The picture shows the Solovetsky Monastery, as viewed from the White Sea, which allows the observer to take in this monument of Russian spirituality and architecture in its entirety. The problem, however, is that the crosses are missing from the domes. They were taken down in 1920 when Kedrov, a Bolshevik official in Arkhangelsk, ordered the closure of the monastery. The monks were either exiled or executed, while the buildings were turned into a penal labour camp. The crosses were reinstalled in 1990. For the majority of Soviet people, Solovky is synonymous with the first Soviet prison camp – initially for criminals and in time, for other categories of prisoners, rather than a monastery or even the name of islands.
Entering a new era, Russia chose a picture of a concentration camp, which destroyed thousands of lives, as one of its symbols. Every day, Russians crumple paper depicting a prison camp in their hands, as if absorbing history through their skin and fingers in order to keep it from falling into oblivion.
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Enough banging against a tightly shut door and pretending that with a little more effort, a couple more protests in support of the declared de-Stalinization and several dozen more pickets and petitions for the removal of Lenin’s remains from the Mausoleum, the past will become history. Russia is a country where life is of little value, and the significance of Stalin is that he, more and better than anyone else, proved this once and for all. He became the litmus test for the key characteristic of a Russian person – servility. It is well-known that a slave does not dream of freedom – he dreams of having his own slaves. A former pockmarked seminary student who nursed hatred of his environment and a maniacal thirst for power, had the same mind as the slave who dreams of climbing up a hill of skulls and corpses to enjoy the view of slaves like himself, but who had failed to climb as high.
A dictator cannot be free - any mania will enslave him. The goal of all so-called popular uprisings, from Spartacus to Pugachev, was not freedom. They only flared up because some people wanted to drive a stake into others and dance on their bones. Lenin and his henchmen took advantage of these sentiments. Stalin successfully took up his cause, but using methods that were more cruel. He made the servile psychology of a Russian the mainstay of his power. What is most noteworthy, is that 60 years later, Russians are not only reaping the fruit of his nearly 30-year-long rule but are gladly continuing to promote his cause.
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Can anything, other than an unconscious desire to immortalize Stalin’s name, explain the zeal with which all federal TV channels harp on his persona, looking at it from all possible angles and discussing its place in the history of Russia to death? As long as there are arguments about whether Stalin was more of a positive or a negative figure, the country will revel in its own masochism. The reason is that there are no “buts”, such as “Stalin ruined millions of lives but launched industrialization… He set up concentration camps across the entire country, but Eisenstein created his masterpieces under his rule… Stalin initiated 40 million denunciations but won the war…” There are no and cannot be any buts. Stalin destroyed millions of lives, period. Stalin set up concentration camps across the entire country, period. Stalin initiated 40 million denunciations, period. The cursed “but” is the needle on the tip of which is the death of Koshchei the Immortal (an evil magician in Russian fairytales who will only die if a special needle is broken. – Ed.). Until it is found and destroyed, Stalins will continue to rear their ugly heads.
If this short word but were only uttered by Stalinists or madmen, there would be at least a glimmer of hope. However, when intelligent and well-educated people, prone to thinking, are dissatisfied with the allegedly one-sided treatment of Stalin, focusing on his man-eating practices, you understand that it is a lost case. “Yes, he was a murderer,” a friend of mine told me. “But there must be objectivity. He did not only murder people; he also put the country on its feet.” A nice young man, my friends’ son, recently offered an explanation: “New research shows that a mere 2 mn people were executed and left to rot in camps under Stalin, rather than the generally quoted 10mn”. And this pseudo-justice is much more frightening than a thousand rallies with portraits of Stalin. It makes one realize that Russia is a country that has no people, just an electorate. Russians used to be measured by units of October Children and pioneer organizations in their youth, by Komsomol centres in their adolescence, and later by detachments, circles, clusters, squads, brigades, corps, teams, etc. Finally, by the state. But a “person” as a unit of measure has never been characteristic in Russia.
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As the years go by, Stalin is more firmly embedded in their minds. The Kremlin feels ever less discomfort regarding its shameful practices as it passes inhuman acts like the Dima Yakovlev law. (Hello, Uncle Joe, we your faithful disciples are here. It was you who taught us to disregard children’s tears when building a superpower). Or when it tries to revive old laws, such as the one on registration – it has yet to be passed, but “responsible colleagues” have already been tasked with checking whether people really live at their official residences. The Russian opposition is engaging in witchhunts among its own members with a zeal that would be the envy of the NKVD from 1937 .
Boris Vasilyev, an exceptional Russian writer who recently passed away, ended his novel Glukhoman (The Backwoods) with the words: “It is not us living in the backwoods. It is the backwoods living in us.”
Stalin never died. He is simply lying low for a while.