ROAR: “Stalin no longer effective manager”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
The Russian president is using his authority to transform society’s views about the repressions of the Stalin era, observers say.

The media, analysts and bloggers are continuing to comment on President Dmitry Medvedev’s statement that he made in an entry to his videoblog on the Day of Remembrance for Victims of Political Repression on October 30.

“The president said words that one could not hear from the Kremlin in recent years,” Vremya Novostey daily wrote. Medvedev made it clear that “looking for a constructive public consensus, he is ready to sacrifice populist ultrapatriotic rhetoric,” the paper wrote.

“I am sure that the memory of national tragedies is just as sacred as the memory of victories,” Medvedev said.“It is impossible to grasp the sheer scale of terror that swept across the country, peaking in 1937 and 1938,” he stressed.

The media quote Medvedev as saying that “no development of a country, no success or ambitions can be achieved through human grief and losses.”

At the same time, analysts say that there are signs that the population and some officials wants Stalin’s image to be improved. “Pro-Stalinist ideologists treat repression as an inevitability and terror as an adequate means of solving problems of the country’s economy,” website wrote. “This view is not only immoral, but it is also putting the state above people,” the website said.

“In defiance to trends of recent years, mentioned by the opposition, liberal Russia and Western media, the head of the Russian state clearly condemned attempts to rehabilitate the Stalin regime,” commentator Ivan Preobrazhensky wrote on website.

The president “equated repressions during those years to the attempts to revise the results of WWII,” Preobrazhensky said. Medvedev’s characteristics of Stalin are different from many of those that may be heard today, including those made by people “close to the presidential administration who call Stalin an effective manager,” he added.

Medvedev also stressed “that Stalin’s atrocities cannot detract from the feats of the people who won the Great Patriotic War, made our country a mighty industrial power, and raised our industry, science, and culture to world levels.”

“Thus, Medvedev is opposing an intermediate position that is very common today, according to which Stalin ‘of course, destroyed millions,’ but at the same time – thanks to his ‘strategic genius’ – the country won WWII, conducted industrialization and so on,” the analyst said.

This point of view has a lot of supporters among “apolitical youth,” Preobrazhensky said, adding that the president might consider “this half-and-half position the most dangerous.”

Medvedev mentioned the poll conducted two years ago which indicated that “90% of young Russian citizens aged 18 to 24 could not even remember the names of famous people who had suffered or died from repressions” and called this “very alarming.”

Political scientist Mikhail Vinogradov described the president’s statement as “quite logical and appropriate.”

“Of course there are attempts in the framework of the discussion about Russia’s history to improve the image of state structures that were engaged in eliminating their own people in certain periods,” Vinogradov told website. So, many expected Medvedev’s comments on the issue, the analyst added.

“However, it is difficult enough to say now whether [the president’s statement] is a political one or not,” he said. “It is a fairly general rhetoric which does not necessarily propose a project for the present period,” he said.

Konstantin Simonov, head of the Center for Political Conjuncture, noted that a lot of people are indeed Stalin sympathizers. The analyst also assumed that many would start now to compare Medvedev’s policies in this issue “to the line conducted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. But I doubt that one should accuse the executive authorities of attempting to rehabilitate Stalin,” he told the same website.

Many observers discussed that thesis about the “effectiveness” of Stalin’s way of ruling the country. After Medvedev’s statement, Stalin “has lost his effectiveness,” said. Observer Stanislav Minin, in his turn, stressed that Medvedev does not treat repressions as “effective management.”

“At last, necessary and timely words without ambiguities and flirting with the Stalinist complexes have been said,” Minin wrote in Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily. “At last the powers (is it all powers?) have noticed the line that should not be crossed. Indirectly, the president evaluated the textbooks that ‘glorify’ Stalin’s successful management,” the analyst said.

“It seems that Medvedev has decided to invest his institutional authority in changing the degree of public discussion about Stalin’s times,” Minin stressed. “The Russian Orthodox Church is doing the same.”

“There is an anomalous situation in Russian society, where the state is not only a participant of arguments about history, but is also a kind of authority, expert, censor and proof-reader,” the analyst said. It is a great temptation for the authorities, Minin noted, adding that “Medvedev’s words are a sign of the power’s voluntary self-restraint.”

The president “is testing – deliberately or not – his authority,” Minin believes. “He will probably be interested in public reaction to his statement,” the analyst added. “What will society say? Will there be any discussion? Who will support him? Will there be any reaction at all? Will the intelligentsia quote his words in arguments with Stalinists for whom rational arguments are not arguments?”

Mevdedev’s statement might not be a reflection of a certain consensus that has been achieved at the top level, Minin said. It may be Medvedev’s personal initiative, he added. “But it is not important. What is important is that the word has been said, and the word is ‘enough.’ In any case, against a background of obscurantism of recent years, it sounds like that.”

“If President Medvedev really wanted to use his position to transform society, it is an intention worthy of applause,” Minin said. “It is another question if [the attempt] will be successful or not. In our times, even intentions have great value.”

Public discussion has already started on Medvedev’s blog, with users saying positive and negative views about the statement. Blogger Aleksandr from Moscow agreed with the president, but said he was surprised after reading all comments on the blog to see “how many people are in Russia who admire, justify or support Stalin and his policies.”

Another blogger, Svetoluch from the Moscow Region, said: “What neo-Stalinists write in their comments shows that… you were right in stressing the state’s point of view.”

Sergey Borisov, RT