Friday, July 19, 2019

Attitudes toward Stalin Divide Along Class Lines, Not Assessments of His Crimes, Historian Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – Many believe that those who oppose erecting statues to Stalin consist of those who condemn him for his many crimes and that those who support such statues either deny those crimes or excuse the Soviet dictator because of his other successes, Igor Pykhalov says.

            But in fact, the historian continues, the root of the division lies in “the objectively existing class division of society and discussions about whether monuments [to Stalin] should be permitted are only a reflection of this division.” The line between them is not defined by “who was subjected to repressions and who wasn’t” (

                “The main cause,” he says, “consists in the following: After 1991 when socialism was destroyed in the country a society of injustice and a society based on theft from a large part of the population by a smaller one. We now have an elite which one way or another takes for itself the fruits of the labor of the main part of the population.”

            “Therefore,” Pykhalov says, “we have a really divided society, and this split ill continue until the current social order is replaced and we again return to a state of justice.  One can ban putting up monuments [as the Presidential Human Rights Council wants to do] but this contradiction within out society isn’t going away on its own.”

            According to the historian, “the present elite simply hates Stalin because its members know perfectly well that if Stalinist times were to return, that it would be they who would be subjected to repressions.” Indeed, he says, “those in the elite who fight Stalin’s memory as a rule are those who project this historical situation on themselves and are afraid of its repetition.”

            Nakanune journalist Pavel Martynov who quotes Pykhalov also cites the words of Aleksey Denisyuk, one of the activists behind the erection of a monument to Stalin in Novosibirsk.  Denisyuk says that of course there were innocent victims under Stalin but there were others as well.

                But then Martynov comes at the issue of monuments from a different perspective, asking Pykhalov about memorials to others including anti-Stalinists like Boris Yeltsin.  The historian says that in his view, “the overwhelming majority” of the people of the city view Yeltsin with distaste even hatred but his “luxurious” center is still there because the elites want it to be.

            And he points out that some members of the elite are even prepared to celebrate those who worked against the USSR like Finland’s Marshal Mannerheim – even as they insist that any monument to Stalin is totally unacceptable.

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