Sergei Khrushchev, a scholar and son of former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, evaluated Russia’s political evolution and transition from communism during a presentation at the University of Central Florida.

The event, which was organized by the UCF Global Perspectives Office as a feature of the 2010-2011 theme “Global Peace and Security,” was attended by nearly 400 people.

Khrushchev discussed the history and nature of governance in Russia, explaining that his father gradually attempted reforms to the political and economic systems in the 1960s as part of his strategy to move Russia away from Joseph Stalin’s legacy.  But Russian development has always fallen into a pattern of reform, followed by stagnation and more reforms, he said.

Khrushchev spoke of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s proposals for reform, praising them as great ideas, but saying it was not feasible to make such improvements overnight.

That attitude– wanting instant and dramatic change– is a recurring theme in Russian history that sets it apart from the West, he said. Khrushchev compared how the West gradually adopted some of Karl Marx’s ideas and came up with social democracy to Russia’s approach of using the same ideas to launch a revolution and establish its form of communism.

The desire for instant and dramatic change also played a role in the collapse of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev added. Russians wanted immediate reforms, but the efforts were not very successful. He said former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s era started with great hope, but it quickly moved in the opposite direction as Yeltsin scrapped the constitution and consolidated power under the executive branch.

Vladimir Putin’s presidency in Russia had its good and bad features, Khrushchev explained.  Putin improved education and helped the Russian economy grow tremendously, but corruption reached even worse levels, and censorship and repression of opposition became commonplace, he said.

With Putin serving as prime minister, current President Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency has essentially been an extension of Putin’s policies, according to Khrushchev.  Medvedev and Putin may have made some public displays of fighting corruption, but Khrushchev suggested it is impossible to get any justice in a polluted system, where bribes cost Russia an estimated 3 percent of the country’s GDP each year.

The reality of Russia today is that the country is ruled by the police, mafia and corruption, Khrushchev said. He voiced concern that upcoming elections will likely determined by the current administration, because voters will be too afraid to vote for anyone else.

He expressed worry over the growth of a nationalist movement in Russia that idolizes Stalin and expresses a great deal of hatred to other nationalities. He acknowledged that there is still a threat of tyranny in Russia, but expressed hope that the situation will improve in the future.

“Democracy involves changing the mentality of a society,” Khrushchev said.  “We cannot create this kind of society overnight.”

In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, sponsors and partners of Khrushchev’s presentation included the UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, The Sibille H. Pritchard Global Peace Fellowship program, Lawrence J. Chastang and the Chastang Foundation, the Orlando Area Committee on Foreign Relations, LarsonAllen LLP, the UCF Diplomacy Program, the UCF Political Science Department, the UCF International Services Center, UCF LIFE and the Global Connections Foundation.

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