tv Worlds Apart RT August 22, 2018 11:30pm-12:00am EDT
samantha long is an assistant professor at the state university has been teaching here on an almost six years in the morning she's trying to expand her students' english vocabulary by discussing beauty and fashion in the afternoon she scours the local archives in search of documents which shut the light on a much happier subject the early years of this. i wouldn't be surprised to find a graduate from the state university teaching at the university of pittsburgh but i think the opposite is still quite exotic how did you up here well i started writing my dissertation on the one nine hundred thirty six constitution and when i looked
in the archives in moscow there was just an overwhelming amount of material so i needed to focus on the region and one of the regions i found a lot of material from cure of funding was a little bit difficult to come by it's not necessarily the most sexy topic you say no to sex a topic but i think it's a very counter-intuitive topic on many levels how did the idea pop into your well there's a difference actually how i came to them like constitution and stalin seem like two things that shouldn't go check out there so i wanted to see what this was about how serious a project this was whether it was really just a propaganda exercise as it had been described or if there was something a little bit more substantive now the stalin era is one of the most extensively researched areas of the soviet history and it's also the one that comes with a lot of accept the conventions. this was strictly to tallaght terror and state where everything was decided top bottom line here you. are coming
out of the book suggesting the stuff and actually tried to encourage what he saw at least as genuine political participation why would he need something like well russia is very very big and at the time it had incredibly poor infrastructure and very few members of the communist party in rural areas to govern it so governing desirous empire of the soviet union and modern russia has always been difficult simply because of the expanse and the fact that the population is not densely settled russia has a very peculiar relationship between people in power and its usually assume the leadership suppresses the people's demands for rights but i take it from your book that in the case of the nine hundred thirty six constitution it was actually the other way around that stalin was actually more liberal and progressive society could take yeah i was quite surprised too and i was looking at particular hevia
scorpius which is the right to. the ability to have rights when you stand trial to not be arrested without the sanction of the prosecutor etc people were not interested in that that was something that was designed as part of actually reforms to get away from this revolutionary reality legality and sort of in equal. implementation of both punishment and arrests and people weren't interested people had a lot of problems with crime in the countryside and it tended to be crime that the state didn't prioritize things like drunken beating fast hooliganism that post a real threat arson to people's daily lives prioritize so they wanted the ability to arrest people that destabilized their lives on the spot now you told me before the. people in academia really advise you against using the word democracy when it comes to stalinist russia because they include this notion of civil society
that is central to today idea of democracy but. what you're describing just there wasn't talent terrorism about point of time either there was somebody in moscow with a limit the security apparatus the rest of the country was essentially a lots of self governance is that an accurate. challenge hereon ism is in general has sort of been debunked within the academia simply because more regional studies have proved that they simply didn't have the manpower or the infrastructure to monitor people frequently you know i look at collective farms where they have seen district level officials once every one or two years so the rest of the time they're busy doing whatever they want on their own people in the west would see stalins out for its to encourage this or popular participation as a sham because they would think that genuine democracy would be the impediment to
his. with what you're saying. it may have been quite the opposite that he saw it as a means of strengthening his power simply because again as you said he didn't have enough resources and manpower to reach every little corner for he actually gives an interview with roy howard in which he discusses his views on democracy he sees it as a whip in the hands of the people to deal with incompetent local officials he encourages them to be active to root out those who are not doing a good job he says you know this person is not building a school if this is dirty if they are not providing the service he she tell us vote this person out because moscow simply didn't have the resources to monitor every single you know. region so there was this notion of political accountability very much so now i know that stalin himself was the head of the constitutional commission he personally worked on the drafts making edits i believe you started
some of this. have you been able to draw any ideas about his own psychological profile based on things that he you know kept in took out not necessarily his psychological profile but he tended to be more practical then the other drafters of the original draft was written by a couple of states and it tends to include a lot of very ideological things for example there was a clause in there that parents should teach their children to hate capitalists stalin and moves that because it's not really constitutional material a lot of the things he pulled out tend to reappear in legislative initiatives things like the number of hours people should work that sort of thing this constitutional was adopted barely a year before the great terror of which so a millions of people either executed our son to the gulags. whenever the subject comes up in russia always santeria is on stalin and much less so on the. role the
society at large played in allowing that to happen or even facilitating. the whole process having spawn so much time citing the correspondence between you know ordinary people and better leaders do you think these progressive constitution offers an insight into the horrors that were followed directly after well i know that the one nine hundred thirty seven repression is one of the reasons that scholars often say to deal with the constitution you list you said how can you be serious about democracy if you then turn around violate everyone's rights and kill a bunch of people my research has shown that. certainly there were instances in the provinces of people using their new constitutional rights in ways that were threatening to the local power structure so having these new locus of power people were asking to open up churches people were collecting money to bring back priests and so a lot of this is genuinely threatening to the locals and so they certainly would
like to get rid of them and arch getty has postulated that you see a lot of pushback from the regional bosses who are threatened by the opening up of the one nine hundred thirty six constitution and that leads to repression how much is the process are for oppression driven from the center and how much is it locally was it locally mission well the thing is that the repression is sort of multi-pronged you have for example actions against national minorities that tends to be mostly driven because they already have catalogs of these people they have been watching a lot of the national minorities and those also tend to be related to national security issues you know particularly poles koreans. in this area people from the baltic states are often monitored then you also have the center just simply giving large quotas of the numbers of people that need to be arrested. and they let the locals decide who fills that quota but interestingly enough by nine hundred thirty
nine or nine hundred forty most of them have had their sentence commuted and they're back in another position of power that's interesting i heard some western scholars complain of the haphazard nature of access to the archives i wonder if you needed any clearance for about do you have you ever got. an american spy well people joke about it i've been told that i'm a very nice spy well most of the spies are usually very nice they have to go into group graces with people it's never been a problem in the archive part of it maybe my topic the constitution isn't particularly political right now and my current work for this is on collective farms which again is not sensitive if i was doing something on the secret police or even the second world war it may be a little bit different but here they've been great with access. much of samantha research focuses on the correspondence between the locals and the central authorities in moscow which was more direct than some would expect while the
newspapers of the time filled with the praise of sylvia the chairman's individual letters often focused on the failures. we have a question. for. all the people who are contemporary and. want to be very good reception benefiting from yes if the soviet union didn't like to document everything i wouldn't have anything to work with and everything that they've documented lets me see various aspects of people's lives for example the people there feel the ridge here in one thousand nine hundred four he's given a prize of a thousand roubles for his good work but later nine hundred thirty six he's considered. that person so you can see how. standings change based on their successful implementation of economic plans different change in policy and you can see these people rise and fall in fortunes reviews documents what is it like as a researcher to work around their documents like this i mean it wouldn't be fair to describe them is it treasure trove or is it something pretty near mundane well i'm
always excited by them. it's sometimes people think i'm odd because michael michael about this beautiful document and they're like it's about harvest just sticks. do you think anyone before you or your work. not on this one but on this one this is actually larry he's the guy that invited me to cure up and he put his book on education called this in documents so you can see right here in the front everybody has worked on it and even sometimes which pages they've used and his own way of the americans who come here and look at this one or is it this fellow is russian. one nine hundred seventy nine. fifty.
having a native english speaker is both a barry t. and a curiosity for a provincial russian university samantha's classes also reveal many cultural differences in how the russians and the americans opposed it world you've spent the last six years trying to get this claims and early soviet life but i also assume you had to immerse yourself in the current realities of russia what are some of the cultural behavioral patterns that carry over. you know from from that time till now i mean things that shock me that the sort of things that shock you and things that are persistent. may reappear you know decades later oh you mean the what russia doesn't really have much of respect for law it's very interesting because americans are generally ruffalo as if there's a rule we don't even question it we simply get we stand in line we pick up our
garbage. we just you know if there's a rule that says you need to have students do an evaluation and we don't even question it we just cannot the student evaluation i remember here for student evaluations teachers were scandalized the idea that students who didn't know anything would be evaluating them it would turn the entire system on its head and russians like to get around laws that they find annoying or inconvenient and part of it is that i think because to do things the correct way is often very difficult if not impossible there is sometimes i'm reminded of the novel catch twenty two when i live in russia because you know you need the sprocket to get this piece of paper but to get the piece of paper to get now one of the characteristics of contemporary russia is how its development is you've got some regions like to look at for example where the local correction corruption has been brought to a minimum but at the same time you have regions in the caucasus where you can i do
anything without the bribe and that reminded me of of the research you're involved in right now about the differences between the collective farms. that are got from your research is that what matters in russia the most is not they had what you call framework but you know the actual person in charge is that still the case. in russia i think very much so i think that personal networks are very important i think you know my students looking for jobs now it's often more important who they know than the qualifications that they have it's also you know if you're friends with somebody they maybe protect you they help you get resources that you don't have access to but you know the sort of good old boys' network exists in a lot of american small towns too and that's what it reminds me of the good old boys network and it's because the normal channels of communication often don't work certainly in the soviet union the only way to get things done was to ask your friend who you know paid someone with some falling key to get you some seed you
know you see this most acutely during the war we have shortages of everything you have this barter system in the. chairman chairman become sort of the go to fixer and one more carlo i found interesting was you mentioning that stalin wanted to have. competent technocrats staffing the state system and there is a similar desire on the part of the current putin administration to have the technocrats in charge me for some reason and i have this fellow and ministration of the president mr quinn find enough of those people do you think they. perhaps do they have a problem with the recruitment system or do they run against this informal system of relationship if you mention what's what's been the style of this era the level of education was a huge problem you know you have people that have and i have one guy he's the head of the. district land organization in the district he's a chronic alcoholic with
a second grade education you know at some level you cannot expect competence from these people most people only had a elementary school education some people did have university but it was very difficult and so just getting the level of education up so they could can't. deal with the volume of paperwork and just regular work that they were expected to do they also expected an awful lot from these poor. and i feel deep deep sympathy for my rikon chairman because they were expected to organize harvest on the collective farm they were expected to go out and do propaganda work they were expected just study leninism and marxism and they were expected to have all of these different meaning some of these people had like eighty four different meetings a month. they simply couldn't keep up and i think that modern russia faces a lot of the same problems that you have chronic understaffing of a lot of bureaucracy and even when you get staff it just seems like it doesn't work particularly efficiently because of this desire to fill out all of this paperwork
with soviet union try to fix things a lot of the reforms involve more paperwork and more paperwork and i think this reliance on fixing things through paperwork reform is a problem of the putin administration. you said before the even of the high def to tell me tara is my russia was on to govern in other words the central authority didn't have enough manpower resources technology how much is that still an issue today i think it's a huge issue particularly in provincial areas because you have i've been to villages where it feels like you've gone back into the nineteenth century some of them don't have electricity most of them don't have indoor running water or indoor plumbing. you know health care transport are all very difficult you know if there's a bus it's you know far away out on the road it only comes occasionally while the roads are still mud. now polls and in russia consistently show that people's attitudes towards stalin changing from
a negative to more neutral and even positive how do you interpret that well i think. russia took a real blow to its sense of self during the. yeltsin years in lost a lot of power a lot of prestige the economy was terrible and i think under putin russia has sort of come back into a sense that it's a global player that its voice matters the economy has picked up russian people are becoming more proud of being russian i remember even six years ago when i first came here people kept apologizing to me for how terrible everything was that this wasn't like america and i had to finally tell them to stop i'm like i knew when i came here that this wasn't going to be like america you know that for me was weird because americans never apologize for a country like welcome to america enjoy. and for people to be ashamed of their country was so different and now i don't really see that i see people are more proud of their country and i think putin has you stalin in particularly the great
patriotic war in the victory there as a way to inspire nationalistic pride now you said before the russian people a generally good at gaming or circumventing the system and i wonder what's been your experience in dealing with the brokers see and the red tape which i'm sure your encounter. quite extensively i find it very frustrating. and it's often very counterintuitive for an american because we're expecting that it should be easy people should be helpful if i have a problem you shouldn't yell at me you shouldn't send me to a different department. things are very difficult to fix here for example i have two bank cards from burbank one of them is issued to the name of some month long without the h. and the other one is some money and law and they cannot merge the two accounts because neither one is how it's written on my passport even though i have my passport and clearly the same person is issued by the same organization but they
can't fix it in the us you would but since you've stayed here for such a long time six years already i assume that you perhaps also gotten into the habit of. and that's creating the rules but perhaps being a little bit creative with how you apply them i am not sure that i've noticed you but some of my friends have remarked that i have become. fully risky. but you know the reason i'm asking this question is because obviously through the american perspective this country may have major issues with corruption its legal structure. i wonder what's your gut feeling about how to fix it do you think the american system would work in this country or would russians have to come but their own understanding of what the rule of law is and with the understanding be different from oh i think it was absolutely be different you haven't completely different history at the rule of law i mean russia doesn't really have much in the way of rates even citizens or the rule of law up until about one thousand nine
hundred five when you get this are making some concessions then you have the dumas and i think you were moving towards the rule of law you know you have these stablished and of independent bar you have elected representatives even though these are increasingly manipulated the franchise to get more and more conservative monarchists in the duma but then the soviet union blew that out of the water even in new york adamic mark i think there is. a bit more understanding of the complexities of this country than. we would normally expect from american scholars because some of them do come. with a degree of what the russia is supposed to do and where it's failing i wonder how challenging do you find this balance between. looking at your own country and this country. with an open mind i guess a degree of compassion i don't know that i find it challenging work it's
challenging is trying to get other people to listen to and accept your work there are certain narratives. that it's difficult to break out from my work the idea that stalin could have been interested in democracy has hit a wall with a lot of people you know a lot of comments you know stalin was a dictator the u.s.s.r. was to challenge scary and it was really a ruse. look at the one nine hundred thirty seven repression and even you know within academia there's this putin is often a joke this idea that. he's some sort of evil dictator who oppresses his people. not only and they could challenge some conventions some of his habit of walking her cat on the leash raised eyebrows but the locals have quickly gotten used to the crow care merican lady. i certainly get a lot of attention but most of it's positive my neighbors think my cats are pretty good asked lots of questions about them how difficult was it for you to adjust to
your life not just in russia but then. you know in provincial russia which has its own challenges the first six months were really kind of hard in part because i was alone in the dormitory once i got a cat and start making making friends and i had people to meet for to go visit their homes on the rise also but i didn't know. it was fine. in many ways is not that much different from my hometown they came from a little town where there were more cows than people. and i sort of like the slower pace of life. the relationship between russia and the united states because from mediocre to bad to worse i think over the last. five or six years have you noticed any difference in how people relate to you how they treat you no not really i think russians are pretty good at delineating the actions of a government and the actions of citizens. every now and then for example in victory
day when we talk about who won the war i can't some push back you know they asked me did america say we won the war of course we said we won the war it's our textbook. but then you know there's some push back because of course the soviet losses were far greater and people are very proud. of the relatives that served and died. i realize that there is a great pride in this in that the soviet union sacrifice was big but most americans probably don't and so some issues like that they've noticed some more pushback but overall most people know me most people are very friendly do you ever find yourself in a position of having to explain can down the road the actions of the american government because i think there is a tendency in russia to sort of treat or perceive every american as the representative of the united states responsible for the policies of the country. well my students do know that i'm not a particularly large truck fan. so sometimes they will ask me about his policies i
think just to see my reaction. for the most part know most people are pretty good at realizing that i'm not responsible for the actions of my government to do even follow the american politics these days i do because i know my family still lives there i still have interests in the us most of it makes me sad to be perfectly honest one enduring thing that i noticed in how you describe this very gentle. english language interview says that you use a lot of collective pronouns we and ours and that that sounds very sweet but i wonder if this place really feel like home to your maybe a second home. i've been here six years i'm very fond of. the people are wonderful when we aren't under like four feet of snow the region is very beautiful but there is like we talked about it before there is a lot of red tape or there is also a lot of
a mess of hurdles and hustles i assume with your life own every day pretty much not speak. i've gotten through a lot of those they are annoying when they crop up but they're rare and i really enjoy my students my kids are wonderful thing brush and the united states can never get along on the. level rather than personal well i hope so but i think a lot of people have a vested interest in the us having an enemy and currently russia is the most viable enemy well i guess and perhaps more and more it's both ways on both sides of. the.
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the headlines here on our t.v. international donald trump's presidency appears to be on shaky ground after two former associates are found guilty of numerous a federal crime. the french interior ministry admits that a terror suspect allegedly involved in planning and a. two thousand and fourteen was freed by a cord due to a bureaucratic failure. video footage of a british policeman striking a teenage girl in the face during an alaska outrage and triggers a debate about what constitutes reasonable force. you can find the full story about those over on our web site we'll be back with your world news update in around an hour's time with my colleague kevin on.