REVIEWSrnGetting to Knowrnthe Generalrnby Wayne AUensworthrnZa Derzhavu Obidno . . .rn(It’s a Pity for a Great Power…)rnby Aleksandr LebedrnMoscow: Moskovskaya Pravda;rn464 pp.rnThe rise to political prominence ofrnformer Airborne Forces GeneralrnAleksandr Lebed, and especially his emphasisrnon law and order as the only realrnbasis for proceeding with reforms, hasrnraised the specter in the Russian mind ofrnthe proverbial Man on a White Horse,rnthe military savior whose iron-fisted rulernputs the national house in order. Thernimage is not alien to post-Soviet Russians,rnmany of whom well remember therncharge of “Bonapartism” made by NikitarnKhrushchev against the popular WorldrnWar II hero Marshal Zhukov. By refusingrnto support the August 1991 coup,rnhowever, the Soviet military effectivelyrnhastened the collapse of the communistrnregime (Lebed is partly credited withrnkeeping the Airborne Forces out of thernpolitical fracas), and Yeltsin’s use of regularrnarmy troops to suppress the SupremernSoviet in October 1993 highlighted therncrucial importance of military supportrnfor any prospective Russian leadership.rnDuring the reformist era (beginningrnwith Gorbachev and continuing today),rnthe role of the military has been hotly debated.rnMilitary officers, civilian experts,rnand politicians have argued over thernmerits of an all-volunteer army, thernstructure and mission of the Russian militaryrnin the post-Cold War period, andrnmilitary doctrine and strategy. The catalystrnfor much of this debate was the Sovietrndefeat in Afghanistan, which exposedrnthe demoralized state of the army andrnthe military’s lack of preparedness forrnunconventional warfare. The army commandrnsystem was judged too rigid: innovationrnand initiative were stifled, and politicalrnideology had often overriddenrncommon sense. The harsh and oftenrnbrutal treatment of conscripts, the highrnpeacetime casualty rates, the low payrnand primitive housing conditions, andrnthe corruption of the officer corps andrnthe Soviet nomenklatura system becamerncommon themes in Soviet and Russianrnpublic discourse. Russian officers beganrnto lobby for higher pay (or even to bernpaid at all), better living conditions, andrnmuch-needed reforms. “Committees ofrnSoldiers’ Mothers” demanded that thernstate protect enlisted men from the brutal,rnsometimes fatal, hazing known asrnthe dedovshina. Politicized organizationsrnof Afghan veterans and ex-officers becamerncommonplace. By the beginningrnof the postcommunist era, military participationrnin public lif<.’ was a fact.rnHaving had no experience of warfarernon our native soil in more than a century,rnAmericans easily overlook or underestimaternthe symbolic importance of thernmilitary in Russian life. The special aurarnof the army and the mystical attachmentrnbetween the Russian and his Fatheriandrnwas etched deeply in the popular imaginationrnby the experience of the warrnagainst fascism. Millions died in the infernornof the Russian front; the legendaryrndefense of Stalingrad and the march tornBeriin strengthened the national bond asrnno other experience could. At home everyrnman, woman, and child was mobilized,rntightening the ties of blood andrnsoil in the crucible of total war. Whateverrnlegitimacy the communist regimernwould enjoy among the Russians thereafterrnwas based largeh’ on the sense of patriotismrnand nationalist fervor that thernGreat Patriotic War generated. Westernersrnmay have been puzzled by BorisrnYeltsin’s decision to unfud the red bannersrnof the victorious Soviet army duringrnthe victory day celebration in 1996, butrnlike his predecessors in the Kremlinrnhe recognized the iraportance of thernbanners that so many had fought under.rnAs Yeltsin had told them before, thernwartime victory had not been communism’s,rnand surely not the nomenklatura’s,rnbut the people’s. Russia’s army is arnpeople’s army. What institution couldrnbe more likely to raise up a man of thernpeople?rnA better man of the people than AleksandrrnIvanovich Lebed, born into a worker’srnfamily in 1950 in the Russian city ofrnNovocherkassk, would be difficult tornimagine. Tall, big-boned, and equippedrnwith a booming bass voice, this Afghanrnwar veteran and former heavyweightrnboxer (as his memoirs testify, he is not arnman averse to using his fists as a managementrntool on occasion) is an uncommonrncommon man whose awareness of therncorruption surrounding him has been increasingrnthroughout his adult life.rnBoth Lebed’s grandfather, who livedrnin internal exile for a number of years,rnand his father, who survived the Gulagrnonly to fight in a penal battalion (consideredrna death sentence in itself) for thernduration of the Great Patriotic War, sufferedrnunder the communists. As a boy,rnhe witnessed the suppression of a worker’srnprotest in his native Novocherkassk;rntoday he promises that, as president, hernwould never use the Russian armyrnagainst the people, and calls the Octoberrn1993 bombardment of the SupremernSoviet “Russia’s shame.” In Afghanistan,rnwhere he commanded a battalionrnin 1981-82 and won the Order of thernRed Star for bravery (an honor he doesrnnot mention in his book), he saw livesrnwasted in what he considered to be arnfruitless and unwinnable war. But whatrndid the Brezhnevite nomenklatura care?rnIt was not their sons who would servernthere, but “the sons of workers and peasants,”rnand the Soviet High Commandrnforgot that the first concern of the officerrnmust be “to return to all mothers all theirrnsons.”rnHis opposition to the Chechen warrn(which made him very popular bothrnwith civilians and with many servicemen)rnwas based first and foremost on hisrnview that “such a war simply cannot bernwon.” Lebed was not surprised that thernpoliticians—nomenklatura holdovers forrnthe most part—had failed to see, as hernrecently told the Komsomolskaya Pravda,rnthat the brutal application of heavy firepowerrnthere had “destroyed the homesrnof a large number of people with impunity,rnkilled their relatives and friends,rnand maimed their children.” No wonderrnthe Chechen resistance was so fierce,rnsays Lebed; “you would have grabbed anrnassault rifle too, wouldn’t you?”rnAs Lebed sees it, the task of postcommunistrnRussian patriots is to build a Russianrnnation-state—the day of the empirern28/CHRONICLESrnrnrn