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Average Joe: The Return of Stalin Apologists

March 3, 2011

Tomasz Sommer and Marek J. Chodakiewicz in World Affairs Journal:

The current wave of Stalin nostalgia has a certain desperate brio and seeks the total expiation of the former dictator, facts be damned. Someone familiar with the Russian intellectual scene cannot help but be surprised not only by the sheer volume of books about Stalin’s innocence but also by their accessibility. Does all this mean that a new generation of Russian historians, failing to find a moral compass in Russia’s past, have resolved to forge Stalin into a new Ivan the Terrible or Peter the Great? Or does this reflect the continuing moral and intellectual confusion in the post-Soviet sphere? Or is it merely part of a delayed effort to rehabilitate almost anything that was challenged under Gorbachev and Yeltsin?

The year 1937 is a crucial symbol of the struggle between memory and Stalinist propaganda. It touched “foreigners” and also, on a vast scale, the Russian intelligentsia and people, including Communist Party members. The Great Terror of the Purges has more resonance for contemporary Russians than, say, the Holodomor (the Ukrainian famine), the Doctor’s Plot, or the Finnish Operations of the NKVD. Stalin apologists find it a far easier tool by which to augment the post-Soviet moral chaos that still characterizes Russian intellectual life. [More]

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