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


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Part 5: 'In Those Days, People Like Putin and Medvedev Would Have Been Shot'

"Finally, finally, public opinion has turned around again after a phase of anti-Stalinism," says historian and writer Yuri Mukhin, who runs the leading Stalin website. According to Mukhin, Stalin tried to maintain his connection to the people, while the current elite merely get richer at the people's expense. "The Russians would understand," says Mukhin, slipping into the language of the Stalin era, "that in those days, people like Putin and Medvedev would have been shot."

Mukhin is very popular, because most Russians don't know how brutal the Stalin dictatorship really was. They are just as skeptical about the figures relating to the great terror as they are about reports on the Katyn massacre.

Is it really that difficult to discover the truth about Stalin? Oleg Naumov can provide one answer to this question. He is the director of the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History, the former central party archive of the Soviet Union.

He spreads out his treasures in his office not far from the Kremlin. One of the pieces is Stalin's red party book, where bears the number 000 0002 and was issued on May 29, 1936, which contains receipts for the leader's membership dues. According to the record, in 1948 he earned a monthly salary of 10,000 rubles and paid 300 rubles a month in party dues.

Locked Away

Another piece is a copy of Lenin's work "The State and Revolution," in which Stalin scribbled notes in red, including on the cover. He made a particularly large amount of notes in the section dealing with control over the class that is to be oppressed. Also using a colored pen, the Kremlin leader corrected secret maps of the front in January 1945, when the Red Army was on the outskirts of Kaliningrad.

Naumov's "Fund 558" contains 16,174 files, including a collection of Stalin's documents locked away in two windowless concrete towers. Only a decade ago, the Kremlin gave him another 1,700 documents from the so-called Presidents' Archive. "No one knows exactly how many of Stalin's documents are still in existence," says Naumov.

How can a country investigate its past under such conditions? To make matters worse, many documents, most of them containing sensitive information about Stalin's foreign policy, are still classified. Naumov has a few hundred of them in his collection.

Doesn't the law require the release of the documents after 30 years? The archive director smiles. It isn't automatic, he says, adding that the relevant commission is completely overwhelmed by its task of examining these documents. Only recently, says Naumov, representatives of the FSB, Russia's domestic security agency, stopped the release of a speech by the later NKVD director Nikolai Yezhov to intelligence agency employees in 1934. The FSB officials noted that the speech "still revealed far too much about the operational work of his agency."

Time to Look at Stalin's Legacy

Nevertheless, the opening of the archive is expected to continue. Naumov has signed an agreement with Yale University, under which Americans and Russians will jointly establish an electronic archive of all non-classified Stalin documents within three years.

The time has come to take a serious look at Stalin's legacy, the archive director believes. He is convinced that it will promote the truth: the truth about the camps, Katyn, the war and the Battle of Rzhev -- no matter what happens on May 9.

Perhaps Russia will find out who Josef Vissarionovich Stalin really was, after all.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


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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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