Stalin cult returns in Russia... :(

The Man

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Jul 2011
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The hipster precincts of Moscow these days have plenty in common with their Brooklyn cousins, Williamsburg and Bushwick: an all-too-familiar ecosystem based on coffee bars, techno clubs, bike repair shops and ample facial hair. So young visitors to one trendy barbershop perhaps can be forgiven for not recognizing the handsome young bearded man with a fashionable black-and-white scarf depicted in a mural on one wall: Joseph Stalin.

For Russian youngsters, Stalin these days is a figure from the distant past. His appearance in this kind of setting doesn’t shock anyone. Nor do many young people see this humorous marketing trick as an insult to the memory of the millions of innocent people repressed, imprisoned and killed during his long tenure as dictator of the Soviet Union.


Young visitors to one trendy barbershop perhaps can be forgiven for not recognizing the handsome young bearded man with a fashionable black-and-white scarf depicted in a mural on one wall

That represents a small victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his political allies who are waging another one of the history wars that have raged periodically in Russia for decades. Opposing them is what remains of Russian civil society, which seeks to preserve the memory of victims of repression as a way of fighting today’s authoritarian political regime.

Just as a photo of the mural was doing the rounds on social media, the Moscow mayor’s office banned this year’s installment of “Returning the Names,” an event with extraordinary emotional power in which people line up opposite the headquarters of the KGB (now FSB) to read aloud the names of those who were shot or who perished in the Gulag. In the end, the mayor’s office gave in, which perhaps helps explain why even more people than usual stood in the bitter cold for four hours to take their turn.

One of the paradoxes of Putin’s Russia is that the harsher the stance of the current regime, the higher the level of popularity for Stalin within Putin’s electoral base and the more likely these Russians are to make excuses for the Soviet dictator. This pattern became more noticeable following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014. According to data from the Levada Center, an independent pollster, 17-20 percent of respondents in 2014 had a negative view of Stalin. This figure dipped to 12 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, acceptance of the view that Stalin is guilty of killing millions of innocent people dropped from 62 percent in 2016 to 44 percent in 2018. The percentage of respondents who declined to answer that question also increased significantly from 16 percent to 29 percent. These changes reveal only one attitude to be stable: recognition of Stalin’s role in the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II barely budged during this period.


A woman, next to a girl, holds a portrait of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and takes a selfie at his grave outside the Kremlin on the Red Square in Moscow on March 5, 2019 as members of different Communist and Left movements gather to mark the 66th anniversary of Stalin’s death.

Even Putin’s closest allies readily admit that Stalin was a cruel tyrant. But thanks to the Kremlin’s well-crafted propaganda efforts, the dictator is once again becoming a symbol of Russian pride and military and industrial glory. For average Russians, Stalin is seen as an “effective manager” (as one history teachers’ handbook described him) or as a symbol of a glorious Soviet past whose image is routinely burnished in pop culture thanks to things like the popular television serials that present positive and romantic images of Stalin’s feared secret police, the NKVD.

Russia, of course, is no stranger to these kinds of history wars. Stalinists and anti-Stalinists fought it out following the Khrushchev Thaw in the mid-1960s and Gorbachev’s perestroika in the 1980s. In the absence of any national agreement on Stalin’s crimes, there is still plenty of room for the mythology of the Russian state to be framed around an official policy of simplifying the past and whitewashing the darkest pages of Russian history.

Increasingly, this war over memory is spilling over into a war over monuments. A new wave of “people’s initiatives” to commemorate Stalin has appeared in recent years. In the latest incident, a public hearing was held in Novosibirsk, Russia’s third biggest city, over whether to put up a bust of Stalin in the city. Imagine a similar debate somewhere in Stuttgart on whether to erect a bust of Hitler.


Andrei Kolesnikov installs a plaque in memory of his grandfather, David Traub.

Russian civil society is still capable of exchanging blows with the Stalinists. At the Kommunarka former NKVD shooting range on the outskirts of Moscow, where 6,609 people were shot, a Wall of Remembrance listing the names of the victims was opened on October 27, 2018. Completion of the memorial was complicated by a debate on whether to include the names of executioners, who were themselves later repressed. Still, this is another important step in memorializing victims of the regime.

Another battle is being waged over a building on Moscow’s historic Nikolskaya Street, just a few hundred meters from the Kremlin. People were shot en masse in the basement of the building when it housed the dreaded military division of the Supreme Court. Now the owner of the building intends to open an upscale perfume store over the bones of those slaughtered there. Memorial finds itself not only doing combat with the state, but also with the avant-garde of Russia’s glamorous consumer culture, who see nothing terrible in Stalin, and whose historical memory has been wiped out entirely.

It’s worth remembering that civil society in the Soviet Union was itself born from anti-Stalinism, and it continues to develop in modern Russia on precisely the same grounds. Another ambitious project titled The Last Address, encourages people to remember Stalin’s victims by erecting memorial plaques on apartment buildings to which arrested victims never returned. The project reveals not only the scale of Stalin’s crimes but also the scale of resistance to the new Stalinists in today’s Russia. And this is one more flank of the history war: Recently in St. Petersburg, local authorities supported a denunciation. It had been stated that The Last Address violates … the Law on Advertisements.

I myself recently put up a plaque on a building right in the center of Moscow from which my grandfather was taken away; he died in the Gulag in 1946. In the building where he and our family lived until 1965 — one Moscow building alone — six people were arrested during the Great Terror. The plaque is my personal victory in my personal war of memory with the Stalinists.

In 1987, at the height of Gorbachev’s perestroika, the rock musician Boris Grebenshchikov recorded the song “This Train Is on Fire,” which included the lines “The people who shot our fathers are now making plans for our children.” Back then, more than 30 years ago, it seemed that a return to Stalinism was unthinkable.

Now the grandchildren of those who shot our grandfathers at Kommunarka and across the gigantic empire of the Gulag are making plans for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren — fighting for their minds and souls. The war over historical memory for the minds and souls of the next generations is arguably Russia’s greatest battle.

Andrei Kolesnikov is a senior associate and the chair of the Russian Domestic Politics and Political Institutions Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Why on Earth Is Russia Making Stalin Great Again?

Opening of the Wall of Remembrance at Kommunarka last year
I can't help noting that most people who went there to pay respects and such seemed to be from older generations. Young people, especially who grew up under Putin's rule, were never taught at school about Stalin's atrocities. Whatever they were taught about that period was whitewashed, embellished, glorified, and romanticized... Add all the "patriotic" movie on top of that, and modern pop singers today readily belting out Stalin-era party songs at holidays... So, they don't know and don't care, most of them, anyway...

That said, two young protesters DID attempt to disrupt the Communist Party's Stalin commemoration on Red Square this year, for first time ever
So, there are some who are awake... :)
 
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Why on Earth Is Russia Making Stalin Great Again?

Opening of the Wall of Remembrance at Kommunarka last year
I can't help noting that most people who went there to pay respects and such seemed to be from older generations. Young people, especially who grew up under Putin's rule, were never taught at school about Stalin's atrocities. Whatever they were taught about that period was whitewashed, embellished, glorified, and romanticized... Add all the "patriotic" movie on top of that, and modern pop singers today readily belting out Stalin-era party songs at holidays... So, they don't know and don't care, most of them, anyway...

That said, two young protesters DID attempt to disrupt the Communist Party's Stalin commemoration on Red Square this year, for first time ever
So, there are some who are awake... :)
Crazy. I’ve listened to stuff on Russia before. They are such a bizarre nation.
 
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The Man

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Crazy. I’ve listened to stuff on Russia before. They are such a bizarre nation.
It's very strange.

Inside Russia, most Russians seem to never even be able to function in a genuine democracy. Even at the lowest, most basic level, such as a parents' association at a Russian school, it devolves either into a total farce where, typically, the wealthiest parents simply hold all the influence, while all the others simply bow to them and bow OUT of the whole thing, many barely even attend the meetings, since there's no point; or, alternatively, they think deciding things via voting is bs, and actual fighting breaks out in the meetings over various issues
(and yes, most of the fights are between moms rather than dads haha Simply, honestly, because it is the women who tend to go to these things, more traditional gender roles over there, the women are expected to handle the kids...)

And from there it goes upward, to national elections. Which is how Putin has been in power for two decades already. And some regional governors - even longer than him... Because most people over there want some long time "strong figure" at the top, always, to believe in and appeal to against injustices and malpractices by their own local authorities... Be it Stalin, Putin, etc. Been that way since the Romanovs ruled there. Hell, since the fucking Mongols ruled there. Maybe even before the Mongols too...

But, what's crazy is, you take Russians OUT of Russia, you put them into a normal, free, democratic country with a strong tradition of those things; and they adapt very fast and most (we have our backwards assholes too, like everyone lol) become perfectly fine members of those societies, and function very well in them... Eternal paradox, to me...

Look at Ukrainians also. They come from same blood as Russians. Fraternal nations. Yet they are diametrically different. They refuse to accept corrupt authoritarian rule. They protest, rebel, and fight


I don't get it. I don't...

Only theory I have, not mine, I read it somewhere before, about differences between Russians and Ukrainians, is that, when the old Rus proto-Slavic civilization split up, centuries ago, the modern Ukrainian nation developed in the steppes, in the South. The Russians developed in the Northern areas, in the forests and swamps. Steppe peoples are traditionally more freedom-loving, more independent, riding around on their horses like the wind. While in the cold North, perhaps strong collectivism and conformity was long required, to survive together...

That's just one theory though...
 
Likes: remington50
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Seems similar to the rise of the Nazis again in some places among the youth. Its like they see a cool club or something. Like these Russians, I bet they werent taught much about WWII.
 
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The Man

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Seems similar to the rise of the Nazis again in some places among the youth. Its like they see a cool club or something. Like these Russians, I bet they werent taught much about WWII.
Many racists and xenophobes over there also like Stalin, because he persecuted Muslim ethnic minorities that those types still don't like today, he forcibly exiled many Chechens and Ingushs from North Caucasus, and Tatars from Crimea to the deserts in Central Asia. Countless deaths in the process, of course. There are plenty of voices among the right-wing over there who feel that was a perfectly reasonable way to treat those folks...

And in some other people, it is also a kind of reaction too. They have brought into modern propaganda that casts Poland, the various Baltic counties, Ukraine, etc, as enemies. And they DON'T like Stalin. Therefore any patriotic Russian, in their view MUST like him...
 
Likes: bajisima
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Idk Ukraine seems still to be quite corrupt and dangerous country to live, not much different from Russia or Belarus.

"Look at Ukrainians also. They come from same blood as Russians. Fraternal nations. Yet they are diametrically different. They refuse to accept corrupt authoritarian rule. They protest, rebel, and fight "
Those who rebel and fight are mostly far right nationalists, who would not mind even more authoritarian rule, they just dont like Poroshenko and others.

Russians like Stalin and ukrainians Bandera. Both war-criminals.
 
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