Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s Future Belongs Not to the Opposition but to the Stalinized Young, Pavlova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 5 – The supporters of Stalin and those who want to continue his political approach have in fact “triumphed” in today’s Russia, and these people consist not of the older generation but of the young who have grown up in the course of the re-Stalinization of the country during the last 15 years, according to Irina Pavlova.

            In an essay posted on, Pavlova, one of the most thoughtful if often contrarian commentators about developments in Russia, argues that those who talk about “re-Stalinization” today have missed the fact that this trend has been going on for some time and affects many who define themselves as opponents of the regime (

                The latter, even when they condemn Stalin for repression do not oppose “the model of state administration” which he employed.  They do not condemn the “stratification” of everything but rather see this as exemplifying “the ‘special’ historic path of Russia.”  And such feelings have only increased given their disappointments with the West.

            Such regime opponents acknowledge that under Stalin “there was order, crime was justly punished, the bosses were kept in check by fear, any ‘fifth column’ was correctly dealt with, and what is the main thing, the country rose up, won [the war] and was feared by everyone” because of its power. 

            “The popularity of the Stalinist myth is both a dialogue and a sentence: for the powers that be, the so-called reformers, society and especially the intelligentsia,” Pavlova continues, a reflection of the drumbeat of articles, books and films over the last 15 years that have presented Stalin as a state figure.

            In these presentations, “the Stalin model really is almost ideal,” the Russian commentator writes. “But what is it a model of? The administration of the country? The development of society? No, instead, it is about the retention of power by a group of people who happen to be in power at a particular moment.” 

            At the base of this model are certain “Russian historical traditions,” but Stalin perfected it. Under its terms, “the supreme power acts in the country like a conqueror on occupied territories and in strictest secrecy. And the population lives like a hostage under the supervision of the special services and other force structures without even understanding its situation.”

            In certain respects, Putin has solved this task of retaining power “even more successfully than Stalin did because under the conditions of an information society, massive force is not required.”  The population can be kept in the dark about what the regime has done and is planning.

            According to Pavlova, the preconditions for this course of development were set “already in August 1991 when the mechanism of communist rule with its infrastructure secretiveness remained untouched. And when Vladimir Putin restored the practice of appointing governments, everything finally was put in its place.”

            And an important aspect of that system, she argues, is that people came to believe in “the myth of the lack of any alternative to [their] historical fate,” to accept the fact that they are “condemned to be a state people completely dependent on the supreme power” rather than a nation for whom the state is a servant.

            Further, Pavlova says, no one should deceive himself that there is any opposition capable of standing up to this regime.  Instead, the regime has gelded or decapitated or marginalized all who have tried to form any opposition to itself, just as was the case throughout the 20th century in Russia.

            “If there had been formed an opposition in Russia at the beginning of the 20th centur, there would not have been the revolutionary changes of 1917. If this had happened at the end of the 1980s and early 1990s, there would not be Putin’s all-powerful situation now.”  But it didn’t happen either time, a reflection of the fact that “in Russia today there is no civil society.”

            And that leads to the bigger conclusion that “the supporters of Stalin and the continuers of his political practice have won in contemporary Russia” and that these include not elderly pensioners but rather young people “who have grown up under conditions of re-Stalinization and have adopted all these cliches about Stalin.”

            Consequently, Pavlova says, the current system is not rotting away as many hope and expect but rather moving from “a stage of creation into a stage of strengthening.” And that in turn means that “the future of Russia belongs to the Stalinized younger generation” – something that perhaps should not be so shocking if one recalls that in 1939, Stalin was only 60.

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