Monday, August 31, 2009

Stalin's Grandson.... He's Baaaak !

In America and Western Europe, this story would be filed as "weird news". Unfortunately, in the former Soviet Union, there is nothing strange about it at all. Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, grandson of Josef Stalin, the infamous Soviet dictator is suing a newspaper for defaming his grandfather's name by "falsely" claiming that he had signed death warrants. Reuters News reports as follows.

"Stalin's grandson, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, is seeking 9.5 million roubles ($299,000) from the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and 500,000 roubles from the author of an article published last April claiming Stalin personally signed politburo death orders.

Leonid Zhura, a convinced Stalinist who is representing Dzhugashvili in court, said that the article -- based on declassified Kremlin documents -- damaged Stalin's reputation.

"Half a century of lies have been poured over Stalin's reputation and he cannot defend himself from the grave so this case is essential to put the record straight," said Zhura."

To westerners, such talk may sound insane. Unfortunately, there are many in the former USSR who view the Soviet era

Economic uncertainty has led many to nostalgia for what they remember as the austere certainty and security of living under Soviet rule. Although millions shared kitchens and bathrooms in collective apartments and waited in long lines for basic consumer goods, the new nostalgia is for a time of certainty and security.

Additionally, there is the loss of the Baltic republics as well as most of Soviet Asia that rankles many who see Stalin as having presided over a vast country. The collapse of the Soviet ruble and the havoc that wreaked upon pensions as well as the economic disparities of the new order anger many. I have ridden with taxi drivers and spoken with Soviet immigrants who voice this dismay that sounds so odd to western ears.

There are still dissenting voices. Ukrainians who recall the famine of the early 1930's , Orthodox Jews and Christians who remember their faith being driven underground and their believers killed in the gulag are not likely to sign off on an attemtpt at introducing a nostalgic reappraisal of Stalin.

But unfortunately, Stalinism and Stalin nostalgia are still a force to be reckoned with. There is even a "National Bolshevik Party" with a flag that bears an eerie resemblance to the Nazi flag. The Nazi style salute of its members validates in a creepy way the suspicion that Nazism and Stalinism are really psychological twins.

It should not be supposed that the fall of Soviet communism has made that part of the world a safe and happy place. Almost every victory in a liberation struggle is really only the first. When a tyrant is overthrown, the people who enabled him and made his system work must then face themselves. When Haiti overthrew Baby Doc, when South Africa got rid of apartheid and when Iraq overthrew Sadaam Hussein, it became apparent that the people who suffered under tyranny were as much victims of themselves as they were the dictator and the system that oppressed them.

A people with an empty stomach is likely to fall for empty promises. A penetrating look at a sick society must include a look at the individual. In the former Soviet Union, the struggle continues. And people like Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, grandson of Josef Stalin are all too willing to peddle their lies to desperate people who want to believe in something.

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