The Alternative History of Russia (1917-2012) and the USSR (1988-2012)

The Alternative History of the Russian Empire, the Russia of 1917 and the USSR

First of all I'd like to point out some features. This research is not a reflection of any political aspirations, nor regrets about the past. Neither would I try to describe all possible alternatives for the three countries. And I will not try to talk about the future to come.

The alternative history has always been something difficult to describe. But it's an important part of any decent research of the past, helping evaluate lost advantages and avoided dangers. Also it can be used to correct present-day policies but I personally am skeptical that my research will be taken into account by somebody influential. Rather I do it for the pleasure of studying history especially of the things that I saw with my own eyes (I mean the collapse of the USSR) and for the entertainment of those who like history as well and are open-minded.

There were three basic points that changed the history of Russia and, I dare say, of the whole world. They were the February Revolution of 1917 that put an end to the Russian Empire, the October Revolution of the same year (I apply the term not because I share any Communist ideas but because the event really changed the world), and the collapse of the USSR. Let's think what could happen if these events hadn't happen.

The Russian Empire of 1917-2012

Emperor Nikolai II gives orders to crush the rebellion in Petrograd (before 1914 Saint-Petersburg) and within some days the rebels are killed in clashes or arrested, some of them are executed by military courts. The Empire continues to exist. It defeats Germany and its allies by the middle of 1918 with the same death toll and takes the same advantages as Great Britain and France annexes the part of modern Slovakia where most of Russins live, as well as part of East Prussia and some territory of Turkey. Revolutions within defeated countries are inevitable and there appears independent Turkey, Hungary, Austria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia but Finland and Poland remain to be a part of the Empire. Russia becomes a member of the League of Nations that can be later transformed into the UNO.

The economy of the country suffers difficult times after the World War I. The industrial enterprises go through the pains of demilitarization. The money reform takes place. But soon the easy money from oil wheat and timber export bring some relief. Within some years the economic development reaches its pre-war positions. At the same time the majority of the population of the country live in poverty in rural areas. The gentry lose their land possessions and their estates. But peasant have little land and farming is not well-developed. Many people emigrate to the USA and Canada and form large communities there. At the same time the population of Siberia and modern Kazakhstan grows step by step by Russian migrants supported by the government. Russia colonizes Mongolia and some parts of China to move the exuberant population to new areas. By 1970s the population of the Russian Empire is 600 mln.

The Spanish flu kills about 15 mln people in the Empire. In rural areas that provokes riots. Some doctors get killed.

The Great Depression of 1929 affects the economy of the Empire. It leads to impoverishment of new millions of people. Famine kills thousands, peasants attack estates and new bashings of Jews take place.

The industrialization is slower and takes many decades By 1960s the country is still agricultural. The majority of population are peasants. The construction of railroads and the infrastructure is very slow. The first subway is likely to be built in Moscow in the 30s with the involvement of foreign engineers.

The political structure doesn't change until the death of Nikolai II in, possibly, 1930s. His successor Alexei, who is unlikely to become another John the Terrible, has to make some important reforms under the threat of new revolutions: introduce a Constitution, give equal rights to peasants, town dwellers and gentry as regards the election of the Parliament etc., separate the Orthodox Church and the State. The gentry and the clergy protest but the vast majority of the population supports the changes. Most opposition parties become parliamentary, but some radicals from socialist revolutionist and Russian nationalists continue to carry out occasional terrorist attacks against governmental official and the civil population. Finland either is granted independence or becomes something like Canada to Great Britain. National autonomies begin to develop mostly as regards teaching in local languages and increasing the number of national representatives in local authorities.

In Europe by that time in Germany there appears a dictator like Hitler for the country is really humiliated and the idea of revenge is quite popular. He is able to take control of the demilitarized territories of that country and is likely to form an alliance with Italy and against Great Britain and France. They help the Spanish Fascists win the war against Republicans which get no support from Russia. The Italy will temporarily invade Albania and Greece but soon lose them. Also they may start a new war against France and Great Britain and try to conclude a peace pact with Russia which is possible. At the same time there happens a war between Romania and Hungary for Transylvania. Judging from their behavior during the World War II Hungarians are likely to win the war but definitely with difficulty and it may last long. So these 2 nations as well as Finland do not join Hitler. Germany may win the war against Western European countries if supported by Russia. Anyway, German army has neither specialists taught in soviet military academies nor the flows of strategically important ores of some non-ferrous metals from the industrialized economy of the USSR, so it's much weaker. Germany will not invade France and Benelux. All in all, by 1950s the countries of Europe will probably become more democratic and there will be steps to form the European Union by the 2000s.

The United States and Great Britain will be the most powerful countries of the world. It is possible that they will have some wars and conflicts with Japan in 1930-40s. Russian army may have some clashes with Japanese in Northern China and Mongolia. It will have little chance to win unless in union with the USA and the UK because the Russia is not as militarized and industrialized as the USSR of the 1930s. If it loses some conflicts it will give to Japan some new coastal areas but Mongolia will remain a Russian colony. It is possible that the United States will invent an A-bomb and drop it on some Japanese cities. Great Britain, France and Japan will develop their A-bombs soon.

By 1960s many colonies worldwide will get independence. Among them Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The movement to separate from the Empire will affect Caucasus, Belarus, Ukraine and peoples of the Middle Asia. It is likely that metropolitan countries create a union like NATO against newly-independent countries which includes the UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Japan and Russia. At the same time the USA tries to “make friends” with former colonies and its relations with the UK get worse.

The processes of urbanization and industrialization are likely to change Russia by the 1980s. Families prefer to live in big cities and have just 1-2 children. From former colonies and national autonomies' migrants move to big cities of Russia and they are of two groups: Russians made to leave because of hostility from local population and people of other nationalities. The conflict between Russian and non-Russian nationalists becomes more obvious and results in bashings, terrorist attacks and fightings throughout the whole Empire.

It is possible that the small businesses have a bigger segment in the Russian economy of 1980s but the main profit comes from the export of timber, oil, gas, coal and agricultural products. Agricultural cooperation unions will become more and more popular among peasants: they will hire or buy tractors and some other trend equipment. Light industries will be better developed than heavy ones. It is quite natural that some concessions on natural resources development are purchased by foreign companies that get the lion's share of the profit from their exploitation. In many such cases bribery of governmental officials is involved. In general, bureaucracy and corruption remain the biggest problems of the Empire.

In mid-1990s Russia faces the advantages and disadvantages of computer and internet technologies. All the hi-tech equipment will be imported but some software can be developed (both outsourcing and original products). From one hand, e-commerce and e-education will take place, bring new money and create new jobs. From the other hand, radicals and criminals of different kinds will use these new technologies to pursue their goals. Technophobia and addiction to hi-tech devices will add problems to the country. It's possible that social networks will be used by national separatists to organize mass protests. Because of terrorism and protests as well as ethnic conflicts Russia will grand independence to most non-Slavonic nations, predominantly to those of the Caucasus and the Middle Asia and will take measures to restrict immigration from these newly-independent countries.

By 2012 Russia can join the EU but it will remain for Europe a supplier of natural resources. To join the union the country will have to abolish the capital punishment (that makes no problem since an execution has been an event for the Russian Empire for two previous centuries), improve its infrastructure and observe more strictly the right of its citizens to enjoy the fundamental freedoms. Corruption will still be a problem and Russian labor force will invade Europe since there are no strict borders and the population of the country is 700 or 800 mln. It is difficult to say if the Russian Empire has not become the Russian federation by 2012 but any monarch whether of the Romanov's or any other dynasty will reign but not rule. There will definitely be some religious and political freedom, almost no censorship but very weak middle class (although stronger than in modern Russia).

The Russian Federation between 1917-2012

Now let's imagine that Bolsheviks did not take power in Russia in October 1917. The constituent assembly will have to solve the problems of social inequality, religious and national discrimination and impoverished economy. The country is likely to turn into a confederation like the modern Commonwealth of Independent States because national separatist will threaten the government with military resistance. It's quite possible that Poland will try to include the territories of Belarus and Ukraine into the new Recz Pospolita and will have to fight with the Russian army and Ukrainian nationalistic partisans. Turkey will try to invade Armenia and Azerbaijan. There may be conflicts between different clans in the Middle Asia and the Caucasus.

Peasants will bash the estates of the gentry throughout the country. Left-wing radicals and Russian nationalist and monarchists will continue to threaten their opponents with violence and carry out terrorist attacks. But the civil war does not take place. Peasants will be given more land and most gentry will get some compensations from the government to give their land to peasants.

At the same time Russia will be among the winners of World War I but is unlikely to enjoy many advantages from the victory.

Russia will probably become a republic. It will be an economy based on agriculture, natural resources export and light industry.

Generally, no other differences from the Empire can be traced unless there appears a dictator in the country. So I'd like to develop some points inevitable for both the Empire and the Republic. One more thing to be mentioned: never militia will be re-named back to police for it's an achievement of February Revolution and has no relation to communism.

Inevitable Future of the Russia of 1917-2012

Both the Russias will never become highly-industrialized nation. No Gagarin will fly to the space. No competition with the USA to be the world leader. The population will grow fast until the 1960s and will make 500 mln by 2012 (if the territory remains at the size of modern Russia).

The capital of the country will be Petrograd. It will not be renamed to Petersburg again (Petrograd sounds more Russian)

Both the Russias will face world-wide tendencies: youth revolts, drug trafficking, hippie movement in the 1960s, for example. People will become more urbanized and far less religious by 1990s. Many churches will close down and turn to shopping centers. There will be religious freedom that will make the Orthodox Church to compete with other religions. Maybe, this will bring some changes like rock music at religious services or sermons in modern Russian and other languages instead of traditional Old Slavonic.

Environmentalists will appear in the country but they'll have strong opponents from the National Academy of Sciences that will claim that the ecological problems in the countries. Ecoterrorists will carry out some acts against certain research centers and industrial enterprises. But there will appear national products labeled “not tested on animals”.

Internet and computer technologies will have the same effect on the society of Russia as it has now. Both the countries will suffer from the migration from former members of the Empire and conflicts between the latter and Russian nationalists. It's possible that in some Russian schools hooligans will shoot teachers and there will be debates whether to restrict selling firearms to general public.

In the Russian Empire and the Russian Federation it is “cool” for young people to protest because there are no mass repressions nor any system of mass reporting on one another. So Pussy Riot will be fined for the scandal they make in church and their albums will be popular with young fashionists. It's possible that social networks will spread a motto like “throw an egg at an official” or “give an ear-box to a police officer” followed by the ban of coming to public places with eggs and the permission to the police officers to answer back.

Corruption, social contrasts and the dependence on the export of natural resources will remain acute problems.

There will be no restrictions to culture development. Ivan Bunin, Sergei Yesenin, Vladimir Mayakovsky as well as the prominent author of my country – Belarus – Yanka Kupala will write what they really want. Mayakovsky would earn his living by writing ads in in verse. I guess that most sly poems of Mayakovsky and Yesenin will be published in private printing houses. There will be almost no censorship concerning all arts. At the same time there will not be any state-employed class of writers having regular salaries for their books.

I won't dare speak about sports and cinema alternative development for I know very little about them. Anyway, bigger countries have bigger choice of good sportsmen and other talented people Maybe to prepare Moscow for 1980 Olympics they will have to send police units with armored carriers to the slums and local gangs will brew up some of them. But I'm sure that pop stars like Alla Pugachiova would be as rich as they are nowadays.

So, words like “GULAG”, “KGB”, “soviet” and “sputnik” will never be known to the world and there will be no spaceships and Lenin's mausoleum (he will die peacefully outside Russia in both cases) Communist movement will exist mostly in parliamentary parties and some radical terrorist groups. The World War II will take less lives for Germany will have little chance to create a strong army. Still, Russia will never become a power with an A-bomb and worldwide influence. Russian will not be spoken in Eastern Europe and its economy will be partly controlled by certain international corporations (mostly in the oil extraction industry) I really don't want to judge which would be better for the country that doesn't exist now.

The USSR of 1988-2012

Fortunately, I don't have to think and write a lot for the gap is much shorter. So, why I choose 1988 as the crucial point for the USSR? The answer is short – Glasnost. Perestroika as such just included some economic reforms that didn't involve political changes. That can be proved by the suppression of student riots in Yakutia and Kazakhstan in 1986 and the attempts to conceal the information about Chernobyl (which could have been successful if the radiation had gone to Russia not to Europe).

Glasnost, which includes the freedom of speech and peaceful associations, freedom of religion and the transparency of the government, killed the soviet regime. It's difficult to tell why the then Communist leaders decided to introduce this change. The USSR avoided any Glasnost (it was possible to criticize only Stalin at that time) during the economic crisis of early 1960s and any protests were oppressed severely, so the crisis of the 1980s was not a reason as such. Maybe, the government needed some new ideas from the society and more control over corrupted officials. But it's also possible that Gorbachev didn't think much before introducing a new idea (the same about his dry laws and promises to provide all soviet families with housing by 2000). That doesn't matter for my research anyway.

Let's imagine that there is no Glasnost in 1988. Then the government of the USSR will have to use whip-and-carrot policies. From one hand, any protests, inevitable in the late 1980s, are suppressed. (They will happen throughout the country especially in the Caucasus, Western Ukraine and the Baltic region where local nationalists will try to drive economic protests to the separatism movement). Maybe, some people will get killed but not many. From the other hand, individual entrepreneurs get legal possibilities to run their businesses and pay 50% of their profit as taxes. The ideological foundation for that can be found in Article 17 of 1977 USSR Constitution. So, they will not be called businesspeople but something like craftsmen.

But the economy will continue to stagnate. Because of the shortage of consumer goods the revival of the rationing system will take place as well as the development of the informal market. Corruption will increase at all levels.

In Warsaw Pact countries there will be riots against Communist regimes. They may include killing of soviet soldiers in East Germany. Maybe Yugoslavia also suffers from separatism movements. But local governments will do away with the revolts quickly to avoid soviet military interventions. After that the wave of immigrants to Western Europe will be higher and by 2012 the EU leaders will close the borders with communist countries and will try to send back refugees as illegal immigrants.

Communist and Socialists governments will continue to exist in Mongolia, Algeria, Libya, Syria, South Yemen and Iraq. Venezuela, Ecuador and Nepal will join the group of the USSR “friends” before 2012.

The cold war will continue. Sometimes, there will be talks about the cooperation with capitalist countries until there is another problem with dissidents in the Soviet Union, the advent of new arms in NATO, etc.

The USSR will not support gai-ge (or Perestroika) in China and label the country as revisionist. But this will give excuse for exuberant population of China to move to the USSR as refugees. The latter will speak about social contrasts, the unavailability of free medical service and pensions, birth control, so the USSR will have to accept more Chinese as new citizens than there are in the present-day Russia.

The aggression of Saddam Hussein against Kuwait will lead to negotiations between the USSR and the USA. The compromise is the following: Iraqi troops leave Kuwait and the USA takes no military actions against Iraq. This will save half a million lives lost in Iraq since 1991. Maybe, Hussein gets killed and replaced by someone more loyal to the USSR.

The war in Afghanistan will bring the lives of about 2 mln Afghans and 40,000 or 50,000 soviet soldiers by 2012. In 2001 some aircraft conducted by terrorists crash at the territory of Moscow Kremlin and the reaction of the world is quite different: some experts begin to speak about the advent of international terrorism, some American TV channels show this action as a revenge of the Afghan freedom fighters to the Evil Empire. After that Gorbachev (or his successor) fires KGB and GRU managerial staff. The attack cannot be concealed from the citizens and is used to explain consumer goods shortage and other problems. The continuation of the war in Afghanistan as well as the suppression of dissident movement will be justified.

The dry laws program of 1988-2000 will bring many loses to the economy. It will be explained that the program succeeded in general but had some “some drawbacks” (this term was often used by the soviet propaganda to describe failures). In 2000 a similar explanation will take place concerning Gorbachev's promise to give a flat to each family in the country.

1988 earthquake in Armenia is concealed (or its consequences are downgraded) so the victims get less support and the restoration work takes longer time.

The problem of migration from different parts of the USSR to Moscow region and other better-off places will cause new ethnic conflicts which are hidden from the general public, so there's no wide-spread movement of Russian nationalists. Anyway the problem of migrants is not so acute in the USSR.

People in the USSR (by 2012 more than 300 mln) will continue to enjoy free education, medical services, possibilities to get free housing from the state. But the welfare of soviet citizens will be lower than that of the inhabitants of post-soviet nations.

There is no organized opposition to the Communist Party rule. Dissidents (opponents) are mostly individuals or small groups.

New tendencies will take place with the advent of World Wide Web. The internet will be provided by state-owned structures and thoroughly censored. But Samizdat (books and other information forbidden to be published) will be spread off-line with the help of CDs and USB-sticks) or via e-mail. No Facebook can be allowed but there can be local social networks. They too will be censored and controlled by KGB so any tacit protests (against the war in Afghanistan or other “some drawbacks”) like hand-claps, listening to Victor Tsoy's “Peremen” (We Need Changes) in public places organized via social networks will be easily suppressed. Although dissident movement will be weak after the repressions of early 1980s, environmentalists, human right activists and even ordinary people will make the government change something: it's possible that certain corrupted officials are fired, certain eco-dangerous projects are abolished, etc. In 2012 social networks are used by worldwide to encourage protests. The USSR will use double standards for them: any protests in pro-Communist nations are condemned as inspired by CIA meanwhile KGB will encourage communists in Iran and Egypt to make a revolution via social network. Soon soviet social networks get blocked “at working people request” (the soviet formula used to show a governmental decision as inspired by the ordinary people) to avoid dangers of pedophiles' molesting the kids.

It shall also be mentioned that in the USSR the development of the science in 2010s could allow producing smart-phones and tablet computers

The culture development is done in the mainstream of socialist realism. There may be new trends like young communist rap songs or patriotic graffiti to resist capitalist culture influence. Generally, Nikita Mikhalkov continues to shoot films, Pugachiova keeps singing and marries Maxim Galkin (without any publicity of course); writers create new books that involve modern technologies and plots but never blemish the socialist regime. There are official web-sites of soviet writers allowing to download their books for free or to purchase them with web-money. A prominent author of my country known in the whole USSR Vasil Bykov keeps writing books about the Great Patriotic War. After his death in 2000 his monument is erected in Minsk but at the same time his unpublished anti-Communist book of stories “Sciana” (The Wall) routes around via Samizdat USB sticks.

It is quite possible that the Russian Orthodox Church will get some benefits like permissions to erect new churches start new theological schools. For that patriarchs Alexei II and Kirill will deliver speeches about the symphony of socialism and Christianity, God's will performed by the Communist government, etc. There'll be similar indulgence to Islam. But no freedom can be granted to religious minorities of the country. They will continue to be labeled as “agents of American Imperialism”. The Pussy Riot will be arrested without any publicity and will spend 5 years in prison.

The problem of drug addiction and drug trafficking is not as serious as in modern Russia (or our above-mentioned ones) but youths find their “compensation” through alcohol and solvent abuse.

And certainly the opportunities of the Soviet citizens to travel abroad are next to none.

No toponymic changes like Leningrad-Petersburg will have taken place by 2012. New places get names of Soviet prominent people.

To end the research I'll add some inevitable problems of Russia-USSR or what-can-it-be: AIDS, a decline in reading, the dependence on the export of natural resources, the corruption, a relatively weak middle class.

Final Remarks

Understandably, this research can be severely criticized in its many points. But before I sat down to work I had done some homework. The least important part for such study is to read special literature and historians' interpretations of the three events. To understand the spirit of the epochs I read many books of Russian and Soviet literature both permitted and forbidden. (I strongly recommend Solzhenitsyn's Turgenev's and Chekhov's works: the first two were unable to invent plots and “painted from nature” and Chekhov was really impartial in many things). I listened to music of the epochs and meditated on things that were in the heads of people of those years. I talked to people from authoritarian (like the Russian Empire) and totalitarian (like the Soviet Union) countries. All this experience I used to anticipate the changes that never took place.

Andrei Berastouski

January 14, 2013

Originally published at historiapure

More: Personal site of translator Andrei Berastouski

Комментариев нет:

Отправить комментарий

Примечание. Отправлять комментарии могут только участники этого блога.

Избранное сообщение

10 лет писанины

Когда 16 февраля 2013 года я запостил тут одну свою научную заметку , я еще не вполне представлял как дальше буду использовать этот ресурс. ...