Maxim Trudolyubov, opinion page editor of Vedomosti, writing in the Moscow Times:
At least 70 years after millions of people fell victim to political repression, Russia has yet to come to terms with the crimes of its Soviet past. In fact, it even seems as if nobody really wants to discuss the subject and that it has been imposed on us by some overly clever person or ill-intentioned foreigner.
But it is increasingly rare that foreigners are interested in this topic. And with so many conflicting emotions involved, many Russians continue to feel that the issue divides rather than unites society. This is not because there are so many hard-core supporters of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin, but because a significant portion of the population believes that condemning the crimes of the Soviet regime somehow reflects negatively on themselves, their parents or the older generation, and places a dark cloud over more positive memories from that period. Another factor is the traditional mistrust that some members of society feel toward the educated class, “liberals,” “reformers” and human rights activists who are typically associated with this subject.
What Putin Learned From Stalin
by Paul R. Gregory
Professor Paul R. Gregory
Show trials, mysterious deaths in prisons, thought crimes, intimidation of political opponents, and control of the media are reminiscent of Stalin’s Russia, but they are mainstays of Russia under Putin.
Unlike Stalin, Putin uses these instruments of power and intimidation behind a façade of democracy. Unlike Stalin, they are used selectively against a few citizens. Those who “mind their business” are left alone. While Stalin held power, even those who played by his rules were at risk. Modern dictators have learned that mass repressions are not necessary; selective intimidation works just as well.
Putin has created the very system that Stalin feared most: A KGB state unconstrained by any other source of power. Stalin was constantly on guard with respect to his secret police. If they and their leaders became too powerful, he had a simple solution: Kill them. Putin’s KGB state – which controls much of Russian industry, finance, and trade – has no Stalin or Politburo to rein them in.
If only there were more Russians like Andrei Zubov, a professor of philosophy at the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs, writing in the Moscow Times (good luck trying to find this kind of thing in the Russia press):
In the small town where my dacha is located, the main street is called Soviet Army, and an iron statue of Lenin stands right in the middle of it. Although the children love to play around the statue, it is a terrible place for games. The children’s parents, however, have another opinion. “Let the kids play around Grandfather Lenin,” they say. “Who is he bothering? After all, he is a funny man.”
There is nothing funny about the hundreds — perhaps thousands — of Lenin statues and memorial plaques with his profile still adorning Russia’s cities, towns and villages. As soon as my eye catches a Lenin image, I turn away in disgust. I flinch every time I am on the metro and hear the words over the loud speaker: “Next stop: The Lenin Library.” As a historian, I know all too well what crimes Lenin committed, how much blood was shed as a result of his direct orders, how many millions were killed or suffered from hunger and disease when Lenin and his comrades unleashed the Civil War and Red Terror.
A bus that began operating in Russia this month to celebrate the wonderful Russian hero known as Stalin, greatest mass killer of Russians in world history. A quote from Stalin below his image reads: "“I would like to drink a toast to the health of the whole Soviet people, and, first and foremost, the Russian people!" Presumably, his goblet would be filled with their blood.
We can only ask ourselves: What kind of barbarous, self-loathing nation is this, anyway? This man was the greatest mass-murderer of Russians in world history! How dare they?! It’s like Israel putting Hitler on a bus!
Check out that reverse view image of Stalin in the window in the background. Yikes! What a country!
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”.
The Putin regime has become so unhinged in recent days that, as Robert Amsterdam points out, even a cog in the RIA Novosti machine, writing on of all places Kremlin-funded Russia Profile, is deeply worried about the regime’s pro-Stalin stance:
If the human rights activists were more laid back, they would be able to rebuff any of their opponents’ claims not with demonstrations, but with a dull lecture for the semi-literate about the difference between a poster, a history textbook and academic research.
So, dear conservatives. There are some differences in genre. Scientific labor presupposes a kind of indifference on behalf of the scientist toward the final outcome of his study. Accepting the Solzhenitsyn Award, the great linguist Andrey Zaliznyak acknowledged the praise that he was given and stated the following: I did not try to confirm the authenticity of “The Lay of Igor’s Warfare” [an epic poem of old Russian literature], I just studied the issue. It just so happened that the authenticity was confirmed in the end. But if the poem turned out to be phony, it would have been a scientific finding all the same.
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 Estonian blogger at Blue, Black & White Alert tells of his meeting with Josef Stalin:
I recently received a Facebook friend request from Iosif Vissarionovič Džugašvili Stalin.
Yes, I’m aware: alter egos are proliferating on FB; it’s become a miniature version of the Internet with trolls and even viruses running amok. Everybody can have a second joke profile, it seems.
Still, who knows? Maybe it WAS Stalin. People come back. The rumour in this case was that the Iosif Stalin page was created by a bunch of Italian students. And, you may know what happened in one of Umberto Eco’s novels — a bunch of academic types fed a hodge-podge of classic conspiracy theories into a computer…and they became true.
So my first reaction was to become frightened. Besides killing 40 million in a detached, banal manner, this guy probably started the whole tradition of polonium ingestion and brutality that persists to this day in Russia. He’s the kind of guy who’s not smart enough to invent a gas chamber but will get envious when he hears someone else has done it and takes it out on everyone around him — before maybe stealing the gas chamber for his own use.
Posted in russia, stalin
Last Saturday marked the 16th anniversary of the Russian constitution, supposedly the nation’s bulwark against sliding back into Soviet darkness. But, as Paul Goble reports, in fact Russia is already ruled by a proud KGB spy who is Stalinizing the document at a rapid pace:
Despite all the talk about rule of law, Russia’s current powers that be are using the country’s constitution in ways that recall the manner in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin did rather than in the way in post-Soviet leader Boris Yeltsin attempted to do, according to a leading Moscow commentator.
In an essay on Grani.ru, Dmitry Shusharin says that “one needs to give the current powers that be their due: having made Constitution Day a regular work day rather than a holiday, they have behaved honestly” because their approach completely subverts the efforts of the current Russian constitution’s author.
The Times of London reports:
Now you see him, now you don’t. Stalin was a past master at the art of airbrushing. In one classic set of photographs, there Stalin is with his secret police chief, Nikolai Yezhov — and in the next photo, there Yezhov isn’t (he was executed in 1940, with his boss’s approval). And now, in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the airbrushing of history seems to be all the rage again.
Getting Russia Right
Russia’s best weapon against the West continues to be the West itself. Our inability to get Russia right, inexcusable when we have so much more information about the country now than in Soviet days, is Vladimir Putin’s only hope to recreate a new USSR in Russia.
But there are signs that, at long last, this is starting to change. Two Russian academics from the New Economic School blasted the Kremlin over the demise of Sergei Magnitsky in the pages of the Moscow Times earlier this week, and no thinking person can misapprehend their ominous words — words that, we might add, we have been publishing here on this blog for more than three years now.
Stalin takes One for the Team
A lot of evidence is emerging that Stalin was the first democrat of our country. How can a textbook prove that Stalin was a tyrant? I’ve come here to defend Stalin, to defend him against these terrible accusations. He was a great man. He united the country and created a great superpower.
Those were the words of the Russian supporters of the greatest mass-murderer of Russians in world history, Josef Stalin, gathered outside the Basmanny District Court last week, defending their hero as his legal case for libel against the heroic Novaya Gazeta newspaper went straight into the crapper.
Paul Goble reports:
Vladimir Putin is not pursuing the kind of authoritarian modernization described by Fareed Zakaria as characteristic of illiberal states but rather an updated and specifically Russian version of Stalinist modernization based on the search for enemies and the instillation of fear, according to a leading Russian commentator. But this distinction has been obscured, Irina Pavlova argues, because Putin’s approach, thanks to the possibilities offered by modern information technologies, does not require many of the features of classical Stalinism such as the GULAG and a new iron curtain even though the essence of Putin’s approach is the same.
You’re Making it too Easy for us, Mr. Putin
It used to be somewhat challenging to expose the fraud that is Vladimir Putin. The smokescreen around him, created by the accident of soaring world crude prices, combined with his malignant ability to lie without shame or remorse, were somewhat formidable obstacles.
But now, it’s like shooting fishkies in a barrel. Putin is getting desperate, and he’s getting very sloppy.
Yuck!!! Joseph Stalin's grand-son Eugeny Dzhugashvili kisses the death-mask of his grand-father. The picture was taken in the native house of Joseph Stalin.
Pots and kettles
6 August 2009
Translated from the Russian by Dave Essel
The news that Stalin’s grandson is suing Novaya Gazeta for defamation of his grandfather is not something that can or should be just laughed off as a joke. The thick mud of moral deafness and the sadomasochistic inclinations that infect both the state élite and the population as a whole have created an absurdly Kafkaesque situation in which it is quite possible that the court will find for the plaintiff. The episode, furthermore, fits in fine with a whole chain of steps that government and public bodies have been taking recently to achieve a creeping rehabilitation of the Stalinism though the application of administrative and legal levers to deny dissenters of a voice.
First and foremost, we should recall the notorious Shoigu Law. If one strips it of the verbal dross about prevention of justifications of Nazism and of belittlement of the role of the USSR in the victory over it, it is evident that the main purpose of the law is to make it possible to prosecute anyone for any condemnation of anything about how the Stalin régime ran the war or for saying anything remotely justificatory about the the actions of the régime’s enemies.
Next we have the establishment of the commission to counter the falsification of history and protect the perceived interests of the Kremlin. Its aim is of course not actually to verify any sort of facts or truth (for example, the genuineness or not of the Politburo resolution ordering the murder of imprisoned Polish officers) but solely to inveigh against evaluations of historical events that the ruling cliques consider inimical.
Following on this, we have the hysterical reaction to the resolution of the parliamentary assembly of the OSCE by our parliament which is stubbornly determined not to know that the Stalin régime brought the same evils to people as Hitler’s and that in 1939 it allied itself with Hitler’s to start the world war.
Who loves you, baby?
Paul Goble reports:
Dmitry Medvedev’s actions in recent weeks have “disoriented” many in both Russia and in the West, according to a leading Moscow commentator, because such people have failed to understand that in its operations, the leaders of today’s “power vertical” are acting in ways that resemble those of Stalin and his henchmen in the past.
That should be obvious given the simultaneous talk in Moscow now “about the need to improve the image of Russia abroad,” Irina Pavlova argues, and even more the plans to hold a forum in Washington to advance that cause later this month featuring speakers like Andranik Migranyan and Gleb Pavlovsky. But instead, the Moscow commentator continues, “many are concluding that the powers that be [in the Russian Federation] are sending signals [to their own people and the West] about the beginning of a change in policy direction and perhaps about the coming or a new ‘thaw’ or even ‘perestroika.’”
A Step at a Time translates from Gasan Guseinov’s mock letter of advice from Josef Stalin to Vladimir Putin on Grani.ru (via a tip from Jeremy Putley, whose op-ed leads this issue):
One might have thought that a sensational political assassination would free your hands for a mass purge of the bureaucratic organs. But what do we hear from your representatives? That the responsibility for it all is borne by a certain Boris Abramovich Berezovsky, who resides in London. The question arises that if he is such an influential comrade, why is he working not for you but against you? And why are the comrades, who should have complied with your instructions for comrade Berezovsky long ago, not even able to catch his hirelings from your own, Comrade Putin, reserve of cadres?
Arseny Roginsky, a founder and Chairman of Memorial, Russia’s largest human rights organization, as well as a historian and ex-inmate of the Soviet prison camps, writing on Open Democracy:
State-owned "Russia Today" tells the world Stalin wasn't really so bad after all
The memory of Stalinism in contemporary Russia raises problems which are painful and sensitive. There is a vast amount of pro-Stalinist literature on the bookstalls: fiction, journalism and pseudo-history. In sociological surveys, Stalin invariably features among the first three “most prominent figures of all times”. In the new school history textbooks, Stalinist policy is interpreted in a spirit of justification.
There are also hundreds of crucial volumes of documents, scholarly articles and monographs on Stalinism. The achievements of these historians and archivists is unquestionable. But if they do have any influence on the mass consciousness, it is too weak. The means of disseminating the information have not been there, and nor in recent years has the political will. However, the deepest problem lies in the current state of our national historical memory of Stalinism.
I should explain what I mean here by historical memory, and Stalinism. Historical memory is the retrospective aspect of collective consciousness. It informs our collective identity through our selection of the past we find significant. The past, real or imaginary, is the material with which it works: it sorts through the facts and systemizes them, selecting those which it is prepared to present as belonging to the genealogy of its identity.
Russia Votes for History
“He acted entirely rationally – as the guardian of a system, as a consistent support of reshaping the country into an industrialised state.”
— Quote from A History of Russia, 1900-1945 referring to Soviet ruler Josef Stalin, the greatest mass murderer of Russians in the nation’s history (the volume will used as a guide for teaching history in Russian schools)
For several months now, Kremlin-operated TV network “Rossiya” has been conducting a nationwide internet poll called “The Name of Russia” asking who was the most important Russian of all time. As time went on, a large field of initial nominees was winnowed down to 12 finalists, and the polls finally closed last Sunday with nearly 5 million votes having been collected from Russians across the country among the 12 finalists. The winner was to be announced live on the network’s “Vesti Nedeli” (“Kicking off the Week”) program Sunday evening.
At the same time, a specially selected “jury” of experts was asked for their opinion. The members of the 12-man (yes, all male) jury were: Metropolitan Kirill, Viktor Chernomyrdin, Valentin Varennikov, Sergei Kapitsa, Dimitri Rogozin, Alexander Tkachev, Ilya Glazunov, Gennady Zyuganov, Yuri Kublanovsky, Nikita Mikhailkov, Sergei Mironov and Andrei Sakharov Jr.
The 12 “Name of Russia” finalists included four monarchs (Peter I, Ivan IV, Ekaterina II and Alexander II) and the prime minister of a fifth (Nicholas II’s Peter Stolypin), two Communists (Lenin and Stalin), two writers (Pushkin and Dostoevsky), two generals (Alexander Suvorov and Alexander Nevsky) and a scientist (Dmitry Mendeleev).
On Sunday, we learned the Russian people’s selection.
Russia’s top opposition pundit Yevgeny Kiselyov, writing in the Moscow Times, decries Putin’s horrifying new wave of Stalinism:
Under a new amendment to the law on treason, which was sent to the State Duma on Dec. 12 for approval, I could get 12 to 20 years in prison for the article you are about to read.
The changes would give authorities extremely wide latitude to interpret what constitutes treason. This is how the old definition of treason reads: “a hostile act directed at damaging the external security of the Russian Federation.” If the Duma approves the new amendment, the phrase “hostile act” would read simply “act,” and “external security” would be broadened to “security.” In addition, treason would also include the following activities: “rendering financial, technical, consultative or other assistance to a foreign state, international or foreign organizations or their representatives in activities directed against the security of the Russian Federation, including its constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial and state integrity.”
It is not surprising that the authorities cannot explain why these changes are necessary. They only offer a vague explanation that the current wording in the Criminal Code makes it extremely difficult for investigative agencies to prove the guilt of suspected traitors — as if the law needs to be rewritten to help prosecutor’s increase their conviction ratio.
The lastest barbaric idiocy from the Russians is a contention that genocidal maniac Josef Stalin is no different for the them than Napoleon is for the French. Did we miss something? Did Napoleon build gulags and wipe out a huge segment of the French population? Are Russians proud of the fact that Stalin’s Russia, like Napoleon’s France, was totally obliterated? And why is it that the West is “irrelevant” to Russia whenever the West’s good points are at issue, but when Russia’s faults are being discussed suddenly what happens in the West is absolutely crucial? Is this national psychosis? Paul Goble reports:
An Orthodox priest in a town near St. Petersburg has sparked controversy by putting up an icon showing the figure of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, with some believers and Communists viewing this as simple justice and others as an indication that many Russians have lost any sense of proportion or truth. One of the most widely covered stories in the Russian Federation last week concerns not the actions of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or even the impact of the economic crisis but rather the decision of a priest to put up an icon portraying Stalin and the efforts of some to canonize him. The priest of St. Olga’s Church in Strel’na, Father Yevstafiy, recently put up an icon there to the Blessed Matrona of Moscow, on which Stalin was portrayed, without any of the attributes of sainthood but simply standing next to her. Thus, technically, it was not an icon of Stalin at all.
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:
Paul Goble, writing in the Moscow Times:
A lot of attention was focused on the symbolic importance when Russian forces occupied Gori, the birthplace of Stalin. Few reflected, however, that this conflict, like many others in the post-Soviet states, is the product of what many in business call “poison pills,” arrangements that make it difficult, if not dangerous, for anyone to try to takeover or even change the basic arrangements of another firm.
If the peoples of the region and the international community are to overcome this crisis and the others that are clearly on the horizon in this part of the world, they need to understand the nature and location of the poison pills Stalin inserted in his system and the dangers of swallowing them.
Mass murder is so sexy!
Writing in Prospect magazine Arkady Ostrovsky, Moscow bureau chief of the Economist magazine, tells us about “flirting with Stalin” and the horror of life in neo-Soviet Russia:
“Dear friends! The textbook you are holding in your hands is dedicated to the history of our Motherland… from the end of the Great Patriotic War to our days. We will trace the journey of the Soviet Union from its greatest historical triumph to its tragic disintegration.”
This greeting is addressed to hundreds of thousands of Russian schoolchildren who will in September receive a new history textbook printed by the publishing house Enlightenment and approved by the ministry of education. “The Soviet Union,” the new textbook explains, “was not a democracy, but it was an example for millions of people around the world of the best and fairest society.” Furthermore, over the past 70 years, the USSR, “a gigantic superpower which managed a social revolution and won the most cruel of wars,” effectively put pressure on western countries to give due regard to human rights. In the early part of the 21st century, continues the textbook, the west has been hostile to Russia and pursued a policy of double standards.
Had it not been for Vladimir Putin’s involvement, this book would probably have never seen the light of day. In 2007, Putin, then Russian president, gathered a group of history teachers to talk about his vision of the past. “We can’t allow anyone to impose a sense of guilt on us,” was his message.