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January 19, 2005

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I mean, is there a period of political purgatory then followed by a balanced assessment, possibly even forgiveness?

There may be, in the long run. However, we certainly haven't reached that point with Stalin yet.

I think the main question to ask with something like this is not "did this person do anything worthwhile", or even "did the good things outweigh the bad", but rather "what message will be sent by publicly honoring this person?" In this particular case, I don't know how the average Russian will react, but the message that the rest of the world is likely to understand from it is that Putin would like to recreate a Soviet-style totalitarian state.

Why is this surprising? Would anyone really have expected anything different if a former Gestapo man had been elected president of a post-war Germany? Putin is an ex-KGB man, that's what he wanted to be right from his teenage years, and it's strange to expect anything better from a man who thinks of Yuri Andropov and Felix Dzherzinsky as heroes.

Yeah, but he's our ex-KGB man. I think.

kenB: but rather "what message will be sent by publicly honoring this person?"

Agreed. (And, open tag fixed, I hope.)

What will be interesting is to see how Putin justifies honoring Stalin.

thanks for the html repair Jes!

I blame myself.

You probably didn't mean to suggest this, Edward, but it's not as though Stalin started with the good stuff and only later went bad. He was a monster from the get-go.

Still, Stalin's crimes seem too recent to me.

The hell with that. His crimes are too monstrous to me.

I mean, is there a period of political purgatory then followed by a balanced assessment, possibly even forgiveness?

Sure, I mean recently, I've read some interesting stuff about Attila the Hun. But I guess that's not the time scale you are talking about.

I was looking for some pithy point to make about Stalin being a seminary student and found this (link) (This sounds familiar, but it's been a long time since I read anything about the life of Stalin)

As a student, Soso was thought of as a quick learner who was always prepared for lessons. He was very self-confident with a desire to excel at everything. Even though he was a good student, he refused to believe he was wrong about anything, which often resulted in fights with teachers. Because of Russification, the Georgian language was being phased out in schools and was only taught as a foreign language. Soso had become vengeful towards the Russian teachers at the school, and had participated in several uprisings against them. A vengeful attitude towards authority figures in general and everyone who was more powerful than himself had developed during these school years.

"Even though he was a good student, he refused to believe he was wrong about anything, which often resulted in fights with teachers". Makes me really wonder about the blogosphere...

Two years ago while I was taking a Russian history class as part of my master's degree I was stunned to learn that many Russians remember Stalin with fondness and nostalgia. My professor, who had many friends in Russian and took Americans there for extended visits every year, told us that there were Russians who rationalized or minimized all of Stalin's abuses because they thought he made their country strong and united, a force to be reckoned with, which is pretty much the opposite of how Russia is now. Ther seems to be something in human nature that responds positively to displays of power. The Russians have a proverb: man is wolf to man. Maybe some people want to have an alpha to make their pack the biggest and baddest in the forest. I don't think this tendency is exclusive to Russians. But it sure takes a lot of minimizing and rationalizing to make a hero out of Stalin.

As far as I'm concerned, it's too soon for the Confederate South to be redeemed. So Stalin is right off the table.

In a country in with a controlled press and a long tradition of the government sending out subtle signals, what to make of this resurrection of Stalin? It is clearly deliberate.

Most likely, it reflects a pandering to those nostalgic for what was allegedly good about Russia's communist past. It reflects an appeal to patriotism for the Great Patriotic War. It reinforces Putin's base, so to speak.

It also represents a whitewashing of the monstrous past represented by that history, and a nostalgia for the power and control that flowed from those practices.

Just another dark omen about Russia's future.

Is it time to start talking about seeing into Putin's soul?

If Germany does put up a statute of Hitler, I will hold most neo cons responsible to some degree. They are mirroring his behavior by much of their actions. It is w/ a tremendous sense of irony that this seems to be happening.

Yet the jailed oftentimes mirror the jailers.....

Looks like Putin's going to do Santayana one better: Those who remember the past are doomed to repeat it, too.

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