This week marked the 60th anniversary of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s death. On March 5, 1953, the Georgia-born tyrant’s nearly three-decade long reign of terror came to an end -- providing momentary solace for all people living behind the Iron Curtain. “Uncle Joe” was no more.
Millions of people in then-Soviet Russia, the Baltic States, and nearby Soviet satellites were killed, tortured, and oppressed under Stalin’s regime.
Members of my family witnessed the wrath of his inhumane policies firsthand. My late maternal grandfather -- a faithful, quiet man -- was imprisoned for 18 months in one of his gulags at the Belomor Canal on the Russian-Finnish border for owning private property. He was eventually released and luckily spared from death. Unfortunately, millions of others died in gulags or at the hands of the KGB. For those of us with family afflicted by Stalin’s policies, we only have contempt for this man.
Despite all of this, admiration for Stalin lingers in post-Soviet Russia.
The Levada Center -- an independent Russian non-governmental polling organization -- conducted a study in February revealing that 49 percent of Russians polled think Stalin played a positive role in Russian history. A similar poll conducted last fall revealed that 47 percent of Russians thought that Stalin "a wise leader who brought the Soviet Union to might and prosperity”.
What best explains this confounding trend?
In Russia today, the reemergence of Stalin’s images and favorable opinions of the dictator have been greatly seen under Vladimir Putin. Russians skeptical of this trend fear that Putin will be compared to Stalin. As a result, the proliferation of Stalin paraphernalia in Putin’s Russia has been characterized as “neo-Soviet” by some.
The discussion over Joseph Stalin’s legacy was sparked last month with the 70th anniversary of the Red Army’s victory at the Battle of Stalingrad. Every year, local Volgograd deputies agree to call the city by its old name -- Stalingrad -- for six days to mark the event.
The desire to return to the “Soviet glory days” can lead many to believe Russia is experiencing a “neo-Soviet” phase. Another recent Levada poll found that 51 percent of Russians prefer a Soviet-like system of state planning and distribution. It also found that Russian approval of free enterprise was at 29 percent -- down from 35 percent -- in 2012.
Growing sentiments favoring the Soviet dictator are equally fueled by apologists who excuse and equally dismiss Stalin’s crimes against humanity.
Professor Grover Furr of Montclair State University in New Jersey -- an outspoken Stalin apologist -- was caught on film last October saying he has yet to find one crime committed by Stalin, saying that “it’s bullsh*t.”
He added, “The history of the Soviet Union is the most falsified.”
The Khrushchev Lied author has published numerous papers and books offering praise for Joseph Stalin and has said America has the lowest standard of living in the industrialized world. Americans should feel elated knowing that a Medieval English professor is propagating Marxism on our tax dime! But I digress…
The yearning for Stalinesque leaders in Russia and individuals who encourage them should not sit well with freedom-loving people.
Approximately 20 to 40 million deaths were witnessed during Stalin’s time. My parents told me countless stories of family friends disappearing and never returning back home to then Soviet-occupied Lithuania. Families were broken apart, lives were shattered, and freedom was unattainable throughout the entire Soviet Union.
When Americans see countries like Russia demand a return to these policies, they should be reminded of the Soviet Union’s failed experimentation with Marxist-Leninism.
Winston Churchill famously opined, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
China, Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, Nazi Germany, and the former Soviet Union are prime examples of places devastated by collectivist policies. Collectivism -- regardless of shape, variant, or appearance -- always leads to destruction, destitution, and death.
As a result, history should not be so kind to Joseph Stalin.