Downplaying Stalin, Russia Avoids its Soviet Past

Russia’s attitude towards the past has changed dramatically since Vladimir Putin first took office as president in 2000. The official position, once leaning towards openness about the brutal repression of the Communists, quickly turned to secrecy. Criticizing the Soviet leadership, including Joseph Stalin, became synonymous with disrespecting Russia’s history and disregarding the positive accomplishments of the Soviet regime.

The latest word on the topic, coming from the New York Times, chronicles the growing difficulties historians face in documenting the county’s past. Historian Archives, particularly those with damning information concerning the KGB and the country’s other secret services, have now become closed or redacted to the point of uselessness.

Russia has still largely not dealt with the violence inflicted by Soviet authorities, instead voicing an official stance that apologies should not be made for the past.

“Russia positions itself as a completely different democratic country with democratic values, but at the same time, it does not reject, it does not disassociate itself and does not condemn the regime that preceded it,” said Vasily Khanevich, a historian interviewed by the Times. “On the contrary, it defends it.”

Attitudes at Russian schools have also changed. Authors of controversial new history textbooks, which have been accused of justifying Stalin’s repressions, openly admit that the texts seek to teach a “modern ideology.” The intent, they say, is to “foster a civic and patriotic viewpoint in the young person.”

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov has written his own book, titled “Stalin and the Modern Age,” which jumps on this resurgent image of Stalin and the Soviet Union, especially among younger Russians.

“It is no secret,” a press-release about the book writes, “that now, during a growing rift in society, people tired of hoping for positive changes in the country are more than ever remembering Stalin with kind words.”

“Time,” the release continues, “is sweeping away the trash thrown by detractors on Stalin’s grave.”