The Stalinification of Russia
Russia has taken another giant step towards Stalinification.
The Moscow Times reported last Wednesday that the Kremlin plans to set up an entirely separate law enforcement body devoted to fighting “extremism” — and by that term, the Kremlin means those who disagree with it in any manner. Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin told the Duma that current enforecement was “ineffective” and specfically stated that “Internet and computer games are being used to promote terrorism and hate crimes. The Internet offers instructions on making explosives and blowing up buildings, while popular computer games promote racially motivated violence.” So-called “President” Dmitry Medvedev backed him up, telling Interior Ministry officials in the Kremlin on Tuesday that they must “step up the fight against extremism and ultranationalism.”
That’s all code for a major new crackdown on civil society on the Internet, its last remaining bastion, prestaged by the recent prosecutions of bloggers who dare to criticize the Kremlin. Galina Kozhevnikova, deputy head of the Sova Center, which tracks hate crimes, told the MT that she feared that the proposed agency would be “directed toward the political opposition” and be “a corruption machine.” To the Kremlin, Garry Kasparov is an extremist, and they jailed him. Same for Oleg Kozlovsky and a host of others who have been written about on this blog. In fact, anyone is an extremist who disagrees with the Kremlin. Just try to find one single person who expresses fundamental disgreement with the Kremlin and is treated with respect by it.
Also writing in the MT, pundit Yevgeny Kiselyov tell readers more about Russia’s love affair with Stalinization:
On Sunday, state-controlled television station Rossia will air the first program in a new series titled “The Name of Russia.” This is a homegrown version of similar programs that were popular in Britain, Germany, France and the United States. In December, the program will announce the person chosen as the most outstanding Russian in history. The original field of 500 candidates has been narrowed down to 12 finalists based on the results of an Internet poll.
The shortlist of the 12 people being considered for the title of “Russia’s All-Time Greatest Citizen” says a lot about the public’s distorted, contradictory and mythologized understanding of their country.
For example, from Russia’s litany of great literary figures, only Alexander Pushkin and Fyodor Dostoevsky are included. Lev Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, and Nobel laureates for literature Ivan Bunin, Boris Pasternak, Mikhail Sholokhov or Joseph Brodsky did not make the top 12. At the same time, seven of the names are princes, tsars, emperors, Bolshevik leaders, tyrants and despots, including Alexander Nevsky, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Lenin and Stalin.
So much for seeing Russia as the land where literature is worshipped by erudite readers! In fact, Russians have forgotten all they ever knew about literature (which wasn’t much, given Soviet repression) and they’re engaged in an orgy of adoration over dictators and strongmen and thugs. Kiselyov explains:
Our leaders would like everyone to believe in the following conception: The state is above and beyond everything else; it is always right; everything good in the country exists thanks to our strong and wise rulers; the state’s authority is bestowed by the Almighty; and anybody who does not respect the authorities and who is not thrilled with their performance is not a patriot. That is how Russians have been educated for centuries — with a brief interval during the democratic reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s — and this tradition has continued throughout the eight years of Vladimir Putin’s presidency.
This all leads up to Stalin. Kiselyov writes:
Other great figures in Russian history that did not make the list were Mikhail Kutuzov and Marshal Georgy Zhukov. Kutuzov defeated Napoleon’s forces in the War of 1812, and Zhukov battled Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1945. Also missing is the great scientist Sergei Korolyov, the father of Russia’s space program, and Boris Yeltsin, the first democratically elected president. Even Andrei Sakharov, the great Russian academic, human rights activist and fighter for freedom and democracy, is missing from the list.
Instead, we have Stalin. This might be the most frightening of all. It would be unimaginable that the people of Germany would name Hitler as one of the greatest Germans of all time. In Russia, people are seriously discussing the idea of teaching high school students that under Stalin, “terror was used to serve the goal of industrial development” and that “Stalin’s actions were fully rational as a leader of a country under attack in a global war.”
But I am certain that Stalin won’t win the “Name of Russia” contest. Voters — particularly the younger ones — may sincerely want Stalin to win, but the organizers of the poll are more constrained by a sense of political correctness. Already, Alexander Lyubimov, deputy director of Rossia television and the person in charge of the contest, has announced that 2 million votes for Stalin will be disqualified; the official reason was a hacker attack that may have caused double voting. But that doesn’t make things any better.
Russia’s increasingly aggressive foreign policy and repressive domestic policy under Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are, to a great extent, a direct result of the lingering illness that still infects Russian society — our fascination with Stalin and Stalinism.
Particularly the younger ones? That’s a startling revelation. One might expect Russia’s older generation, steeped in Stalin’s propaganda, to love him — but if the younger generation is crazy about him too, where does that leave Russia?
Just as occurred with the original Stalin, the craven cowards of Europe seem prepared to watch the new dictatorship consolidate its power. In a sad display, the 114 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted on reconsideration of the Russian delegations credentials in light of Russia’s barbaric attack on Georgia, and only 20 delegates (from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Sweden, Austria and Georgia) voted in favor of the measure, while 10 others abstained. 75% of the body voted to allow Russia to remain in the body even though it had just flagrantly flouted its basic principles and even though Europe’s prior failure to give a strong signal that Georgia would be admitted to NATO clearly encouraged Russia’s aggression in the first place.
Horrifying as Russia’s embrace of Stalin obviously is, we’ve come to expect such barbarism from the Russians. Therefore, we find Europe’s actions even more revolting. How can Europe expect to avoid the consequences it has so often suffered from cowardice in the past if it cannot learn from those mistakes?