Tag Archives: Soviet union
One Man’s Thoughts Has Moved To
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Thank You, Vytautas
Few countries have suffered as much from the global financial meltdown as Lithuania, which has seen its gross domestic product shrivel by 19 percent this year. As the jobless rate soars and the government struggles to pay its bills, one of the biggest casualties has been the Royal Palace.
Hampered by an empty treasury and huge cost overruns, construction has come almost to a standstill on the palace: a white-walled replica of the colossal 15th-century castle complex that once dominated Vilnius’s baroque Old Town and represented the seat of an empire that reached from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.
The original palace was razed in 1802 by Russia, which demolished it so thoroughly that it even sold off the rubble. Lithuanian nationalists, who have dreamed about resurrecting the castle for generations, finally got their chance after the country of 3.5 million people declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.
With the palace about half-built after seven years of labor, Lithuania can’t afford to scrap the project, but it can’t afford to finish it, either. The total price tag has tripled from original estimates, and government officials say they can’t foresee when they will be able to come up with the $70 million necessary to complete the job. “I’m afraid there is truly no chance in the near future for us to finish even such a revered building as this,” Finance Minister Ingrida Simonyte told reporters last month.
Officials said they would slash by one-third the already meager construction budget for the palace next year.
Along with its Baltic neighbors — Latvia and Estonia — Lithuania experienced an economic boom after it joined the European Union in 2004, with plenty of easy credit as foreign investors poured money into the region. The credit bubble popped last year, however, resulting in an enormous reverse flow of capital that has forced the government to implement draconian spending cuts.
The palace complex was supposed to have been done in time for the country’s millennium celebration in July — the 1,000th anniversary of the first recorded mention of Lithuania. (In 1009, a nun in the German city of Quedlinburg wrote that a local missionary, Saint Bruno, had been killed at the hands of pagans in “Lituae,” or Lithuania.)
The palace did briefly open its gates for the Millennium Day ceremony, which was attended by several modern-day royals and heads of state from neighboring countries. Although the public was allowed a peek inside for a few days, the site has remained off-limits since then.
The new palace is intended to remind Lithuanians that their small country — today about the size of West Virginia — was once a great empire, ruling over much of present-day Belarus, Ukraine and Poland.
Supporters of the palace acknowledge that popular backing has waned since the economy crashed last year. But Kazys Almenas, founder of an advocacy group called the Palace Support Fund, said the cost of finishing the project would still barely make a dent in Lithuania’s national budget.
“There are those who like to grandstand — ‘Oh, you’re taking away money from the orphans,’ ” he said. “But eventually there is no question that it will be built. The question is just when.”
Almenas, a retired nuclear engineering professor from the University of Maryland at College Park, was displaced from Lithuania as a child during World War II and immigrated to the United States. He returned to Vilnius in 1999 and has lobbied on behalf of the palace ever since.
He conceded that many Lithuanians still don’t see the need to rebuild a palace that vanished more than 200 years ago. But he argued that the return of the royal quarters was the only way to fill a long-standing void in the city center.
“When the castle was razed, you walked down Castle Street and what was there? Just a bunch of trees. Something was definitely wrong,” he said. “What kind of Castle Street is it if you don’t have a castle at the end?”
One Man’s Thoughts Has Moved To
You can read this article at:
Thank You, Vytautas
Considering the late Senator’s complete record requires digging into the USSR’s archives.
Picking his way through the Soviet archives that Boris Yeltsin had just thrown open, in 1991 Tim Sebastian, a reporter for the London Times, came across an arresting memorandum. Composed in 1983 by Victor Chebrikov, the top man at the KGB, the memorandum was addressed to Yuri Andropov, the top man in the entire USSR. The subject: Sen. Edward Kennedy.
“On 9-10 May of this year,” the May 14 memorandum explained, “Sen. Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant [John] Tunney was in Moscow.” (Tunney was Kennedy’s law school roommate and a former Democratic Senator from California.) “The Senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.”
Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the Senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”
Kennedy made Andropov a couple of specific offers.
First he offered to visit Moscow. “The main purpose of the meeting, according to the Senator, would be to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.” Kennedy would help the Soviets deal with Reagan by telling them how to brush up their propaganda.
Then he offered to make it possible for Andropov to sit down for a few interviews on American television. “A direct appeal … to the American people will, without a doubt, attract a great deal of attention and interest in the country. … If the proposal is recognized as worthy, then Kennedy and his friends will bring about suitable steps to have representatives of the largest television companies in the USA contact Y.V. Andropov for an invitation to Moscow for the interviews. … The Senator underlined the importance that this initiative should be seen as coming from the American side.”
Kennedy would make certain the networks gave Andropov air time–and that they rigged the arrangement to look like honest journalism.
Kennedy’s motives? “Like other rational people,” the memorandum explained, “[Kennedy] is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations.” But that high-minded concern represented only one of Kennedy’s motives.
“Tunney remarked that the Senator wants to run for president in 1988,” the memorandum continued. “Kennedy does not discount that during the 1984 campaign, the Democratic Party may officially turn to him to lead the fight against the Republicans and elect their candidate president.”
Kennedy proved eager to deal with Andropov–the leader of the Soviet Union, a former director of the KGB and a principal mover in both the crushing of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the suppression of the 1968 Prague Spring–at least in part to advance his own political prospects.
In 1992, Tim Sebastian published a story about the memorandum in the London Times. Here in the U.S., Sebastian’s story received no attention. In his 2006 book, The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, historian Paul Kengor reprinted the memorandum in full. “The media,” Kengor says, “ignored the revelation.”
“The document,” Kengor continues, “has stood the test of time. I scrutinized it more carefully than anything I’ve ever dealt with as a scholar. I showed the document to numerous authorities who deal with Soviet archival material. No one has debunked the memorandum or shown it to be a forgery. Kennedy’s office did not deny it.”
Why bring all this up now? No evidence exists that Andropov ever acted on the memorandum–within eight months, the Soviet leader would be dead–and now that Kennedy himself has died even many of the former Senator’s opponents find themselves grieving. Yet precisely because Kennedy represented such a commanding figure–perhaps the most compelling liberal of our day–we need to consider his record in full.
Doing so, it turns out, requires pondering a document in the archives of the politburo.
When President Reagan chose to confront the Soviet Union, calling it the Evil Empire that it was, Sen. Edward Kennedy chose to offer aid and comfort to General Secretary Andropov. On the Cold War, the greatest issue of his lifetime, Kennedy got it wrong.
Peter Robinson, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a former White House speechwriter, writes a weekly column for Forbes.