The Writing on the Russian Wall
Last week in Russia, billboards were going up and they were coming down.
In Omsk, a billboard advertising a children’s theater piece which declared “We await you, merry gnome!” was hastily ripped down in anticipation of Russian “president” Dima Medvedev’s visit, lest the diminutive little president take offense. If that sort of behavior reminds you of the insanity that went on during the time of Josef Stalin, you’re not alone. Some idiotic Russophile commentators would like to paint Dima as some sort of “liberal,” but it’s perfectly clear his own countrymen don’t see him that way. If they did, the merry gnome would still be merry.
And speaking of Stalin, in Moscow, city workers were rushing to throw up billboards praising the contribution of Josef Stalin, the worst killer of Russians in world history, to the Soviet military effort in World War II, in celebration of the Russian “victory” in that conflict. Human rights leader Lyudmila Alexeeva put it bluntly: “Stalin is a criminal, and it is a shame to advertise his regime that killed millions of people.”
With all due respect to Ms. Alexeeva, we’d choose a bit stronger word than “shame.” Perhaps “atrocity” or “abomination” or simply “crime.”
The mere fact that Russians would even consider putting of billboards of Stalin in downtown Moscow shows what a shocking deterioration Russian civil society has undergone under Vladimir Putin. How would the world — how would Russia — react if Germans starting putting up billboards celebrating Adolf Hitler?
But Germans, of course, would do no such thing. Why is it possible, then, that Russians would? And more important, why is it possible that a sizeable minority would not vociferously oppose such an action with highly visible mass protests — if for no other reason than to show the outside world that Russia is not a nation of savages?
It is because, of course, most Russians like Stalin and those who don’t can’t be bothered to do anything about it. They’ll turn their backs on this the same way their grandparents turned their backs when Stalin came for their neighbors. They’ll allow school textbooks to be rewritten and filled with the most ridiculous lies rationalizing Stalin’s behavior, they’ll tell such lies to their own children when asked who that mustachioed man in the billboard is, they’ll allow their new KGB leader to emulate Stalin in any way he likes.
Because, after all, they’re Russians. So they’ll publicly celebrate and lionize the greatest mass killer of Russians in the nation’s history, right up until they time their country, once again, collapses.