Sunday, 28 December 2008

Brutality rather than irrationality was Stalin's crime

A number of news sources have picked up on television polls accompanying the Eemya Rossiya (Name of Russia) competition. A series of documentary programmes has examined the bona fides of top contenders and Stalin remains popular in the television vote. The BBC has used the opportunity to examine the dictator’s appeal to contemporary Russians.

One problem I have with this television report is the contention that the Kremlin is ‘rewriting history’ by sponsoring text books suggesting Stalin’s actions as Russian leader were ‘rational’. More nuanced western historians have come to the conclusion that rationality did underpin the tyrant’s actions, even if his methods were deplorably brutal.

Stalin was far from the unhinged paranoiac frequently depicted. He was quite aware that innocent people perished through his terrors, but also realised that his regime depended upon fear. I recently wrote about the Georgian’s enduring popularity amongst Russians on Three Thousand Versts. It is certainly a regrettable phenomenon, but this report rather grasps the wrong end of the stick.

It is wrong to rehabilitate Stalin. It is also quite reasonable to imply that there was method to his awful brutality.

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