FOX News reports (click through for video):
If there was an award for despicable legacies Joseph Stalin would rank right up there with Hitler and Mao for the men with the most blood on their hands. By conservative estimates the man who led the Soviet Union for 30 years until his death in 1953, was responsible for killing some 20 million people, most of them his own citizens.
His penalty? In May of this year when Russia celebrates it’s victory over Germany in World War 2 (victory with the help of all it’s allies including America) it will put Stalins face on billboards all over Moscow.
Vladimir Makarov, with the Moscow City Government advertising committee confirms to Fox News Stalin’s face will be on at least 10 huge billboards. The exact design is not finalized but he says “we do not say Staliin was not a criminal, we’re only saying this man was the Commander in Chief when the Soviet Union and it’s Allies defeated the Germans and we can’t erase him from history.”
Of course not erasing him from history and putting his face on billboards is quite another matter to Russians we talked to in the street. One woman said “so many people suffered fromk this man, generations of people who are still alive, families, good smart people simply vanished because of Stalin”.
Imagine if Germany suddenly put up billboards of Adolf Hitler? Unfair comparison? Last year the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe declared Stalin was equally to blame as Hitler for mass genocide in Europe. In fact Stalin secretly made a deal with Hitler to carve up Countries like Poland.
Stalin, vicious and paranoid, arranged for hundreds of thousands of Russians to be spirited away to Gulags or workcamps. He used ‘purges’ to execute thousands of members of the Communist Party he found to be threatening. He starved millions of people. But none of those facts and that history will make it to the Moscow City Hall billboards.
Only his role as Commander in the Patriotic War will be posted, but of course the fact many say Russia won the war despite Stalins bad leadership won’t be on the billboards either. None of the facts surrounding his dismissal of his best Generals leading up to the War, his refusal to believe his Intelligence agencies and top Generals warning Germany was about to attack, and in the hours following Germany’s attack Stalins refusal to allow his forces to fight back or counter attack won’t make the billboards either.
So is it just bad judgement or a mistake Stalin’s Soviet image will be polished up and posted on billboards here? Critics say it goes deeper than that. The Kremlin is trying to spruce up Russia’s image as former Soviet Countries have documented how harsh their citizens were treated under Stalin and others. And of course the Kremlin needs people to respect authority in a Country which imitates democracy, but according to opposition leaders, has no free and fair elections or free press. So they are starting with Stalin. As historian Vladimir Ryzhkov put’s it “they are trying to control minds, to control understandings of people”.
But Stalin will be a tough sell in a Country where people hear stories from their fathers and mothers about what terrible things happened to their relatives under Stalin and his henchmen who came in the midle of the night and took people away. The billboards will bring back those memories and more.