Russia and Stalin: The Love Affair Continues
Police in Nizhny Novgorod have arrested a man who shot dead two pet parrots after his wife refused to buy him beer, news agencies reported.When his wife refused to go to the shop, the man became enraged, seized an air pistol and opened fire on the two birds, which were inside a cage, Interfax reported, citing a regional police official. No humans were harmed in the incident.Russia is an insane country where, as in the mafia, people really believe they can simply demand respect rather than earning it, killing anyone who fails to deliver, and the above news item perfectly encapsulates that insanity. Both Tsarist Russia and Communist Russia collapsed, in the space of just one century, because of this crazy, self-destructive obliviousness to reality. There are others, too many others to count.
-- Moscow Times, July 18 2008
Last week for instance there were dozens of news stories about a contest now underway on state-sponsored Russian TV to identify Russia's greatest historical figure. In internet voting, Russians were having great difficulty deciding who their #1 choice was -- the dictator Nicholas II or the mass-murdering dictator Josef Stalin. When voting was suspended "for technical reasons" on Wednesday, Nicholas II had received 275,065 votes and Stalin had 273,877 votes. In the third place was Vladimir Lenin with a paltry 188,372 votes. As the Wall Street Journal reported: "Stalin took an early and large lead in the contest but was narrowly overtaken by Nicholas II on Monday as thousands of monarchists and anti-communists organized an anti-Stalin 'clickathon.' Nikolai Lukyanov, chairman of a large monarchist group, said a Stalin victory would shame Russia internationally. He said the 'clickathon' was organized to show that Russians 'are no lover of Stalin, disgrace and blood.'"
In effect, though, Lukhyanov was lying. The "clickathon" was organized to hide the fact that Russians love Stalin, disgrace and blood, not to alter that reality. Russia's leading opposition politician, the Communist Party's Gennady Zyuganov, stated proudly that if Stalin were back in charge of the country he could solve it's problems "in one day." Imagine Germany's main opposition leader saying that about Hitler.
We believe it's clear that the online voting dramatically understates Stalin's popularity in Russia, and not only because of Lukyanov's manipulation of the vote (a measure Stalin would have, ironically, heartily approved). Only about 10% of Russia's population has any access to the Internet, and those who can routinely utilize it are few and far between. Netherlands, a tiny country nearly 1/10 Russia's size, has almost as many Internet users. So in other words, no internet vote can accurately capture the true attitudes of the people of Russia.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, and as we have routinely done: "New textbooks hail Stalin as an effective manager, and TV documentaries stress his achievements and alleged selflessness." In the Russian people's defense, one might point out that they simply don't know that Stalin's "victory" in World War II, the main reason he receives such adulation, has a few dirty secrets:
- Stalin caused the war in the first place
- Though "defeated" the Nazi army obliterated huge swaths of Russia, hobbling it forever
- As bad as the Nazi army was, Stalin was far worse, murdering more Russians in his "gulag archipelago" than Hitler ever dreamed of doing. The Wall Street Journal reported: "Sergey Kovalyov, a former dissident who spent seven years in Soviet labor camps and three years in internal exile in Siberia, said the popularity of Stalin was "very sad. How many people did he take away?" said Mr. Kovalyov, his voice trailing off.
Indeed, given the Stalin vote it's not hard to understand why Putin himself remains so popular in Russia.