An individual’s nightmares normally end on waking. A nation’s nightmare can linger for years. Witness the sad spectacle of Communist Party members bringing flowers to Joseph Stalin’s grave in Moscow’s Red Square to commemorate the dictator’s 130th birthday on Monday.
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov instructed Russians that everything that Stalin did “immortalized him for eternity.’’ The Communists today are the second largest party in Russia after United Russia, which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has molded into his loyal parliamentary valet.
The Communists haven’t lost their penchant for thought control. “We would very much like for any discussion of the mistakes of the Stalin epoch to be silenced today,’’ one leading Communist official declared Monday, “so that people could reflect on Stalin’s personality as a creator, a thinker, and a patriot.’’
What makes this historical revisionism dangerous is that it is increasingly widespread. In one survey, 54 percent of Russians professed a high opinion of his leadership qualities.
This respect is for a despot who murdered millions of citizens, purged his best generals on the eve of World War II, imposed a command economy that eventually bankrupted the nation, and sprayed his own paranoia over Soviet society until anyone could suspect anyone else of being an informer for the secret police.
Russia will never become a liberal democracy until it escapes from the Stalin nightmare.