Saturday, February 19, 2022

Memorial Helped Demolish Two Post-Stalin Images of ‘Perfect Prisoner,’ Makarkin Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Dec. 28 – When Khrushchev began to rehabilitate those who had been incarcerated in Stalin’s time, an image of the perfect Soviet zek emerged. He was someone who still considered himself a communist even though he had been excluded from the Communist Party.

            And according to those who held fast to this image, Moscow commentator Aleksey Makarkin says, this prisoner was ready “at any moment to oppose the enemies of Soviet power firmly knowing that it would sometime reject the clutch of adventurists led by Beria and restore justice” (

            After the fall of communism, this image of the perfect zek was replaced political prisoner was replaced by another, one in which the prisoner, now a committed Christian, was able not only to maintain his faith but also to convert his guards who despite the orders from above proved to be true Russians under the skin.

            That image was just as false as the earlier two and helped the post-Soviet regime to present what happened under Stalin in a more positive light, suggesting that the worst offenses then were superficial compared to the continuing survival of what made Russians both prisoners and guards what they were.

            Just how false those images were was shown by Solzhenitsyn and Shalamov and more recently by the work of the just banned Memorial human rights organization, Makarkin continues. Throughout its activities, it insisted that “murders can’t be justified by anything” but must be seen and denounced as a crime.

            “Formulations of the type, ‘there was a cult but there was a personality’ or ‘Stalin shot many but the patriarchate society rose again’ were for those who followed its arguments completely unacceptable,” the analyst continues. For Memorial such ‘yes, but’ or ‘on the one hand but on the other’ were unthinkable.”

            For that perhaps more than for any other reason, the current Russian powers that be had to shut that group down.

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