Despite the fact that more than 60 years have passed since the death of Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1922 to 1953, the memory of him remains alive. For several years running Stalin has topped the ranking of the most remarkable figures in Russia’s history. Portraits of him appear at political demonstrations and religious events; new monuments to the dictator are erected.

However, Stalin’s popularity among society in today’s Russia is rather superficial—Russians know little about the dictator and his life; they are rather nostalgic about the period of Stalin’s rule and the achievements of his era. Any criticism of him (from Russian citizens and civil society organisations as well as the international community) is seen as an attack on contemporary Russia and its present government which presents itself as the heir to the USSR’s and Stalin’s accomplishments and victories.

The main instruments which the Russian government uses to promote its vision of history are propaganda and the education system. The state-owned media circulate materials which portray Stalin above all as the architect of the victory in the Great Patriotic War.

It should not be expected that the government will pursue a policy of de-Stalinisation at its own initiative in the immediate future – the fact that it uses a selectively developed vision of history brings too many advantages both internally and in the international arena. In a way the Kremlin has become hostage to its own politics of memory.

[ > OSW – October 31, 2017 ]