If a nation does not know its history, if the country loses its history, then its citizens have nowhere to go.
Mirzhakyp Dulatuly

The lessons of totalitarianism

The lessons of totalitarianism - e-history.kz
Historical portal NDH publishes an article from the report of N. Nazarbayev

One of the greatest philosophers of the past, Immanuel Kant was famous for having meticulously analyzed both the positive and the negative aspects of any more or less significant problem of being. As you know, there is a good tradition in our Assembly - to deal with the most complicated issues of political, economic and cultural development of Kazakhstan. We will not violate this tradition today.

So, on the occasion of the Year of Remembrance and Harmony, there are two mutually exclusive opinions. They come down to the fact that, first, turning to the past, we can start looking for those responsible, including the guilty nations; and secondly, that we have behind us a glorious path that can not be considered only from a critical point of view.

I would like to clearly define these two positions.

To begin with, there is not a single nation, not a single people, to whom totalitarianism would not cause a crushing and, unfortunately, irreparable damage.

If we are talking about what our bashful opponents are not saying, namely, the role of the Russian people in bloody repressions, one of the bitter truths of the twentieth century is that the Russian people, being the most numerous people of the former empires and the USSR, experienced the very a great ethnic tragedy in its thousand-year history. As well as the Kazakh people who lost almost half of their numbers in direct or indirect form. I will not repeat the data on the monstrous scale and barbarous in its forms of ethnic genocide of the displaced peoples. Conducting the event of this Year, we must clearly place all the accents. And only then the whole historical truth will open before us: not a single nation is the culprit of the ethnic Apocalypse of the passing century. This is the fault of the system.

On the other hand, it is impossible to spill out a child together with water. It would be naive to turn a blind eye to those indisputably positive moments that were in the recent history of all peoples, including the Kazakh one. It is indisputable that for seven and a half decades - in essence, an insignificantly small period of time - a grandiose modernization of the economy and once the patriarchal way of life of people was held. But these successes were achieved not by aliens; they were achieved by us, our fathers and grandfathers. The passed way is our common past with its victories and defeats, joys and tragedies. And the one, who holds a different opinion, let him understand for himself: it would be humanly dishonest to reproach the people of the older generation for their historical meaninglessness or the insignificance of their deeds and actions.

You know that I have always been a supporter of a balanced approach to history. This science does not tolerate falseness or framing. We must always remember that the art of separating the grain from the weed is the only guarantee against the repetition of past mistakes. Therefore, it should not be allowed that the Year of Remembrance and Harmony turns into a contest over the spitting of the past. It has a completely different content and contains very different lessons. I would call them black lessons of totalitarianism.

Lesson one. We all have a moral debt to the generations that lived before. The fate of millions and millions of victims of political repression is not invented by anyone. This is a cruel reality - it has become a thing of the past, but it has not become less cruel. The Kazakh land became the site of numerous concentration camps - one of the most terrible inventions of totalitarianism.

Did we realize until the end that long before the concentration camps of fascist Germany in Kazakhstan, including the area in which we are now located, no less extensive and bloody "cleansing of human material" had already been carried out. Yes, it was with such cynicism that one of the pillars of totalitarianism expressed himself, Mr. Bukharin, who in the "cohort of leaders" was a man extremely soft.

Today, in this hall there are deeply religious people, and atheists. Freedom of conscience in a democratic state is really an individual matter. But there are universal postulates that are embodied in one of the wise monuments of human thought. One of them sounds like this: "The living know that they will die, but the dead do not know anything, and already there is no reward for them, because the memory of them is devoted to oblivion." The task of the Year of Remembrance and Harmony is that these mournful lines have become a reminder to us of our duty. Grieving about the innocently destroyed, we act in full accordance with both human laws and Holy Scripture.

Let's think about some facts. Individually and as part of so-called "kulak families" in the USSR, approximately 25-27 million people underwent repressive measures. Of these, more than 20 million are "dekulakized" peasants, in fact - "liquidated as a class". After the revolution and the civil war, the USSR left about two million people. In February 1954, to Khrushchev a detailed report on those convicted of "counterrevolutionary crimes" in the period from 1921 to 1954 was prepared. The total number of convicts amounted to 3 million 777 thousand people, of which 642 thousand were sentenced to death. In Kazakhstan over this period, for political reasons, more than 100 thousand people were convicted, and over 25 thousand were shot.

The scale of political repression is amazing. A special cynicism consisted in the fact that during the terrible famine caused by collectivization, in only one year 1931 more than 150,000 special settlers from the interior regions of Russia were stationed in the regions of Central Kazakhstan. It is difficult to distinguish between immediate victims of hunger and its consequences in the form of a terrible epidemic of typhoid fever, but the cumulative consequences of this violent experiment across Kazakhstan resulted in about 1 million 750 thousand people, which is 42 percent of the Kazakh population of the republic.

I will cite another horrifying fact of its scale and number of human tragedies. For three decades, from 1920 to 1949, three million 200 thousand people were deported to the USSR. A sad primacy belongs to the land of Kazakhstan: according to researchers, in the forties in the republic there were more than 1 million 200 thousand special settlers.

According to the calculations of the famous Russian historian Roy Medvedev, from 1927 to 1953, about 40 million people were repressed in the USSR. According to other researchers, this statistics is even worse. But no matter how the figures varied, the history of mankind simply did not know this scale of repression and, I hope, will never know.

The problem is not only the colossal ethnic consequences of the tragedy, but also its negative social results.

It means the destruction of entire classes and social groups, which, instead of a balanced social structure, led to the emergence of an absolutely deformed social system with a mutilated scale of motives for labor and human life. Scary is not just figures, although behind them is the tragedy of millions. Another thing is scary: a lack of understanding of the depravity of totalitarianism as a whole.

Lesson two. We must realize what historical choice was interrupted by the totalitarian regime and how our development would have gone if the grandiose and cruel social utopia had not interfered in the course of history.

Most recently, citizens of Kazakhstan celebrated the fifth anniversary of the independence of their state. This is the result not only of the centuries-old history of people's struggle for freedom and an independent path of development, but also the result of the never-ending activity of the national intellectual elite. At the beginning of the century Alikhan Bukeikhanov, Akhmet Baytursynov, Mirzhakip Dulatov and their associates created the "Alash" Party, a program that provided much of what we have accomplished today. Almost a hundred years ago in Uralsk, a delegate congress of five regions was held, at which the Constitutional Democratic Party was formed. Almost simultaneously they declared themselves a branch of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Russia in Kazakhstan, and their leader Alikhan Bukeikhanov was elected a member of the Central Committee of this party.

Apparently, you will be interested to learn that the Kazakh Constitutional Democrats - the Cadets, as they were called at that time - proposed in their program to exercise legislative power through the Duma and introduce the institution of the presidency in the country. The right to participate in elections was vested in all citizens, regardless of origin, nationality, religion and sex. Elections of delegates were to be held by direct, equal and secret ballot.

Amazing insight! But the only thing these outstanding people, without any discounts, were awarded in Soviet historiography, is a label of nationalists.

Let's seriously think about this fact. There was a historic chance to create a democratic state in Kazakhstan in the first quarter of the twentieth century. On this path - the normal evolutionary development - the vector of Russia's advance lay also. Due to various reasons, this natural and civilizational way was interrupted. We would today be in a situation catching up to at least the same southeastern "tigers" or "dragons", if the countdown to democratic reforms began eight to nine decades earlier, this is a big question.

But no less important is another hypostasis of the same problem. If evolutionary processes prevailed in Russia then the formation of national statehood in all countries of the Eurasian space would take place half a century earlier. We must clearly understand that the historical lag in which we have fallen is the direct result of missed national opportunities, missed by the fault of the regime. Professional historians can confirm this. But a sober understanding of this simple truth must become a fact of mass consciousness.

Neither the Kazakhs, nor Russians, nor Ukrainians, nor Uzbeks are inferior to the same Indonesians or Filipinos. So what is the explanation for the fantastic breakthrough of recent decades, which occurred almost throughout Southeast Asia or in the same Mexico? Links to the mystical role of their national psychology? No, and no again! There are no intelligent and stupid people. Our lag is explained solely by the political and socio-economic characteristics of the totalitarian with a single – communist - ideology regime.

This second lesson reads: the totalitarian regime of the past has led to the fact that in the present we are forced to reform all spheres of our life at an accelerated pace. Why is it necessary to implement these reforms as quickly as possible? Because the time that other countries used to enter the leaders, was ineptly missed by totalitarianism. It's time to understand everything already.

Lesson three. We need the memory of the past not only to fulfill the debt to the victims of the regime and to realize why it is so difficult to carry out the forced reform. It is necessary in order to avoid the repetition of past mistakes.

As they say, "Truth must be experienced, not taught." We have experienced this truth. Today, at times, calls are made to return to brutal methods of political management. Then, they say, there will be more order. Strongly disagree. And not only because this point of view does not correspond to my personal convictions, but also because the establishment of order with the help of the so-called firm hand gives directly opposite results in the historical perspective. Moreover, people will not give up and will not yield once gained freedom.

Simple solutions are often erroneous. The simplicity of the totalitarian political machine with one party, one ideology, and one way of thinking turned out to be imaginary, for the attempt to enter it in the "bright future" turned into a catastrophe. Especially murderous, this simplicity manifested itself in the sphere of national relations. The national policy of the Soviet period, based on a combination of violence and ideological leveling, resulted in a huge catastrophe of consciousness and the spiritual world of people. It is in its relapses, rather than the allegedly innate aggressiveness of individual peoples, that it is necessary to look for sources of interethnic conflicts and fratricidal wars, still smoldering in different regions of the post-Soviet space.

It would be useful to ponder over one simple question: why did the totalitarian system primarily destroy the intelligentsia? The logic is simple: in order to deprive the people of a sense of national pride and national dignity, one must destroy their memory, culture, intellect. It is not by chance that in the same Russia the philosophers, writers and thinkers who were the pride of the people, glorified the Russian intellectual tradition and were the first to be sent. Those who remained were destined for a tragic fate. It is not by chance that the system until the last day of their lives chased Alikhan Bukeikhanov and his associates, it was not by chance that the destinies of even those who the system itself put forward and brought up - S. Seyfullin, U. Dzhandosov, K. Satpayev, M. Auezov and dozens of others European educated and democratically oriented Kazakh intellectuals, were dramatic.

When people talk today about the solution of the national question in the former Soviet Union, one can agree that in a sense, it was indeed resolved. But the meaning of this decision was that everything national was sacrificed to the political interests of the system. What exactly was this expressed? The fact that the calmness of some was ensured by the oppression of others, that quite officially the allegedly fraternal republics were divided into "junior" and "senior", that in one night a whole nation could be pushed in cattle cars at gunpoint and sent for thousands of miles from their native places. Of course, this method is temptingly simple for the rulers, but it is tragically terrible for the people.

That is why, speaking of national agreement, we must realize that the repetition of those methods of "solving" the national question, which are known to us from the past, in no case should not be repeated. And for this it is necessary to face the truth.

The most important thing is that there are no ready-made recipes for resolving these problems in nature; each country develops the sphere of interethnic relations in its own way.

The fact that this problem is very difficult is evidenced by the experience of even states with a developed democratic system and a favorable economic situation. Thus, the third lesson that totalitarianism taught us is a dead-end and absolutely hopeless way of solving the national question. On this old base, it is impossible to achieve interethnic harmony in modern Kazakhstan.

N.A. Nazarbayev, Almaty, 1997

Translated by Raushan MAKHMETZHANOVA