Friday, 14 May 2010
Nothing new on Stalin from outward looking Medvedev
When President Medvedev made an intervention in the debate it was to shoot down any hint of Stalin-idolatry. Speaking to Izvestia newspaper, he slammed the totalitarian Soviet regime, stressing that it was people, rather than the tyrant, who had defeated Nazi Germany and calling Stalin’s crimes ’unforgivable’.
Whatever you might read elsewhere, Medvedev has not changed tack with his comments. He has consistently condemned the rehabilitation of Stalinism. He has repeatedly expressed sorrow for Stalin’s victims. And it was Medvedev who ordered that the archives be opened up, in order to reveal the true horror of the crimes at Katyn.
Russia’s relationship with the darkest episodes of its Soviet past is complicated. Stalinist nostalgia is not unheard of and there are perfectly reasonable psychological reasons why it persists. But the President is unambiguously opposed to the phenomenon and there is nothing particularly new in his latest remarks.
Despite much received wisdom about Russia, its leaders are not incorrigible, nor is Medvedev a clone of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The President wants to be a modernising leader. Just this week a document detailing the Kremlin foreign ministry’s plans to diversify and dynamise the Russian economy, by attracting inward investment from abroad, was ’leaked’. Medvedev views hi-tech industries, and an outward looking approach to the rest of the world, as key to Russia’s future success.
He continues to struggle against the ’legal nihilism’ of the justice system, which he believes is holding Russia back. Sometimes he is successful, sometimes less so, but it is a work in progress and at least Medvedev has accurately identified his country’s problems.
The President sincerely wants to manoeuvre Russia out of the defensive position which has often, understandably, coloured its foreign policy. He deserves some good will, trust and partnership to enable him to succeed
Young Stalin (Vintage)