You’d be forgiven for feeling somewhat confused about the Kremlin’s official stance on the use of Stalin’s images in the Victory Day festivities: there seems to have been a degree of flip-slopping about the Soviet dictator’s visual presence. In an interview, highlights of which are published here, President Medvedev has condemned Stalin’s crimes, perhaps in response to calls from activists to clarify his position, but also rather conveniently downplayed Uncle Joe’s importance, focusing the rhetoric of victory upon the Russian people:
“There are absolutely obvious things – the Great Patriotic War was won by our people, neither Stalin nor even the generals did anything as important as they did. Yes, their role was, of course, very serious, but at the same time, the people won the war at the cost of great efforts, at the cost of a great many lives,” he said in the interview, which was broadcast on state television.
This placing of the onus on ‘the people’ seems like a rather wily sidestep. Hence Communist Party devotees and loyal veterans can clasp pictures of Stalin and a groupof Stalinophiles are allowed to buy advertising spacefor Stalin from an allegedly near-bankrupt bus company in St Petersburg. It’sjust a shame of course that the same rules don’t apply to the people whowould rather celebrate the dictator’s demise.
Despite having been dead for nearly 60 years, his omnipresence has almost overshadowed some of the stories which have emerged in today’s press concerning other issues raised by Victory Day. The Moscow Times here has an interesting look at the treatment of veterans in relation to state housing and Reuters offers a poignant piece about the fate of Soviet soldiers ineligible for benefits as they did not take Russian citizenship:
For World War Two Red Army veteran Nikolai Ponomarenko the 65th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany on May 9 will be a bittersweet affair.
Proud of the role the Soviet Union played, Ponomarenko, 85, has for 17 years waged another kind of battle: to persuade Russia to look after men made invalids by the war, but who have been caught on the wrong side of history.
When the Soviet Union collapsed, men who had been ordinary soldiers in the Red Army and who became citizens of the ex-Soviet state of Latvia or took no citizenship at all no longer qualified for the special benefits and help which Russia, the legal successor to the Soviet Union, gives its veterans.
See the rest of the article here.