Championship Insane Person, Masha Lipman, warns us that . . . well, something! Look, it turns out that the figure of Joseph Stalin occupies an ambiguous place in the Russian psyche. On the one hand, he was one of history's great monsters. On the other hand, he preserved the Russian nation and destroyed Hitler. History is in fact full of such figures, both monstrous and grand. Augustus was cruel to the point of sociopathy, and yet he carved the West's most enduring political entity. Chiang Kai-Shek was a monster too, but we santify his movement in order to anathematize Chairman Mao. You know the drill. History might be more telgenic if it were composed of a panel of judges with little score-cards, like Olympic diving. Alas, it is not.
There are many actual trends toward authoritarianism and revanchism in Russia today that might worry a truly sympathetic observer, but the replacement of a few lines of lousy patriotic poetry in an historical architectural restoration, for Lenin's sake, is just lazy propoganda for ignorant Americans. According to Lipman
Russians cling to the image of Stalin as the embodiment of the great state, and he is particularly inseparable from the triumph of the Soviet Union over Nazi Germany. The implication is that individuals may have been cowed, and that the ferocious state treated them mercilessly, but the state was the vehicle that inspired Russia's victory in world War II, its greatest achievement of the 20th century.I guess this is supposed to be tendentious somehow? It is, of course, what happened. Individuals were cowed, from dragooned peasants right up through the highest ranks of the the Red Army. The ferocious state treated them mercilessly, and was the vehicle that inspired Russia's victory in World War II. The Russian victory in World War II was its greatest achievement in the 20th Century. Is this even debatable? How about a little pause for historical irony, in that Russia sacrificed tens of millions of its own people to defeat Nazi Germany, so that six decades later, the editorial page of the Washington Post could perpetually agitate for imperial conflicts under the banner of defeating all those little Hitlers before they become like the big Hitler that America did not defeat in the first place. Zing.