No One Can Whitewash Stalin Except By Ignoring Russia’s Spiritual Traditions – OpEd


Those who today seek to rehabilitate and even deify Stalin and condemn de-Stalinization are able to do so only by ignoring Russia’s spiritual traditions and reducing Russian history to the Soviet period when the cultural and religious traditions of tsarist Russia were attacked, Aleksandr Tsipko says.

And unless that is recognized and respect for that earlier tradition is restored, the senior Moscow political commentator says, Russia won’t be able to escape completely from its Soviet period and rejoin the rest of the world. Instead, it will be fated to repeat yet again the enormous human tragedies of the Soviet period (

Indeed, the dangers of that may be even greater than many think because in Soviet times many viewed its victims with sympathy but today, Tsipko continues, even the grandchildren of Stalin’s victims celebrate him as part and parcel of their national patrimony, one that ignores the religious and cultural elements of Russia more generally.

“It is certainly no accident,” the commentator continues, “that our present era, an era according to which ‘Russia is not the West,’ has become again an era in which the repressions of Stalin are justified. Only people deprived of national consciousness, Russophobes in the truest sense, can speak peacefully abut the destruction of millions of people” in the name of a cause.

Never before have so many lies been told about Stalin or about the repressions he and the communist regime visited upon so many. And never have so many attacked those like Khrushchev, Solzhenitsyn and Gorbachev who tried to speak the truth so that the tragedies of the past would not be repeated.

Tsipko recalls that “we were Soviet people, but we had as a rule a feeling of sympathy to the victims of Stalin’s repressions” and responded with “tears in our eyes” to stories about how Stalin’s guards prevented Ukrainians from getting food during the terror famine of 1932-1933. None of his group celebrated that at the time, but tragically many do now.

“Now, there are no tears and no moral protest against the terrible pages of Soviet history. Now, people flee from this terrible truth, from the history of their own country and their own nation. Now the most unexpected thing: even those whose ancestors died in the GULAG forgive him for his repressions.”

Many Russians don’t want the truth about their past and instead at the direction of those in power celebrate monsters like Stalin because they somehow believe he is “theirs,” must never be criticized, and must be defended as such rather than condemned for his violation of all moral norms.

For such people, Stalin is part of their Russianness because they do not possess any national history other than the Soviet. If there is no history but Soviet, then even Stalin must be justified; But if there is a broader Russian history, then Stalin’s crimes can be calmly assessed for what they are, Tsipko argues.

But there is an even bigger tragedy: those who justify Stalin and his repressions justify as well the philosophy of murder that Stalin and the communist system represented. Even now, the commentator writes, many can’t accept that “our Marxism, especially Bolshevism … in fact was the philosophy of the most banal crime, the philosophy of murder.”

According to Tsipko, “many intellectuals who call themselves liberals relate quite calmly to Marxism” despite that fact, and by so doing, they make it easier for others to go along with the rehabilitation of Stalin and the denunciation of those who sought to rescue Russia from his criminal actions.

However, the real reason why this is so difficult for Russians in particular, the commentator says, lies elsewhere. It lies with the fact that the Soviet system and its crimes were visited upon the Russian people not by some foreign conqueror but by the Russians themselves – and that means they must face up to what they have done as well as what has been done to them.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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