By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Bladine: Invasion of Ukraine sparks old memory 

Thoughts of writing about the Yamhill County recall campaign disappeared when I considered the scope of commentary already scheduled for today: commentary from the recall petitioner and the commissioner herself; commentary from the News-Register editorial board and many local citizens.

Roadway signs are spreading; both campaigns are poised to fill mailboxes, newspaper pages and social media with comment about the recall of Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer. Mail ballots are going out for the March 22 election, but I’ll wait.

Meanwhile, my alternative topic is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and an old memory from visiting Moscow in the early 1990s.

Capitalism was breaking out all over following the 1991 collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. People in the Soviet Union were selling goods from doorsteps, alleys, street corners and pop-up marketplaces. They were celebrating a new-found economic freedom, with hopes of seeing a cultural spread of self-determination and individual rights.

However, my strongest memory is from asking about  the many new high-rise apartment buildings providing first-ever homeownership to thousands of Russian citizens. Many, I was told, gave up life savings for that right, and they were rewarded with lifetime ownership of the apartments.

They moved in, but within a year or two, I was told, many were killed by Russian mafia building owners who continued the cycle of selling “lifetime homes.”
Russians could not climb the steep cliff to real freedom.

Americans rightfully worry about this new launch of Russian imperialism. We trace that history through centuries of tsars and emperors; of peasants suffering and rising up; of the 1917 Russian Revolution and creation of the USSR.

We know the history; we know what’s at risk. The USSR and Russia have produced a continuum of leaders whose names spin off our lips easily and chronologically: Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin and, starting in 2000, Vladimir Putin. (Like most, I had forgotten about Dmitry Medvedev taking the Russia presidency from 2008-12 before the return of Putin.)

The wealthy oligarchy that maintains Russia’s rule-by-the-few is going to be tested with global financial sanctions that already are hitting home. In America, an even greater test will determine if dueling ideologies that threaten to shatter our own union can begin to find common ground.

In case you didn’t notice, those dueling ideologies are front and center – albeit somewhat disguised – in events leading up to the Yamhill County recall election. Maybe, more on that next week.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at or 503-687-1223.


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