Friday, October 30, 2009

Stalin Looms Over Russian Remembrance

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev used his official Kremlin blog to rip into those who are attempting to "rehabilitate" the image of former Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

Medvedev's post comes on the "Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions", an official day set aside to remember those purged, imprisoned and executed during the reign of Stalin. According to the KGB's own state archives 800,000 people were executed during Stalin's rule - by comparison only 3,000 death sentences were carried out in the four decades between the end of Stalin and the end of the Soviet Union, and of the 800,000 executed under Stalin, 75% had their death sentences posthumously overturned. The Russian civil rights group "Memorial" marked the day in central Moscow by reading out the names of 30,000 people executed under the orders of Stalin between 1937 and 1938 in Moscow alone.

Medvedev warned against the "falsification" of history in attempts to excuse Stalin's crimes. He went on to say that: "no success or ambitions of the state, should be achieved through human grief and loss. Nothing can be valued above human life, and there is no excuse for repression."

But Stalin remains a complex and controversial topic in Russia and apparently within the Russian leadership. Current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been accused of soft-pedaling the crimes committed by Stalin and his regime in an effort to promote the positive aspects of Soviet history and boosting the image of Stalin as a "strong leader" as cover for his own attempts to consolidate power in modern Russia.

Meanwhile Russia's top news agency RIA Novosti also used the Day of Remembrance to blast a story by a European journalist that RIA Novosti was working with an American PR firm in an effort to polish the image of Stalin.
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