The Return of Uncle Joe Crisis-Stricken Russians Nostalgic for Stalin


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Part 2: Like Germans Glorifying Nazis

Stalin opponents, however, are outraged and horrified. For the human rights organization Memorial, the Luzhkov decision is a "sacrilege." And a group of notable intellectuals calls the efforts "tasteless" and "idiotic," pointing out that honoring Stalin in modern-day Moscow is akin to Germans today "glorifying leading Nazis."

Stalin was "a complete failure as commander-in-chief" and had the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens on his conscience, writes the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Alexander Avdeyev, Russia's culture minister, classified him as an "executioner" who was to blame for the fact "that our country lost almost an entire century in its development." And both human rights organization Memorial and the anarchist group Autonomous Action announced their intention to remove the Stalin icons or to put up opposing posters of their own.

How can the son of an alcoholic shoemaker and a cleaning lady from the Georgian city of Gori, whose body has been buried at the Kremlin for 57 years, still divide an entire people today?

Cruel and Vindictive

Josef Stalin was a psychopath, pathologically suspicious, cruel and vindictive. He ruled the Soviet realm with an iron fist for three decades, exposed 190 million people to his social experiments and made terror part of the rhythm of life for an entire country.

Stalin drove 20 to 25 million people to their deaths. He allowed farmers to starve to death and exterminated almost the entire elite, even signing the death warrants of some of his closest war comrades with the stroke of a pen. Mussolini believed that the Kremlin leader was secretly a fascist. Nevertheless, Stalin was a hero in the eyes of his subjects. His propagandists were so adept at portraying Stalin as the red czar that half the country wept when he died in 1953.

And now, half a century later, do the Russians still believe in his genius? There is no doubt that Stalin is back in vogue.

More than a dozen new statues of Stalin have been erected in Russia in the recent past, in addition to the more than 200 that still existed in the country: in the Siberian diamond-mining town of Mirny, at High School No. 2 in Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains, and in the Siberian village of Kureika, where Stalin spent his exile under the czar.

'Stalin Raised Us to Be Loyal'

Once again, Moscow residents can read the phrase "Stalin raised us to be loyal to the nation" when they walk into the Kurskaya metro station in Moscow, where a frieze bearing the inscription has now been restored. And anyone who is interested can visit the website of notorious Stalin apologists or, in any bookstore, choose among dozens of works of lightweight Stalin literature, arranged next to the shelves of bestsellers, with titles like: "Stalin's Great War," "Stalin's Terror: The Great Lie of the 20th Century" or the five-volume work "200 Legends About Stalin."

Volume 14 of Stalin's "Collected Works," which were no longer published after 1951, is now on the market again. There is even an 800-page book that contains all the information that was meticulously recorded in notebooks in Stalin's outer office, such as the names of people who went in and out of the general secretary's office, together with the exact times of their arrival and departure. A new schoolbook goes so far as to praise Stalin as an effective manager.

Stalin critics, on the other hand, are having a tough time of it. A grandson of the dictator is suing the liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy for €258,000 in damages, because the broadcasters claimed that Stalin approved the executions of 12-year-olds in the 1930s. And in Arkhangelsk, a history professor was arrested for investigating the mass deportations under Stalin and -- absurdly -- charged with having violated the "private sphere of Soviet citizens."

No Public Outcry

There was no public outcry in either case. According to a survey by the Levada Center, an independent polling organization, almost one in three Russians regards the former Kremlin leader "with respect" or "with sympathy," while 2 percent of respondents even said that they regarded Stalin "with enthusiasm." Some 38 percent said they were indifferent to the former dictator, while opponents of Stalin were in the minority.

Does this explain why the chairman of the organizing committee for the May 9 celebration -- none other than President Dmitry Medvedev's chief of staff -- initially decided that Stalin posters could not be displayed for the commemorative event, but then caved in? The organizers were "strictly against it," says his spokesman, but points out that his office, unfortunately, lacks the authority to dictate to Moscow residents how they should decorate their city. At the end of last week, there were rumors that the controversial images might be displayed in only a few prominent places.

On Wednesday, the city government put up small posters of Stalin around Moscow, the news agency Reuters reported. Some of the posters were within exhibits about World War II, while others were displayed outside museums.

The mayor responded to his critics by saying that May 9 is a day to honor war veterans, and they happened to have fought in Stalin's name. But, he added, it was also a day "for our children, so that the memory of the great victory remains in their hearts and minds" -- and to that end, it was important that they know the name of the man who was commander-in-chief at the time.


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Norberto_Tyr 05/07/2010
1. Some people is nostalgic even of the plague
Some people is nostalgic even of the plague, they can rationalize by arguing that it would be less people to feed, less pollution, an improvement for the environment, even some evil people will be punished for their sins in this planet and so on. Everything can be argued if you do not believe in truth, as the old sophists rightly asserted. We do not have senses to perceive truth, therefore truth does not exist. We do have senses to perceive pain, therefore pain exists, we do not have senses to perceive that abstract entity called money (abstract power) but we have senses to enjoy what we can buy with money, we do not have senses to perceive beauty but we have senses to perceive pornography, the brain, the second favorite organ of Woody Allen (in his stolen words) and myself. But lets put ideas in order. The old master Schopenhauer rightly said that we oscillate between pain and boredom, then, we must ask on what side of the pendulum the Russians and fans are located at the moment? Perhaps they are looking for some entertainment like in the old good times of Lenin, alias comrade Ulianov, or Bronstein, alias comrade Trotsky. After all, you cannot compare the excitement of selling oil and gas through the Internet with the great fun of conquering the new world by the Conquistadores on a one to ten thousands basis, the last great epic so far. Or perhaps they are missing their constructive role performed by the good old Stalin (Jugasvily the Ossetian) and his two old drinking companions, Delano and Winston, at the Yalta conference distributing world resources and areas of influence, inventing fundamentally flawed organizations such as the World Bank of Romeo and Juliet, the IMF (South American mothers scare children with the FMI when thy refuse to eat the soup, as the modern Greeks will experience soon), the UN (un-known, un-predictable, un-fair, un-effective and useless), the Insecurity Council (from Saddam's perspective), that blind or partially blind mouse also called the International Court of Justice, et cetera. I would advice Stalin nostalgic people recalling the old adage: "be wary of what you wish for, since it might come true…".
BTraven 05/12/2010
2. *
I find it quite strange that the coverage of the celebrations of liberation from fascism, in Germany the noun capitulation is still used which, I believe, must quite incomprehensible to many foreigners, is so much focussed on Stalin that everybody who did not attend the history lessons where WWII was taught must have the impression why Russian celebrate the defeat of Germany when Stalin was such a cruel dictator. It is obvious that the authors tried to draw parallels between Hitler and Stalin. Where did they take the chutzpah as predecessors of those who willingly played havoc with Soviet Union? Why did they not write about the success of its economy in the late 30s? According to many scientists it was most successful time of Soviet Union. I do not want to glorify Stalin but it should be mentioned because it helps to understand why many people yearn for a ruthless leader. By the way Stalin policies was directed to improve the living conditions of Russians while Hitler, from the beginning of his reign, was focussed on making Germany ready for a war.
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