Staunton, December 20 – Stalin must be honored for his role in the industrial transformation of the USSR and in the victory over fascism, according to 60 Volgograd communist activists who erected a statue of the late Soviet dictator on the eve of the 140th anniversary of his birth; but they add that his repressive methods are “unacceptable” now.
But their decision to dedicate a statue to the late dictator on the eve of the 140th anniversary of his death nonetheless offended others in the city that used to be called Stalingrad; and thee of them picketed the assembly honoring him. Their protest was denounced by the local committee of the KPRF (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/343786/).
What is most striking about the debate between these two groups is that both are focusing on the present rather than on Stalin’s times, with those who support the statue saying that he must be honored for doing what Putin isn’t doing – industrializing the country and helping the poorest – and those opposed saying that Stalin must not be honored lest Putin engage in similar repressions.
In short, this argument is not about the past as some imagine but about the present and especially about the policies of the Putin regime, and many who would be dismissed as favoring repression because they support such statues are just as much against repression as those who come out against such memorials.
Mikhail Tarantsov, a former communist deputy, says that “today, Putin must act exclusively according to the law. If he acted even according to today’s less than perfect law and the norms of the Constitution, this would be sufficient for the situation in the country to change in favor of ordinary people.”
Ilya Kravchenko, a current city deputy, says that putting up a statue of Stalin in Volgograd is appropriate given his role in industrializing the city and winning the war. “It wouldn’t be a bad thing if Putin were to struggle for the rebirth of industrial production and providing ordinary people with material goods.”
But “instead of concern about the population,” he continues, “we have in fact poverty. Instead of the restoration of production, we have to buy Western equipment.” But while Putin should copy Stalin in that, there is “absolutely no justification” for using Stalin’s methods against dissent. The situation is different, and repressions must end.
Those who came out against the statue of Stalin agree that there must not be any more repressions but insist that monuments to him must not go up lest they send the wrong signal to the current leaders. Aleksandra Pavlova, a student, says that it is wrong to ignore the crimes Stalin committed because of his achievements.
Another Volgograd resident says she doesn’t see any reason for the statues. No one would dispute Stalin’s role as a historic figure, but monuments to hm aren’t needed. “What is the sense in them?”
And local Yabloko leader Aleksandr Yefimov says that such monuments must not appear because they honor a killer responsible for the deaths of millions and also for the second world war which happened because of his criminal deal with Hitler in the form of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Stalin’s role in what is now Volgograd is undoubted, however, not only in terms of its industrialization but its special place as a turning point in World War II. But despite that, local activists say, even today, there are no statistics for the losses in that city or region as a result of Stalin’s crimes. “We have no statistics by regions on that,” they say.