Roland Oliphant has little blurb out on RussiaProfile.org about the ongoing scandal involving May’s 65th Victory Day celebration and the memory of Stalin.
The tone of his article has an air of objectivity, though Oliphant stops to poke a little fun at Vladimir Makarov, Moscow’s advertisements head, for saying that only “exploding young politicians” stand against the idea. (I haven’t been able to locate this quote, and RussiaProfile.org is too cool to cite their sources.)
While it may be true that not every elderly person supports the ‘Stalin Booths’ proposal (Gryzlov and Gorbachev have voiced their disapproval publicly), I think Makarov is absolutely correct that there is a generational divide on this question. The Western media sometimes acknowledges this, but with the assumption that it’s just the old fogies who still carry a torch for Uncle Joe.
Oliphant even mentions the Podrabinek incident as an example of reactionary forces in Russia today: “there’s this sense that supporting Stalin is a protest against the excesses of modern Russia, the oligarchs and so on,” he quotes a historian as saying. Yet, the people who harassed Podrabinek after he compared WWII veterans to Gulag guards were the youngsters from Nashi — hardly a movement opposed to “the excesses of modern Russia.” That organization, which describes itself as primarily an “anti-fascist group,” hosts innovation forums, despite its more public pro-Kremlin political activism.
When journalists do want to say something about ‘Stalin’s rehabilitation’ among the younger generation in Russia, they make the obligatory reference to Anatoly Danilov’s history textbook, which infamously refers to Stalin as “effective manager.” The argument doesn’t need to be spelled out: the implication is clearly that the next generation of Russians will be brainwashed to believe that Josef Stalin was some kind of Jesus Christ figure. Or something.
Whatever the flaws of that textbook (and, like most textbooks, there are many), we’re talking about mandatory reading that is assigned alongside such unambiguously anti-Soviet texts as Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1973 epic, The Gulag Archipelago. You don’t hear much about that, though, when you’re paging through the American press. But did you hear about that textbook??
(Incidentally, I once pointed this out to a Russia expert who’s spent a lot of hot air railing against the ‘existing’ Stalinist Russian education system, and the response was this: “Oh. Interesting.” This and similar events have convinced me that no amount of debunking or disabusing will ever convert the damned.)
An extra side note: I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere in English-language media about the ‘Stalin Booths’ scandal, but I thought I’d point out that Vladimir Makarov, the man leading the PR charge for this project, only got out of jail a few weeks ago. He was put behind bars for “abusing his power” as a municipal bureaucrat in the advertisements department. Apparently he gave two companies 50% tax breaks last year and was subsequently held responsible for the revenue losses incurred by the city. The really amusing detail here is that Makarov’s boss back then, Valery Shantsev, denies ever granting him the necessary permission to carry out this discount. As a result, Makarov spent about six months behind bars. (Makarov says Shantsev is lying, though he doesn’t know why. “Я считаю, что это не по-человечески и не по-мужски” [I think his actions are neither human nor manly],” he’s said of his old boss.)
Though, he never fell out of favor with the higher-ups, it would seem. Days after his release, he was back on the job, this time playing front man for the city’s bold new ‘Stalin Booths’ project. Did he get this demanding assignment because of the leadership’s confidence in him, or is this another fiasco for which he’ll get to be the fall guy?
Maybe, if writers like Oliphant and others ever stop writing about the Kurskaya metro station and Alexander Podrabinek, there might actually be some reportage on the subject.