The number of arguments and explanations dealing with post-Soviet Russia is continuously increasing. Scholars, journalists and policy-makers are all obsessed with its trajectory and, even more specifically, the role of Vladimir Putin.
This text is drawn from a lecture held at Harvard University (HILR) on October 31, 2014.I spent over half of my forty-year diplomatic career as a so-called sovietologist, including during four years at the Italian embassy in Moscow in the second half of the 1970s. Even after my subject-matter, the Soviet Union, disappeared, I continued being interested in Russia, in spite of being busy, professionally, with other areas of the world, and in spite of my absorbing experiences as ambassador to Iran and to India. What I saw, however, is that, starting from the last decade of the XX century, interest in Russia, attention to Russia, study of Russia, have sharply dropped in the West, and especially in this country. It was as if the Russian file had been moved from the desk to the archives. Today it seems to me that we are realizing that doing that was not a good idea, and that the file is back on our desk. The reason has to do mainly with the actions and the personality of one leader, Vladimir Putin.
Without tacit approval from the Soviet Union, 1989 would never have happened. There would have been no peaceful and democratic mass revolts that resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is thus to Moscow, at the centre of the communist empire, that one must look, if wishing to examine the now two-decade-old epoch-making changes. An unexpected, sudden and phenomenal change that led the Eastern regimes to collapse one after the other. Two years later the Soviet Union also imploded and Mikhail Gorbachev lost his battle. We discuss these events with Andrea Graziosi, Professor of Contemporary History at the Federico II University in Naples, President of the Italian Society for the Study of Contemporary History and author of two scholarly books on Soviet history published by Il Mulino; Lenin and Stalin’s USSR and The USSR from triumph to collapse.
An interview by Matteo Tacconi.