Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is rehabilitating Stalin. We must not let it happen

An image of Stalin as a strong leader who ensured victory in the second world war and helmed a superpower has re-emerged.’ A celebration of Stalin’s birthday, Moscow 2015. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The sanitization, revision, and uplifting of Stalin’s image supports the autocracy of Putin in Russia.  It is essential to show power by one person as preferential to a democratically elected government.

Rehabilitating Stalin’s image will help stabilize Putin’s government, reduce protests and dissent in many forms, and enable oppression of the Russia people without a contrasting form of government to help spotlight the Russian citizen’s persecution. 

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10 July 2019

An archive of artefacts from Stalin’s brutal reign should stand as evidence against Putin’s vision of a ‘heroic’ Soviet past

Irina Sherbakova was a founding member of the human rights organisation Memorial

Great expectations characterised 1989. In Russia, the rock band Kino sang “We are waiting for changes!” In huge public rallies on the streets of Moscow, millions demanded freedom and democracy. The Gorbachev era brought about a frenzy of change, and people witnessed incredible events on a weekly basis: they snatched up newspapers, hung on every word broadcast on TV, and with every passing day they felt more alive and free.

Many also understood that to change the rotten Soviet system one had to know the truth about its Stalinist past. It was the year the human-rights organisation Memorial was founded, bringing together hundreds of activists from across the Soviet Union. Some of them had experienced life in the gulags. Some were dissidents who had recently returned from labour camps or places of exile, such as the nuclear physicist Andrei Sakharov. The mission was clear: we would bring back the memory of Stalin’s victims and make it public.

In the spring of 1989, something happened that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams: I was invited to the history and archives institute in Moscow to give a talk to students on the fates of former gulag prisoners. Afterwards one asked me if I had ever met a real-life Stalin supporter. My first reaction was to laugh, but then I paused and wondered: had we finally reached a point in time when 20-year-olds thought no Stalinists existed any more? Thirty years on, I recall that moment with a bitter feeling.