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4 Aug, 2009 10:31

ROAR: Russians do not equate Stalinism to fascism

ROAR: Russians do not equate Stalinism to fascism

The majority of Russians do not support the idea of European politicians to equate the responsibility of Stalinism and fascism for the beginning of World War II.

According to the survey conducted at the end of July by VTsIOM, the Russian Public Opinion Research Center, 53% of those polled were against a recent resolution adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Many Russians do not consider Stalin’s era to be totalitarian, Kommersant daily wrote, explaining why respondents did not support the OSCE resolution. Only 11% of the respondents spoke in favor of the document that condemned the crimes of Stalinism.

Almost 70% of the respondents who support the Communist Party were against the resolution. Some 21% of those polled said they were indifferent to the resolution and 15% did not know how to answer.

The majority of respondents were certain that the resolution had been adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE “to undermine Russia’s authority in the world and diminish its contribution to the victory over fascism.”

However, 21% of those surveyed believe the resolution was passed “to revere the memory of victims of all totalitarian regimes.”

Sociologists understand that many people, as a rule, do not read such documents as the OSCE resolution and form their opinions thanks to the mass media, Valery Fedorov, VTsIOM’s general director, told Kommersant.

Andrey Ryabov, a member of the Carnegie Moscow Center, says that propaganda in the mass media, justifying Stalinism, influenced Russians very much in their attitudes to the Stalin era. The media often offer a one-sided interpretation of the events of Word War II, Ryabov told Gazeta daily.

He also said that 53% of those who criticized the OSCE resolution “is a fairly big figure for Russia”. “It is a result of positive materials about events of that time, which have appeared on television recently,” he said.

However, many analysts believe that Russians have always had negative attitudes to the crime of the Stalin regime. “Rejecting the OSCE resolution, Russians do not want to be deprived of the most considerable cause for pride over the previous hundreds of years – the victory in the Great Patriotic war,” Vladimir Petukhov, head of the department of the dynamics of mass consciousness of the Institute of Sociology, told Gazeta.

Russians believe that “the country which won a victory over fascism should not be equated to those whom it defeated,” Petukhov said.

Sergey Ivanenko, a member of the political committee of the liberal Yabloko party, also believes that the survey showed Russians’ attitude to the West, rather than to Stalinism. The results of the poll even give reason for optimism, Ivanenko told Kommersant.

It is possible to tell Russians about the crimes of the Stalin regime, Ivanenko said. At the same time, he stressed that there would be any effect if only the authorities are engaged “in enlightenment.”

Russian politicians sharply criticized the resolution, and the Communists in the State Duma called for Russia’s withdrawal from the OSCE. Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs, asked why the resolution condemns “only Stalinism, not the Franco regime, the Greek colonels, or Mussolini.”

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill also said during his visit to Ukraine that Stalinism should not be equated to fascism. “Without justifying, but condemning repressive regimes, we at the same time should make a distinction between repressive and man-hating regimes,” he said. “For me, Nazism is a man-hating regime and Stalinism is a repressive regime,” he added.

The website of Obshchaya Gazeta wrote in this regard that the Russian Orthodox Church is not in unity over the attitudes to Stalinism and fascism. Incidentally, Archbishop Illarion of Volokolamsk, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, recently equated both regimes.

The Archbishop of Stavropol and Vladikavkaz Pheophan, a member of the Public Chamber, described both Stalinism and Nazism as “evil,” but also stressed that they should not be equated.

“The idea of eliminating nations is not characteristic for Stalinism, unlike Nazism,” Pheophan told the Kommersant Vlast weekly. He added that Stalinism “was striving for social justice by barbaric methods.”

Obshchaya Gazeta believes that after Patriarch Kirill commented on the issue, he, “at least officially, has put an end to the discussion in the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Fedorov of VTsIOM described the public consciousness as “multi-layered.” People, on one hand, recognize that there were repressions under Stalin, but they think there were also “good things.” As for Nazism, Russians think “it is an absolute evil, in which there might be nothing good,” Fedorov told Kommersant.

At the same time, he stressed that the general public opinion against the West was behind the many answers the respondents gave. These attitudes increase every time when the West “sends negative assessments towards Russia,” Fedorov added.

Russian parliamentarians said the OSCE “should not concern itself with the democratization of Eastern Europe on the Western pattern and need not remain an affiliate of the European Union and NATO.”

When asked about their attitudes to the OSCE resolution, many representatives of the Russian intelligentsia are in doubt. Writer Grigory Pomerants told Kommersant Vlast that Stalinism was more “hypocritical”, but under both regimes “a cult of leader won when a personality and dignity were suppressed by a cruel force.”

Dmitry Shparo, a famous polar explorer told the same weekly: “Stalin was a dictator, he fought against class enemies. He did not eliminate certain big groups or nationalities.”

At the same time, Shparo said that Russia needs “days of commemoration of Stalin’s repressions and repentance like in Germany.” He added, however, that he would feel uneasy “if they were to equate Stalinism and Nazism.”

Sergey Borisov, RT