The terrible visage of Joseph Stalin again escaped into the light due to peeling of plaster in the Moscow metro, one million Russian April fools pranks-2016 this “joke” was, in my opinion, the most colorful and loud. And the reason for their success — not only in the rich imagination of the authors of the draw. The reason is that “joke” again emerges from the face of the “father of the peoples” came perfectly in tact with the real modern Russian social trends.
In 1956 at the twentieth Congress of the CPSU Joseph Stalin was toppled from his pedestal of universal honour and veneration. In 2016, the creeping process of the return of the Generalissimo on this pedestal no one could ignore. According to the survey “Levada-center”, this spring the proportion of those who either definitely positive or rather positive attitude towards Stalin, made up 54% of the population. In the modern history of Russia is the absolute maximum. The number of those who believe that Stalin’s repressions were political crime that has no justification, on the contrary, has decreased significantly. In August 2007, thought so 72% of citizens of the Russian Federation. In March 2016, the comparable figure was only 45%.
Stalin returns to our lives. Returns in the form of new monuments and faces on huge billboards. Returns in the form of “political mascot” the leading opposition party in the country, the Communist party and the symbol of the desirable trajectory of development of Russia. What is behind this process? And if he brings a threat to the state and society?
photo: Mikhail Kovalev
About Stalinism without hysteria
“Sometimes Baldwin accidentally stumbled on the truth. But it quickly took itself in hands and ran away as if nothing happened” — so the great British statesman Winston Churchill described one of his predecessors as Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. It seems to me that the attitude of so many current citizens of the Russian Federation to Joseph Stalin looks like on the habits of London-statesman.
“I’m under the impression the death of a great man. I think his humanity” — so the future academic and moral leader of the Soviet democratic movement Andrei Sakharov described in the March 1953 letter to his wife Claudia and our reaction to the death of Stalin. Clearly as this example shows, millions of people, who enter at that moment into a state of deep psychological shock, there was no way to form an objective opinion on Stalin and Stalinism.
Of course, all of the then citizens of the USSR were cooked in a very sweet not Stalinist reality. But they for many years were exposed to daily, every minute and every second “exposure” on the part of the apparatus of totalitarian propaganda. They are not very imagined that reality could and should be entirely different. Of course, at that time there were people who saw everything and understood everything. But these people are either wisely kept his mouth shut, or went to places not so remote — and it is in the best case.
Reminded me as a Board member of the international human rights Foundation “memorial” Jan Raczynski, in modern Russia the problem of shortage of objective information about the reign of “father of the peoples” is also far from obsolete: “our society does not have an appropriate idea about the Stalinist crimes. Many, for example, a well-known fact: at least 670 thousand people were executed under Stalin, just like that — even without a purely formal decision of the court, by correspondence decisions of extrajudicial bodies?”
But inhabitants of the modern Russia there is every possibility, no risk, to build an objective picture of Stalin. One click of a computer mouse, and at your disposal conclusive evidence about the monstrous crimes of the “father of the peoples”. How are we supposed to relate to the fact that the free access to information about Stalin’s crimes, it seems, does not affect their “rating”? For me this fact is a source of very great disappointment. But my sorrow not mixed with indignation or even astonishment. I do not believe that the current high level of popularity of Stalin is the result of a “strange defect” of our national consciousness, or evidence of “innate tendency” of the Russian population toward totalitarianism.
I am convinced that enviable level of support for Stalin is a very complex and internally heterogeneous phenomenon, in part caused by absolutely objective reasons. To the bottom of this phenomena need to get hysterical, hasty and labeling. And the starting point of these “excavations” should, in my opinion, be an attempt to answer the following question: whether the high popularity of Stalin the real desire of the Russian population to return to our lives the orders of Stalin’s time?
Certain fanatics among the fans of the Generalissimo is the desire exactly is. But if we talk about the bulk of those who claim to modern Russia about his positive attitude to Joseph Stalin, this question can only be answered in the negative. “Sincere Stalinist can be considered as the only one who is ready at any moment to turn into a camp dust — to become nothing, for nothing. Everything else is cheap and shameless demagogy”, — said Russian political analyst Oleg Solodukhin.
photo: Mikhail Kovalev
“People tend not during the Stalin era, and the comfortable myth that today surrounds the period of socialism in General and the Stalinist era in particular.”
I am sure that at the level of logic, this thesis will make modern fans of Stalin fierce disagreement. But at the level of instincts from this point of view Oleg Solodukhina, it seems, solidarity is very significant part of the current Russian “Stalinists”. Otherwise, how else can you explain, for example, a curious sociological phenomenon: for a given “Levada center” in spring of this year the question: “You personally would like to live and work in this country’s leader, Stalin?” — either positively or rather positively answered only 23% of respondents.
The mismatch turns out, don’t you think? In principle a positive attitude to Stalin more than half of Russian citizens. But to live and work with such a leader as he strives for as much as 30% less. What evidence of this “crazy arithmetic”? It seems to me that the key to understanding the situation can be found in the following words of Oleg Solodukhina: “People tend not during the Stalin era, and the comfortable myth that today surrounds the period of socialism in General and the Stalinist era in particular. In fact, sometimes one gets the impression that in the minds of people today we again live in the socialist Soviet Union, not in the democratic market of Russia”.
Such behavior of the Russian population may seem deeply infantile. But if you dig deeper, the picture changes radically. Partial blurring the line between real history and myth — this is not our exclusive Russian feature, and the phenomenon of global scale.
The queue at the mausoleum of Mao Zedong in Beijing: like Stalin in our country, the “great helmsman” has become in China in the exceptionally popular character of mass culture.
A feature of modern Chinese popular culture is the omnipresence of the image of the “great helmsman” Mao Zedong. In China the face of the late leader is present everywhere: on tea mugs, t-shirts, in songs of popular pop singers, on store signs… And the reason for this situation lies not in some secret Directive modern leaders of the country from the Central Committee of the Communist party. The reason — the fact that the image of Mao is really required and business, and the public. But does this mean that many people in modern China really want to go back during the reign of the “great helmsman”: during the artificially created famine, failed economic experiments, brutal dictatorship and mass destruction of the population? Yes no life!
Let’s say that someone thinks China is a bad example. They say that this country has, similar to the Soviet Union a negative political experience and is still a one-party dictatorship. Okay, I will give then an example from the experience of the country, which in many chapters is a model of democracy — USA. The peculiarity of the American South has long been the abundance of flags of the Confederacy: the 11 southern enterprises U.S. States, which in 1861 seceded from the United States and led Washington against the war to protect slavery.
During the Second world war, some manned by the natives of the Southern army and naval units were fighting under the Confederate flag. In 1961 the Confederate flag was officially raised over the building authorities of the state of South Carolina. The decision about his removal was made only 39 years later. Elements of the Confederate flag have become integral parts of the flags of some southern States. Even today car owners in the States of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and some others have the right to require license plates on their cars adorned with the image of the Confederate flag. Does it follow from all this to infer that the American South is not averse to once again secede from the United States and to introduce what slavery? I think that this question doesn’t even deserve a serious answer.
What is the nature of the phenomenon, which, as we have seen, is observed in Russia, and in China and in the United States? I think that man is the creation of fundamentally flawed. And part of this imperfection is our penchant for black and white and unambiguous perception of the world. Willingness to understand and accept all the nuances and shades historical past, all its inevitable contradictions and complexity — a lot or those who lived in this era, or deep specialists. When, because of the natural process of alternation of generations, people who lived in a particular era, leave the stage, in the eyes of the rest of this historical epoch turns into a kind of abstraction.
Something like that, from my point of view, happened in the modern Russia in respect of the Stalin era. People whose conscious adult life occurred in the reign of “father of the nation” unfortunately, there is not very much. And where there is no knowledge and experience, is surely a myth. But that’s why this myth was so Stalinist? Why the reign of a brutal dictator are now perceived as a benchmark of the “Golden age”?
photo: Archive MK
Anatomy of a myth
“Have you ever heard about the man who got rid of boils on the neck, she wants him back?” — so the British Prime Minister of the early twentieth century, Lord Salsberry once responded to a question about whether he has the desire to return to their government extravagant ex-Minister of Finance of Lord Randolph Churchill (father of the famous Winston). As we have already established, the Russian society in reality does not want to return to my life, “the boil of Stalinism”. But what is the reason for the enthusiasm of the Russian public, this “boil”? Why treat him with such warmth? Let’s start our journey through the maze of Russian mass public consciousness or, perhaps even subconscious.
The main historical achievement of our country in the twentieth century is the victory in the great Patriotic war, the defeat of Nazism. In my opinion, the war our country won not because but in spite of Stalin. But, alas, the break in the mass consciousness, formal logical bond between Stalin and the Victory will not work, likely never. May 9, 1945, Joseph Stalin was the Supreme commander of our armed forces. This fact, which will remain in history forever, today works objectively on a rating of “father of the peoples”.
All have become accustomed to the fact that we live in the era of a new cold war. And when the “old” cold war? That’s right, in the period of Stalin’s rule. Of course, the difference between the two cold wars, no less than similarities. For example, in the current cold war is completely missing a “rod” of the previous fight, as mortal competition between two ways of life — capitalism and communism. And it would fundamentally change the essence of the conflict, makes it look like not so much to the cold war Stalinist, as on traditional “old-fashioned” struggle for the division of zones of influence. But apparently a second cold war is still very much like the first. This fact also objectively increases the rating of Stalin.
“Look! After all if stars light — means, it to someone need? So, someone wants them to be? So, someone calls these plevochki pearl” — written in 1914, the future great poet of the Lenin and Stalin eras Vladimir Mayakovsky. In modern Russian reality, the full “ignition Stalin’s star” has a very specific political interested parties. The interested parties — the system main opposition party — the Communist party.
If you peruse the speeches, articles and books, Gennady Zyuganov, it is impossible not to notice: “the father of peoples,” he speaks exclusively in glowing terms: “Stalin was a great revolutionary because he was a great patriot, exactly like the opposite… His credo was deeply Marxist and Patriotic, to meet the fate and spirit of Russia.” This position allows Zyuganov to retain the support of his core electorate: those 10-15% of the Russian population, for whom Stalin is the most sacred and most dear.
At the same time such an attitude to the leader who drowned our country in blood, does not allow the Communist party to gain new voters, to break into a fundamentally different political space, to get rid of the image of an archaic political force. But it seems that this balance of pros and cons Zyuganov quite satisfied. Since 1996, the Communist party is in fact not fighting for power, and for the right to stay “forever” — official main sparring partner for the authorities.
Here they are, three main source of the popularity of Stalin in modern Russia, the three main pillars of the Stalinist myth. But what is it? You can’t shake the feeling of mild dissatisfaction? You think we’ve missed something important — another key component of Stalin’s myth? If this is the case, then you are absolutely right. The Stalinist myth there is also a fourth element — the element without which his three “colleagues” would not have been able to exert such a powerful influence on our collective consciousness.
The essence of this item, I stated: the acute moral-ideological crisis the main carriers of the anti-Stalinist sentiments in society — the democratic forces of Russia. “I have not your mandate, I have a higher mandate from the people” — when in 1989 Andrey Sakharov was thrown at the Congress of people’s deputies of the USSR this biting phrase in the face of Gorbachev, he had all grounds for such statements. Democrats at the time owned by far in our country the political initiative.
In 1953, the future moral leader of the democratic movement Andrei Sakharov reacted to the death of Stalin: “I’m under the impression the death of a great man”.
The Democrats were attractive ideas and slogans — alluring “the image of the desired tomorrow”, as is fashionable to speak now. They were figures of national stature whose moral authority, few ventured to question the Andrei Sakharov and Dmitry Likhachev… they had a very experienced politician who seemed a perfect candidate for highest positions in the country: Boris Yeltsin. They had the strong support of the population.
What we have now? From my point of view, we have not even just a complete zero, and negative. However, for example, “attractive ideas” in addition to “down with Putin!” have at the moment Russian democratic forces: “Crimea is not ours?” Russia should abandon its national sovereignty and to move to external management of international structures? Does anyone really believes that using these ideas it is possible to win the support of society?
In 1983 the British labour party published its election program, which provided for a unilateral renunciation of nuclear weapons, re-privatization of industrial sectors, which fell into disrepair under the control of the state, and other deeply unpopular in society measures. Member of Parliament from the labour party Gerald Kaufman then described a program of his own party as “The longest suicide note in history!” Indeed, the labour party four successive elections and lost as much as 18 years could not return to power.
photo: Mikhail Kovalev
“Eyes on Stalin” KP dooms Russia to stay in the “political ghetto”: – the voter is retained, but new supporters are not involved.
Today Gerald Kaufman still sits in the British Parliament. And I want it either to please, or disappoint: “record”, about which he declared 33 years ago, beaten. Beaten Russian Democrats who lost in time and space and created thus the perfect breeding environment for the revival of Stalinist sentiment in the country.
As noted by another great Greek philosopher Aristotle in the fourth century BC, “nature abhors a vacuum”. The vacuum that has formed in the ideological sphere of Russia because of the intellectual stupor of the Russian democratic forces, was rapidly filled with Stalinist myths. And to blame in such situation someone else — for example, the government which allegedly covertly condone the revival of Stalinist sentiment, is from my point of view, will not work.
Being a very experienced and skilled politician, Vladimir Putin will make maximum use of the Soviet period of our history to maximize public support for its foreign policy. However, the position of GDP over the Stalinist repression was always very clear and absolutely certain: “Stalin was certainly a tyrant many say he is doing… the Uncontrolled personal power inevitably creates a free hand for committing crimes. In the Stalin era there were enough political repression, the deportation of entire peoples. It require a principled assessment”.
Neither Khrushchev, nor Gorbachev, nor Yeltsin government never took care of the construction in Moscow of a large-scale monument to victims of political repression. Under Putin such a monument should appear. In 2014 GDP instructed. In October 2017 the monument should be installed at the intersection of the Garden ring and Sakharov Avenue. A curious detail: a large cash donation to Fund the construction of this monument made including “the king of Russian public policy” — the first Deputy head of the Kremlin administration Vyacheslav Volodin. Volodin ancestors were amongst those who swept the rink of Stalin’s repressions…
However, the failure to play the role of anti-Stalinist “opposition” is, I think, is not the main “sin” of the Russian democratic forces. The inability of Russian Democrats to look behind the scenes of the phenomenon of the popularity of Stalin in modern Russia, to understand the deeper meaning of passing in our state political processes — that’s what I consider them more serious and dangerous mistake.Related posts: