Russia remembers Stalin and victory in World War

science | May 08, 2010 | By Asia News

Chinese President Hu Jintao will be among the many world leaders to participate in celebrations for the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, VE-Day, in Moscow tomorrow. Dozens of cloud buster planes are whisking through the sky in an attempt to prevent rain.  A huge organisational machine is underway for the traditional parade: authorities have spent around 3 million Euros, at a time when the crisis is tightening its grip on the country. The victory parade is still the most important secular holiday and deeply felt in Russia, also because of the huge toll of victims sacrificed against Nazism by the then Soviet Union, about 27 million, of which one third were in the military.

Contrasting signals on Stalin’s legacy

For this very reason, there is heated debated over whether to publically hang posters of the Stalin in major cities during celebrations.  Whether to commemorate a man who, yes stopped Hitler, but at an enormous cost in human lives.  Not to mention the horrendous crimes against humanity committed by his regime.  For weeks, Stalin has been at the heart of a battle between the Kremlin, local authorities and groups of nostalgic veterans, confirming that the country has still failed to come to terms with its sad past.

Recent polls show that citizens are divided on posters of the former dictator being hung in public during the VE-Day celebrations. As is, so it seems, even the leadership of the country, which continues to send mixed signals. In St. Petersburg, "stalinobuses" have been circulating in the centre for days with images of the “little father”, an initiative thought up by the local Communist Party.  At the same time, however, the governor of St. Petersburg, Valentina Matvienko, has banned performances “of Soviet inspiration” from taking place in nightclubs and on the evening of May 9. Meanwhile in Moscow, posters praising Joseph Stalin have appeared in 15 museums and exhibition halls and the municipality has hung small portraits outside the city, despite a Kremlin ban. Worried about possible defections on Red Square by leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the central government had banned effigies of the "wonderful Georgian" from the streets of the capital for fear of embarrassing, if not irritating, Western politicians. Today, in the pages of the newspaper “Izvestja" Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has clarified the matter for all concerned: "It was not Stalin who won the war, but the Russian people".

Those who oppose and those who will not give in

The Russian Orthodox Patriarchate has openly spoken out against any exhumation even be it only symbolic in nature. Stalin's regime "was based on terror, violence, suppression of the individual, lies," says Father Philipp (Ryabykh) Deputy Head of External Relations Department of the Moscow Patriarchate. Memorial, the NGO for the protection of human rights in Russia, is also against any possible rehabilitation of Stalin as is former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

But despite the outrage of human rights defenders and the resistance of the authorities, others have no intention of giving up. The veterans of the Patriotic War (as the Second World War is called in Russia, ed) in the eastern region of Yakutia are on the war path. May 9 they intend to unveil two busts of Stalin, despite the lack of consensus of the municipal administration of Yakutsk.

There are even more alarming signals from Ukraine. The former USSR satellite state, where Stalin ruled over a still unofficially recognised genocide, the Holodomor (the famine of 1932-'33), has inaugurated its first monument to the dictator since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The statue will be erected in the eastern city of Zaporizhya, , where the majority of the population is of Russian origin.



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