Monday, March 23, 2020

1966 Appeal by Soviet Intellectuals Against Re-Stalinization Still Relevant, Zolotonosov Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 19 – Vladimir Putin has personally supported an appeal by a schoolchild in Russian-occupied Crimea to republish for all pupils in Russia copies of the May 10, 1945 edition of Pravda about the end of World War II in Europe and Stalin’s role in that victory (

            That action, St. Petersburg commentator Mikhail Zolotonosov says, gives new relevance to a text 25 leading Soviet scholars, writers and intellectuals, including Andrey Sakharov and Petr Kapitsa, sent to Leonid Brezhnev on February 14, 1966 warning against what they saw as the beginnings of re-Stalinization (

            Their letter, the commentator says, represents “an exhaustive commentary on the latest ‘popular’ initiative.”  “In recent times,” they wrote, “in certain speeches and in articles in our press have appeared tendencies directed essentially at the partial or indirect rehabilitation of Stalin.”

            Such actions are unjustified because no new facts have appeared to suggest that “the condemnation of the cult of personality was somehow incorrect. On the contrary.” Each piece of new research only confirms the correctness of those who launched that campaign.

            “We consider,” the authors continued, “that any attempt to whitewash Stalin contains within itself the danger of serious divisions within Soviet society. Stalin is responsible not only for the deaths of innumerable innocent people, for our lack of preparation for the war, but also for a retreat from Leninist norms in party and state life.”

            “By his crimes and mistaken actions, he so perverted the idea of communism that the people will never forgive it. “ The Soviet people will never forgive a decision to reverse the campaign against the cult of personality and “no one will be able to take decisions [about it] out of its consciousness and memory.”

            “We are convinced for example that the rehabilitation of Stalin will generate great agitation among the intelligentsia and seriously complicate the attitudes among our young people.” And we believe it will have serious consequences for our relations both with fraternal communist parties and with foreign governments.

            “We cannot fail to write what we think,” the authors concluded. “It is perfectly clear that a decision of the CPSU Central Committee on this issue cannot be4 viewed as an ordinary decision taken in the course of work. In one way or another, it will have historical significance for the fates of our country. We hope that this will be considered.”

            Brezhnev’s staff turned the matter over to KGB head Vladimir Semichastny, Zolotonosov says, and the chekist came back with what one would expect from that quarter. The letter had circulated widely in Moscow’s intellectual circles and even in the West, he said; and that was the reason it was written, to attract attention and harm the Soviet regime.

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