On February 25, 1956, Nikita Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union delivered his "secret speech" denouncing his predecessor Joseph Stalin for his crimes against the party and the Red Army. In 1961 Stalin's body was removed from its position of honor next to Lenin's corpse in Red Square. Since then, Stalin was vilified and particularly during Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika, when the list of crimes expanded to cover the full extent of the terror of 1936-1939. Under Putin Stalin has been making a comeback as illustrated by plans to establish a Stalin Center and a Stalin memorial.
In its survey of Russian opinion concerning the proposed center, the Levada Center, an independent survey data company observed the sea change that has occurred in Russian public opinion with regards to Stalin.
The findings are reported by Denis Volkov, the center's director:
Denis Volkov (Source: Executive.ru)
"The image of Joseph Stalin, as that of any serious historical personage always incorporates a combination of various positive and negative assessments. Repressions, executions, and military failures are all integral characteristics of Stalin’s image. Only a small fractions of Russians completely deny these facts. Although the balance of positive and negative sentiments can change.
"Under the impact of current events, the negative characteristics of Stalin’s image, while not vanishing completely, recede into the background. The alternative arguments become more important, for instance, 'Stalin won the war,' 'there was order under his rule,' 'he raised the country out of the ruins.' Thus, one shouldn’t be surprised that for a decade the dictator tops the list of 'the most outstanding people of all times and all peoples,' which are formed based on the open poll’s results. A similar trend can be observed in polls on the Russians’ attitude towards attempts to commemorate Stalin's memory (i.e. erection of monuments, the construction of so called 'Stalin Center' museum complex near Nizhny Novgorod).
"Monument To Stalin
"Over the past decade Russian public opinion on the issue of a Stalin’s monument has reversed itself. In the 2000s, negative sentiments prevailed. More than a third of respondents (36-37%) opposed the monument to Stalin, about a quarter supported the idea, and the rest were indifferent. However, in recent years the picture has gradually changed to the opposite approach. For instance, nowadays the idea to erect Stalin’s monument is supported by about half of the population (48%), 29% are indifferent to the issue, while just one-fifth of respondents (20%) are against it.
"It is mainly the Russians, residing outside of the major cities, people of low income and less educated respondents that express support for Stalin’s monument. The proportion of old and young respondents in this group is equal. Middle-aged people (40-55 years old), respondents with a higher education, and residents of large cities usually oppose the monument.
"Over the past decade the number of the idea's supporters has grown across all socio-demographic groups. What’s noteworthy the most significant rise was recorded among the youngest and wealthiest respondents, who ten years ago were predominantly against Stalin’s monument or were indifferent. In the aforementioned groups the proportion of positive responses increased by 5 (!) and 3 times, respectively.
"Regarding the issue of the Stalin Center museum complex, supporters of its construction predominate. For instance, about 60% of the Russians support the initiative and 30% oppose it. The wording of this question was different from the question about the monument as it makes no provision for an 'indifferent' answer. Thus, respondents were put into a tougher situation and were prompted to decide on their sentiments towards the museum complex.
"Youth, people without higher education residing outside major cities more frequently took a positive attitude towards the Stalin Center. Residents of the large cities, respondents with higher education, and people over 40 years of age are somewhat more likely to oppose the idea of the museum’s construction.
"Supporters of the Stalin Center, who accounted for more than half of all respondents usually provided one or two of the following arguments in favor of the center: they either positively perceived Stalin’s role in the country’s history ('a great man,' 'he won the war,' 'lifted the country from its knees,' 'he deserves it' – representatives of the older generation often provided such explanations); or referred to a need to 'safeguard, remember history' (see the list of typical answers to the open question). And while the first answer is self-explanatory, the second one requires further scrutiny. It’s worth noting that supporters of restoring the Dzerzhinsky monument to Lubyanskaya Square in Moscow made a similar argument.
"A considerable part of respondents who expressed positive opinion for Stalin, perceive restoration of the monument and the construction of the Stalin Center as acts, which restore historical justice, as an answer to the relative 'liberals,' who allegedly in the 1990s 'rewrote' ('defamed', tried to consign to oblivion) the Soviet history. This argument is also supported by the numerous mentions of the Yeltsin Center (and less frequently, of the Andrei Sakharov Museum). The respondents claim, 'if it was possible to construct these two museums, then it’s possible and necessary to build a museum dedicated to Stalin.
"What’s interesting, this ideologically-loaded argument that is in tune with numerous statements by Russian officials, is often cited by middle-aged people, who are more educated and with higher status than other respondents (using the terminology of the questionnaire 'managers' and 'administrators'). Opponents of the Stalin Center ( a third of all respondents) argue that Stalin was an 'enemy,' 'tyrant,' 'executioner,' 'fiend,' 'murderer,' etc., and therefore he doesn’t deserve to be commemorated.
"The second most popular objection to the Stalin Center was that budgetary funds shouldn’t be spent on it (the majority of Russians believe that any public initiatives are financed from the state budget) and it would be better to allocate these assets on social causes ('on people,' 'on pensioners,' 'on veterans,' 'road construction' etc.). Similar objections were recorded in the negative answers of Muscovites towards the monument to Dzerzhinsky and the plaques of the 'Last Address' memorial project.
"Thus, the aforementioned surveys suggest that over the past decade Russian society has reevaluated the figure of Joseph Stalin. The predominantly negative or neutral attitude toward his character, typical of the 2000s has been replaced by a mostly approving attitude. This reevaluation primarily happened at the expense of a significant change in the attitudes of youth. Meanwhile, more than a third of the supporters of Stalin’s commemoration, although unready to admit that he played a positive role in Russian history (they don’t call him a 'hero' or detail his 'merits') refrain from calling Stalin an 'executioner,' 'criminal' and 'enemy' (as opponents of commemorating him do)."
The depth of Stalin's rehabilitation can also be seen in an article by historian Gennady Kudy in the popular Mk.ru site. In the article Kudy essentially exonerates Stalin for the crushing defeats sustained by the Soviet Union after the Germans launched their invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941. Kudy shifted responsibility to Stalin's generals and plants strong hints that they were guilty of treason. He fingers the celebrated figure of Marshall Georgy Zhukov as a major culprit.
An important part of Khruschev's secret speech accused Stalin of responsibility for the disastrous start of the war while vindicating the Red Army as an institution: "Very grievous consequences, especially in reference to the beginning of the war, followed Stalin's annihilation of many military commanders and political workers during 1937-41 because of his suspiciousness and through slanderous accusations. During these years repressions were instituted against certain parts of military cadres beginning literally at the company and battalion commander level and extending to the higher military centers; during this time the cadre of leaders who had gained military experience in Spain and In the Far East was almost completely liquidated..."
Kudy challenged this version of events "During the Great Patriotic War, it was apparently unprofitable for Stalin to give an impartial public assessment of the criminal actions or criminal inaction of his generals, on whom he relied...N.S. Khrushchev and his comrades, who came to power after Stalin's death, generally grossly distorted the truth, making Stalin the only scapegoat for all the mistakes and mistakes of those years."
With the article Kudy was not only rehabilitating Stalin, but he was attacking the army one of the most revered institutions in Russia. A reply to Kudy appeared less than a week later in the same newspaper. It was penned by Alexander Minkin, one of the paper's most distinguished journalists. In the article Minkin pushes back against the Stalin revival and against Kudy's dishonest method of blackening Zhukov.
Minkin's article follows below:
Marshal Georgy Zhukov and Joseph Stalin appear on a Victory Day banner (Source: Patriot77.ru)
"May 9 and June 22 are two special dates in our history: one is incredibly happy and the other is despairingly tragic. The World War II began 80 years ago, but it didn’t end in 1945. 'The war is not over until the last dead soldier is buried,' said Russian Field Marshal and Generalissimo Alexander Suvorov. If he was right, then the end of the Great Patriotic War is unimaginably far away. It’s not even known how many soldiers’ corpses lie unburied west of Moscow.
"Seventy-six years following the 1945 victory, the Great Patriotic War has gradually been converted into a civil war in Russia. This conflict is getting fiercer, although the battlefields are on paper and in the airwaves. Twenty years ago such fury was absent; there were no criminal prosecutions for the 'wrong' opinion about the Great Patriotic War.
"It's July 2021, the third millennium. Eighty years have passed since July 1941, however the clashes of historians are getting fiercer. In today’s Russia special laws have been passed and criminal punishments have been defined [for those with different opinion]. It is illegal to equate the policies of Hitler and Stalin, to distort the role of the Soviet Union in WWII, to reappraise the outcome of the war. But the very existence of these laws evidence to the fact that society continues to 'equate,' 'distort' and 'reconsider,' otherwise one wouldn’t need such laws.
"During the first forty days of the Great Patriotic War, by the end of July 1941, Soviet Union lost dozens of cities, a million were captured. And we continued to lose cities and people. The shock of the unexpected and treacherous German attack was long gone, especially since there was no treachery. After all, no one trusted Hitler. (By 1941 he had violated many treaties and attacked many countries!)
"To be honest, even the Germans attack wasn’t that 'unexpected.' Many years before the war the USSR had been hastily manufacturing arms, forming new divisions and armies. The entire country was living in anticipation of war, or rather in anticipation of prompt victories on enemy territory with minor casualties. Thus, by the end of the first month of the war (around twentieth of July 1941) the country was in shock not from unexpected attack, but from uninterrupted defeats. Nobody was expecting such developments. Daily reports of the Sovinformburo [Soviet Information Bureau] were staggering: Smolensk, Vilnius, Vitebsk, Voronezh, Lvov, Minsk, Polotsk, Pskov, Riga, Rivne were left [by the retreating army] ...
"Who is to blame for the catastrophe of 1941? Who is to guilty for the war not going the way Comrade Stalin promised?
"It was dangerous to raise such question during the war and in the initial post-war years. However, after Stalin’s death, after the cult of personality was exposed, after historical research and the publication of documents and memoirs (including those of generals and marshals) the 'fog' of Stalinist propaganda has lifted.
"The further that freedom to think, write, and publish were granted, the more evident Stalin’s guilt became: he had made concessions to Hitler and supplied his army; he had rendered the Soviet army impotent due to the orders, 'do not succumb to the provocations.' Stalin was culpable for the panic of the first days of the war and for the confusion of the first weeks, and, of course, he was guilty in the elimination of the Red Army commanding officers before the war (during the Great Purge of 1936 - 1938). And the [historical] verdict, alas not a judicial one, was handed down on Stalin back in the 1960s, 'he was a man-eater.'
"But in the 21st century, with each passing day, propaganda (ignoring the damning facts) asserts ever more aggressively: Stalin is not to blame, Stalin is the Victory; those, who deceived Stalin: the traitors, the saboteurs, are to blame for the defeats of 1941.
"The fact that the Communists [CPRF], headed by Zyuganov, 'pray' to Stalin is unsurprising. After all they have no other trump cards for their election campaign. The fact that various big and small bosses approve of Stalin and even erect monuments in his honor (so far quite small) is not surprising either, because polls have demonstrated: Stalin, according to many, is the greatest hero of [Russian] history. So, why not hop on the bandwagon of the greatest one? However, I couldn’t imagine that the sake of Stalin's glorification, one would grind Zhukov, the Marshal of Victory into the dirt.
"I’ve read all sorts of opinions on Zhukov.
"The majority of people who knew him testify to the cruelty of his character (approvingly or not), that he never took losses into account. The great Russian writer and a heroic front-line soldier Viktor Astafyev called Zhukov 'a butcher' and 'poacher of the Russian people,' because of immeasurable loses of manpower in frontal attacks, he conducted. Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky dedicated a classic heroic ode to Zhukov written in the spirit of Derzhavin [Russian 18th century poet]:
I see columns of motionless grandsons,
The coffin on a gun carriage, the croup of horse.
The wind here doesn’t carry the sounds to me
Of Russian lamenting military horns.
I see the corpse covered in regalia:
Fiery Zhukov journeys to death.
Warrior before whom many walls fell
though his sword was blunter than of his adversaries
He reminiscent Hannibal amid the Volga steppes
by his brilliant maneuvering
He met his final days under a cloud
Like Belisarius or Pompey.
How much of soldier’s blood he spilt in foreign lands!
Did he grieve?
Did he thought of them, lay dying in his civilian pale bed?
A complete failure.
What will he say meeting them in hell’s domain?
'I was waging war.'
Zhukov hands won’t fight for a just cause
Sleep! Russian history has enough pages for those
Who in military formation
Marched boldly into foreign capitals,
But returned in fear to their own.
Marshal! Voracious Lethe will swallow
These words and your dust.
Nevertheless accept them, though it’s a pitiful reward
for the one who saved the Motherland.
Beat, drum, and, military flute,
trill shrilly as the bullfinch!
"One can dispute whether Zhukov was a talented commander or not, but no one have ever called Zhukov a traitor, not even those who hated him.
"Then suddenly, on June 22, 2021 (what a convenient date for an unexpected treacherous attack!) I saw a 'Stalin in 1941' newspaper article subtitled 'Responsibility without guilt,' written in a distinct style of a loyal 'well-wisher.' I quote here its opening paragraph:
"'The question of the causes for the tragedy in the summer-fall of 1941 is still unresolved tormenting the minds of researchers for more than 80 years. A thorough investigation on this issue, began upon Stalin's personal order, was going on through the entire war and was completed only in 1952, because the idea of the Red Army generals’ betrayal was running wild in the leader’s imagination all this time. And he had a tangible basis to think that. He was well aware that Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union with its allies on June 22, 1941 was not unexpected, but there were abundant miscalculations (Were they only just that?!) by the Red Army’s supreme military command during the war preparation period and at the beginning of hostilities.'
"Let’s not pick on clumsy phrasing pretending to be beautiful, let them 'torment the minds.' What matters to us is the essence.
"The author tells us on the most important investigation, which, on Stalin’s personal orders, 'was going on through the war and was completed only in 1952.' That is the investigation went on for 11 years, but remained completely obscure. The author doesn’t provide a single document, doesn’t quote neither the Stalin’s order to start the investigation, nor the final report. But the very first paragraph openly states the main theme of the article, 'Betrayal!'
"Just read into the text, 'the idea of the Red Army generals’ betrayal was running wild in the leader’s imagination all this time (for 11 years),' and further, 'And he had a tangible basis to think that.' In other words, Stalin’s mind wasn’t plagued by paranoia for 11 years, but by some evidences of betrayal (how else can 'tangible basis' be interpreted?).
"Then the author proceeds with affirmative statement, 'He was well aware that Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 was not unexpected, but there were many oversights (Were they just that, the unintentional mistakes?!) of the Red Army’s high military command during the war preparation times and at the beginning of hostilities.'
"Dear readers, pay attention to the exclamation 'Were they just that?!' If you write about the betrayal first and then question whether the miscalculation was intentional, then you prompt the reader to the conclusion, 'Of course these 'miscalculations' were intentional!' It’s a simple and cynical trick: you don’t make a direct statement, but everyone understands the subtext. (In the mouth of the well-known TV propagandist Kiselyov it sounds like this: 'Coincidence? I don't think so!' This trick immediately leads to a conclusion, 'it’s not a coincidence, but enemy treachery!)
"The next paragraph of the article about 'innocent and guilt-free' Stalin strengthens the idea of betrayal in the minds of gullible readers and directly names the traitors,
"'In 1941 a mysterious and secret replacement of the Red Army tactics for repulsing aggression, that were approved by the country’s government occurred... Back then Marshal S. K. Timoshenko served as People’s Commissar of Defense, and Army General G.K. Zhukov was Chief of the General Staff. At a first glance it’s absurd to accuse them of betrayal, but at their suggestion the tactics of the western border districts armies on repelling enemy aggression, were changed in a questionable manner.'
"Again [the author] uses the same cynical trick. The text reads, 'At a first glance it’s absurd to accuse them of betrayal,' but the idea is just the opposite, 'Timoshenko and Zhukov are traitors.'
"What kind of 'change' is the author talking about? What was the danger of the questionable change of tactics that the 'traitors' had committed? The answer is staggering,
"'The danger of the given change consisted not only of its invisibility, but also because it was based on the doctrine of 'frontier battles' by Marshal M. N. Tukhachevsky, who was shot in 1937. According to the Marshal’s confession, the doctrine was a cornerstone of a plan for organizing the USSR’s defeat in the war with Germany.'
"This meandering paragraph shows explicitly that G. Kudy (the author of the cited article about the 'innocent' Stalin) considers Tukhachevsky’s 'confession' made under torture to be true. A spy of eight intelligence agencies, Tukhachevsky planned to 'orchestrate a defeat of the USSR in the war with Germany,' while and Timoshenko and Zhukov started to implement this traitorous plan in 1941…"
Gennady Kudy (Source: Distpress.ru)
"Zhukov and Timoshenko harmed, changed, sabotaged, while the wise Stalin, as it turns out, either didn’t notice, understand, or simply forgave the perpetrators for their miscalculations. Kudy, unable to part with his tricks, writes, 'These miscalculations (where they just that?) were primarily made in the criminal dislocation of the Red Army troops dedicated to border protection.'
"Again, this cheater’s trick, 'miscalculations (where they just that?)' However, Kudy wrapped himself in his own web of lies: if you affirm that a 'criminal dislocation,' took place then what miscalculations are you talking about in the very same phrase? A 'miscalculation' is an unfortunate mistake, and a 'criminal dislocation' is a deliberate betrayal.
"Comrade Stalin was not cruel, on the contrary he was too kind: he forgave traitors, forgave those responsible for defeats and left them at their high command positions.
"As a result, the summer of 1942 was even worse than the summer of 1941. The Germans continued their offensive, while our casualties were huge: Sevastopol was surrendered, the Red Army withdrew completely from the Crimea, the Second Battle of Kharkov of 1942 resulted in a terrible strategic defeat. All these lands had to be retaken at the cost of unimaginable sacrifices. Konstantin Simonov’s poem 'Again we retreat, comrade, again we have lost the battle' was written back in 1942. And 'again' the author signifies and just like yesterday and just like in 1941.
"At the same time Stalin was not a monster, but a humanist. Kudy writes, 'The sacrifices of the first days of the war and of later periods are on the hands of our high command. [I’m speaking] first of all of the leadership of People’s Commissariat of Defence, General Staff of the Red Army (that is the very same Timoshenko and Zhukov. - A. M.), commanders and headquarters of the western border military districts, whom Stalin since 1939 urged 'to learn promptly the art of modern war, learn the tactics of offensive and retreat, but, most importantly, protect and care for the soldiers.'
"Of course, the most important thing is to 'protect and care for the soldiers.' But it’s also important to distinguish between beautiful words spoken from tribunes and at banquets and actual orders. And orders preserve much better than people.
"During the first six months of the Great Patriotic War, from June 22 to December 31 of 1941, 85,876 cases were opened by the Red Army’s military prosecutors. In more than half of the cases the investigation was concluded in one day. 90,322 soldiers were convicted, 31,327 of them were sentenced to be shot, 58,995 - to imprisonment. However, there still was a court trial back then, which decided who was to be shot and who would be put behind bars or in a penal battalion.
"On August 16, 1941, Order № 270 of the Commissar of Defense (at that time Stalin had been already serving for a month as the Commissar of Defense, not Timoshenko) ordered the commanders, who showed signs of cowardice to be shot on the spot (that is, without trial). But the savage cruelty expanded to wives and children. Stalin’s order openly reads, 'Commanders and political workers who, during battle, strip their insignia and desert to the rear or surrender to the enemy, shall be considered spiteful deserters, whose families shall be arrested as families of deserters, who violated the oath and betrayed their Motherland.'
"And finally, the famous order № 227, written and signed personally by Stalin,
"'Order of the People’s Commissar of Defense of the USSR
"On measures to strengthen discipline and order in the Red Army and to prevent an unauthorized retreat from combat positions
"№227, July 28, 1942
"Panicmongers and cowards are to be exterminated on the spot...
"Shoot scaremongers and cowards on the spot.'
"Twice in the same text Stalin orders 'to shoot on the spot.' It means that executions were carried out without deliberations and without trial, even a hasty one.
"On the frontline alone, 157,593 servicemen (which is about twelve divisions) were executed by the court’s verdict. No one knows how many soldiers were killed on the spot.
"Kudy’s intellectual level gives him an opportunity to surprise and amuse his readers.
"Regarding the situation in June of 1941 he writes quite seriously, 'At that time atomic warfare didn’t threaten the USSR.' Following this logic, one could argue that in June of 1709 Peter the Great was not threatened by Swedish aviation.
"According to Kudy (despite his intentions) it turns out that Stalin was not wise, but stupid, if he let the obvious traitors to keep their commanding positions at the fronts, and even rewarded and embraced them. Where was Stalin’s insight?
"'Saint' Joseph Stalin is not only fair but also merciful. For 11 years he conducted an investigation of the disaster of 1941 and… forgave the 'traitors' Zhukov and Timoshenko.
"To my bewilderment this article was written and published recently in 2021.
"To call Zhukov a traitor means to reconsider the results of the war, to distort history, to defame the memory of a hero, of a brutal military leader (but not a traitor!), who is depicted at the Kremlin gates on horseback, who is the recipient of two Orders of Victory.
"However, in the publication where Zhukov and Timoshenko appear as traitors, they are never called this explicitly. However, to understand their exposure in the article differently given the broad and open hints is impossible."
Alexander Minkin (Source: Evening-kazan.ru)