Author Topic: Stalin's Legacy  (Read 35759 times)

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Elisabeth

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Stalin's Legacy
« on: August 17, 2010, 01:12:06 PM »
I want to discuss Joseph Stalin's legacy, not merely to history (this topic has already been covered and debated everywhere, including here), but mainly to the countries that suffered under his rule and now have to cope with that legacy as best they can. I am referring not only to Russia, of course, but also to countries throughout Central-Eastern Europe and Eurasia. What prompted this topic is an article I just read in the latest issue of the New Republic, "Statue of Limitations" by James Kirchick, September 2, 2010, v. 241, no. 14, pp. 8-10.

It seems that even now, almost exactly two years after the Russian invasion of Georgia, major tensions remain in the relations between the two countries. One expression of this, Kirchick argues, is the continuing debate about the legacy of Stalin. While Russia "has been busy rehabilitating Stalin" in recent years, he says, Georgia (the actual birthplace of the Soviet dictator), has begun "to place Stalin in his proper historical context." Further: "the Kremlin's readoption of Stalin has only given Georgia's Westward-looking leaders even greater incentive to reject him. In the new Georgia, 'Stalin is no longer Georgian,' [Simon Sebag] Montefiore says. 'He's a Russian emperor.'"

In 2006 Georgian authorities opened the Museum of Soviet Occupation. Apparently Putin was so infuriated by this that he complained to Georgian President Saakashvili in person. "Acknowledging that Stalin and his ruthless secret police chief Lavrenti Beria were of Georgian stock, Saakashvili reportedly replied that Putin could build a museum of Georgian oppression in Moscow and that he would donate the funds for it."

Other evidence of an ongoing, official Georgian campaign to demythologize Stalin: this summer the famous statue of Stalin that stood in Tbilisi was removed by the authorities and relocated to the recently revamped Stalin museum, which is now not a museum to Stalin, Georgia's former favorite native son, but a museum to Stalinist propaganda and the cult of personality. From being a national hero Stalin has become something of a pariah in modern-day Georgia. This is understandable as Georgians have become more knowledgeable about their history. "According to Montefiore, Georgia suffered more from the purges on a per capita basis than any other Soviet republic."

By the way, this topic was supposed to go under "The Russian Revolution" not "Russian Imperial History." Perhaps someone will be kind enough to move it for me? Sorry for the inconvenience.

« Last Edit: August 17, 2010, 01:17:54 PM by Elisabeth »

Robert_Hall

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2010, 03:11:10 PM »
Interesting that you brought this up, Elisabeth.
  I have a bit of  experience in Eastern Europe, particularly Bulgaria.  There, I found mixed feelings about his  "legacy".   The structure of the state organisation  is due to him. And the social benefits are missed, especially health care [most of my Bulgarian friends are doctors and trying to leave the country to find jobs] However, the dark days of Communism are NOT missed.  Some look at him as a liberator from the Nazis, others as a as the one who installed ruthless  dictators.. Gangsters and workers rights seem to be his legacy now.
 I explored the same subject in Budapest last spring.  The feeling was totally different.  He was remembered as just another oppressor, at least from the few I talked with. I imagine there are many different views on the subject there as well, but did not have enough time to really  "get into it". Most of my friends are post war generation so  do not have much of an ecperience from the conflicts that  their parents had.  So, they go by what they were told, usually.  It seems,  history is as neglected in those countries as it is here and the UK.

Silja

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2010, 05:13:56 PM »
It seems that even now, almost exactly two years after the Russian invasion of Georgia, major tensions remain in the relations between the two countries. One expression of this, Kirchick argues, is the continuing debate about the legacy of Stalin. While Russia "has been busy rehabilitating Stalin" in recent years, he says,


Not surprisingly, also in the new Ukraine of Viktor Yanukovich, where the clocks are going backwards again, Stalin is now beginning to be rehabilitated. Only recently a new monument to him has been erected in the city of Zaporozhye.

http://www.zeenews.com/news624414.html

Constantinople

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2010, 07:54:00 AM »
Georgia is perhaps the most intersting place to look at his legacy.   He is remembered as being from there but the rising Georgian nationalism bridles  at anything Russian or communist.

Offline TimM

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2010, 10:47:57 AM »
If you ask me, any country that wants to build a monument to this mass murderer needs to get their priorities straight.  Stalin is NOT a hero, his hands are covered in blood.  The Russian archives are full of documents that show the crimes he committed.  And some people want to remember this guy with honour!?  Fools!

Now Stalin is part of Russian history, nothing can change that, just like nothing can change that Hitler was part of German history or Pol Pot was part of Cambodian history.  However, I have yet to hear of monuments being built to honour the latter two men.  That's because neither were national heroes, but rather blood thirsty tyrants who are responsible for the mass murder of millions.  Well, Stalin belongs to that same club, and Russia, Ukraine, and all the other former Soviet countries need to realize this.  Yes, teach about Stalin in school, but talk about the horrible crimes he committed.  That way, you can help ensure that no other men like him can ever take power again.
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Elisabeth

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2010, 02:08:19 PM »
It seems that even now, almost exactly two years after the Russian invasion of Georgia, major tensions remain in the relations between the two countries. One expression of this, Kirchick argues, is the continuing debate about the legacy of Stalin. While Russia "has been busy rehabilitating Stalin" in recent years, he says,


Not surprisingly, also in the new Ukraine of Viktor Yanukovich, where the clocks are going backwards again, Stalin is now beginning to be rehabilitated. Only recently a new monument to him has been erected in the city of Zaporozhye.

http://www.zeenews.com/news624414.html

This truly is an abomination, in a former republic of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, that has always claimed that it suffered the most under the Soviet regime in terms of political persecution, repression, and possibly even genocide. The issue of a Stalinist genocide in Ukraine is much debated, because some have interpreted the legal definition of genocide to include the intent to exterminate "only" a "part" of a racial, religious, political, and/or ethnic group, which would fit the Great Famine in Ukraine if Stalin and his henchmen inflicted the famine deliberately. However, many non-Ukrainian historians question whether the famine was indeed deliberate, the result of real hostile intent on the part of Stalin, OR simply an unintended, unplanned-for by-product of collectivization, itself arguably the product of total ideological blindness and incompetence.

Suffice it to say, I think the great famine of the early 1930s in Ukraine and elsewhere in the Soviet Union was caused first, by Stalin's forced collectivization program and forced requisition of grain; second, by natural causes - bad weather and drought; and third and no doubt just as lethal as the first two reasons, Stalin's stubborn refusal to take seriously, much less deal with, the famine in the Ukraine and other areas of the Soviet Union even after it had begun to claim hundreds, then thousands, then millions of lives.

Nevertheless, no matter how one defines the great famine in Ukraine, Stalin should still be viewed as the ultimate arch-villain in that country, far worse than any tsar.

Because I'm remiss and don't follow Ukrainian news, I fail to understand why that formerly proud nation is now sucking up to Stalin (really, Russia) big time. I suspect it has something to do with Russia's own best interests and desire to seduce former Soviet republics away from the (in their minds) siren song of the European Union and NATO. Silja, please tell us all, what is really going on in Ukraine right now that the authorities would resort to such pathetic (even anti-Ukrainian) measures as erecting a statue to an infamous mass murderer like Stalin?
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 02:16:39 PM by Elisabeth »

Elisabeth

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2010, 02:41:58 PM »
Interesting that you brought this up, Elisabeth.
  I have a bit of  experience in Eastern Europe, particularly Bulgaria.  There, I found mixed feelings about his  "legacy".   The structure of the state organisation  is due to him. And the social benefits are missed, especially health care [most of my Bulgarian friends are doctors and trying to leave the country to find jobs] However, the dark days of Communism are NOT missed.  Some look at him as a liberator from the Nazis, others as a as the one who installed ruthless  dictators.. Gangsters and workers rights seem to be his legacy now.
 I explored the same subject in Budapest last spring.  The feeling was totally different.  He was remembered as just another oppressor, at least from the few I talked with. I imagine there are many different views on the subject there as well, but did not have enough time to really  "get into it". Most of my friends are post war generation so  do not have much of an ecperience from the conflicts that  their parents had.  So, they go by what they were told, usually.  It seems,  history is as neglected in those countries as it is here and the UK.

Robert, someday we should compare notes on Bulgaria. Bulgaria is one of the few countries on this planet that retains fond memories not only of Stalin but also and even more so of Hitler, because first, Hitler returned to Bulgaria lands that had been confiscated after World War I, and second, because the Nazis never invaded and controlled Bulgaria to the extent they did other eastern European countries. (Bulgaria also succeeded in rescuing all of its Jews from the Nazi concentration and death camps, save those Jews in the newly annexed territories, so to this day even the Holocaust doesn't seem quite real to the average Bulgarian.)

I think Bulgaria might be the only place on earth where you can buy actual busts of Hitler in secondhand shops, and miniature clocks with his face on them in the open air antique market in the center of town.

This last summer a Bulgarian tour guide even informed her Western charges that "Thanks to Tsar Boris III and the great statesman Hitler, such and such territories were returned to Bulgaria." Indeed, almost everybody but the most politically radical speak fondly of Tsar Boris III, who successfully negotiated these territorial questions with Hitler. But it's also true, some older Bulgarians on occasion express a longing for the old Communist days when there was a still a large social welfare safety net, and you didn't see so many beggars in the street, a large number of them obviously old people who lack an immediate family to look after them and whose meager pensions don't even cover monthly living expenses.

With this kind of very short and abbreviated historical record, which whitewashes or even entirely omits from popular memory so many crimes committed by both Hitler and Stalin, I have to wonder where Bulgaria is headed. But I suspect capitalism and even, ultimately (although not immediately) democracy will be safe there, because since the 19th century the Bulgarians as a people been always been thoroughly enamored with the Germans and German organizational, managerial, and political skills. To the extent that a recent headline in a popular Bulgarian newspaper triumphantly announced that new EU-inspired legislation had passed in the Bulgarian parliament by proclaiming, "We Have Become Germans!"
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 02:47:04 PM by Elisabeth »

Offline TimM

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2010, 03:38:18 PM »
I read the article. Apparently those that funded the statue said it was because of Stalin's contribution to the defeat of Hitler.  Like that invalidates all his crimes somehow.  Also, these people conveniently forget that Stalin WILLINGLY entered into a treaty with Hitler that allowed him to grab the Baltic States and a nice chunk of Poland (the Baltic States would not regain their independence until 1991).  It was Stalin, not Hitler, who was responsible for the Katyn Massacre, in which thousands of Polish officials were murdered in Katyn Forest in 1940.   After World War II, Stalin tried to pin the blame on the Germans, but no one bought it (the Soviets would not admit their guilt until 1990).  As I said, there are documents with Stalin's name on them, in which he authorized the massacre.  His guilt in this crime, and many others, cannot be questioned.  As I said elsewhere, if you put Stalin on trial, these documents alone could convict him.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 03:40:30 PM by TimM »
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Constantinople

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2010, 03:55:06 PM »
Well as much as IL hate Stalin, I hate to think of what would have happened in WW2 if the Nazi's strength had not been absorbed by Russia.  Hitler was on the verge of developing nuclear weapons so if the second world war had continued much longer, Hitler may have added the atom bomb to his armory.

Elisabeth

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2010, 05:10:22 PM »
To my mind, Putin's attitude towards Stalin remains highly ambivalent and ambiguous. Recently he was the moving force behind the decree making it mandatory for all Russian high school students to read excerpts from Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago - excerpts which as far as I know were chosen by Solzhenitsyn's widow Natalia Dmitrievna Solzhenitsyn, and are meant to be as representative of state-sponsored terror under the Bolsheviks as possible (not only terror under Stalin, but also under Lenin). In addition, there is Putin's recent appearance at the Katyn memorial commemorating the tens of thousands of Polish officers and intellectuals murdered by Stalin's secret police during the Soviet occupation of Poland in World War II. The Soviets even after Stalin always refused to accept responsibility for these atrocities and persisted in claiming, even at Nuremberg, that the Nazis had committed them. Putin is the first Russian leader to publicly acknowledge that Stalin and the Soviet state were to blame. The significance of this conciliatory gesture to the Polish government and people should not be underestimated, since for Poles the Katyn massacre has become a symbol of national identity through suffering and oppression at the hands of that age-old enemy, Russia.

But here is an article in Spiegel about it this rather unexpected development in Polish-Russian relations:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,687819,00.html

« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 05:13:01 PM by Elisabeth »

Robert_Hall

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2010, 05:18:42 PM »
Yes, Elisabeth, Bulgaria is one of my favourite countries.  Small population for  the geographical size. I have been there several times.
 However, back to Stalin-  there is a statue of "Aloysha"  in Plovdiv. I happen to rather  fond of it. It is a monument, built by the Soviets, pointing west [liberation of Europe, etc.]  The inscription is all but obliterated but my friend told me it was thanks to Stalin for freeing the country.  The statue's fate was undetermined at the time, as there were  no funds to dismantle it. [it is HUGE]. In any case, the only reason I know what it means or meant is because my friend's late father [a Sephardim Jew, BTW] was a  commissar, or whatever they were called in  Bulgaria.
 Under Hitler,   he would have been exterminated.
 My  friend, no pal of Communism went to medical school in Moscow under a so-called  "Stalin Grant"  as did many others. Stalin was long gone by then, but that is what the scholarships were called for a while [since renamed, if they  still even exist]
 

Elisabeth

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2010, 05:38:29 PM »
Yes, Elisabeth, Bulgaria is one of my favourite countries.  Small population for  the geographical size. I have been there several times.
 However, back to Stalin-  there is a statue of "Aloysha"  in Plovdiv. I happen to rather  fond of it. It is a monument, built by the Soviets, pointing west [liberation of Europe, etc.]  The inscription is all but obliterated but my friend told me it was thanks to Stalin for freeing the country.  The statue's fate was undetermined at the time, as there were  no funds to dismantle it. [it is HUGE]. In any case, the only reason I know what it means or meant is because my friend's late father [a Sephardim Jew, BTW] was a  commissar, or whatever they were called in  Bulgaria.
 Under Hitler,   he would have been exterminated.
 My  friend, no pal of Communism went to medical school in Moscow under a so-called  "Stalin Grant"  as did many others. Stalin was long gone by then, but that is what the scholarships were called for a while [since renamed, if they  still even exist]
 

This is interesting to me, Robert, because I know that for a time at least there was a movement in Bulgaria to remove all statues and other public memorials to the Soviet Union and the liberation, the Bulgarian government even contemplated removing the wonderful World War II monument to Soviet soldiers in the main gardens of the capital city of Sofia (I know you've seen it, it's a standard piece of Soviet propaganda, but tremendously moving for all that). As I recall there was in this case too a lack of funds for the project, also, some strong public protest. Rightly so, I think.

The Soviets and the Bulgarian communist government never removed the statue of Alexander II the Tsar Liberator from Parliamentary Square, right in the governmental heart of Sofia, so why do anti-communists feel entitled to remove Soviet-era monuments? Unless these are monuments to mass murderers, let them remain as part of the historical record, is what I think.

It's true that Bulgaria always had an easier relationship with the USSR than many other Eastern European and even especially Balkan countries. They had fond memories of the Russians as their liberators from the Ottoman Empire, after all, back during the Russo-Turkish War in the late 1870s. One of my in-laws is Bulgarian, a former committed Communist, married to a Communist, and despite her newfound liberal democratic views she nevertheless still retains much affection for Russia. I don't think Bulgaria suffered nearly as much as countries like Poland and Yugoslavia under the Soviets, even though they did have prisons, concentration camps, and mass executions they seem to have been on a much smaller scale than elsewhere in the Soviet bloc.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 05:51:40 PM by Elisabeth »

Robert_Hall

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2010, 06:23:59 PM »
Yes, I have seen the  memorial to  Bulgarian liberation in Sofia. Or, what was left of it. A lot had been looted for scrap bronze
 Also, in China, near the Great Wall, there is an inscriptio-poem [pretty obscure, though]  by Chairman Mao. Naturally, I could not read it, so asked my guide. He said it was a thank you to Stalin for his  help in the liberation and  revolution in China.
 I do not think that relationship lasted very long.

Offline TimM

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2010, 08:20:19 PM »
Stalin did not free Eastern Europe, he conquered them himself and installed Communist governments.  Europe was supposed to chart its own course after World War II, but Stalin put paid to that idea pretty quick.   For Eastern Europe it was just exchanging one dictatorship for another.  They would remain under the Soviet boot until Gorbachev freed them in 1989 (by his promise that the Soviets would no longer interfer in Eastern Europe).
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Constantinople

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Re: Stalin's Legacy
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2010, 12:42:44 AM »
And most of that was agreed to at the Yalta Convention of 1944