The BBC reports that Stalin has been voted into third place in a poll for the greatest Russian, held by a Russian TV station.
Never mind that he was born in Gori in Georgia! (You may recall Gori from the Russian military action in 2008). Anyway, the result is a little astonishing, given his three decade reign of terror in which millions of Soviet citizens died. His claim to greatness (other than being a hugely important figure in the 20th century) is presumably his reputation as the person who led the Soviet Union to victory over Nazi Germany. As the BBC says:
Many in Russia do still revere Stalin for his role during World War II when the Soviet Union defeated the forces of Nazi Germany.
While the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Hitler’s Germany is undoubted, this is still quite an interesting view of history. Don’t forget Stalin
- signed a pact with Nazi Germany just prior to WW2
- the Hitler-Stalin pact included secret protocols aimed at partitioning eastern Europe
- He colluded with Hitler to dismember Poland
- He colluded with Hitler to grab the Baltic states
- He invaded Finland (and the Red Army had a bit of a hard time there)
- He eviscerated the Red Army to the point that it was touch and go whether or not the Germans would take Moscow
The BBC report observes there seems to be something of campaign to restore the reputation of one of the 20th century’s greatest monsters. But what does “Greatest Russian” mean?
“We now have to think very seriously, why the nation chooses to put [Joseph] Stalin in third place,” said actor and film director Nikita Mikhalkov, one of the contest’s judges, after the results were released.
I’m not sure whether Mikhailov is bemoaning how low or how high Stalin’s placing was! Personally, I can accept his “greatness” in terms of historical significance, but I would have thought that considerable work would be needed to rehabilitate his reputation. One might take note of The Whisperers, Orlando Figes book on the impact of Stalinism on ordinary Soviet citizens.