If you haven’t heard already, the head of Moscow’s municipal publicity committee, Vladimir Makarov (no, not the terrorist from Call of Duty, but the other one), wants to erect a series of “stands” and banners throughout Moscow with little bits of information, explaining Josef Stalin’s role in the Great Patriotic War. Before you ask, remember that this isn’t totally out of the blue, as the 65th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany will be this May. Also, Mr. Makarov is apparently acting in response to requests by veterans groups to honor Stalin’s role in winning the war.
Clearly unaware that he is meant to be the robotic underling of Putin the Totalitarianism-Loving Villain-Leader, Boris Вячеславович Gryzlov, Speaker of the Russian Duma, went public to oppose the project:
“Stalin made many mistakes, especially on the eve of the war and in its early stages. I think we can say, looking at the results of the Great Patriotic War, that it wasn’t Stalin who won, but the people.” He later added, “In general, Stalin’s ambiguous role in the life of our country isn’t going to be clarified with placards.”
I think, like the abortion debate and the feud between those who argue about from which direction toilet paper should hang, this is a matter on which reasonable people can disagree. Yes, Stalin himself didn’t win the war and history is best left to analytical forums, not public propaganda. On the other hand, marginalizing discussion about Stalin is a good way to whitewash history and inculcate an unattractive ignorance in modern Russians.
More than anything, I got to wondering what a parallel situation would look like in the United States. I would very much like to see some bored politician decide to spearhead a ‘bring FDR back into victory celebrations’ movement. Granted, we don’t have victory parades in the first place, but — even if we did — I think most Americans would be too confused to compute what was happening. For added amusement, another politician (in on the joke, obviously) could go on cable TV and say forlornly that, while FDR indeed played an instrumental role in the course of history, his actions – to delay the opening of a European western front, to intern Japanese-Americans, and so on – were too controversial for a comprehensive public discussion.
Obviously, that’s a stupid idea, mainly because the American people stopped observing the end of WWII a long time ago. While the United States is still raging across the globe in a power-euphoria that began with the Fall of the Nazis, the national consciousness is very unconscious about the nation’s history.
Whatever the flaws of Russia’s internal dialog about Stalin, Stalinism, and Soviet atrocities, nobody can deny that Russians live their history.