Gongol.com Archives: December 2021

Brian Gongol

December 27, 2021

News A defeat to celebrate

Boxing Day doesn't have any traction in the United States, but it does seem like a missed opportunity that we don't celebrate December 26th. December 26th of 1991 was the first day in 69 years without the Soviet Union. ■ It is well-nigh impossible to explain to someone who didn't live through it just what a relief the dissolution of the USSR really was. Had there been social media at the time, the Internet would have been flooded with astonished-face emojis: The end of the Soviet Union meant the evaporation of literally decades of existential dread -- in the relative blink of an eye. ■ The end of the Cold War was a major contributing factor to why the 1990s felt so good. Talk of a "peace dividend" to the economy from the decline in military spending was certainly a factor, but so was the apparent elimination of the threat of devastating nuclear warfare. ■ Rather like a cancer patient ringing a bell at the end of a long course of treatment, American pop culture celebrated the effective defeat of our dreaded global rival. Concerts took over Red Square. Terrorists displaced Communists as the villains in action films. Mikhail Gorbachev starred in a Pizza Hut commercial. ■ There aren't many wars successfully terminated with one party simply voluntarily deciding to no longer exist. Yet that's what happened in 1991. An opponent that only seven years earlier could have been portrayed as a prospective invader simply vanished as a formal entity. ■ Boxing Day might linger as a holiday in the British Commonwealth, but the rest of the world might want to co-opt the holiday in celebration of the termination of Soviet-style Communism. There is altogether too much nostalgia for the USSR, both in Russia and abroad, and far too much sympathy worldwide for authoritarian systems of power. Celebrating the defeat of one of the mightiest such regimes would be a healthy reminder that the work of holding back authoritarianism is never really over.