Staunton, December 21 – Stalin remains a polarizing figure in Russia; but this week, on his 141st birthday, he is more popular than he has been in some time, Anna Dolgareva says. Many are inclined to explain this by reference to the desire many Russians have for a strong hand after all the difficulties they have experienced since the collapse of the USSR.
But in fact, the Svobodnaya pressa commentator says, the causes are deeper and therefore more powerful and likely to be more long-lasting. For many, Stalin serves as a surrogate for a lost God; and for others, he created the Soviet Union as it exists in the minds of most and thus is the obvious model for a restoration (svpressa.ru/post/article/285297/).
“If the current cult of Stalin were based exclusively on the idea that he was the antithesis of the 1990s,” Dolgareva says, “it would hardly be so firmly rooted in the Russian soul.” What is really explains it is that Russians like many others are searching for the God they lost in the course of the 20th century. “We are looking for a god.”
“The 20th century was a century of the loss of God throughout Europe, not only in rusisa where churches were burned. All of Europe in general has been losing God, in part because of the trauma of World War I, after which it was difficult to imagine the existence of a Divinity that would have allowed that.”
But “to an even greater degree,” she suggests, scientific and technical progress and the inability of religious leaders to come up with an adequate response meant that ever more people felt that god had left them and that there was no one above them in control of the situation. That led to fears that in turn led people to seek to fasten on to surrogates.
After the Bolshevik attack on religion in the 1920s, Stalin provided such a figure and also provided people with what they thought was the certainty of an image of how society is and how it should be. That quest for certainty that religion had provided before was solved; and many Russians continue to follow the same path.
“For many residents of the former Union, the figure of Stalin is nothing but the iamge of a divinity, or at least unconsciously as something close to it, an all-powerful and all-blessing person possessing the right to punish and pardon and firmly connected with the prospect of paradise,” either lost (the USSR) or potentially regained (“USSR 2.0”).
Because none of the Soviet leaders who came after him played that role, Stalin has become wrapped up in the minds of Russians with the idea of the USSR as such, given that ‘we in general do not know what the USSR would have been like without Stalin” and therefore conflate him and it.
People still are searching for a god with a vision of the future, and for many in Russia, Stalin remains the most plausible substitute, especially at a time when the country may have a strong leader but not someone who offers a transcendent vision of what they should work for and what they are to become.