Staunton, Sept. 14 – It is important to understand that growing popular support for Stalin among Russians is a side effect of the Kremlin’s effort to elevate the position of leader which Putin now occupies and to promote a positive image of Russian history, one that must not be tarnished by anyone, Denis Volkov says.
What that means, the head of the Levada Center says, is that the Kremlin is not promoting the rehabilitation of Stalin as such and that the Russian people are not participating in that directly but rather the two other goals the Putin regime is promoting have had that effect (svoboda.org/a/vozvraschenie-generalissimusa/31456588.html).
And that has side effects that the regime itself may not welcome. While it undoubtedly is pleased that ever more Russians believe that repressions under Stalin were fewer than they thought earlier, the Kremlin can’t be entirely comfortable with the popular notion that under Stalin, repressions were directed at the elite rather than the population.
That is, the sociologist continues, they believe that Stalin punished those who were corrupt among the elite, something that is not going on now and that many Russians wish were happening but that those around the Kremlin can hardly want to become the definition of a new policy direction.
Among younger Russians, support for Stalin is growing, but this support is best characterized as “Stalinization-lite,” Volkov suggests. “For the majority of those who are younger, it is not even about victory” but rather about the idea that Russia’s history should be celebrated rather than criticized.
But there remain many Russians who do not deify Stalin. Particularly prominent in them are those peoples who were deported or suffered especially heavily during collectivization or the war. People among these groups remember and they aren’t going to take a positive attitude toward Stalin however much others may.
And that points to another side effect of the Kremlin’s policy. If it has led to greater support for Stalin among the population than the regime really wants, it has also led to a deepening of divisions in the population between those who suffered the most and those who didn’t or have forgotten.
That too is going to have consequences very different than the regime wants and is a sign that Stalin however popular he may be in some quarters is such an anathema in others that the further promotion of him as the exemplar of the leader may backfire as well, leaving the population of the Russian Federation even more divided than it needs to be.
And since unity is what the regime wants, it will have to face the reality that its own policies are producing exactly the opposite.