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Zbigniew Brzezinski: Moscow's Mussolini (How Putin Is Creating a Fascist State)

Zbigniew Brzezinski, in the WSJ (subscribers only) (Sept. 20, 2004):

Thou art so pitiful,
Poor, and so sorrowful,
Yet of great treasure full,
Mighty, all-powerful,
Russia, my Mother!

Citing these stirring words of the poet Nekrasov, Vladimir I. Lenin, the new dictator of Russia, published on March 12, 1918, his reasons for moving Russia's seat of government from St. Petersburg (Petrograd) to Moscow. Amid the chaos, confusion, and violence of those revolutionary days, Lenin, having just five days earlier entrenched himself in the Kremlin, proclaimed:

"Russia will become mighty and abundant if she abandons all dejection and all phrase-making, if, with clenched teeth, she musters all her forces and strains every nerve and muscle. . . . work with might and main to establish discipline and self-discipline, consolidate everywhere organization, order, efficiency, and the harmonious co-operation of all the forces of the people, introduce comprehensive accounting of and control over production and distribution -- such is the way to build up military might and socialist might."

Moscow -- which centuries earlier had been the capital of Ivan the Terrible but was demoted to the status of a provincial town when Peter the Great opened a window to Europe by constructing St. Petersburg as his new capital -- thus once again became Russia's epicenter. And so it remains to this day, with Lenin's slogans eerily anticipating Vladimir Putin's recent justification for centralized power.

It is important to recognize that to the Russians the Kremlin is more than just the seat of government. It epitomizes the centralizing tradition of the Russian autocracy. It is a tradition that is fearful of any regional autonomy, of any genuine decentralization, a tradition that fosters the chauvinist paranoia that political pluralism will almost inevitably precipitate the breakup of Russia itself. That mentality fitted well into the Stalinist notions of central planning, and it fit well into the bureaucratic mentality of the KGB with its ethic of suspicion and hierarchic discipline. For products of the KGB, such as Mr. Putin, it is axiomatic that if Russia is to be "mighty, all-powerful," it must be ruled from the top down.