In Russia, not only is pro-Stalin sentiment on the rise, but the reimagining of Stalin as an “effective manager” instead of a brutal dictator, is as well. The legacy of Stalin is entangled in its own war on memory, with some trying to stay true to the historical reality of Stalin as the USSR leader who organized mass genocides, while others—bolstered by Kremlin propaganda—attempt to reinvent Stalin as a symbol of Russian pride and military as well as industrial glory.
I find this odd for two reasons: one, given that the USSR-era is often referred to as “The Great Socialist Experiment,” it is surprising that the leadership in Russia would support, at the very least patriotically, what many would consider a blip in Russian history. Vladimir Putin himself has denounced the violence and suppression that was characteristic of Stalin’s rule (and Soviet era leadership in general). Given that socialist ideals almost entirely contradict with those of modern Russia, or so it may seem, it strikes me odd that it is being held up with such regard. The idea of rewriting history to push a certain narrative, be that strength, greatness, productivity, etc., is not a novel one. Here in America, we do the same thing. Painting over the very racist motivation for the Civil War on the side of the Confederates as an issue of states’ rights is a famous example. This brings me to my second thought. According to Andrei Kolesnikov, the writer of this piece, one explanation of this new embrace of Stalin is that for the Russian youth, Stalin is a figure from the distant past. I have to strongly push back against this. Kolesnikov like many other Russians had grandparents that faced the tyranny of Stalin. This is recent, not ancient history. To say that Stalin is too far in the past for youngsters to grasp the gravity of his rule gives them a scapegoat. It is for this that I view monuments commemorating Stalin slightly differently from monuments of Confederate generals. While both are abhorrent to me, one reopens wounds that are fresh, too fresh to try to reinterpret.
“Acceptance of the view that Stalin is guilty of killing millions of innocent people dropped from 62 percent in 2016 to 44 percent in 2018.” Sentiment and the interpretation of legacy is one thing that is possibly up for debate, but reality cannot be. To doubt factual accounts is separate from viewing a historical event from an opposing perspective.