Russia's Medvedev echoes Stalin in party exhortation

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 08, 2011 12:59 PM
Russia's Medvedev echoes Stalin in party exhortation

By Alexei Anishchuk

KRASNODAR, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev dipped into Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's lexicon to tell the ruling United Russia party on Saturday that it should not take success for granted in a December parliamentary election.

Medvedev, a critic of Stalin's deadly excesses, was trying to encourage United Russia to work hard to win seats in the State Duma, the lower parliament house, amid flagging popular support from Russians tired of its entrenched position.

"It is important for a party not to feel superior," Medvedev told United Russia activists in the southern city of Krasnodar. "As soon as one feels superior, you get what the classic called 'dizzy with success.'"

In an article titled "Dizzy with Success" in the Soviet Communist Party newspaper Pravda in 1930, Stalin criticized party officials for perceived errors in implementing his agricultural collectivization campaign.

Opinion polls and regional vote results suggest United Russia could have trouble maintaining its constitutional two-thirds majority in the Duma despite the administrative support that rivals say makes elections grossly unfair.

Medvedev is to lead the party's candidate list for the December 4 vote under a plan revealed last month for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to return to the presidency in a March 2012 election and make Medvedev prime minister.

Putin and Medvedev had kept Russians guessing for years about which of them would run for president, and for many the announcement of the decision last month deepened feelings of disenfranchisement and powerlessness in a top-down system.

Medvedev has been defending the decision by saying Russians are free to vote as they wish.

The president, who is not a United Russia member and has often urged it to reform, said it must win votes through action.

"A party should only concentrate on practical things ... we were well fed with slogans in the Soviet period," he said. "I was member of the ... Communist Party too, and I remember it clearly: there was no faith and quite often no results."

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and other critics have likened United Russia to the Soviet Communist Party, which was the only legal party in the country and propagated slogans that increasingly became empty rhetoric for many citizens.

True to his new task of leading the party into the parliamentary vote, however, Medvedev said: "No matter who says what, United Russia is the party which allows people to improve their lives."

The party's dominance has made parliament into little more than a legislative arm of the Kremlin, approving government initiatives including pension and wage increases that help it win votes.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)