Staunton, Christmas 2016 – Many Russians still view Pavel Postyshev (1887-1939) as their favorite Bolshevik because of his role, as the author of a letter to “Pravda” on December 28, 1935, calling for the introduction of new year’s trees as substitute for Christmas trees that the Bolsheviks had banned (ng.ru/ng_religii/2016-12-21/6_412_staroobr.html).
Indeed, Postyshev’s idea, which spread rapidly across the Soviet Union, brought a dash of color and occasion for happiness in the otherwise drab and depressing world of Stalin’s times and is remembered with fondness even now when it is possible to celebrate Christmas without state interference (azbyka.ru/deti/kak-novogodnyaya-elka-prevratilas-v-rozhdestvenskuyu).e
To this day, some view it as a way that Christmas was covertly kept alive and even suggest that was Postyshev’s purpose. Like many in the Stalinist guard, he came from an Old Believer background and would have had experience in coming up with ways to remember the faith without calling attention to it.
But most remember it as the mark of a happy occasion when people could exchange come together for celebratory meals and exchange presents, a truly secular Christmas not all that different from the one that unfortunately many people around the world mark in our increasingly irreligious time.
For one nation in the former Soviet space, however, new year’s trees because of Postyshev’s involvement in promoting them should be anathema. Ukrainians know that Postyshev played a key role in implementing the Holodomor, Stalin’s terror famine that killed millions of their co-nationals.
Consequently, as Ukrainians move away from the Soviet past – as when they tear down statues to Soviet leaders or introduce Santa Claus in place of Father Frost (novorosinform.org/news/64516) – they should dispense with yet another symbol linked to those who did everything in their power to destroy Ukraine and Ukrainians.