accident that the slogan “I remember and demand” was chosen for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide).
In other words, there was a clarity in the mass consciousness. There was a message.
Now, when a century has passed from the bloody coup that happened in Russia and that left its fateful trace on us, which opened the door to future bloody events and impunity, attempts to evaluate the past continue to remain murky in our country.
Of course there are speeches, exhibits, Q&A’s, news stories, but there are no attempts to influence mass consciousness or set some guidelines (either historical or moral).
How to deal with the past? There’s a wide range of perception — from catastrophe to blissful nostalgia.
And chosen is the lesser evil, to be silent, since it’s easier to understand the past as an inevitable historical reality that had both good and bad sides. We say this and fall into if not complete amnesia then at least a quiet coma. Which, by the way, doesn’t work in the case of the genocide, but it does in the case of the Soviet past (with its repression, propaganda, and fraud).
On the 100th anniversary of the revolution (coup), we can try to talk about a few important things: already taking into account that many social complexes began from that time.
They haven’t been analyzed, haven’t been overcome, remaining as dark pages, in which it’s dangerous to enter — but not entering is more dangerous.
We became accustomed to living in violent conditions
Violence was not only legitimized, but also became an integral part of everyday life. Violence was dissolved into thin air as an irrational, inexplicable, and not-subject-to-analysis reality. Terrifying was not the number of victims (in the millions) and the brutality of the punishment (easy, quiet, and ordinary), but the illogicality in the choice of victims.
You never knew whom they’ll come after and who can be protected. And inadvertently you felt relieved when they took not you, but your neighbor. The widespread fear destroyed simple human assessments and rational thinking. People lived in conditions of unrest, and to maintain some semblance of dignity, they would convince themselves that the imprisoned, the exiled, and the executed were perhaps guilty.
If they’re being punished, so something’s not right not with the punisher but with the punished. After all, there’s a war, terrorism, spies, “enemies of the people,” traitors to communism. And so, violence can exist.
The subconscious acquittal of violence is the most terrible legacy that the Soviet Union left us.
The trauma of split consciousness
1917 launched a life of double standards.
Of course, the first post-revolutionary years were an uplift: romanticism, smashing, erasing, and beginning anew is always alluring and coincides with the fervor of natural cleansing.
But the uplift ended when the first victims became the fervent romantics, while those who could maneuver the system remained afloat and occupied key positions, those for whom the terms “conscience,” “faith,” and “concept” were no longer essential. Essential were the new rules of the game: do what needs to be done and you’ll get what you want, even if they’re contrary and mutually exclusive things.
This was a legalized human “spoiling,” which was spread from media outlets, stretched through art, and came and reached everyday life.
Soviet reality forced you to enter that dangerous game when you say one thing, think something else, and do something completely different. It was the only way to survive.
This human behavior continues to remain in demand today. For instance, when you speak on behalf of the public or the spiritual, but you pursue private and material interests. And the more you speak on behalf of the public (these days, the nation, but then, it was the international movement), the more you acquire material values, medals, coveted posts, offshore funds. And ultimately, governing power.
People with not complete but split consciousness got close to the helm in the USSR. The shutter is not yet closed, since these people’s actions have not been evaluated.
Words made the reality unrecognizable
Propaganda is based on the skill of arranging words. The Soviet propagandistic language was a champion in concealing reality.
Any Soviet newspaper or speech from the pulpit was full of words (a lot of words), but those words said nothing, since their sole purpose was to cover emptiness. There was even a time (in the early 1980s) when the pillar Soviet newspaper Pravda no longer published anything new, only words.
Thinking people and those who searched for meaning were led to isolation, underground, and made minorities. It was dangerous to reflect reality, while speaking using general empty words was encouraged.
These traces are in no way erased from our reality; moreover, they are solidified with the approach of the Armenian media today and speeches heard from various high-ranking platforms.
A hundred years ago, in 1917, began a page in history that, ultimately, took us to a dead end. Even if only for the reason that justified were neither the model of economic governance nor the justification of violence nor the distortion of human nature.
The state had been given the monopoly on violence. Also indulgence — to accept the individual as a deciding-nothing, unthinking and unfeeling unit, as a creature who consumes words, is split, and obediently participates in the holiday.
And that’s always a catastrophic path.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.