October 30th marks the Day of Remembrance in Russia, where, in theory, the nation should be united in reflection over the millions of Russian lives lost to the Great Terror under Joseph Stalin. While Memorial is doing its best to promote awareness, and there has been a protest by a few brave souls demanding that today’s political prisoners are released, it is difficult for any meaningful reckoning of Russia’s past to take place when many citizens still cannot decide whether or not Stalinism was bad, while also living under a leadership doing its best to resurrect a cultural obsession of “greatness” at the expense of freedoms.
By comparison, this week German Chancellor Angela Merkel unveiled a memorial to Roma (Gypsy) Nazi Holocaust victims, paying tribute to between 220,000 and 500,000 Roma that were executed during World War II. Merkel stressed that it was “very important” that the Germans have a “culture of remembrance.”
The politics of memory are not easy to navigate, but ultimately it will be to Russia’s future benefit to make the effort.