For those who have followed the dramatic ups and downs of the struggle to free Russia from Stalinism, from its instruments in search of something better like Georgii Malenkov, through to its demolition men like Alexander Yakovlev, the Putin era has seen the clock put back.
Granted, the President for Life acknowledges the appalling barbarity of the Great Terror in the 1930s (when two thirds of Putin’s own former department of foreign intelligence were wiped out, after all). Yet his FSB director at Dzerzhinsky Square believes it was all entirely justified, the torture, the blood-letting, everything.
Granted, the President for Life does not wish to restore communism or the Soviet Union. Until recently he was of sound mind. But he does want to restore its former frontiers. He said so on the eve of his first election as President. Which did not make the former republics, now states in their own right, feel very comfortable at night.
And, of course, opportunists of every stripe have got the message. They are accustomed to sniffing the air and adjusting what they write to fit in with the dominant and growing trend, in Russia as much, if not more so, as elsewhere.
When senior figures in Russian society – such as the woman responsible for budgeting the war against Ukraine – start falling out of high rise buildings at such a rate that the satirical British magazine Private Eye produces a joke advertisement offering for sale specially made “Russian” windows, you know just how far things have gone.
Putin’s war to conquer Ukraine has turned the lights out in Russia, so that all kinds of cockroaches have emerged from the crevices of those over-heated snug little kitchens in flats all over the country. You see them on Russian television every night, bloated with bulging eyes, manifestations of hate, harbingers of vengeance, deprived by Western sanctions of their London apartments and the villas in Italy, their huge boats imprisoned in harbours all over the world, and now they are so emboldened that even the bright lights of the studio does nothing to deter them. All of a sudden it is respectable, no, patriotic to talk positively about Stalin, and they don’t mean those huge dams that appear in the last scenes of David Lean’s classic film, Dr Zhivago. They mean the forces of the old order that he deployed to hold up the entire structure of power for the purpose of overawing a massive population reduced to modern serfdom, like Zhivago’s author, Pasternak, subdued into public silence.
The once independent mainstream Russian newspaper, Nezavisimaya gazeta, has now appeared with a powerful polemic on the crucial importance for the future of Russian society of seeing Stalin as he was, not as we might pretend him to have been. “By not seeing Stalin objectively”, Alexander Tsipko writes, “Russia will not get back on track.” It is a chilling diatribe. The Russians – not foreigners – did it all to themselves. It was Russians who denounced one another to the secret police. It was all self-inflicted. As the former professor of logic at Moscow university, Alexander Zinoviev, reminded everyone: socialism (sotsizm, as he called it) in Russia was home-grown; not bought at some foreign supermarket.
And what is the answer? Tsipko is in no doubt. A normal market economy, a normal European democracy, European values, the right to life, the rule of law: the values of Western civilisation. In contrast, Stalin is the route to the graveyard.
Александр Ципко: Не оценив Сталина объективно, Россия не выйдет на магистральный путь
Дорога на кладбище истории