From glasnost to the Arab Spring: the moral foundation of anti-authoritarian revolutions

Video


Post-Event Summary
What sparks anti-authoritarian revolutions in today's world? On Wednesday, AEI hosted an impressive lineup of leading anti-authoritarian activists and intellectuals from around the world to discuss the moral foundation of anti-authoritarian struggle.

Ammar Abdulhamid of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies began the first panel by quoting a powerful slogan from the Syrian Revolution: "Death but not humiliation." Akbar Atri, co-founder of E-Collaborative for Civic Education, assured that despite the Iranian regime's corrupted norms and values, the essence of the Green Movement and the Arab Spring epitomizes civic values and universal human rights. Yang Jianli from the Initiatives for China advised U.S. policymakers to start paying attention to students, farmers and street-level society so individuals are prepared for revolutions before they occur.

In the second panel, Vladimir Kara-Murza, a member of the Federal Political Council of Solidarity, stressed that the renewed quest for civic dignity in today's protests is trigged by the blatant fraud in Russia's November parliamentary elections and the backdoor deal that predetermined the Putin-Medvedev swap. Now, Vladimir Putin's regime is forced to look over its shoulder, Kara-Murza insisted, and can no longer pursue authoritarian policies with complete immunity.

Lilia Shevtsova from the Carnegie Moscow Center disagreed with the first panelists' conclusion that current anti-authoritarian revolutions require Western support. She furthermore stressed the loss of hope as a catalyst for revolution, agreeing with AEI's Leon Aron’s opinion that decency, conscience, honesty and morality are central to the struggle against authoritarian regimes.

The third panel explored the role of historical memory in the struggle to democratize after the dissolution of totalitarianism. Anne Applebaum of the Legatum Institute and Minxin Pei of Claremont McKenna College noted that the lack of historical memory in Russia and China resulted in general moral decay in those countries. Vladimir Tismaneaunu, on the other hand, cited the success of his truth commission in Romania after the local downfall of communism. While their countries of origin differed, all of the panelists agreed that honest and viable historical memory is crucial to the survival of a new, democratic state.

---Katherine Earle and  Samantha Costello

Event Description

What sparks anti-authoritarian revolutions in today’s world? In his just-published book “Roads to the Temple,” Leon Aron argues that values and morality lie at the heart of every revolution. From glasnost to the Arab Spring, the battle against authoritarians has been characterized by the triumph of human dignity over an over-centralized, brutal and corrupt state. Leading anti-authoritarian activists and intellectuals from Iraq, Iran, Syria, China, Russia and Sudan will share their experiences and provide insights of critical importance to U.S. policymakers seeking to understand and support the international quest for freedom.

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About the Author

 

Leon
Aron
  • Leon Aron is Resident Scholar and Director of Russian Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the author of three books and over 300 articles and essays. Since 1999, he has written Russian Outlook, a quarterly essay on economic, political, social and cultural aspects of Russia’s post-Soviet transition, published by the Institute. He is the author of the first full-scale scholarly biography of Boris Yeltsin, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (St. Martin’s Press, 2000); Russia’s Revolution: Essays 1989-2006 (AEI Press, 2007); and, most recently, Roads to the Temple: Memory, Truth, Ideas and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991 (Yale University Press, 2012).


    Dr. Aron earned his Ph.D. from Columbia University, has taught a graduate seminar at Georgetown University, and was awarded the Peace Fellowship at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He has co-edited and contributed the opening chapter to The Emergence of Russian Foreign Policy, published by the U.S. Institute of Peace in 1994 and contributed an opening chapter to The New Russian Foreign Policy (Council on Foreign Relations, 1998).


    Dr. Aron has contributed numerous essays and articles to newspapers andmagazines, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, theWall Street Journal Foreign Policy, The NewRepublic, Weekly Standard, Commentary, New York Times Book Review, the TimesLiterary Supplement. A frequent guest of television and radio talkshows, he has commented on Russian affairs for, among others, 60 Minutes,The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Charlie Rose, CNN International,C-Span, and National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” and “Talk of theNation.”


    From 1990 to 2004, he was a permanent discussant at the Voice of America’s radio and television show Gliadya iz Ameriki (“Looking from America”), which was broadcast to Russia every week.


    Follow Leon Aron on Twitter.

  • Phone: 202-862-5898
    Email: laron@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Katherine Earle
    Phone: 202-862-5872
    Email: katherine.earle@aei.org

 

Nicholas
Eberstadt
  • Nicholas Eberstadt, a political economist and a demographer by training, is also a senior adviser to the National Bureau of Asian Research, a member of the visiting committee at the Harvard School of Public Health, and a member of the Global Leadership Council at the World Economic Forum. He researches and writes extensively on economic development, foreign aid, global health, demographics, and poverty. He is the author of numerous monographs and articles on North and South Korea, East Asia, and countries of the former Soviet Union. His books range from The End of North Korea (AEI Press, 1999) to The Poverty of the Poverty Rate (AEI Press, 2008).

     

  • Phone: 202.862.5825
    Email: eberstadt@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Alex Coblin
    Phone: 202.419.5215
    Email: alex.coblin@aei.org

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