than ten years ago, in what now seems like another life, I lived and studied in
the former Soviet Union. I was an exchange
student in Krasnodar, Russia,
not far from Ukraine and Georgia. Krasnodar is the
heartland of the “red belt,” where nostalgia for the Communist era still runs
high – despite all the dysfunction caused by that system, especially in its
death throes in the 1980s and 90s.
More democracy, not less, is what this movement is about.
my own experiences, I read Deborah Meier’s recent
column comparing today’s education reformers in America to Boris Yeltsin (of all
people!) with some trepidation. Meier is right that well-connected “new
Russians” did a bang-up job buying state-owned property for a song in the 90s
(really stealing it), creating billionaires overnight while leaving most
ordinary citizens impoverished. She’s wrong, however, in thinking that “the
people” ever controlled that property in the Soviet era, or that oligarchs and ed
reformers both “smell property like a beast after prey.”
Meier’s claims about Yeltsin doing away with “inconvenient” ownership of the
state’s wealth by “the people,” wealth in the USSR was owned and controlled (in
fact, if not in name) by the nomenklatura who ran industry, agriculture,
and education for the socialist state. It goes without saying that party
officials didn’t suffer from the food shortages that hit...