A recent Russian propaganda poster for Joseph Stalin copied after the popular Barack Obama "Hope" poster from his 2008 election campaign. (Image: social media)
Many expected that with the passage of time, new generations of Russians would reject the worst aspects of their country’s past such as Stalinism, but new polls show that support for Stalin and forgiveness of his crimes is greater among young people than among older groups.
There are two explanations for this pattern, Moscow commentator Anton Orekh says.
The first is the historical cruelty of the Russian people and their willingness to celebrate even the most horrific leaders if they are prepared to act in a cruel fashion toward those they identify as enemies.
The second, he says, is that Russians even when they know the specific facts about the past – and some three-quarters of Russian young people who celebrate Stalin as a great leader do know such facts – subsume them under the Kremlin-promoted mythology about the Russian past as one great triumph after another, interrupted only occasionally by wreckers and foreigners.
Consequently, young Russians who know something about the horrors of the GULAG and who even acknowledge specific crimes by Stalin are inclined to ignore these things as unimportant compared to the magisterial march forward of the Russian state and its cruel power over others.
Thus, young people “simply do not understand what they in fact are approving [because] history in our country always is taught as something out of a comic book or poster. A history of victories, triumphs and achievements” in which “the powers are always inerrant and wise,” the Moscow commentator says.
That means, he continues, that just providing younger Russians with more information about their country’s past will be insufficient to change their assessments of even its worst aspects, Orekh says; and it also means that the Kremlin by the historical images it promotes is opening the way for the rise of a new Stalin and a new Stalinist system.
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