Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Putin’s Re-Stalinization Far More Dangerous than Brezhnev’s ‘Velvet’ One, Kolesnikov Says

Paul Goble
            Staunton, December 23 – “One of the most important results of the 20 years of Vladimir Putin’s rule is that the justification of Stalin has become a social norm,” Andrey Kolesnikov says. “Some praise Stalin because they lived better under him that under Putin …for others, he is a symbol of order [and] for a third group, he is a funny and fearless personage.”

            And even those who as at Shiyes are protesting the existing order carry his portrait because they have no other language to communicate their anger, the commentator writes in The New Times. Because of the all-pervasiveness, Putin’s re-Stalinization is far more dangerous than Brezhnev’s “’velvet’” one ever was (newtimes.ru/articles/detail/189163?fcc).

            Despite the expectations and efforts of many, “the shadow of Stalin again covers the country. Busts and monuments to Stalin in various cities of Russia are being erected with a speed exceeding renovations in Moscow,” all of them taking their cue from Vladimir Putin who two days before the 140th anniversary of Stalin’s birth made clear where he stands.

            “If for Gorbachev, Lenin was good and Stalin bad, then for Putin everything is just the reverse,” Kolesnikov says.  The current Kremlin leader justified everything Stalin did in 1939 and 1940, including the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the occupation of Poland and the Baltic countries, and the invasion of Finland.

            Putin’s attitudes about Stalin have spread throughout Russian society, affecting the protesters at Shiyes and advertisers who are not about showing Stalin as funny and therefore not terrible at all.  What has happened is “the complete and final victory of Russian secondary and higher education.”

            Its products either “do not know anything about Stalinism” or they uncritically accept the praise Putin and his regime heap upon the man behind it. For Putin, “Stalin is a model to be emulated. The victory of the people in the Great Fatherland War is again in official discourse designated as Stalin’s victory.”

            Stalin’s “tragic mistakes are presented as strategic cleverness and the success of Soviet diplomacy.  [And] the organization which for long decades have sacrificed to preserve the memory about the victims of repression, Memorial,” has been chosen as a target of the powers that be, declared a foreign agent, and bankrupted by fines in the courts.”

            Of course, “Uncle Joe” would have done the same.

            Kolesnikov recounts the story that in the last moments of Stalin’s life, he raised one hand and appeared to be indicating his next victims. It seemed to many at that moment that with his passing was “the end of history. [But] it has turned out that this was only the beginning. And it, with intervals of a thaw, perestroika and the Yeltsin era has lasted to this day.”

            “Our political history is the struggle of Stalinists and anti-Stalinists. It continues and is entering its latest peak phase. The Putin rehabilitation of Stalin is more dangerous than the ‘velvet’ Brezhnevite version: in those times, re-Stalinization undermined the foundations of the regime and discredited it; in ours, it is legitimating the regime and strengthening it.”

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