Joseph Stalin making a comeback in Russia

After he died in 1953, Stalin was quickly erased from the public eye in the Soviet Union. These days, though, he is making a comeback, with statues and plaques honoring the dictator going up throughout Russia. Why are people honoring a mass killer? …

In a nationwide survey conducted in March, 70 percent of Russians said they believe Stalin played a positive role in history. It is the highest result ever for the question. And Novosibirsk isn’t the only city that has erected monuments to the Soviet dictator. According to one count, more than 130 statues and plaques have been put up in the last 20 years.

Most of them can be found in smaller towns like Beslan, Ishim or Penza, with many having been put up following the annexation of Crimea in 2014, an event that triggered a swelling of Russian imperial fantasies. But for the last two years, there has also been a Stalin statue in Moscow on the Alley of Rulers, which also includes busts of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great…

Stalin admirers like Denisyuk are hardly a new phenomenon in Russia. But for decades, they shrouded their Stalin busts and portraits behind curtains. The mood changed, though, once Putin came to power. The Russian president, of course, isn’t a Stalinist, but he is an able technician of power. Even though he dedicated a monument to the victims of Stalinism in the heart of Moscow, he has also helped promote the current Stalin cult by making the annual military parade held on May 9 a trademark of his presidency.

People like Denisyuk are not honoring the Stalin who threw millions of people into penal camps. Rather, they admire the decisive military leader who managed to help protect the Soviet homeland from fascism. In their eyes, World War II didn’t end with one mass murderer defeating another, but with good prevailing over evil.

Stalin’s crimes are fading from the country’s memory. Four years ago, in fact, the Russian media supervisory authority actually censored a handbook for teachers about the Great Purge because, they said, it “endangered the psychological health of children.” According to a survey conducted last fall, almost half of Russians between the ages of 18 and 24 had never heard of Stalin’s Great Purge.

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