Towards the end of his life, Solzhenitsyn several times expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin as a restorer of Russia’s greatness. But what would Solzhenitsyn have thought of Putin’s current adventures in Georgia? (Putin may be Russia’s ex-president, but events of the last week or two confirm what many have already said: that he is the de facto dictator calling the shots.) On August 8, just a few days after Solzhenitsyn died, Russian tanks and troops poured into the separatist Georgian province of South Ossetia. In the days following, Russian planes bombed civilian as well as military targets in several other locations throughout the country. A few days ago, Russia agreed to withdraw its troops. As we write, they are still there.

The whole drama has the eerie sense of history repeating itself. Shortly after the Russian onslaught began, the London Times carried an article about “The Revolt in Georgia”—not the one unfolding before our eyes, but the revolt against Soviet occupation in September 1924. The Soviets had initially recognized Georgia’s independence in the wake of the First World War, but occupied the country in 1921 and brutally put down the revolt that erupted three years later. At the time, the president of Georgia made an appeal to the League of Nations. The Times reports that although “sympathetic reference” to Georgia was made in the assembly, “it is realized that the League is incapable of rendering material aid and the moral influence which may be a powerful force with civilized countries is unlike- ly to make an impression upon Soviet Russia.”

That was in 1924. What sort of impression do you suppose the “moral influence” of the successor institution to the League of Nations, the U.N., is likely to have on the uncivilized successor to the USSR? In 1989, The National Interest published Francis Fukuyama’s famous article “The End of History?” in which he wrote that “what we are witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” Well, that was yesterday. What is remarkable is not that history has “started up” again (really, its engines never stopped), but that anyone ever took Fukuyama’s neo-Hegelian fantasy seriously.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 27 Number 1, on page 2
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