Neo-Stalinism Part 2: Saint Stalin
Back in March I tried to clarify what I mean by the phrase “Neo-Stalinism,” which I have used to refer to the Vlad Putin and the regime in charge of Russia. I’ve given some explanation for this term here, but I’ll re-cap and elaborate in this post. Surprisingly, no. This has nothing to do with murdered journalists, the conflict in Georgia or the soon-to-be conflict in the Ukraine. First a quick review.
In Sept 2007 Steve Chapman wrote this in Human Events:
[Russian] President Vladimir Putin… is on record lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” It was worse, apparently, than World War I, worse than World War II — worse, even, than the creation of the Soviet Union.
Last year, the president informed a group of history teachers that Russia “has nothing to be ashamed of” and that it was their job to make students “proud of their motherland.” His government has tried to help by commissioning guidelines and books that present a more balanced picture of Joseph Stalin, described in one approved volume as “the most successful Soviet leader ever.”
Later in September 2007, in response to Putin’s propaganda, Gorby made a statement:
Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned Wednesday against whitewashing the crimes of dictator Josef Stalin, stressing that Russia cannot move forward without facing the truth about its bloody past.
In words that appeared aimed at President Vladimir Putin, Gorbachev also emphasized the need to pursue democracy.
His remarks, less guarded than usual, came amid growing concern among Russia’s marginalized liberals that Putin’s government is recasting Stalin’s legacy to justify its own increasingly tight control.
The Stalin era is being portrayed as a “golden age,” said Gorbachev, whose 1980s “glasnost” campaign as the last Soviet president prompted stunning revelations about Stalin’s murderous policies.
“We must remember those who suffered, because it is a lesson for all of us — a lesson that many have not learned,” Gorbachev said at a discussion marking the 70th anniversary of the bloodiest year of Stalin’s Great Terror.
But, unfortunately, it seems that Putin’s propaganda campaign may have paid off [my emphasis]:
Could Josef Stalin be made a saint?
The Communist party in St Petersburg has petitioned the Orthodox Church to canonise Josef Stalin if he wins a television poll to nominate the greatest Russian in history.
While the poll, conducted by the state run Rossiya channel, has been criticised for allowing multiple voting, there is little doubt that Stalin has undergone a remarkable renaissance in recent years.
Opinion polls regularly name him Russia’s greatest post-revolution leader after Vladimir Putin, the prime minister.
The wartime leader’s resurgence owes much to the Kremlin, which under Mr Putin’s presidency appeared to support a campaign to rehabilitate Stalin, with television documentaries, films and books released in recent years eulogising him.
A newly published history text book, approved by the Kremlin for use in all schools, glossed over the more unappealing parts of Stalin’s rule and ultimately concluded that he was the Soviet Union’s most successful leader.
“Stalin is the most popular name in Russia,” said Sergei Malinkovich, the Communist party leader who is driving the Stalin canonisation campaign.
“The people have forgiven him for the repressions, the collectivization, the elimination of cadres of the Red Army and other inevitable errors and tragedies of those cruel military and revolutionary times.
“Stalin has become the true national leader of Russia. He turned a backward country into an industrial giant.”
Yet the idea of tuning Uncle Joe into Saint Joe has so far won little official backing from the Orthodox Church, which was one of Stalin’s chief victims.
Seeking to establish atheism as the Soviet Union’s official creed, Stalin destroyed thousands of churches and sent tens of thousands of priests to the gulags and their deaths.
Hey, if the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t like the most popular leader in the history of Russia, then they can giiiiiiiit out!
Despite the church’s reluctance, St Petersburg’s Communists are convinced their vision will come to pass. They have already commissioned religious icons depicting Stalin with a halo round his head that have reportedly sold very well around the city.
“By the end of the 21st century, icons of St Josef Stalin will be in every Orthodox Church,” Mr Malinkovich said.
On a side note, it’s interesting that Stalin was actually a Georgian. In fact, his birthplace, Gori, is also being occupied by Russian troops right now because it is strategically located: “Gori sits along only Georgia’s only significant east-west highway, which means occupying the city allowed the Russians effectively to split the nation in two.” No doubt, making Stalin’s birthplace part of Russia would be beneficial to anyone trying to deify him.