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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Experts Play Down Communist Revival

Communists may be returning to power in the former Soviet Republics, but they are not bringing communism back with them, according to political analysts in Moscow.


Asked what they believed to be the significance of the increasing number of heads of state in the former Union who once held top Communist Party posts, Russian and foreign analysts in Moscow were virtually unanimous.


"When I hear talk about the return of communism, I just want to laugh", said Yury Shchekochikin, head of the investigation department at Literaturnaya Gazeta. "These leaders have felt what it's like to earn hard currency in a market economy, and they're not ever going to give that up".


What we are seeing, analysts believe, is a natural, and not unwelcome process. The sharp anti-communist backlash that grew during the late 1980s and reached its peak in 1991 displaced many experienced administrators, leaving ideologically pure but hapless democrats in leadership positions.


More recently, they said, the pendulum has swung back in the other direction, bringing former top Communist officials to power in Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia and Azerbaijan. But they have been chosen for their perceived reliability rather than their ideology.


"Good administrators could not develop outside the system - or only with great difficulty", said Yury Davidov, Europe specialist at the USA/ Canada Institute. "So the non-communists were not very experienced, and now there is a reaction to their weakness", Davidov said, pointing to Abulfaz Elchibey, the Azerbaijani dissident-turned-president as a case in point.


Davidov stressed that the ex-communists vary widely in style. Islam Karimov, the president of Uzbekistan, was cited as a clear example of an old Soviet style ruler who turns to repression in order to maintain stability.


Lithuanian president and ex-party boss Algirdas Brazauskas, by contrast, may prove even more acceptable to the West than the anti-communist he replaced, Vytautas Landsbergis.


One Western diplomat who specializes in Russia's domestic politics went further to say that Communist Party membership can no longer be relied upon as a guide to political orientation.


"Look at the people who hold really extreme positions in Russia - Zhirinovsky, Anpilov", the diplomat said referring to the head of the extreme nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and the pro-communist Moscow legislator. "Neither of them were Communist Party members".


On the other side is Boris Yeltsin, the obvious example of a communist now committed to the cause of reform.


"People like Yeltsin or Brazauskas are simply more experienced, more attuned to reality", said Davidov.


There is also an element of political inertia involved, according to Leonid Goldin, a professor of philosophy and contributor to publications across the political spectrum.


"Power remained with those who have always had it", he said. "The Party made the revolution, it is natural that its leaders will hold on to power".