Political cartoon by Oleksiy Kustovskyi
Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov
Putin has begun to act like Stalin openly — and the Stalinists have recognized him as one of their own.
Russian sociologists from the Levada Center have confirmed that most of their compatriots have a positive opinion of one of the most terrifying leaders of the past – Joseph Stalin. According to the most recent opinion polls, 54 percent find that Stalin played a positive role in Russian history, and 67 percent believe the notorious murderer was a wise leader. At the same time, 62 percent also think Stalin was a cruel tyrant but apparently they find no contradiction in these views. Shouldn’t a wise leader be a cruel tyrant? In Russia this statement does not seem at all strange.
This same Stalin worked diligently to bring back the image of the tyrant and murderer Ivan the Terrible to people’s awareness again. He ordered a film about the tsar from the famous director Sergei Eisenstein. And when the director filmed the second part, where the madness and cruelty of the insane monarch were depicted accurately, Stalin forbade its screening. Ivan the Terrible actually destroyed Russia’s civilizational prospects and turned the country into the periphery of Eurasia — forever, in fact. However, he is still viewed by Russians as an outstanding statesman.
Russian history and political thought have always glorified the link between reform and repression and have disdained politicians who tried to modernize society without violence. Therefore, the popularity of Stalin — even after several decades of honest discussion about his crimes — is quite understandable. The demographic factor is also evident. During the Stalinist years, a great number of people who exhibited even the slightest inclination towards resistance and the rejection of totalitarianism ended up in the camps. It turns out that the people who were capable of raising a generation of free citizens were just snatched from life. And those who were ready to accept the fate of slaves and to raise their children and grandchildren in the same spirit received preferential treatment from the regime.
It is no accident that even after the collapse of communism no one has tried to investigate and condemn those who served in the KGB or even in the Gulag. The executioners remained and continue to remain honored members of Russian society. And the ones who speak the truth — the defenders of human rights and the members of the opposition — are held in contempt or simply hated by most of Russians. Therefore, the slave mentality of the Russian citizens is the result of Stalinist selection.
However, 60 percent of Russians would not want to live under Stalin. This could have less to do with fear of repressions than with the fact that the fans of tyranny already have their own modernized Stalin — Putin. It is no accident that the number of people who view Stalin positively exceeded those who view him negatively for the first time precisely in March 2014, after the occupation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in the Donbas. Putin began to act like Stalin openly — and the Stalinists recognized him as one of their own.