Friday, December 19, 2008

Rehabilitating Stalin? Don't make me puke

Russian police raided the offices of a human rights organization in St. Petersburg earlier this month, seizing an enormous quantity of files related to the disastrous rule of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the police broke into the offices of Memorial, a group that has built a large collection of evidence related to the brutal treatment by Stalin. The reason for the raid was flimsy, the groups spokesperson stated. According to the article, the police had linked Memorial to a group under investigation for opposing Vladimir Putin and his party's government.

Memorial claims it has no ties to any extremist group, let alone the one under investigation. Further, they believe the police action was meant to send a message to the group about its work around keeping a documentary record of Stalin's crimes. Many of their documents, photos, and files unrelated to the stated purpose of the police raid were damaged or taken by police.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the police raid coincides with a general effort in Russia to rehabilitate Josef Stalin. Government approved history text books portray the former Soviet leaders as a pragmatist and as efficient. One text book approved by the Putin regime noted that Stalin may have been justified to use violence against perceived political opponents in order to "ensure maximum efficiency."

Surveys in Russia currently indicate a growing approval of Stalin over the past few years.

The story is disturbing in all of its aspects. No doubt the Putin regime is attempting to rehabilitate Stalin primarily to boost support for its own attempts to hold onto power long after its legal rights have run their course. In addition, it is well-known that Putin has used extra-legal means and violence to suppress political opposition. Is his goal to be become the capitalist Stalin? Apparently.

Attempts by anyone to rehabilitate Stalin, along with his crimes and errors, should be harshly rejected.