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Post Monuments to Dictators
Created by John Eipper on 02/02/13 4:45 AM

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Monuments to Dictators (Randy Black, USA, 02/02/13 4:45 am)

I note with interest Nigel Jones's 1 February comments about England's last dictator, Oliver Cromwell, and Cameron Sawyer's response on the matter of a monument to Cromwell in London. I suspect that Cromwell is but a drop in the bucket of monuments to former dictators that remain standing in the various countries of the world. The matter of monuments to dictators, despots, enemies of the state and others is quite a topic to discuss.

As a new resident to Omsk, Russia 20 years ago last month, I counted 26 monuments to Vladimir Lenin, né Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, scattered around the city. There were none for Stalin, although I found several pedestals in public parks that seemed to be missing their tops.

Because Joseph Stalin's statues seemed missing yet Lenin's seemed to be everywhere, I asked why. My fellow instructors on the faculty of the local pedagogical university explained that Lenin never "came to Omsk and never really did us any harm. So, we keep his statues. Have you seen the one in front of the Transportation Institute? It's brilliant." I did not offer my thoughts, just accepted their explanation.

Attached is a photo of some of my colleagues in the faculty lounge in February 1993. The gentleman at the center is Alexander (Sasha) Koltun, a central character in my Tales from Siberia, and close friend who made my life far more enjoyable during my exile to Siberia. We remain in touch.

On these matters, I phoned Sasha this morning to get an update on the statues of Lenin in Omsk. He explained that the city today has to the best of his memory only two of Lenin. One in the center of the city and another in front of a government building but he can't recall which one.

Now, 60 years after Stalin's death, I read today in The Guardian that the Volgograd, site of one of Europe's bloodiest battles during WWII, will be officially noted in public documents for six days each year going forward as Stalingrad in honor of that battle and the Soviet dictator.

Local communists are thrilled, but continue to demand total restoration of the name on a permanent basis. From the article: In addition to the Volgograd legislature's decision to temporarily restore the name Stalingrad, authorities in Volgograd, St. Petersburg and the Siberian city of Chita have ordered that images of Stalin decorate city buses on February 2 to commemorate the battle.

The other political parties and many locals do not share the communist's enthusiasm apparently.


JE comments:  An obvious question would be to ask if Pres. Putin has any hand in this minor Stalin "revival"--or is it a spontaneous move of the Russian people?  Also, I'd like to know more about Stalin's present reputation in his native Georgia.

Here's the photo:

Faculty Lounge, Omsk Pedagogical University, 1993.  Photo Randy Black

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  • There's No Stalin "Rehabilitation" (Cameron Sawyer, USA 02/02/13 11:30 AM)
    There is no rehabilitation of Stalin going on in Russia. (See JE's comments on Randy Black's post of 2 February.)

    Putin is an inveterate anti-Communist who has rehabilitated instead various tsars, especially Alexander II (Nikolai II was already entirely rehabilitated before Putin appeared, and is being canonized by the Orthodox Church). Remember that it was during Putin's regime that Solzhenitsyn was lionized as a hero of the nation, Bolshaya Kommunisticheskaya ulitsa in downtown Moscow ("Big Communist Street") was renamed "Solzhenitsyn Street," and Solzhenitsyn's "First Circle," about the unspeakable horrors of the Stalin period, was made by the Russian state television into the most popular television mini-series ever shown in Russia. "First Circle" is an allusion to Dante's First Circle of Hell. The mini-series was made by Gleb Panfilov, in whose house I have been a guest more than once, who was one of the great Soviet movie directors starting from the 1960s, a friend of Truffaut and Fellini, and is extremely disturbing.

    A feature film called "Khranit' Vechno," mistranslated as "Treasure Forever," was made on the basis of the television mini-series and is available with English subtitles. I highly recommend it to WAISers.

    Stalin's image appears from time to time in connection with WWII--the "Great Patriotic War," as the Russians call it. It's only natural--he played, after all, the major part in the Soviet war effort. To remember this is not the same as to revive or rehabilitate Stalin.

    Lenin monuments, so ubiquitous in Soviet times, have almost disappeared in Russia. There are a few classics like the big one on Oktyabrskaya Square in Moscow, which remain, but others have been gradually replaced. The huge statue of Lenin in the main hall of St. Petersburg's Moscow railway station has been replaced by an equally huge statue of Peter the Great.

    JE comments: But to highlight the Leader's role in the Great Patriotic Victory--isn't that a teeny bit of Stalin nostalgia?  I do not see a contradiction between acknowledging the suffering of Stalin's victims and celebrating his victory in war.  Recall the "Great Bad Man" concept brought up by Nigel Jones earlier today (2 February).

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