Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Enemies of the State" - Stalinism making a comeback in Russia

My inbox and news feed this past couple of weeks had been filled with stories of the British enquiry into the 2006 poisoning of Litvinenko, FSB defector turned MI6 informant.  The enquiry, which the British did NOT want to hold and delayed almost 10 years, because it might upset relations with Russia, found as fact which had previously been suspected.  Litvinenko was poisoned with Polonium 210 by two Russian acquaintances, FSB employees, and at the behest of the FSB and probably approved or ordered by Putin.

Once the poison had been identified, a fortuitous accident in itself, it was a no-brainer to follow the radioactive trail of the assassins which stuck to them like a bad small everywhere they went.  Polonium 210 is only manufactured in a couple of places, Russia being one of them and you don't lay your hands on it without top level authorization. There were a number of reasons to kill him.  He was a fierce critic of Putin and had written a couple of books, one about the apartment bombings in 1999 that brought Putin to power.  Others investigating this met untimely ends. The most likely scenario is that he was killed to prevent him from testifying before a Spanish investigation into connections between the Kremlin, including Putin, as Russian mobsters. Ideology, the Soviet reason for killing, has been replaced by money.

The full 329 page report is available in PDF here and The Guardian has the detailed story here.

Putin's Russia has quite a history of killing off opposition.  This article from Foreign Affairs provides a list of hits and a couple of misses. License to Kill: The Kremlin's Long History of Assassinating Opponents

As Putin's economy unravels, so does his social contract with the people of Russia and with the elites who make up the power structure.  That was essentially 'you let us govern and steal and we'll spread enough money around to make you better off than you were'. Alexander J. Motyl's article Lights Out for the Putin Regime: The Coming Russian Collapse describes the situation but in my opinion expresses a little too much wishful thinking in forecasting a coming collapse.  Lots of people have been killed or injured in the dying threshings of a fatally wounded animal. And Putin knows he must remain in power for the rest of his life so he does not have to answer for his misdeeds.

Since he cannot buy his way out, he has to use the other tool of dictators: repression.  And for that, he is reaching back into the era of Stalin. Putin is going to make Russia a great power in the world.  For this, the Russian people must make sacrifices for the good of the country as they did in Soviet time during the Great Patriotic War.  They are surrounded by enemies on all sides of which the greatest is America from which the EU takes its direction.  

This is just a small example of what Russian citizens are fed on a daily basis by the Kremlin controlled media
"The U.S. wants to dissolve Russia so it can get access to its resources", Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev said in an interview with the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper on Tuesday. “The US government has a goal — to dominate the world. It's possible that they want to achieve this goal through Russia's collapse, which will allow the U.S. access to its rich resources, which, in their opinion, Russia does not deserve to possess. Moscow is not interested in a standoff with the West. The initiator of the current conflict is the U.S. Europe obeys their will,” In the interview with the Kommersant newspaper last year, Patrushev said that the U.S. wished that Russia didn't exist as a country and that it considers Russia's possession of the Far East and Siberia illegal.

In case you didn't know, America is also responsible for the flu epidemic in Russia which has killed a number of people (it is much more serious in Ukraine with over 80 deaths reported). As well homosexuality is an American plot against Russia (Russian homophobia makes Pat Robertson seem like a liberal). By the way, publicity of the goat-tiger friendship in a Russian zoo is gay propaganda and should be stopped as it will affect children.  And the list goes on.  So Russia has a huge and powerful enemy just like during the war.  And of course, everyone opposed to Russia is a Nazi or a Fascist.

That is not the only language of the Stalinist era making a comeback.  The phrase 'enemies of the people' from the time of the Great Terror in 1937-1938 is being heard again. The following is sort of abstracted from For Putin, For Stalin: Fearful of unrest, Russia’s presidentis using the memory of Stalin to exhort his people to sacrifice.

Over the last few years, President Vladimir Putin has presided over the rehabilitation of one of the 20th century’s greatest monsters. Bedeviled by the country’s economic decay and fearful of dissent, he has turned to the ghost of Stalin help to rally the Russian people and to prepare them for the sacrifices that lie ahead.

The unspoken deal between Putin and the Russian people had gone something like this: He would relieve them from the instability and economic crises of the 1990s, and in return, Russians would allow him to run the country as he saw fit. For many years, this was a successful endeavor. The Russian people lived increasingly comfortable lives while Putin consolidated power. But the protests of 2012 and 2013 that followed his fraudulent reelection made it clear that, while many Russians enjoyed their economic success, some were no longer happy to leave politics to Putin.

So he changed tack, declaring in every medium he could find that the protesters were sponsored by Americans or inspired by the European Union. With the help of the state-controlled media, the Kremlin found and vilified an ever-growing list of fifth columnists: homosexuals, foreigners, NGOs, and activists. The message to the broader, non-protesting populace was clear: Russia and the Russian way of life were under attack, and Russia must unite around its leader to defend herself.

So Putin asked Russians to tighten their belts for the sake of making Russia great again. Many Russians had seen a marked increase in their quality of life, but now they would be asked to give up some of those gains for the country’s greater geopolitical good. In this new social compact, economic growth must be sacrificed to help Russia reassert herself on the world stage.

To better make his case, Putin turned to Stalin’s playbook, looking increasingly to the events of World War II, known in Russia as the “Great Patriotic War.” Millions of Russians were killed during the Nazi invasion of 1941, and millions more lost their lives fighting Nazi Germany in Central and Eastern Europe. Nearly every Russian family — Vladimir Putin’s included — experienced loss, deprivation, disease, and death. It is a visceral, emotional part of the Russian historical fabric.

And indeed, polling reveals that some 34 percent of Russians agree that “Whatever flaws and failures are attributed to Stalin, the most important thing is that, under his leadership, Russia was victorious in World War II.”

This is why the war is the perfect way for Putin to evoke the worldview he wants Russians to have — besieged on all sides, with only a great leader to save them. With this lens on history firmly in place, Putin has prepared the way for his own crimes, sins, and wars to be dismissed. All he needs do is maintain the charade that he is fighting for the good of Mother Russia, and Russians will be willing to overlook his failures.

By March 2015, fully 45 percent of Russians believed that the sacrifices made by the Soviet people during the Stalin years were in some way justified. Less than three years earlier that number stood at only 25 percent. Further, a December 2014 poll found that 52 percent of Russians regard Stalin as having played a fully or generally positive role “in the life of [Russia],” a ten percent increase since 2006. In 2008, a nationwide TV poll saw Stalin named as the third greatest Russian to have ever lived.

Just as their grandparents did in Stalin’s time, most Russians seem ready to do whatever Putin asks of them as long as he delivers — or can convince the public that he has delivered. Whether he succeeds in convincing Russians that the price they’re paying for his adventures is worth it will determine how long his system survives.


  1. The move to discredit Lenin is also very Stalinist. Lenin had good reason to want to prevent Stalin from coming to power, ironically, but he failed.

    1. Lenin died too soon. Was he helped? I thought the USSR worshiped Lenin or was that only after the demise of Stalin as I know he encouraged worship big time? Stalin certainly rewrote the ideology.

  2. Beatings will continue until the morale improves...

    I read a scary statistic a few days ago: 10% of people will believe a statement is true if the word 'because' is used in it, no matter how ridiculous the statement.(Then again, I like to think that 80% of statistics are made up on the spot.) ;-)

    1. The Russian people have really only had 10 years of freedom in the past millenium and as far as they were concerned it was a disaster (the 90's). As to believing, I always believed my parents "BECAUSE they said so". Many of the books I read have hundreds if not thousands of endnotes. I never check to see if they actually said that on page xxx so even they could be made up for all I know.


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