Concrete Clarity

by Andrew Stuttaford

Stalin died 60 years ago today. Good riddance.

The Irish Examiner reports:

Russians are marking the 60th anniversary of the death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin today, with devotees laying flowers at his tomb in Moscow while critics blame the former Soviet leader for millions of deaths in purges and prison camps. Stalin led the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. Communists credit him with leading the country to victory in the Second World War while others condemn the brutal purges that killed millions.

The cover of weekly Liberal Moskovskie Novosti today featured “Stalin. Farewell” with the dictator’s face scribbled over with childish graffiti. Staunch Communist daily Sovetskaya Rossiya ran a cover story on Stalin headlined “His time will come”.

And the Moscow Times:

The ambivalence that Russians feel toward Stalin is apparent in a recent public opinion poll by the independent Levada Center. Forty-nine percent of respondents said the dictator played a positive role in Russian history, while 55 percent associated his death on March 5, 1953, with the end of terror and repression and the liberation of millions of innocent people from imprisonment.  By comparison, only 18 percent said his death meant the loss of a great leader and teacher. Lev Gudkov, the Levada Center’s director, said that when it came to Stalin, Russians suffered from a kind of schizophrenia that is increasingly turning into indifference as the years pass.

Other indicators suggest that his popularity has increased in recent years. The percentage of respondents who call him the most outstanding historical figure jumped from 12 to 36 percent between 1989 and 2008, according to Levada Center polls, a matter that Gudkov partly blames on Putin-era propaganda. Beginning in 2000, Putin’s government has “very quietly and equivocally” improved the image of Stalin and the Soviet era, tying Stalin to the Allied victory in World War II and praising the modernization that took place on his watch, Gudkov said.

Portraits of Stalin on city buses commemorating Victory Day in St. Petersburg have appeared, as well as a quote praising Stalin inside the Kurskaya metro station that reads, “Stalin reared us on loyalty to the people. He inspired us to labor and heroism.”

Imagine the response if that story was set in Germany and concerned Stalin’s former ally (he was for him before he was against him) and fellow genocidaire, Adolf Hitler

Oh well, let’s conclude with a few lines by the Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda (1904–73), a favorite, as it happens, of our new secretary of state:

To be men! That is the Stalinist law! . . .

We must learn from Stalin

his sincere intensity

his concrete clarity. . . .

Stalin is the noon,

the maturity of man and the peoples.

Stalinists, Let us bear this title with pride. . . .

Stalinist workers, clerks, women take care of this day!

The light has not vanished.

The fire has not disappeared,

There is only the growth of

Light, bread, fire and hope

In Stalin’s invincible time! . . .

In recent years the dove,

Peace, the wandering persecuted rose,

Found herself on his shoulders

And Stalin, the giant,

Carried her at the heights of his forehead. . . .

A wave beats against the stones of the shore.

But Malenkov will continue his work.

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