Staunton, November 6 – The Kremlin has taken control not only of public discussions about memory of the repressed and not only about any criticism of Stalin but also “criticism of the contemporary exaltation of Stalin,” lest that lead Russians to draw the obvious parallels between the late dictator and Vladimir Putin, according to Irina Pavlova.
One of those involved in this effort, which is nothing less than “a special operation to discredit those who make historical analogies by comparing the Stalinist and Putin regimes” is Russian television journalist Aleksandr Nevzorov who says that the Russian people are to blame for Stalinism.
In a recent essay “Russia in Search of Hell,” Nevzorov says that Russians were enthusiastic about Stalin and that any revival of support for Stalinism now arises directly from them, his way of saying, Pavlova says, that the authorities are in no way to blame for what is happening.
“This special operation,” she writes, “was born in the heads of those who were prepared to come in place of Boris Yeltsin, and who wanted to take control of the de-Stalinist efforts of the late 1980s and early 1990s lest they call into question the kind of regime these people wanted to create.
Nevzorov is only one of many who now blame the Russian people for Stalin and any revival in sympathy for the dictator, and like them, he insists that “for a multitude of reasons, it is impossible to reconstruct genuine Stalinism” in Russia today, Pavlova observes.
But as she asks rhetorically, “why is it impossible if it has already happened. For many years now…nothing other than the restoration of the main thing in Stalinism – the Stalinist method of rule and the successful – in the Stalinist traditions – use by the authorities in their own interests of the worst aspects of the people has been on view.”
This development is “not only the so-called power vertical and the return of the appointment of governors,” Pavlova says. “This is the rebirth of a secret infrastructure of power with all-embracing secrecy, the reanimation of an invisible army of undercover collaborators of the KGB, the ranks of which are being filled by young people ready to serve the regime.”
“The visible part of this army” are those organizations created “under the aegis of the Kremlin; “the invisible consists of the representatives of the special services in all institutions and in all enterprises, including business structures,” Pavlova argues.
Since Putin came to power, “the Stalinist mechanism of rule was not simply restored but also modernized, and conspiracy has reached such a level that Stalin would have envied it.” He had a Politburo whose membership was known; Putin has an informal network of people whose exact membership is not.
While blaming Russians in general, Nevzorov and his ilk blame the Russian intelligentsia in particular. But, according to Pavlova, the intelligentsia deserves blame not because of its work in unmasking Stalin’s crimes but rather because some of its members have now joined the campaign to revive Stalin and Stalinism.
And in addition, she says, the Russian intelligentsia deserves blame because its focus on one aspect of Stalinism has had the effect, desired by the Kremlin, of distracting attention from any discussion of the mechanisms of Stalinist power. Were those discussed, it would be obvious how much Putin has in common with the late dictator.