Landolph Scherzer’s journey to the “Soviet Union” began in October 1991 at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. Uniform hats with red stars and Soviet medals were sold out while the Soviet Union was dying. At that time his book was called “At the Tomb of Soyuz”. It has now been reissued with the subtitle “Anyone who rules today should know yesterday,” dedicated to “Ukrainians and Russians fighting against every nationalism filled with hatred and for the peaceful life of their people.” It is not a political article, but a collection of reports, created in 1991 while traveling through the Soviet Union. It’s amazing how his reading turns into political analysis.
This reporter’s talent has always been to draw readers to his side. There we are on an adventurous train journey to Moscow and look into the eyes of passersby who ask them about their lives after the August coup. One man complains about what this “nonsense” is supposed to mean. Everyone is looking for the basics. He has a kilo of sugar in his bag. “This is my share of paws for October. I queued at 10 am, and now I got it.” Already there are no more red flags to see. Scherzer reads in one of the newspapers: “They sent all the ex-communists to the fields around Moscow to grow cabbage and potatoes for the people there.” In August 1991, Boris Yeltsin banned the Communist Party. Reestablished in 1993, the KPRF was the most powerful party until 1999 and was overtaken by United Russia since 2003. National unity as a substitute for all lost?
The author picks up a flyer. “Against Yeltsin! Against Gorbachev! For bread!” He will live in Kaluga for six months with 82-year-old Elena Frolova. From their wooden house without running water, he set out on his travels: through Russia, Lithuania, Tatarstan and Ukraine. Full of curiosity, he is open to impressions, even if they hurt him. What do we read about the Soviet past and present. There were a lot of things that were not known in the GDR, after all the “Big Brother” was supposed to be a role model. The GDR was in constant competition with the former prosperous state of the Federal Republic of Germany; The standard of living was higher than in the Soviet Union. However, the tempting hope of a life “like the West” contributed to the fall of the GDR. This desire was fueling the “European Square”. So I wonder if Russia’s current turn away from the West is also an accusation of failure. Nationally proud to be out of the competition because you can’t keep up with the standard of living.
In the Ukrainian border town of Novgorod Seversky, sausages are half as expensive as in Kaluga, Russia, but the train journey takes 13 hours. When Scherzer arrived, it was decided to leave the Soviet Union by referendum. During a city tour, during which he learned a lot about relations between Ukrainians and Russians, he wondered whether it was illogical to “separate the two peoples by borders, currency offices and customs.” He was told: “Common history is one thing – borders in the interests of the Ukrainian people are another.” The richest region protects itself, the few rejoice.
Lithuania left the Soviet Union first. There it also says now “so that the Russians do not pull everything away from us.” In the Vilnius cemetery, where “the victims of the Bolshevik terror of the Omon forces on January 13, 1991” were buried, an old woman warns not to say a single word in Russian. Writer Vitutas Petkevicius draws the curtains during the conversation. “Because of the conspiracy” because “there is only one government political opinion: Lithuania to Lithuanians! Lithuania and Lithuania above all! «Nationalism to divert attention from economic problems and establish a new power elite.
What a wealth of vivid details. Together with the writer we visit a mosque in Tatarstan, where an “Islamic state” is called. We are in Chernobyl, where a priest talks about “God’s punishment for your unbelief,” in a Russian prison where 230 boys aged 14-18 are imprisoned and where missionaries from the United States are proselytizing. We travel to Engels, the ancient capital of the Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic of Germany, which was liquidated in 1941 by order of Stalin. “Jews and Germans are bad luck for Russia,” the author was told in line at a grocery store. He sees poverty and visits the oligarchy. In the militia in St. Petersburg, he wants to know the reason for the huge increase in crime: because of social inequality? “The battle of all against all has begun.” Capitalism in its early stages.
An old woman talks through a half-opened door about the misery of the Siege of Leningrad. But »at that time, as death approached, we believed in socialism, revolution, and Brodina, the fatherland. We struggled to save them. But today, what are we suffering for…? “This question resonates with me as I read. Russia, Ukraine, and Europe are in military conflict: is it rooted in the chaotic disintegration of the Soviet Union? Was Gorbachev’s hope for a common European peace order an illusion from the start? Yet, he was on par with the heads of state and government of 35 countries.” From the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, who signed the “Paris Pact for a New Europe” on November 21, 1990, which was a prerequisite for the signing of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 with Soviet consent dissolved.
Almost half a million soldiers were withdrawn from Eastern Europe. A vote of confidence to end the Cold War, which the United States wanted to continue in order to maintain its influence in Europe. George Bush Sr.’s statement was cited in many analyses. February 1990: “To hell with that. We won and they didn’t. We cannot allow the Soviets to turn their defeat into a victory.”
Disappointment at that time still affects the Russian side and is connected with the experience of 1941, when the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression treaty with Germany. 27 million dead…
The politics of power for one’s security – defensive for a long time, with a warning of “red lines” – has now turned into a war that no one knows how it will end. How Ukraine is being sacrificed to two superpowers hits Landolph Scherzer as often as I do. “Everything that has manifested itself to this day, I experienced in its infancy,” he said by phone. It’s scary how old hostility to everything Russian is giving a new lease on life. May 8 is still a public holiday for me. To this day I am grateful for the liberation of Europe from Hitler’s fascism.
Landolph Scherzer: In the coffin of Soyuz. Anyone who rules today should know yesterday. THK Verlag Arnstadt, 157 p., b., €9.90.