NEWSWATCH AUDIO: “Stalin Resurgent, Again; Russia has long been deeply divided over Stalin’s role in history, with pro-Stalin sentiments surging in times of domestic hardships or perceptions of foreign threats.” – The Nation/Stephen F. Cohen

Joseph Stalin file photo

[radio audio embedded below]

… Cohen, who has studied and written about the Stalin era and its legacy for many decades (most recently in his book The Victims Return), points out that Russia has been deeply divided over Stalin’s historical role ever since his death 63 years ago. Looking back, Russians see two towering mountains, both informed by contested history: a mountain of Stalin’s achievements in the form of industrialization and modernization in the 1930s, however draconian, leading to the victory over Nazi Germany in 1941-1945; and a mountain of human victims resulting from forced collectivization of the peasantry and the Great Terror, with its Gulag, both victimizing millions of people. Russian and Western historians, now with access to long closed archives, are still trying to strike a scholarly balance, but for ordinary Russians the balance is directly affected by their perception of their own well-being at home and of national security. Positive views of Stalin do not mean they want a new Stalin in the Kremlin or a recapitulation of Stalinism, but that the despot is a symbol of a strong state, law and order, and national security. To illustrate this, Cohen briefly looks at the conflicts over Stalin’s reputation under Khrushchev, who assaulted the cult created by Stalin; under Brezhnev, when the conflicts were muffled by censorship; during Gorbachev’s anti-Stalinist Perestroika, when the divisions burst into the open as part of his “glasnost”; during the Yeltsin 1990s, when economic and social hard times afflicted most Russian citizens and Stalin’s popular ratings began to surge again; and now under Putin.

Click here for The Nation/Stephen F. Cohen: Stalin Resurgent, Again; Russia has long been deeply divided over Stalin’s role in history, with pro-Stalin sentiments surging in times of domestic hardships or perceptions of foreign threats.

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