Put Stalin Back in the Museum

Alexander Arkhangelsky is consistently one of the more thoughtful and original voices on Russia out there, and – here’s the weird part – he actually works for the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.  Certainly there is a major difference between a pure propaganda outlet like RussiaToday and the basic wire reports of RIA, but as a commentator it is great to see this one dandelion pop up through the concrete of state media.  Here, via Russia Profile, he makes an argument against the revival of Joseph Stalin posters by Moscow authorities for the Victory Day march, drawing comparisons with how Germany has dealt with its own past.

In reality, yes – Stalin and Hitler are essentially two different manifestations of the global evil, very different. And communism and Nazism are incongruous forms of state dehumanization. To say that they are no different means to replace understanding with a slogan. In turn, there are very significant differences between Hitler’s national-socialism, Mussolini’s fascism and Franco’s authoritarianism.

But how does this affect the question of life and death, the problem ofguilt and responsibility? It doesn’t at all. In regard to his ownpeople, Stalin was a purposeful murderer. And this is quite enough,without any comparisons or parallels. It is impossible to equate apower that triumphed over Nazism to the defeated national-socialism.But it was no better to perish in Kolyma than at Auschwitz. Is there adifference in the ideologies that led to extermination camps in Germanyand in the Soviet Union? Of course. But there is no difference at allbetween GULAG and Dachau as mechanisms of mass destruction. Thecontexts and subtexts, the political, historic, and legal appraisalsvary, while slaughter remains slaughter, and the terror of deathremains terror. Personal responsibility for a political action isirrevocable.

So drop the idea of the posters. And liberal notions have nothing to do with this: it is basic historical hygiene.