Parallels between Ukraine and Russia then and now
In my previous article about the late night dance that I do writing while listening to my classical music. One of the pieces of music that is much loved by me is Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. Mussorgsky loved Russia and was committed to writing music that reflected Russia and not Western Europe.
One day, Vladimir Stasov, an art critic in St. Petersburg and friend of Mussorgsky, introduced Victor Hartmann to him in 1870. Victor Hartmann was a painter and architect. These two artists, one a musicians and the other a painter, had one similar drive...they both wanted Russian creativity expressed in the arts. Both artists wanted a Russian expression in any art not merely a European one.
As fate would have it, Czar Alexander II escaped an attempt to assassinate him, which he called "the event of 4 April 1866." To express the czar's thanksgiving of divine intervention that spared him being killed, he had a national contest. He wanted anyone in his kingdom to come up a drawing of some monument or building that the people need, and it would immortalize his deliverance from death.
Hartmann spent some time pondering what was missing in Russia. Then it came to him, the city of Kiev needed a gate to the city. This is the painting and architectural drawing of Hartmann's The Great Gate of Kiev.
In my opinion, having taught art history for over two decades, the Great Gate of Kiev is not quite as artistic is other gates like the Brandenburg Gate or the Gate at Tiananmen Square into the Forbidden City. Nevertheless, Hartmann won the first prize in the nationwide contest. Apparently, Czar Alexander II thought that it was quite beautiful.
Therefore, the Czar announced that Hartmann won...and then just forgot about building the Great Gate of Kiev. While the czar approved of the gate, I have been unable to discover why after all the celebrating, he went down another road of endeavor apparently forgetting about the assassination attempt on his life.
Hartmann was not lucky. He not only won the national contest but lost his goal of having the gate built, but, within about three years, Hartmann dies of aneurysm 1873 at the age of 39. His death had a very great impact upon Mussorgsky. Stasov, who was the art critic that introduced Hartmann, put together a memorial service of many of paintings. They were displayed at the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Mussorgsky went to the memorial service and emotionally was greatly moved. He returned home and wrote a suite, Pictures at an Exhibition – A Remembrance of Viktor Hartmann in less than 3-weeks. He was able to emotionally transfer what he saw in some of the paintings into musical pictures.
Interestingly, in 1867, another assassin makes an attempt on Alexander II's life but fails. Then in 1879, there were two more attempts both of which also failed. In 1880, there was another failed attempt.
However, there was another conspiracy a year later on March 13, 1881. This one had a tripartite plan. The first part was to throw a small satchel bomb under his carriage. The bomb went off killing some but not even hurting the czar.
Now, let us move up to near the end of the 20th, which was also the end of the USSR. Mikhail Gorbachev became a newer and younger face as a General Secretary. His two processors were Yuri Andropov lasted from late 1982 to early 1884...less than two years. Then came Konstantin Chernenko who last a year. Therefore, the USSR needed to get younger blood into the leadership role. Gorbachev was two-decades younger that most all his processors.
Goby, which was his nickname, brought to the Soviet Union many reforms and is best known in the West for two major changes that of perestroika, which means restructuring of the economy and free market and glasnost, which means openness. However, he seems like a reformer in which the society was ahead of the reformer. Into this malaises comes Boris Yeltsin who just takes over and ends the USSR leaving Gorby a leader of a country that does not exist anymore.
While I have ethical issues related to governing in a free and democratic manner that is related to succession of two concurrent terms, I am more rattled by his reverting to the old state controlled government like his processors starting with Lenin up to just before Gorby. However, he is just as bad as most of the czars in land acquisition and control over the people.
Putin control Ukraine that is made up of less than 20% of the population that is ethnically Russian. It will be interesting to see if he can push the Ukrainians around.
Until the former president came up a MIA (missing in action), I would not suggest that Putin could push the former president, Viktor Yanukovych, around either. Putin's demeanor reminds me of Great Britain's demeanor that of acting like a great empire when in fact it is their empire status is much more diminutive today that it was a century ago.
The people of the Ukraine simply wish to decide for themselves about Russian or the EU, and they are....
The next several weeks are critical. The Ukrainians will have to wait and see what Czar Putin does or does not do. Then when the people are free to decide, they will have long lists of reforms and improvements within their country. Having just returned from Myanmar, I am very sensitive to the plight of the Ukrainians.
One suggestion that I have, once they get the neo-czar to stay in Moscow, is to right another wrong that Czar Alexander II did by not building the Great Gate at Kiev a century and a half ago. It could have keep Putin out in the first place.
Three good videos of the protests in Kiev:
Two good videos of the fall of the history of the USSR:
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Visit the Stupid is As Stupid Does page to read more about this topic.