Thursday, January 25, 2018

Stalin had ‘a Cult of Personality,’ Brezhnev One ‘Without Personality,’ and Now Putin has ‘a Cult of the Cult of Personality,’ Gutmakher Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 25 – Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin for building up “a cult of personality,” and Soviet dissidents described the situation under Leonid Brezhnev as “a cult without a personality.” But now Tata Gutmakher says, Vladimir Putin, in an act of cowardice before the late dictator, has formed “a cult of the cult of personality.”

            The Moscow commentator draws that conclusion on the basis of Moscow’s decision to ban the satirical film, “The Death of Stalin,” an action that the Kremlin says is not an act of censorship ( but that she and many others can clearly see is exactly that (

            And what that means, Gutmakher continues, is that “in present-day Russia the ruler isn’t event a tyrant but rather cowardice in the face of this tyrant.” Those who fear Stalin now insist that “in Russia, the death of Stalin must never be, even in a movie” and declare that they will “resist [this] historical truth” and treat that monster as a kind of saint.

             But this ban on satire has an unexpected outcome, she continues. It means that the regime is afraid of such a portrayal of the past – and that in turn shows that the satire in this case is “working” as intended. And the ban also calls attention to the fact that the authorities are using expressions lifted directly from Stalinist times.

            Gutmakher’s comments reflect the judgment of many in the Russian blogosphere ( who are simultaneously laughing at the absurdity of the Kremlin action and worried about the fact that this ban suggests where Vladimir Putin is headed ( and

            But in an Internet age where banning a film from theaters will do little to prevent people from watching it online, the Kremlin leader has guaranteed that this film will be watched by an enormous share of the Russian population who are more likely to laugh than get angry.  The only question now is who will have the last laugh.

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