|Author: Pavel Vitek|
STALIN SEMPER VIVUS
КОСТИН, Александр. Смерть Сталина. При чем здесь Брежнев? 1st ed. Москва: Эксмо; Алгоритм, 2011. 304 p. ISBN 978-5-699-52852-3.
КОСТИН, Александр. Убийство Сталина. Все версии и еще одна. 1st ed. Москва: Алгоритм, 2012. 240 p. ISBN 978-54438-0106-3.
Going through the current Russian historiography focused on 20th century in the Soviet Union one can become a bit puzzled. After perestroika period, that made a lot for the filling in blank spots in Soviet history, and following Yeltsin’s time, developing perestroika’s work, we can find out that during Putin’s rule the process of Stalin’s rehabilitation has been running full steam ahead. Maybe it would be possible the ongoing process to compare to the situation which occurred after the replacement Nikita Khrushchev with Leonid Brezhnev.
There are as minimum two explanations of this dangerous phenomenon. Firstly, the respect of a substantial part of the Soviet and later Russian society to Stalin has been never disposed. In all public opinion surveys Stalin has been regularly chosen by Russians as one of their greatest-ever countrymen. Secondly, the position of President Vladimir Putin towards Stalin is rather positive than negative. Putin used to be considered as an initiator of gradual rehabilitation of Stalin and his style of ruling of country.
Current Russian president is not a historian but he likes history and understands its possible importance for nowadays. Similarly like his unloved colleague–former Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko, he tries to use history for concrete political goals. Whereas Yuschenko attempted with help of history to construct something like a Ukrainian national idea Putin rather looks for arguments which should strengthen his position as a politician building autocratic regime. In this context Stalin is a very suitable personality.
On the whole, Putin cannot act in different way. It would be at least paradoxical to build an autocratic regime and at the same time to refuse Stalin’s heritage too strongly. The President understands very well that to accept openly the whole heritage it would be too much therefore the worst crimes committed by Stalin and his comrades are criticized by him but there is also a sufficient space to stress Stalin’s immortal merits. Although, sometimes without mentioning Stalin’s name: “We should carry out the same powerful, all-embracing leap forward in modernization of the defense industry as the one carried out in the 1930s.”
“Main historian” of the country set the tone and sensitive ears of many Russian historians caught it. Sentence describing Stalin like “an effective manager” acting “entirely rationally –as the guardian of a system, as a consistent supporter of reshaping the country into an industrialised state;”  emerged in the manual A History of Russia, 1900-1945.
Russian libraries and bookshops are flooded by books defending Stalin as well as his faithful knight Beria and others. Soviet leaders like Khrushchev or Gorbachev are blamed like a traitors destructing Stalin’s heritage and preparing fall of the U.S.S.R. These books as well as books defending Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact or refusing responsibility of Moscow for Katyn’s crime return part of Russian historiography before perestroika and language used in them goes even further.
To find more or less evenhanded book dealing with Stalin’s and post–Stalin’s period is not easy. They exist but the first sort of the books is more visible because of their larger number of copies. Most of such books suffer not only from biased interpretation of the facts but also from a weak use of scientific methods of the research. Many of them start with statement that author worked with new documents substantially changing our existing knowledge but when we open book we do not find any references to resources which an author studied. Moreover, we can also meet in these books direct speech between main heroes and it look like an author was sitting around the table and only wrote down what was said.
Dozen books bringing various “secrets” from recent Soviet history –one could turn Laocoön warning I fear the Greeks even bearing gifts into slogan I fear books bringing secrets or real truth– overshadow real historical research of Soviet history that has reached noticeable results.
One of the most popular topics which seekers of truth love and have been elaborating is “a secret” of Stalin’s death. To read all books dealing with the topic would be a waste of time but on the other hand it is not useless to be familiarized with proposed arguments to understand better where our seekers are heading. The books by Alexandr Kostin provide us with such a possibility. An author collected all key versions of Stalin’s death and he tries to analyze them sine ira et studio. He concluded that Stalin was not killed. His first book (2011) he finishes by words: “Until now all “secrets” of Stalin’s death are easily explainable by his illnesses and it is the most probable version today.”
The end of the second (2012) book looks a bit strange: “Generation of people that is born now has to bury antistalinism like a tragic zigzag of history” but in the text an author repeats his conclusion from the first book devoted toStalin’s death, i.e. Stalin was not killed but he died of natural causes. He was not a victim of a plot, although, it cannot be excluded that his cronies could have several good reasons why to remove him. If we wanted all the same to find something factions in Stalin’s end, may be, we could discuss too long time when Stalin was lying at the datcha without any help. Was it an accident or did his comrades decide to help the destiny? The fact is that doctors were called really very late. How much they could have change dictator’s destiny it will probably remain an unanswered question forever.
From point of history the question how and why Stalin died as well as speculations what could have occurred when Stalin had lived the next few years is not too important. The fact that Stalin died is decisive for historians. In opposite, for defenders of Stalin and Stalinism more interesting speculations about Stalin’s violent death are. They can in this way accuse his successors and blame process of partial destalinization initiated by Khrushchev.
Thanks to perestroika and following period everybody in Russia is allowed to express his opinion. It is valid also for historians, although, the establishment of the Commission to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia's Interests by former President Medvedev is rather warning. Historians can open any issue and to interpret it how they want but in spite of all there should be some extent. Particularly, if we are dealing with so serious issue as crimes committed by communists regimes are.
Maybe, it would be useful to start thinking about some analogy of the case Auschwitz lie. Its dissemination is explicitly or implicitly illegal in many European countries.