Stalin

Medvedev calls USSR "totalitarian"

The Telegraph reports that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has launched an outspoken attack on the USSR, calling it “totalitarian” and criticizing its human rights record. The text of the Izvestia interview can be read in Russian here. Money quote:

Если говорить прямо, тот режим, который сложился в СССР, иначе как тоталитарным назвать нельзя. К сожалению, это был режим, при котором подавлялись элементарные права и свободы. И не только применительно к своим людям (часть из которых после войны, будучи победителями, переехала в лагеря). Так было и в других странах соцлагеря тоже. И, конечно, из истории это не вычеркнуть.

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From an interview – 2

Mikhail Sokolov: So you mean that in the coming decade Russia is doomed to give the world yet another negative lesson of the kind it gave in the past: we’ve had Communism and Stalinism, and now Russia is to be run by the secret police, or corporations composed of Putin’s managers?

Yuri Felshtinsky: In your question I hear a note of sad reproach, but in fact one can take a slightly different view of the way the world sees Russia. It’s really a matter of comparisons. The West and the whole of the rest of the world have to compare Russia’s present leadership with, for example, Stalin and Khrushchev. Of Stalin, of course, the less said the better.. Khrushchev beat his shoe on the podium. Brezhnev – also the less said the better. Now and then Yeltsin was drunk in public. Listen, against that background, Medvedev is quite simply the flower of the Russian intelligentsia. And against that background even Putin, on the whole, is a young progressive politician who knows how to smile, talk, behave himself more or less, not always, not everywhere, we know about all the blunders he committed as leader of the country: like when he joked about the sinking of the “Kursk” submarine, or when he told a journalist to go and get circumcised, and when he talked about flushing the Chechens down the toilet. We know about all that, the list is too long to enumerate. But even so, if we compare this with Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, then sorry, it’s not surprising that the Western community thought Putin was the best Russian president it had ever had to deal with.

On this level Medvedev is even better, because they don’t even have to deal with him, because they know that he doesn’t decide important policy matters in the country. So in that sense what awaits the West is not such a bad option.

The West takes a cautiously sceptical view of Russia. Russia is like the classroom bully. Between ourselves, no one ever expects anything good of Russia. Everyone expects something bad. When bad things happen, like the war in Chechnya or the war in Georgia, everyone says: “Yes, well, of course, what else can you expect of them? And when bad things don’t happen, they put a tick in the checkbox: “Listen, it could have happened and it didn’t.” In other words, Russia is treated like this naughty boy who is a member of the family but whom no one can do anything with, he’s just there.

And (this is a serious point, by the way) they all understand that that Russia is there, that it was there in the past and that it will go on being there in the future. Russia will be there both as a participant in all the political dialogues [with the West] and as a very important economic partner, especially for Europe. So we all have to live with Russia. And it is absolutely the task of everyone to make life easier for ourselves, to make this life together with Russia as easy and painless as possible.

http://felshtinsky.livejournal.com/4745.html

Two races

There have always been, and there always will be, two races in the world, and the boundary between them is more important than any other; crucifiers and crucified, oppressors and oppressed, persecutors and persecuted. Of course, in history the roles can be reversed but that does not alter the truth. Today Christians are being persecuted as in the early centuries. Today Jews are being persecuted as so often before in history. These facts are worth thinking about. Russian anti-semites, living in a condition of morbid emotion and obsession, allege that the Jews rule Russia and oppress the Christians there. This assertion is deliberately false. It was not the Jews in particular who were at the head of militant atheism; ‘Aryan’ Russians also played an active part. I am even inclined to believe that this movement represents a specifically Russian phenomenon. A nobleman, the anarchist Bakunin, was one of its extreme representatives, as was Lenin too. It was precisely on the subject of Russian nihilism and the inner dialectic of its nature, that Dostoievsky made such sensational revelations.

Nicholas Berdyaev, 1938

Telegrams and memories

From the conclusion of an article about the role of the Soviet Union in the outbreak of the Second World War, and the anniversary of 1939, viewed from today’s Russia:

A society that suffers badly from complexes, has lost its basic moral guidelines over a period of a hundred years, and is excited by the drumming of imperial propaganda, wants Stalin. Not Stalin in person, but his radiant image. A government that has no other suggestions or other icons provides what is demanded. It scratches where the itching is. It’s simple, natural and – let’s admit it – even pleasant.

And another article, on the same subject. Interestingly, some of the comments by Polish readers are in English.

Russia poll on Stalin and WWII

Results of a recent Levada poll conducted among 1600 Russians in 128 population centres of 46 regions of Russia(August 23-31 2009):

Considering the scale of repression in the Stalinist era and the forced displacement (expulsion) of several peoples, do you agree that the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin should be viewed as a state criminal?

Strongly agree

12

Mostly agree

26

On the whole, do not agree

32 

Strongly disagree

12 

No opinion

18

Who do you consider bore the primary responsibility for the repressions and losses our country suffered from the 1930’s  to the early 1950s?

Stalin

19

The state system

19

Both Stalin and the state  system

41

Neither Stalin nor the state system / someone else / the enemies of our country

  6

No opinion

15

Is it possible to speak of features shared in common by the state systems that were built in the 1930s by Stalin in the Soviet Union and by Hitler in Germany?

Of course, they have much in common

11

Yes, they have some features in common

32

No, they have nothing in common

19

It is totally unacceptable to compare the USSR to Nazi Germany

22

No opinion

16

Should the events of September 1939, when Red Army troops entered Poland and occupied territories specified in the secret protocols Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, be widely publicized?

Yes, young people no longer know the history of their own side, with all its light and dark aspects

36

Yes, so that it doesn’t happen again

20

Yes, because there was nothing wrong about it, with these actions Stalin was able to prepare for war

10

No, one can’t alter the past, and all countries have plenty of dark pages in their history

16

Don’t know, not interested

8

Other

<1

Don’t know anything about it

12

No opinion

9

(Via Marko Mikhkelson)

70th anniversaries

The recent Independent article by Norman Davies analyzing the real causes of World War II, which essentially sees the source of the actual conflict as the signing of the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 23, 1939, ends with a listing of upcoming anniversaries on which the Medvedev/Putin government in Moscow is going to find it hard to maintain silence:

As the Russian government must realise, however, Poland will only be the start of a long, uncomfortable season. After Poland, it will be Finland’s turn, and the 70th anniversary of the Winter War. Stalin’s aggression against Finland in November 1939 was every bit as blatant as his actions against Poland. His German partner was not involved, and the despatch of a million troops into a neighbouring country to deport the entire population of the frontier area can hardly be described as the doings of a neutral well-wisher. It led to the expulsion of the USSR from the League of Nations. And after Finland, there will be Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania. At every stage, there will be scenes of peace-loving tanks, of executions and deportations, and of weeping patriots.