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In the first lecture of the 2012–2013 Bradley Lecture Series on Monday evening, Leon Aron of AEI discussed the non-violent revolution that resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union, emphasizing that the revolution's moral underpinnings were the principal cause of the country's dissolution. Aron described the communist regime's demise as a "secular reformation" that began when powerless Soviet citizens started to question the omnipotence of the state.
These historians, philosophers, literary critics and other "troubadours of glasnost," said Aron, were first and foremost moralists who spoke and wrote about the quest for dignity, truth and the moral renewal of the modern Soviet citizen. He claimed that in today's Russian protest movement, the protesters do not have merely tangible demands for honest elections, lower corruption and better roads, but also call for dignity, honor, conscience and free will. He likewise suggested that the glasnost revolution extends beyond its Russian roots to authoritarian countries around the world.
Aron concluded his speech with a tale of an Iranian journalist who asked if he could publish a censored version of an essay written by Aron about Russia's 1987–1991 moral revolution. The Iranian government subsequently shut down the magazine in which the essay was published, Aron explained, which indicates that authoritarian regimes recognize the threat posed to their survival by moral awakenings.
In this Bradley Lecture, Leon Aron, author of “Roads to the Temple: Truth, Memory, Ideas, and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987–1991,” will explain the collapse of the Soviet Union as a moral revolution prompted by Russian citizens’ quest for dignity in truth, democratic citizenship and political and economic liberty. Aron will discuss how these moral underpinnings can be found in contemporary anti-authoritarian movements as well, including in the Arab Spring and in current movements in Russia, China and Iran.
Karlyn Bowman, AEI
Leon Aron, AEI
Adjournment and Reception
Books will be available for purchase during the reception
For more information, please contact Lindsay Souza at [email protected], 202.862.5884.
For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at [email protected], 202.862.4871.
Leon Aron is a resident scholar and the director of Russian Studies at AEI. He is the author of the first full-scale scholarly biography of Boris Yeltsin, entitled “Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life” (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). He is also the author of “Russia’s Revolution: Essays 1989-2006” (AEI Press, 2007) and, most recently, “Roads to the Temple: Memory, Truth, Ideals and Ideas in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991” (Yale University Press, 2012). He is also the editor of “The Emergence of Russian Foreign Policy” (The U.S. Institute of Peace, 1994). Aron has contributed numerous essays and articles to newspapers and magazines, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the Weekly Standard, The New York Times Book Review and the Times Literary Supplement. A frequent guest of television and radio talk shows, 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 the Nation.
Karlyn Bowman is a senior fellow at AEI. She researches and analyzes American public opinion using available polling data on a variety of subjects, including the economy, taxes, the state of workers in America, the environment and global warming, attitudes about homosexuality and gay marriage, the North American Free Trade Agreement and free trade, the war in Iraq and women's attitudes. In addition, Bowman has studied and spoken about the evolution of American politics resulting from key demographic and geographic changes. She has often lectured on the role of think tanks in the U.S. and writes a weekly column for Forbes.com.