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Oh, to Feel the Warmth of Stalin’s Hand

February 12, 2011 by mrbpiel · 107 Comments · Uncategorized

Stalin's Grave by the Kremlin Wall Necropolis

Stalin's Grave by the Kremlin Wall Necropolis

What we are looking at here is the actual final resting place of Stalin. It is amazing, when we think of it, that a dictator like Stalin can bring out such wide-ranging emotions in Russians and others who lived in the former USSR. Next week, we’ll get into the rise of Fascism, as a counter to Stalinist revolution and terror (while equally based in revolutionary terrror tactics). In their countries (Germany, Italy, and Japan), the fascist leaders who were contemporaries of Stalin have been rightfully relegated as the scourge of humanity. Questions for us on this blog: after all that we’ve learned this week, and read following this blog, how should we evaluate Stalin: as a father figure of their time, using his personality to try to ‘bring up the Soviet Union in proper form’, or as a tyrannical megalomaniac, whose rules for depravity knew absolutely no boundaries? Either way we look at this, how should we engage those who act in a similar fashion – simply keep them out of ‘the global playground’ and isolate them to their ultimate destiny, should we engage them in hopes of changing their policies, or should we actively work toward their removal from power?
March 9, 2003

Oh, to Feel the Warmth of Stalin’s Hand


MOSCOW— JOSEF VISSARIONOVICH DZUGASHVILI died 50 years ago last week, and much of Russia still mourns. Those who do not live here may be forgiven for wondering why.

As ruler of the Soviet Union from 1925 to 1953, Dzugashvili — or Stalin, as the world knew him — systematically wiped out all rivals, built an Orwellian police state and imprisoned and murdered millions of people, both in Russia and in lands he later seized. So pervasive was his control that his spies lingered in public toilets, waiting for the unwary to crack jokes about his choke hold rule and thus guarantee themselves five years in a Siberian labor camp.

His reign of terror began with the nightly disposal of a few corpses in a Moscow graveyard. When the graveyards filled, a crematorium was built. When its capacity was spent, the slaughter moved to suburban fields, where victims stood in front of freshly dug trenches and were simply mowed down.

By body count alone, Stalin rivals Hitler — exceeds him, many say — as the most ruthless dictator of modern times. Yet last week, Gennadi Zyuganov, the leader of Russia’s Communist Party, compared Stalin to the great figures of the Renaissance, and television abounded with sepia-toned recollections of his rule. Two opinion polls in Russia found people split over his legacy. In one survey, 1 in 4 judged him a cruel tyrant. But 1 in 5 called him a wise and humane leader.

One could accuse Russians of willful blindness, and for some, that may be true. But demystifying Uncle Joe’s place in the Russian psyche is hardly so simple. Consider: most of Stalin’s worst critics went to those fresh-dug trenches, and most Russians alive today were born long after his horrors faded into history.

Those who survived his reign are largely retirees who have reaped few of capitalism’s benefits. To most of them, life was better, far better, under Stalin, as a Soviet saying went.

For the sizable cadre of nationalists, Stalin is the man who made Russia a huge and fearsome power. For Communists, he is a symbol of lost glory. In a country in which World War II remains the Great Patriotic War, Stalin is remembered as the man who led the motherland to victory, and, some Russians would say, saved it from even worse tyranny.

Those warm memories may fade. But Stalin was also a master propagandist, a ruler who burned his all-knowing, all-powerful image into entire generations’ minds. ”Like a dread spirit he hovered over us,” one poet wrote a decade after his death. ”To others we paid no heed.”

Many say Russians would feel differently had the country rooted out Stalin’s evil as Germany rooted out Hitler’s, with war-crimes trials and public expiations. It is a fantasy, says Yakov Y. Etinger, whose father, Yakov, died in Lefortovo Prison in 1951, one of the first victims of Stalin’s Doctors’ Plot, a supposed collusion in the 1940′s by Kremlin doctors to kill Communist leaders.

”The Nuremberg trials were organized by an occupation force, by the Allies who gained victory,” Mr. Etinger said. ”There couldn’t be such a trial in Russia, for a simple reason: who would be the judges?”

Who, indeed? In his masterful biography of Stalin, Edvard Radzinsky tells of a factory manager summoned by Stalin for a meeting.

”When I felt his handshake, it was like being struck by lightning,” the factory manager recalled many years later. ”I hid my hand inside my coat cuff, got into my car and rushed home. Without stopping to answer my worried wife’s questions, I went to the cot where my small son was sleeping, stretched out my hand, and rubbed his head with it, so that he too would feel the warmth of Stalin’s touch.”

107 Comments so far ↓

  • victor pina

    I see Stalin as a tyrannical megalomaniac, whose rules for depravity knew absolutely no boundaries because he killed o lot of his subject and allowed russia to loose 26 million lives during the war as well as using intimidation to stay in power

  • Brianna

    Joseph Stalin is tyrannical. He held so much power that he killed his subjects in order to use terror to control them. He killed everyone and anyone who opposed him and he even terrorized those close to them.

  • Celines Aquino

    Joseph Stalin was indeed a tyrant who intended to create a totalitarian state. He controlled everything, including the thoughts of people by brainwashing them. Anyone who even showed the slightest of opposition was sent to be killed.

  • Angela Vuceljic

    Joseph Stalin to some people can be viewed as a father figure or a tyrannical megalomaniac. Some opposed Stalin’s opinions and if they did he would find out using his secret police throwing these “enemys” into jail no trial. Those who agreed with Stalin’s crazy tactics looked up to him he was modernizing Russia and bringing it back into power however hurting the country at the same time.

  • Daisy Vera

    I feel like Joseph Stalin is tyrannical leader . He had so much power in his hands that he killed the people surrounding him in order to use terror to control them. He killed everyone and anyone who opposed him just to get more control over them

  • April Santos

    Stalin was no doubt a tyrant. His goal was to create a totalitarian state. Stalin did anything to keep his power. He killed Millions of people and was brainwashing them. Children in schools were taught that Stalin was a wonderful man and was doing well for their country. But that wasnt true it was never true. Therefore Stalin is a tyrannical megalomaniac.

  • Aubrey golson

    Stalin was a tyrant. He wanted to create a totalitarian state and he wanted to controll everything. He killed anyone that was against him. He even hurt the people that was close to him.

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