Staunton, Dec. 26 –The popularity of historian Sergey Belyakov’s new best seller on the life of Georgy Efron, the son of Marina Tsvetaeva who returned to the USSR as she did but who died not by his own hand but in the fight against the Germans, helps to explain why there is as much nostalgia for Stalinist times as there is now.
In an interview with Novaya gazeta, Belyakov says that “in our imagination, the Moscow of those years consists of black and white pictures from movies and repressions. This is true but it is not the entire truth. Alongside the horrors were joys of life” and while “life was bloody, it was also beautiful” (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2021/12/26/zhizn-byla-krovavaia-no-krasivaia).
What that means, the historian continues, is that today’s nostalgia for that period is “no accident. When people say that half of the country was in prison and the other half was guarding it, that isn’t so. In my family,” he relates, “there are no personal accounts to settle with Soviet power.” His ancestors were neither prisoners nor guards.
“I understand that the era of the Great Terror and especially collectivization was possibly the most horrible time in the history of Russia after the oprichnik period. But not all of the Stalin era is reduceable to the Great Terror. Even in that period, there were some bright interludes.” And those remain in people’s memories.
There was “a sense of confidence in tomorrow and in stability,” a sense which has been missing in recent years, Belyakov says. “People look at the latest official who has been arrested … and they remember that Stalin was modest” unlike many of the current elite and “that both his sons fought at the front,” again unlike many in the current powers that be.
“People are beginning to idealize the past,” he says his research has led him to conclude, because “they need a good past. One can’t happily live and build a new Russia if one thinks that everything in the past was black and horrible.”