Letter: The USSR then and Russia now

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your interesting leading article of 24 February ('Echoes of old Russia resound') does not bring out one important distinction between Russia's present international stance and that of the defunct Soviet Union.

The USSR had universalist pretensions, claiming to be the patron of the working class throughout the world. Though this claim was not universally accepted, it had enough validity to ensure the support of more or less active fifth columns in many if not most of the countries of the world. Russia has no such pretensions, and so no ready-made fifth columns at its disposal; not many countries, and not many political parties now look to Moscow for guidance and support (Serbia is of course a special case).

Russia today is in the same position internationally as Russia before the Bolshevik revolution, a Great Power like another (perhaps not quite so powerful as it looks), likely to play its part, probably a little too loudly, in the Concert of Europe. If this is to depend, as your leading article suggests, on 'a complete transition to liberal democracy', we may have a long time to wait; liberal democracy has only existed in Russia for a few short months in 1917, and did not make much of a showing then.

Yours faithfully,



25 February

The writer was Ambassador to the USSR (1953-57).