The data on Russia I suggest we should read (from JRL via L-I)
Gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar
Fri Dec 14 07:09:09 MST 2001
As you know, I am not a cross-poster. But this time I think it is worth the
The following will explain why I am not convinced that Russia has ceased to
represent a menace. Not that I agree with all that is said below, but the
picture that appears contradicts the basic assumption of at least Mark J, and
probably also Lou Pr. "Slav nationalism" in Russia seems to have strong links
with struggle for socialism...
I have reversed the order in which the parts of the original posting appeared
so as to make it easier to follow the whole thread.
------- Forwarded message follows -------
From: Dddddd0814 at aol.com
Subject: [L-I] Re: Fw: Even Amid His Family, Debate Persists Over Stalin
Date sent: Thu, 13 Dec 2001 12:16:40 EST
In a message dated 12/11/1 1:04:13 AM, mstainsby at tao.ca writes:
Los Angeles Times
December 10, 2001
Even Amid His Family, Debate Persists Over Stalin
Communism: Half a century after dictator's death, there is no consensus on
legacy in lands he once ruled. By ROBYN DIXON, TIMES STAFF WRITER
DUSHETI, Georgia -- Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili is a famous name across
the former Soviet Union, the real name of one of the great tyrants of the 20th
Now there is another Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. He is 6 years old.
You find him capering in a sunny garden in a small town in Stalin's native land
of Georgia, burying his nose in an overblown yellow rose, strewing golden
petals about. He is the great-great-grandson of the Soviet dictator, and the
first heir to bear Stalin's full name. That Josef carries the name with its
great burden of history is a delight to his Communist grandfather, Yevgeny
Dzhugashvili, who reveres Stalin as a demigod.
But another of the Soviet leader's grandsons shunned Stalin's name.
He is Alexander Burdonsky, 59, born Alexander Stalin. In his teen years he
realized the truth about Stalin and changed his name to be free of the taint of
cruelty and tyranny.
With their conflicting views of history, of Stalin and of family, the
grandsons Dzhugashvili and Burdonsky abhor each other. Their attitudes
reflect a wider split in the former Soviet societies, most of which have
still not come to terms with their bloody histories under communism.
Nearly 50 years after Stalin's death in 1953, there is no consensus about his
legacy in Georgia, Russia and elsewhere. After the fall of the Soviet Union in
1991, only the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia made concerted
efforts to untangle decades of Communist lies and set old ghosts to rest.
Their commissions are still at work on research, historical reports and
public awareness, but have struggled with a lack of cooperation from Russia,
where many of the archives remain.
Elsewhere, many other countries emerging from repressive rule have adopted
formal processes to expose past crimes. South Africa and Latin American
countries including Argentina and Chile instituted truth commissions. Some East
European countries banned those too closely associated with the former regime
from public office.
The rationale for such efforts is that those who ignore the past or allow its
message to be muddled are in danger of repeating it. But Russians simply turned
their backs on the past without systematically examining it. There are many
Communists who still laud Stalin, and some carry his picture at their rallies.
Survey Shows Division of Opinion
Polls indicate that the nation still is confused about his role. A third of
those surveyed believe that he did more good than harm, a quarter believe the
opposite and another quarter believe he did equal amounts of harm and good,
according to a September poll of 1,500 Russians.
Stalin's successor, Nikita S. Khrushchev, denounced him in 1956 for his
brutality and abuse of power, exposing the mass arrests, deportations and
executions of innocent people. In the glasnost era launched by Mikhail S.
Gorbachev and after the fall of the Soviet Union, more information became
available. Many Russians came to see Stalin as an evil, but powerful, leader.
Today he still is given credit, particularly by the elderly, for winning World
War II and industrializing the country.
In Gori, Georgia, Stalin's birthplace, the atmosphere of denial is almost
surreal. The Stalin museum, full of retouched Soviet photographs, makes no
mention of his millions of victims.
The museum's ardently pro-Stalin view of history appears to have changed
little, despite the overall revisions of Soviet history about Stalin.
"Historians have always lied. They lied before Stalin, they lied under him, and
they're lying now," said Burdonsky, a Moscow theater director. "It's very
difficult to find the truth."
The truth is so elusive that even the number of those who died because of
Stalin's policies is the subject of debate.
According to the Memorial human rights group, Stalin's policies were
responsible for the deaths of 9 million to 12 million people, including those
who perished in the famines of 1932-33 and 1946-47. It says 25 million passed
through the Gulag, Stalin's network of prison camps, or were exiled.
Author and historian Robert Conquest estimates that 20 million died. Others
have suggested higher figures.
The uncertainty is exploited by Stalin's devotees. Yevgeny Dzhugashvili
asserts that the accusations of mass killings in the purges of 1937 and other
criticisms of Stalin were concocted on Khrushchev's orders. He has just written
his own version of Soviet history aimed at rehabilitating Stalin.
Sergei Sigachev, executive director of Memorial, said ex-Communist officials
who came to power in most former Soviet states had no interest in exposing past
crimes and identifying the guilty. It would have taken huge public pressure to
force the process.
"People were not up to it. The shelves were empty. People had lost all their
savings. They weren't concerned about restoring historical justice," he said.
"I can understand why people are saying, 'Why do we have to remember all
these executions and firing squads? It happened, but let's forget it.' But if
we forget how bad it was, then it will be very easy to go back and repeat all
these things," he said.
If it's difficult for society as a whole to come to terms with the past, it
seems even more difficult for Stalin's family.
Stalin barely knew his own children, let alone his grandchildren. Yevgeny
Dzhugashvili, 65, is the son of Stalin's son Yakov, from the dictator's first
marriage. Yakov, a Soviet army officer, died in a German POW camp in World War
II after Stalin refused an offer to exchange him for a German officer. Yevgeny
never met his grandfather.
"I was never able to call him grandpa," Dzhugashvili said sentimentally.
"Stalin to me was a leader, an incredible person. He managed to gather the
whole empire and form it into a fist. People like him are born once in a
Defense Seen as Foolish, Vain
Burdonsky, son of Stalin's son Vasily, from a second marriage, saw him only at
a distance, reviewing military parades from atop the Lenin mausoleum on Red
Square. He sees Dzhugashvili's defense of Stalin as foolish and vain.
"Stalin was a tyrant, a very cruel person, infinitely harsh and strict like the
old czars of Russia. No matter how much you try to attach angels' wings to him,
they don't stick," Burdonsky said.
"All Yevgeny wants is to be part of the Stalin story," Burdonsky said. "He
should start thinking about the life he's led. He's sitting on this old hack
that the Soviet authorities used to ride, and he hasn't even noticed that the
horse is long dead."
Like Dzhugashvili, Burdonsky began life with the conviction that Stalin was a
When he went to Stalin's funeral, he saw thousands of weeping people. But he
could summon no tears for a man he did not know. Amid the heaving mass of
sorrow, he was ashamed that he could not cry.
Later, when he realized Stalin was a tyrant and repudiated the name, he felt
For Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, who spent most of his working life in Russia, the
family name made him feel insecure.
A prim man, he wears a crisp white shirt, carries an old plastic comb in his
pocket, smokes Camel cigarettes and rarely smiles--except at little Josef.
He complains that his military career was blighted by the revisions of
history and criticisms of Stalin. Friends drifted away.
Working at defense manufacturing plants, Dzhugashvili says, he was terrified of
scandals that could be used to dismiss or demote him.
"My name was a disadvantage because the government has been on a ferocious
crusade against Stalin. None of the military bosses had the guts to promote
Stalin's grandson," he complained.
Despite his experience, Dzhugashvili planned far in advance for his grandson to
carry Stalin's exact name, and says he does not believe it will be a problem
Since middle names are traditionally taken from a father's first name,
Dzhugashvili named his oldest son Vissarion. When his grandson was born, and
named Josef, that gave him the exact name as his famous ancestor.
Family Name Haunts Younger Son
But Dzhugashvili's younger son, Yakov, 29, said no day goes by when the
family name does not haunt him. An artist who also runs an Internet operation
in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, he said some people swear at him when they hear
his name, while others try to kiss him.
"People usually ask very stupid questions like what do I think of him
[Stalin]. When I was young, I tried to answer. When I got older, I realized
there's no answer to this question," Yakov said.
Yevgeny Dzhugashvili has set up a new Stalinist Communist party in
Georgia--even though he's a Russian citizen. Occasionally, with TV cameras or
journalists in tow, he travels to Gori.
Gori is littered with Stalin statues. The oddest is comically small, not much
more than a yard high, set in a broken-down amusement park for children.
Teaching Soviet history at Gori University, Vazha Kiknadze collides
constantly with the town's reverence for Stalin. He confronts students by
reeling off the names of famous Georgian writers and artistic figures killed
under Stalin. His students are quick to anger when they hear the truth.
"There is no anti-Stalin propaganda," he said despairingly. "In fact there is
pro-Stalin propaganda. There's a very strong revival going on."
People in Gori often express eagerness to learn more about Stalin, but
usually only good things.
A sweet-faced 13-year-old, Nato Makashvili, says her history teachers told her
that Stalin was good. She was taught that he repressed or killed 20 million
people, and also that he was a great leader. Quizzed how a man who killed so
many could be good, she replied simply that her teachers told her so, and then
lapsed into a puzzled silence.
Mariko Babilua, 24, heard little about the Gulag, except that all the drug
addicts were sent away.
"Whatever we were taught I believe, and I believe he was good," she said.
'People Have to Know the Truth'
But Leyla Elikauri, 35, has an 8-year-old son, Shotik, and is determined that
he know about Stalin's victims.
"For me, Stalin was like Mussolini or Hitler," she said. "People have to know
the truth about history. I don't want the things that happened in the past ever
to happen again."
Memorial's Sigachev is concerned that the Russian authorities, including
President Vladimir V. Putin, a former KGB spy, are still eager to suppress the
negative side of history. He contends that one reason Putin and his associates
rose to the top in Russia was that the country never confronted the ugly truths
about its past.
"There was never any rethinking of history because there has never been any
reevaluation of the relations between the individual and the state. The state
has always remained paramount," he said. "Up until now, the government and the
people have not reached the conclusion that the most important thing in a
country is a human being."
The anti-communism in the article [above] only makes Stalin's excesses more
foggy. It seems to neither help nor hinder any effort to 'make the truth
known.' Whatever that 'truth' is.
A third believe he was 'good,' a quarter believe he was 'bad', and another
quarter believe he was 'so-so.' 33%-25%-25%. Sounds like 58% believe he was at
least 'half good.' Whatever 'good' means. And yet the article makes it sound
like the majority of the people of the fSU are being 'duped' about their social
reality, even *after* the exposing of Stalin by the post-Stalinists.
Apparently, the people of the fSU were not even aware of Khruschev's and
Gorbachev's lessons on the "old" Communism?
BTW, what *is* the contemporary social reality of the fSU? Is it Stalin's
great-great grandson sniffing flowers in the garden? Not a whisper in this
piece about the terror, disease, and hunger that capitalism has brought. Is it
any wonder that 58% believe that Stalin is at least 'equal parts good and bad'
(with more than half of these believe he is 'good'), and, as another recent
survey revealed that 70% of Russia wants a return to Communism?
This journalist, Robyn Dixon from the L.A. Times, reminds me of the
capitalist journalists from the United States who go to Cuba. "Has Cuba
benefitted under Castro?" the journalists ask. "Why, of course," the
interviewees invariably respond. The retort from the journalist, in a state of
ironic shock: "You mean to tell me that you actually think that Cuba has
benefitted under Castro?!" As if the foreign journalist knows more about the
place than those who have experienced living there all their lives!! I get the
same condescending flavor from Dixon: How idiotic of these Russians to think
that Communism qua 'Stalinism' might have worked, and might *still* work for
them! Even worse is the implication that they think Capitalism has failed! Come
Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at arnet.com.ar
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