Stalin, Putin, and the Challenges of Memory


itPolish thinker Leszek Kolakowski (often called the philosopher of “Solidarity) saw the post-communist landscape as marred by enduring Leninist legacies. He called these debris “moving ruins,” referring to the avatars of the old elites, the absence of moral clarity, and the persistence of ideological and cultural relics of the old regime. The first stage of the revolutions of 1989-1991 was dominated by an exhilarating sense of recovered liberty and the widespread belief that authoritarianism had been irreversibly defeated. Sociologist S. N. Eisenstadt accurately  described those revolutions as non-utopian, non-ideological, non-eschatological. As a rule, they were non-violent eruptions of civic discontent against the supremacy of lies and the rampant cynicism of the communist bureaucracies. The thrust of the mass protests was favoring the dissident philosophy of freedom, civility, and  dignity.

The initial expectations were high and very few were able to foresee the advent of ugly forms of populism, exclusiveness, cynicism, and intolerance that Vaclav Havel diagnosed as the post-communist nightmare. Bolshevism seemed defunct and political scientists celebrated the triumph of liberal revolutions. This euphoria has dissipated in recent years, leaving behind it a sense of discomfort, discomfiture, and disillusionment. One of the major problems lies in the failure of these societies (especially in the former Soviet Union, but also in Romania, Bulgaria, even Poland and the Czech Republic) to reckon with the totalitarian past.

For those who want to understand the avatars of post-Soviet Russian politics and the failure of both elites and society to come to terms with the traumatic Bolshevik past, David Satter’s insightful book It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past ( New Haven & London, Yale University Press, 2012) is a truly illuminating guide. A veteran observer of Soviet and post-Soviet affairs, Satter is both a gifted journalist and a chronicler of intellectual and political currents. His main argument is that a democratic polity in which the individual is treated decently and where human rights are taken seriously cannot be erected on amnesia, mystification and blatant lies. The crucial question he deals with is how Russians process the Stalinist legacies, how and why the generalissimo’s ghost continues to haunt collective memories and public imagination. Splendidly researched and engagingly written, this book offers invaluable vignettes of various reactions to the still unprocessed remembrance of the totalitarian times. Putin’s “managed democracy,” in fact a creeping authoritarianism with an eclectic and questionable constellation of ideological claims (statism, Eurasianism, nationalism), is rooted precisely in this perpetuation of denial.

Formed in the secretive culture of the KGB, “Czar Vladimir” remains deeply attached to the possessed founder of the Bolshevik secret police (the Cheka), Felix Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat who decided to give his early dream to become a priest and turned instead into a fanatic Leninist. The chapter dealing with the ongoing efforts to lionize this torturer is particularly revealing and deeply disturbing. In the same vein, Satter highlights the endeavors to instill a sense of admiration for Yuri Andropov, himself an adamant Leninist, who, as chairman of the KGB in the 1970s and 1980s, supervised the persecution of Soviet dissidents and the neutralization of any form of opposition.

Understandably, the Putin regime finds in such unsavory figures examples of civic dedication and political idealism. At the same time, independent researchers and journalists who want to rescue memory remain isolated and seem to engage in quixotic searches for truth. In this respect, Satter’s book is not only an excellent report of the unsettling status of memory and moral justice in contemporary Russia, but also an effort to support the beleaguered activists of the “Memorial” society who refuse to endorse the official policies of forgetfulness.

For Satter, Russia is a country “that has not been willing to face the full truth about Communism.” After the inconclusive attempts under Boris Yeltsin to organize a trial of the Communist Party, things have moved in a different direction: the mythologies of the Soviet times have been restored and those who continue to insist on the atrocities of the past have been increasingly marginalized. No surprise therefore that Vyacheslav Nikonov, a political commentator with close ties to the Putin leadership and Stalin’s Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov’s grandson, puts it bluntly: “People are not interested in the past. Any attempt to dig into the past evokes only irritation.” It remains to be seen who are those who repudiate this reckoning with the past and what are their motivations. How does one explain that two decades after the collapse of the USSR there has been no expression of state repentance for the millions of innocent individuals murdered by the Soviet regime?

I agree with Satter that no lawful state, no functional and credible democracy can exist if the lawlessness of the past remains ignored or is systematically trivialized. Using all kinds of rationalizations, the Russians have avoided the coming to terms with the appalling past. The result of this depressing situation is that Russia’s morality is beset by cynicism and widespread contempt for values cherished by the dissidents: civility, dignity, memory. The Russian state sees little reason to cultivate the anti-totalitarian ethos. The Orthodox Church, with its own history of martyrdom, but also of complicity, tries to annex the memory of the victims to its own refurbished self-image of unmitigated resistance to Communism.

One of the best chapters in Satter’s book deals with the appeals of communism, an enduring and still enigmatic topic. I am not sure that by the end of the 1970s Bolshevism was still an energizing Messianic project. In fact, it was rather a stultified, hollow dogma. The original dream of world revolution had been abandoned in favor of more traditional imperial expansionism. Still, for decades, communism played the role of a secular religion, proposing the main reference points, the moral compass, for generations. Its genuine amoralism was shrouded in rhetorical proclamations of equality and fraternity. It was bogus, but exhilarating bogus. This quasi-ethical cement is now regretted by many who prefer to remember the victory over Nazi Germany rather than the horrors of the Gulag. Compared to the experiences of political justice in East-Central Europe, Russia has basically shunned its moral recovery. The reasons for this failure are definitely linked to the weakness of political will. Putin confessed admiration for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, but the state-backed history textbooks published with his blessing have been crude attempts to condone the mass terror of the 1930s. If Russia is to become a genuine democratic community, it will have to finally address the issues so poignantly explored in this book.

As a matter of fact, a few years ago Putin lamented the collapse of the USSR as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”. For him and his former KGB cronies, pluralism remains the enemy. In this respect, Putin is more Stalin’s than Yeltsin’s heir. His ideology has little to do with Bolshevik mythologies, yet his mindset remains authoritarian and inimical to individual rights. His worldview is conspiratorial, sectarian, militaristic, and exclusive, a prolongation of Lenin’s Manichean political cosmology.

Vladimir Tismaneanu is professor of politics at the University of Maryland (College Park) and author most recently of The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century (University of California Press, 2012).

  • UIO

    Nuremberg style trials in 1990/91 could have discredited Communism forever. We let the opportunity slip through our fingers.

    • RedPropaganda

      don’t kid yourself. It was absolutely impossible.

  • Race_Dissident

    In fairness to Putin, he is not an admirer of the USSR qua USSR. He believes that the USSR needed rather radical reformation, but regrets that events spun out of control causing the nation’s total collapse. In short, there is little of Lenin and Stalin about Putin, but there is some Gobachev to the man.

    • Texas Patriot

      I think it’s fair to say that Communism, Leninism, Bolshevism, and Stalinism have been rejected by the Russian people who favor a more open, democratic, and entrepreneurial approach to government and economic affairs. It is unrealistic to expect that the transformation will happen overnight, but I think it’s obvious that it is well underway and making good progress. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many Russian billionaires and Paul McCartney wouldn’t have had such an outrageously successful tour there. The bottom line is that America and Russia should no longer regard each other as enemies, but rather as brothers in arms against the global threat of Islamic jihad.

  • ReyR

    Vladimir:
    Firstly, your article as an attempt to rationalize your irrational fear and loathing of Russia. This is understandable, considering; but it is also pathetic since these two emotions underlie your entire career. As an individual, you owe all your successes to the Romanian Communist Party, both through your family background and later through professional affiliation. As a member of the Union of Communist Youth and a nomenklatura offspring, you were an eager contributor to the official propaganda machine, and wrote a wealth of articles to support the regime. When the weather changed, you turned the coat. In fact, you nearly missed the boat, but you were lucky.
    Another point, typically, is that you know next to nothing about Russia that would be from the horse’s mouth. What you know you learned from books written by other bookworms or from semi-sane embittered underachievers exiled half a century ago, and you don’t care to know more. You have never seen the inside of Russia, not once, yet you position yourself as an expert on Russia. Well, you are not alone, there is a whole army of other “experts” like you. The Remote Russia-Bashing Club. You have no principles. You have always simply joined the paying side.
    Let me just say that if not for my great-grandfathers, you would still be a non-citizen under the Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians.
    I recommend reading Dostoevsky’s Diaries. He said quite a lot about you.

  • RedPropaganda

    It is not appalling past, it is a glorious past. We respect our history. Strong army, great scientists, respect and fear from the West. How it can be appalling past? We ate enough this democracy and western values during 90′s. We are lucky that Putin is more Stalin’s heir than Yeltsin’s (aka drunk guy). But the western people will never understand Russian soul and why we not saying anything bad about our past. So yeah, we need something like Soviet Union – lite ( reference to Eurasian Union).

    • Texas Patriot

      RP: “But the western people will never understand Russian soul and why we not saying anything bad about our past.”

      Don’t be too sure about that. There are many in the West who appreciate completely the passion of the Russian people and the talents of Russian artists, writers, and dancers. It’s just that there’s still a lot of negative propaganda and negative attitudes left over from the old days that is no longer appropriate. Getting over all that is going to be one of the major challenges of the 21st Century. If Russia and America don’t stand together against the global threat of Islamic jihad, it will just make it that much easier for our enemies.

      • RedPropaganda

        Year after year will be more negative attitude to Russia, trust me. Putin will be in power for a really long time and West not happy about that, because Putin is independent. Labeled him as an old KGB apparatchik or bloody Putin’s regime. By saying about Russian soul, I’m trying to explain that we don’t need all this western liberal stuff or values, or western type of democracy. I see it in the majority of Western media, which are full of criticism about our political system and past. Just have a look on our history ( Czar’s period, Soviet period), we always had a brutal leaders ( some of them were too ruthless, some of them less ruthless). We need a strong hand. This is only correct way to rule our huge territory. We understand this and accept it. But the West always trying to impose us this western democracy model and standarts. plus, acting as sponsors of the fifth column in Russia. finally, I don’t see how we can stand together against muslim threat. Our Deputy Premier Rogozin said, that West acting in Muslim world like monkey with grenade. We have different views and methods on how to deal with this threat.

        • Texas Patriot

          Russia will evolve along with the rest of the world and become more democratic and not less. There is no avoiding it. With modern information and communications technologies, the world is becoming a smaller and smaller place. As such, the Russian people will see, as everyone else can see, that they are not that much different than anyone else in the world. It follows, therefore, that as we move further and further into the 21st Century, the American people and the Russian people will see that we have a lot more in common than we thought we did.

          • RedPropaganda

            Russia will develop as democratic state, no doubt. but our democracy will be different from western democracy. there is no one clear definition of what is meant by democracy. like it or not but it will make us different.

          • Texas Patriot

            Being different is fine. America will evolve as well. You can learn from us. We can learn from you. I see no problems between us.

          • RedPropaganda

            Time will tell.

          • Texas Patriot

            We need to make it work, and we need China on board as well. With the world now in the gunsights of a global Islamic tsunami, the non-Muslim majority nations need to stick together and work together, and at this point in time, America, Russia, and China are the three strongest non-Muslim nations in the world.

          • RedPropaganda

            15 mln muslims in Russia, at least 20 mln muslims in China, in US less than 3 mln muslims (easier for you). In Russia we live together more than 800 years. We can fight with Islamic fundamentalism, but not with normal muslims.

          • Texas Patriot

            As I understand it the number of Muslims in America is now over 7 million and it is growing very, very fast. Since 9/11 alone the Muslim population in America has increased by 74%. Americans are well aware of the problems Russia is having with Muslims in Chechnya, and we have seen the heartbreaking results of terrorist attacks against innocent Russian schoolchildren. Believe me, we are all in this together. And if you can tell the difference between a “normal” Muslim and a “radical” Muslim, you need to help us out with that. As indicated by the Boston Marathon Massacre last year, we obviously don’t have a clue how to do that.

          • RedPropaganda

            Radicals fights for the Islamic caliphate, independence, sharia rules. Normal muslims against that. Chechnya is a good example of radical Islam (during 90′s). Tatarstan (region in Russia, where majority are muslims) is a good example of non-radical Islam.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            What precisely do you reject about Western democracy or more specifically about American democracy? How are you going to improve that specifically other than branding it as superior because it’s Russian?

          • Texas Patriot

            If you can’t see the problems with American democracy, I’m very surprised. At this point in time, we don’t have government of the people, by the people, and for the people as Abraham Lincoln envisioned. Rather we have government of the political parties, by the political parties, and for the political parties. And their interests are often diametrically opposed to the American people. We need to improve our democratic system drastically, and there is no sense pretending we don’t.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “If you can’t see the problems with American democracy, I’m very surprised.”

            Given the nature of our problems and their origins, I’m curious how a Russian communist is going to blame American democracy because we allowed Soviets too much access for far too long. It has nothing to do with my vision when I ask him a question to challenge his beliefs Not yet anyway. Try to be a little patient.

            “We need to improve our democratic system drastically, and there is no sense in pretending we don’t.”

            Improve by returning to our roots. I never said we didn’t have problems. I don’t think Russians that glorify Stalin can offer us anything useful but I’m willing to be surprised if the guy can impress me with an answer.

          • Texas Patriot

            Maybe he will. No one really glorifies Stalin anymore (except maybe the Communists still active in America). Personally, I think he calls himself “RedPropaganda” just to see if he can get a rise out of us. ;-)

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “No one really glorifies Stalin anymore (except maybe the Communists still active in America).”

            RedPropaganda:
            • 6 hours ago
            “It is not appalling past, it is a glorious past. We respect our history. Strong army, great scientists, respect and fear from the West. How it can be appalling past?”

            Who gets credit for that if not Stalin?

          • Texas Patriot

            You’re assuming he was talking about Stalin. Let him speak for himself. There are hundreds of years of Russian history that are indeed glorious and fully in keeping with what he was saying. The Communist/Bolshevik/Stalinist episode was an aberration. Just as the American people accomplished great things despite the tyranny of Richard Nixon, it is no doubt true that the Russian people accomplished great things despite the tyranny of the Communists.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “You’re assuming he was talking about Stalin. Let him speak for himself.”

            Right now it is you speaking for him and not me. I answered your questions.

            “Just as the American people accomplished great things despite the tyranny of Richard Nixon, it is no doubt true that the Russian people accomplished great things despite the tyranny of the Communist dictators.”

            False equivalence. How many gulags did Nixon build for slave labor camps that lead to America’s “great things?” If Lincoln had fought and won in saving slavery and then built “great things” with those slaves, then you could compare the Soviet achievements with ours. The dramatic differences in actual history should be enough to make my very obvious points clearer.

          • Texas Patriot

            I think you’re getting confused. The point is that both the American people and the Russian people have accomplished great things DESPITE the various tyrants and tyrannies present in our respective governments at different points in time. That’s always been the case with all people everywhere.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “I think you’re getting confused. The point is that both the American people and the Russian people have accomplished great things DESPITE the various tyrants and tyrannies present in our respective governments at different points in time.”

            I’m not at all confused about how moral equivalence arguments are built. The problem is that in discussions about political systems, your point only serves to confuse rather than clarify. “I guess it doesn’t matter as much since all people-groups can manage some degree of greatness in spite of their disparate systems of governance.” OK, I’ve wasted a lot of my time here.

            “That’s always been the case with all people everywhere.”

            Yeah, that’s fine but if you retrace your steps you’ll see that you took a conversation about contrasting political systems and got very little use from it so far.

            Plutonium, heavy. Lead, also heavy. OK, not let’s look at fluid dynamics for 30 seconds before we move on to campfire songs.

          • Paardestaart

            “The various tyrants and tyrannies present in our respective governments” ???

            Tyrants and tyrannies on our governments?? We ever had tyrants in our governments, that you remember – up till the One who was going to change us beyond recognition that is?? Let’s not argue, we’re all the same basically, communist russia was just another country with an alternative political system, not a monstrous empire of evil, you’ve nothing to blame yourself for Iwan, let’s sing kumbaya together kind russian gentleman?

          • RedPropaganda

            I don’t know why you started talking about Stalin. And yes, he is very respectable person in Russia. for the West he is a tyrant. For Russians he is a father of nation. In history books he shown as good manager. In 2008 was a TV project on the main channel, called ” Name Of Russia” (outstanding persons in Russian history). People gave to Stalin millions of votes, he got the 3rd place. You can’t say about Stalin is he was a good guy or bad guy. He is a very complex figure for us.

          • Texas Patriot

            RP: “He is a very complex figure for us.”

            No doubt that is true. For us in the West, Stalin is a symbol of the worst abuses of totalitarian Communism, and there can be no doubt that millions of Russian people were killed in his “purges” of intellectual and political dissidents. Thus, he represents to Americans a symbol of suppression of freedom of thought and freedom of expression almost like no other in history. At the same time, I am sure that, to the Russian people, he represents the ‘Savior of the Nation” because he successfully defended Russia from the invasion by the Nazis under the leadership of Adolph Hitler. Complex figure, for sure.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Complex figure, for sure.”

            All humans are complex. The question of Stalin’s evil is not complex. He was a liar and mass murderer who had no objective standards for justice other than what served his power.

            If that’s a controversial statement in your mind, you’ve been tainted by leftist social dogmas. Hitler is complex too. We got rockets and synthetic oil. And VWs. How bad could he have been?

            Yippee.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “I don’t know why you started talking about Stalin.”

            Because I sensed you would say something like:

            “And yes, he is very respectable person in Russia.”

            “for the West he is a tyrant…”

            By any definition he was a tyrant. You may be happy what he accomplished with his tyranny, but nobody sane can question that he’s the archetype of the modern tyrant. For solid, rational reasons.

            “For Russians he is a father of nation.”

            What was Russia before? You mean in terms of manipulating his own people and the great nations of the world to build power for himself and his empire?

            “In history books he shown as good manager.”

            He got results. His ends justified his tyrannical means. That’s your view. That’s a mainstream view in Russia that is incompatible with Western values. If that’s a “good manager” to a Russian, free people everywhere need to know that.

            “People gave to Stalin millions of votes, he got the 3rd place. You can’t say about Stalin is he was a good guy or bad guy. He is a very complex figure for us.”

            I can say it but you can’t. That tells me a lot.

          • Texas Patriot

            You’re being unnecessarily argumentative and belligerent. The Russian people are making good progress away from the nightmare of totalitarian Communism, and you can’t expect that to happen overnight. Of course they have mixed feelings about a man who saved them from Adolph Hitler and also is responsible for the murder of millions of their own people. The bottom line is that the Russian people will gradually move towards democracy in their own way, and in the process they will become the great allies of the American people in the war against totalitarian Islam.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “The Russian people are making good progress away from the nightmare of totalitarian Communism, and you can’t expect that to happen overnight.”

            That’s fine but that’s not the conversation we’re having. He wants more collectivism and thinks that’s what we need too. Read the rest of his comments where I’m proved correct while you’re arguing about an entirely different topic.

            “Of course they have mixed feelings about a man who saved them from Adolph Hitler and is also responsible for the murder of millions of their own people.”

            I’m not critical of “mixed feelings” but of glossing over murder and evil that was foundational to his “good management.” I guess really great managers keep lots of weapons nearby and do all of their own killing personally.

            Stalin tried to compete with Hitler, and not protect anyone else but himself. And Stalin did not start murdering people when he “had to” to save Russians from Nazis. Stalin’s mass murder preceded Hitler’s. It might be ok to have “mixed” feelings if there is some kind of rational balance to that “mix.”

            “The bottom line is that the Russian people will gradually move towards democracy in their own way, and in the process they will become the great allies of the American people in the war against totalitarian Islam.”

            And visions of sugar plums danced through their heads.

            “And at this point, that’s all that really counts.”

            Visualize world peace and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings until it’s arrived.

            I’m trying to talk to one Russian apologist for Stalinism, not all Russian people and my future hopes for them.

          • RedPropaganda

            “He wants more collectivism and thinks that’s what we need too.”
            Yes, I want more collectivism in Russia, but not in US. I don’t care how you will rule your own state. It is your problems, not mine.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Yes, I want more collectivism in Russia…”

            I wanted to hear you say that. Thanks.

            “but not in US. I don’t care how you will rule your own state. It is your problems, not mine.”

            It was a feature of your criticism regardless of your hopes for what we actually do.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            I don’t have a problem with your intentions, I just have no good reason to accept your judgment in place of mine.

          • RedPropaganda

            I still don’t understand why you so pissed off about Stalin. Everything is simple. Pros and cons. victory in WWII, USSR turned from agrarian to industrial country. A lot of people were killed? Yes. All people from them were innocent? No. he is a dictator? yes

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Pros and cons. victory in WWII”

            With our aid and plenty of deception directed at his own allies.

            “USSR turned from agrarian to industrial country.”

            In spite of him, not because of him.

            “he is a dictator? yes”

            A collectivist dictator that murdered millions in order to achieve power in the name of “the people” but in reality simply for his own ego. And lies do piss me off.

          • RedPropaganda

            “With our aid and plenty of deception directed at his own allies.”
            so what? this is understates the victory?

          • objectivefactsmatter

            It radically overstates his value in the victory. If the Soviets had better relations with America based on honesty (to the extent that nations can) from the start, who knows what greatness you could have achieved. Lots of blood and treasure were spilled to prove socialist ideas are workable and even after the failure of the Soviet Union people still don’t have an accurate accounting of what went wrong systemically and with regard to destructive personality cults.

          • ReyR

            We need fewer communists in Russia now than you have in the US. You are biased, obstinate and obnoxious. You are unfair and very-very dull. You are a killjoy.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “We need fewer communists in Russia now than you have in the US.”

            I agree.

            “You are a killjoy.”

            That’s a real shame. Try online gaming I guess.

          • RedPropaganda

            What I reject? last years American democracy looks like a bourgeois democracy (paradise for the rich, a trap for the poor).

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “What I reject? last years American democracy looks like a bourgeois democracy (paradise for the rich, a trap for the poor).”

            It’s a paradise for lying socialist elites and lazy poor people, a nightmare for middle class productive people who used to be able to trust their politicians to leave them alone long enough to be successful without being attacked for it by envious losers.

            The question is why do we have these conditions? Thanks to Stalin, the great manager. We were too tolerant of evil Soviet collectivist ideas and agents. So while I agree there is a lot that needs to be improved, I would also say that Russian collectivists are the last ones to be qualified to criticize our problems given their relationship to the roots of those problems.

          • Texas Patriot

            You don’t know how to make friends very well. RP is coming here to talk, not to be insulted. Give the guy a chance and he might surprise you. Insult him and you should know what you will get in return. Democracy is about human freedom and human dignity. It requires respect for other human beings. You need to do your part, starting right here and right now.

          • RedPropaganda

            You see the straw in the eyes of others and you do not see the beam in yours. Stop blaming Stalin for all Earth problems.

          • Texas Patriot

            RP: “You see the straw in the eyes of others and you do not see the beam in yours. Stop blaming Stalin for all Earth problems.”

            He’s right. Stalin is dead. We can’t blame him for all the problems in America. The future is upon us. It’s time for us to take responsibility for our own destiny and rebuild the nation that Abraham Lincoln said was “The last best hope of earth.” And of course we want our Russian friends to cheer us on. A better and stronger America is good for everybody. ;-)

          • objectivefactsmatter

            Stalin is the “father” of his nation. And he wants to create false legends about how a good manager is a guy who “gets stuff done,” never mind how.

            It matters because people learn just as much if not more from lies about history than they do about authentic facts of history.

            I host people from all over the world to live in America. I’m always willing to prove what I say. No need for me to appease people with comforting lies. I’d rather keep my integrity. Not only that, most of them socialize with leftist college students (you can’t find a non-leftist for many miles all around) so they can test what I say against competing ideas.

            There’s a time and place for diplomacy and for honesty.

          • Texas Patriot

            OFM: “There’s a time and place for diplomacy and for honesty.”

            It’s always time for both. They’re not mutually exclusive. Americans don’t need to be defensive and belligerent with anyone. We are the luckiest people in the history of the world and we know it. I for one admire the Russian people, and I think God created them to provide a special contribution for all the world. We need to make sure we don’t insult them unnecessarily or say things that do not really need to be said. We all have our faults, and we can all do a lot better than we are doing now.

            Finding our common ground and building on our mutual interest is the formula for a great future for America and for Russia and for all the world. Whether we know it or not and whether they know it or not, America needs Russia and Russia needs America.

            Discovering that need and discovering a common vision for a great future for both of our nations and all the peoples of the earth is what conversations like this are all about.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            I know that you mean well and I don’t disagree with everything that you say, but you’re some times dangerously naive. I simply point out the most salient disagreements and that bothers you to the point of worrying about feelings and silly characterizations. Only a leftist could imagine my words here as belligerent.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “You see the straw in the eyes of others and you do not see the beam in yours. Stop blaming Stalin for all Earth problems.”

            Stalin caused all world problems?

            No. Stalin caused many problems?

            Yes. Lying about it is OK? No.

          • RedPropaganda

            Where I lied? I’m not a Stalin’s lawyer. I never said that in Stalin’s era everything was ok, without any problems. You seeing this problem with black and white colors. I see this problem with black, grey and white colors. It is enough to ascribe to me all this things that I never said.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Where I lied?”

            I don’t consider you a liar at all. I don’t have any problems with you personally. You’ve made your judgments based on what you’ve learned from your life. I simply have a lot of disagreement and I’m confident that I have access to more objective sources than you do.

            OTOH, that doesn’t mean I can’t learn anything from you or anyone else. It’s just that the party line you’re preaching is destructive for the most part.

            But I’ll also say that I think Russia does have potential to be a great partner of a revitalized USA. But I can see why Russians would view the USA negatively. There are many reasons, and the list is getting longer. It’s just useful for you to understand why we have so many problems in the USA even as the world’s most powerful nation. It’s the destructive collectivist ideology that has been allowed to permeate all of our institutions.

            Of course this does not account for all of our problems. But it does make virtually all of them more difficult to manage because if you look at our 2 major political parties, one of them has a worldview in dramatic conflict with the other. Guess why? They don’t argue over what color to paint the Whitehouse or what side of the road to drive on. Virtually all of the political friction is tied directly or indirectly to collectivist ideology, because we don’t even have time to discuss anything else. It was also considered a wasted opportunity for communists to engage in any major battles without putting some kind of spin on it that helped win their revolution.

            Islam is empowered by leftists, who follow communist propaganda-driven ideas about multiculturalism. Our economy is in the tank because of what? We forgot how to build things? Or is it the unions, the constant interference regarding what green energy is acceptable, where we can drill for oil, it goes on and on and on.

            Without those problems, no doubt we’d find other things to argue over, but we’d be a lot more successful if that were the case. And the whole world would probably be better off as well.

            We’re not a stingy people in general. We have major disagreements about how the world should be fundamentally organized and that’s a problem. Most of those controversies can be traced back to Soviet Communist propaganda.

            Do I blame any living Russian? Nope. Not personally. But I’m still obligated to defend the ideas that I think serve everyone’s best interests and to rebut those ideas that I can show are destructive to the entire world.

            Socialism helps nobody. It’s based on false ideas. It can work for short periods only, and you eventually pay more than you would have if you’d have simply asked for public assistance programs on the basis of charity and rational collective self-interest arguments.

            For example, food stamps. Good idea? Maybe, maybe not. Certainly a lot better idea if we have work requirements and funding that is tied to the nation’s ability to pay. Nobody has a right to have the taxpayer feed them. That right simply doesn’t exist.

            Take that and multiply it across every other right people think they have, right to parks, right to cleanly paved streets, right to endless increases in standard of living that have no connections to personal productivity and you’ve eventually got the recipe for ending what was once the greatest nation ever. Not because we’re better people but because we were blessed by the best constitution and lucky enough to have the resources to develop.

            When I’m comparing systems of government or ideologies, I’m not comparing people. People are influenced by those things but ultimately that is a separate discussion. Guys like Stalin that had so much impact on what the a government does, even that is not really personal. But when it seems like it is an attack on a specific human, it’s not an attack on Russians or even those who are duped by his legends.

            I even have a cautious respect for Putin. Certainly if I’m to compare Putin and 0′Bama, I’ll take Putin any day of the week. I’ve defended him many times recently, though I still remain skeptical because I just don’t know enough about him. And he has a lot more power in his nation than POTUS.

            I would not trade my citizenship at this point for anything. That is not an insult to any people anywhere, even if that statement hurts feelings. I don’t think Americans are better than Russians as people. I think there is very little difference underneath the politics. Especially these days. Our systems of governance are vastly superior because we’re extremely lucky.

          • ReyR

            I wonder why my posts get deleted, but your nurdy blabber is left here to eat up half of the screen space.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            It happens to everyone some times. Did you get an error message or did it just fail to appear?

          • ReyR

            No. It was simply deleted. Because this is what I wrote:
            Quote:
            “Vladimir:
            Firstly, your article as an attempt to rationalize your irrational fear and loathing of Russia. This is understandable, considering; but it is also pathetic since these two emotions underlie your entire career. As an individual, you owe all your successes to the Romanian Communist Party, both through your family background and later through professional affiliation. As a member of the Union of Communist Youth and a nomenklatura offspring, you were an eager contributor to the official propaganda machine, and wrote a wealth of articles to support the regime. When the weather changed, you turned the coat.
            Another point, typically, is that you know next to nothing about Russia that would be from the horse’s mouth. What you know you learned from books written by other bookworms or from semi-sane embittered underachievers exiled half a century ago, and you don’t care to know more. You have never seen the inside of Russia, not once, yet you position yourself as an expert on Russia. Well, you are not alone, there is a whole army of other “experts” like you. The Remote Russia-Bashing Club. You have no principles. You have always simply joined the paying side.
            Let me just say that if not for my great-grandfathers, you would still be a non-citizens under the Ottomans and Austro-Hungarians.
            I recommend reading Dostoevsky’s Diaries. He said quite a lot about you.”
            End of quote.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “No. It was simply deleted.”

            Then it probably failed to record in the database, perhaps it never fully connected. The system will report any deletions, but failed connections “feel” the same way since from the client computer it looks more or less like you already published it.

            It’s happened to me many times, some times many times in the same session and then not again for weeks. It probably has to do with distant connections relative to their web host for the disqus servers.

          • ReyR

            “I will tell you in my way how the Indian sees things. The white man has more words to tell you how they look to him, but it does not require many words to speak the truth.”
            To this Indian, it’s simple: my post was deleted because it was unpleasant to the author of this article.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            Always trust the Indian over the white man when it comes to computer networking and database questions.

            But if it happens in the future, the way to check if I’m correct is to hit refresh and see if it’s still there. If the fresh served page shows it and then it’s removed after, that required action at the database level. Now you can question why it was removed.

            If you hit refresh and the text is gone faster than it takes most people to read it, then obviously you have to consider that there was a connection problem.

          • ReyR

            It was deleted four hours after I posted it, and Drakken had enough time to leave his comment. His comment is still there, right at the top of the thread.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “It was deleted four hours after I posted it, and Drakken had enough time to leave his comment. His comment is still there, right at the top of the thread.”

            Wow. Well, the only other thing I can say is that your local browser would have kept its copy until the page was refreshed from the server. It stays there on your local browser indefinitely, until you force the page to be refreshed.

            It’s not impossible that you are correct, but based on my experiences, I think my suggestion is more plausible.

            It would be very radical to find out that they are not only removing unfavorable comments but doing it without flagging it for people to see. For example, “comment removed.”

            I don’t approve of any kind of censoring but these guys own their own properties and I respect their rights as much as anyone else’s. If we don’t like it we’re free to go somewhere else.

          • ReyR

            “If we don’t like it we’re free to go somewhere else.”
            I agree.
            But I disagree that your “suggestion is more plausible”, because my own experience is that censorship is pervasive in US-based web media today.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            If Drakken was able to see it directly, then the Indian was probably correct this time.

            So he replied to the comment that got deleted?

            Whoa.

          • ReyR

            Next time your car acts up or a tooth aches, remember:
            It’s the hand of Moscow, it’s just a part of the great plan perpetrated by the Evil Soviet Collectivists.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Next time your car acts up or a tooth aches, remember: It’s the hand of Moscow, it’s just a part of the great plan perpetrated by the Evil Soviet Collectivists.”

            If the car was union made, that might be true. Toothaches are all on me.

            Not all collectivists are evil, but the ideology is. The plans of the Soviets are long gone in terms of our nation, but the legacy of their efforts is what remains. That’s what we’re talking about; tainted ideology of our populations.

          • Moa

            That’s simply a deflection since you can’t argue the main point. Please stick to the debate and stop trying to derail it with ‘strawman’ arguments of *your* construction. Your opponent said nothing to warrant your silly statement.

          • ReyR

            Who are you to lecture and judge us? OFM is a grown person, and we don’t need your intrusive mediation.
            Are you a communist yourself, trying to arbitrate our dialog?

          • ReyR

            To me, what’s wrong with the Western democracy is this:
            1. minorities oppress the majority, 2. the elites play the masses, and 3. every bum or wacko gets to vote. In a true democracy, minorities should have to comply, the elites to consider the people, and bums have no say, since they have nothing at stake: no social position, no assets, no family – nothing, and thus they assume no responsibility when they vote. On the other hand, a republic does work. America was alright as long as it was a republic. Now as a democracy, it is on the road to nowhere.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “To me, what’s wrong with the Western democracy is this: 1. minorities oppress the majority…”

            Which minorities? The elected officials?

            “2. the elites play the masses…”

            That is a feature of every society, and we have measures to manage that. If you can suggest improvements I’d love to hear.

            “3. every bum or wacko gets to vote.”

            Yeah. That’s a slight problem. What’s the solution?

            “In a true democracy, minorities should have to comply…”

            You mean with some standards before their vote counts? Guess why they don’t today?

            “the elites to consider the people…”

            You can’t reengineer people. You can only design systems to mitigate their flaws.

            ” and bums have no say, since they have nothing at stake: no social position, no assets, no family – nothing, and thus they assume no responsibility when they vote.”

            So it’s an imperfect society. I’d agree with that. Now tell us how we can improve on it not just in one’s imagination, but realistically without killing or jailing people that don’t comply, without destroying our original constitutional liberties. Unless you can trace these problems back to our constitution. That would be a challenge.

            Our problems stem from 2 key sources:

            1) We’re flawed humans

            2) We’ve allowed too much communist and socialist propaganda to be taught in our schools.

            Now that you know I agree more or less with your critiques, how can or would you improve on it?

            “On the other hand, a republic does work. America was alright as long as it was a republic. Now as a democracy, it is on the road to nowhere.”

            Precisely. We’ve lost our concern for law and order and now it’s a kind of mob rule described as democracy. It was appeasement of the leftists that allowed our nation to change in this way. We could fix this in a single generation with the right national leadership. We don’t have that right now, I’ll tell you. But it could happen. It could also get worse. We don’t know yet.

          • Moa

            Good points.

            Fingers crossed Ted Cruz manages to win the Presidency in 2016.

            I’m amazed how your debators can simply gloss over Stalin’s crimes. Not *millions* but *tens of millions*.

            Here’s something those debators have not considered, “Could a leader of the USSR have defeated Hitler without needing to murder tens of millions of his own people?”. The answer is, of course! The USSR was gearing up to invade Western Europe – it had T-34 prototypes already – and with a little more time probably would have struck the first blow. All the pieces to win were in place – Stalin was not required for victory (it is simply communist propaganda to say he was necessary). The USSR had no shortage of able leaders, and they didn’t have to be criminal exterminators to be victorious.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            You’re arguing with a collectivist you know. Collectivism requires tyrannical leaders. He’s fine with that for some reason. I guess he expects to come out on top. He doesn’t mind walking on the skeletons of innocents, since individuals don’t matter (other than self).

          • Texas Patriot

            We’ve had our share of tyrannical leaders as well, and I for one am not fine with that. Instead of pointing out all the problems we think we see in Russia, we would be a lot better off focusing upon and solving our own problems first.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “We’ve had our share of tyrannical leaders as well, and I for one am not fine with that.”

            But this just proves my point that our systems are superior for limiting the power of tyrants. Lincoln was our worst “tyrant” and you want to say that Russian’s experiences with Stalin are roughly comparable?

            “Instead of pointing out all the problems we think we see in Russia, we would be a lot better off focusing upon and solving our own problems first.”

            Pointing out problems with Russia is a fundamental aspect of fixing our own problems. Quite a bit of “American socialist” ideology these days came from Russia. Your statements here seem more naive than usual.

          • Texas Patriot

            I disagree. Richard Nixon was our first criminal president. He was elected under false pretenses, he conducted the Vietnam war under false pretenses, he dealt with domestic opposition in a manner befitting the worst of tyrants, more than half of his inner circle ended up in prison, and he himself avoided prison only because he was pardoned by Gerald Ford. Compared with Nixon, Lincoln was a saint.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Compared with Nixon, Lincoln was a saint.”

            Sure, but Lincoln held the most power in his hands.

          • Texas Patriot

            Lincoln’s wholesale destruction of the South was inexcusable. Very few would disagree with that. But Lincoln was at least fighting for human equality and human freedom, and I’ll always admire him for that.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “Lincoln’s wholesale destruction of the South was inexcusable. Very few would disagree with that. But Lincoln was at least fighting for human equality and human freedom, and I’ll always admire him for that.”

            Great. We agree on that. Now compare and contrast who suffered under America’s tyrants and who suffered under Soviet tyrants. You’ll then understand the point I’m making.

          • PAthena

            What tyrannical leaders has the United States had? The closest was Huey Long, who was never president.

          • ReyR

            I like your thoughtful approach, TP, but I must note that while in the past we Russians naively emphasized the similarities that do exist between us and the American nation, a change of wind brings a new point of sail. In 1990s our people gaped in awe as they watched Western predators ganged up with our homegrown criminals steal most of our nation’s assets. One can’t blame the human nature, as our friend OFM will remonstrate, no doubt. Yet, sadly for us Soviet-made simpletons, human nature had been forcibly changed by the previous government, and at the time we were just as you are now: idealistic, embittered, and confused, all at once. 20 years on, we have wised up a bit, and certainly become more cynical. This time as we observe the collapsing America, some are gloating, some have sympathy, but we no longer tend to identify with you guys. The West, China, and Russia, each is going thru its unique evolutionary phase. In the past, most Russians sought a western identity, but right now I fear we are diverging with the West and converging with China. America will not be an enemy as long as it minds its own business. The NATO bases will certainly have to go from Russia’s underbelly. The dollar will become a local fiat currency, with very little “fiat”, if it survives. As to the muzzie issue, we have coped with this problem for centuries, as we will in future, but I’m afraid the West is on its own now – no help from Russia this time. The reason we want to disassociate is because you guys tend to overemphasize the hardware side, and we prefer softer methods.

          • Texas Patriot

            Thanks for the feedback. My take is that America is headed for a financial collapse like we have never seen before, but that we will rebound, as always, with creative energy and imagination like the world has never seen. It remains unclear to what extent the three great powers left standing in the world will be able to cooperate on the issue of global Islamic jihad, but I suspect that there will be ample opportunity for us to work together to find solutions to common problems according to our mutual interests and that it will indeed require a combination of hardware and the softer methods you allude to. Time will tell.

    • Daniel

      Maybe you should familiarize yourself with Varlam Shalamov’s “Kolyma Tales”. Evgenia Ginzburg’s, “Into the Whirlwind.”………and of course, the late great Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago.
      I suspect you know nothing of these accounts and are an uniformed moron.

      • RedPropaganda

        or maybe we ( “Evil Soviets”) should catch you and send you to Gulag to brainwash from this liberal crap. I suspect you know something about temperature in Siberia.

  • Drakken

    It would seem that the powers that be don’t like Rey R’s comment about who this author is, sad really.

    • ReyR

      On the money, Drakken!

    • objectivefactsmatter

      Did you see his comment directly before it was removed, or did he tell you about it?

  • emptorpreempted

    Sounds like the Poles are blaming communism for everything that’s wrong with their society, more than 20 years later. Simple explanations are always satisfying.

  • Texas Patriot

    Vladimir Tismaneanu: “A veteran observer of Soviet and post-Soviet affairs, Satter is both a gifted journalist and a chronicler of intellectual and political currents. His main argument is that a democratic polity in which the individual is treated decently and where human rights are taken seriously cannot be erected on amnesia, mystification and blatant lies. The crucial question he deals with is how Russians process the Stalinist legacies, how and why the generalissimo’s ghost continues to haunt collective memories and public imagination. Splendidly researched and engagingly written, this book offers invaluable vignettes of various reactions to the still unprocessed remembrance of the totalitarian times. ”

    If only Messrs. Radosh and Horowitz had been able to absorb and grasp this fundamental truth before they embarked on their misguided campaign of lies, personal attacks, and character assassination against American Conservative Writer Diana West.

  • Pedro Zozaya

    Dirty anti-Russian propaganda.

    In the USA (and UK), a whole industry of “demonizing Russia” .. Each year publish hundreds of completely delusional books (sometimes pseudo-historical). I do not know who is reading all this nonsense? Publishing books financed the American government for propaganda? This is a trivial state order.

  • Richard Fontaine

    I am sorry, I thought this article was about the United States and our newly installed Communist regime. But the author seems to be focused only on some country called “Russia”……open your eyes. The communists are doing just fine in America.

    • ReyR

      OK, let’s have a closer look.
      The article is titled “Stalin, Putin…”, it discusses “the Challenges” of “avatars of post-Soviet Russian politics”, and “enduring Leninist legacies”.
      The words “Russia” and “Russian” appear 10 times in the text.
      The words “Soviet” and “USSR” – 9 times.
      “Putin” and “Czar Vladimir” – 6 times.
      “Bolshevik” and “Bolshevism” – 3 times.
      KGB – 3 times.
      Stalin and Stalinist – 3 times.
      Lenin and Leninist – 3 times.
      There are multiple references to Yeltsin, Andropov, Nikonov, Molotov, and even the Russian Orthodox Church
      On the other hand, the text does not refer to the United States.
      Thus, surprisingly, the article seems to refer to some country “called” Russia.
      Thanks to you, Richard Fontaine, our eyes are open wide now.
      PS. Why did you think that the “article was about the United States”?

  • AgnieszkaMaria

    Give me the name of one single nation without an appalling past, or of one nation that has come to grips, in less than a century’s time, with traumatic upheaval and war. You cannot because there is no such place on this planet. War and political upheaval transform a place forever, and that is not a figure of speech. Also, give me the reason why there is anything wrong with Putin having been in service to his nation for most of his adult life. That is the honourable thing to do, especially if your family has also served, which his had done. He earned his position, and everything that he owns, everything that people envy and want to see him lose, he in fact deserves to have and to keep, and no I do not care how all of it was acquired in considering a person who has so long devoted his life to his country. My personal family history with Russia is deep and sorted. I grew up with the knowledge of things to which most were not witness and thus could not know. Every country covers up their misdeeds, and in every case there are eye witnesses who lay low and know the truth, waiting for it to be alright to speak about it. It is painful, it is difficult, but it is a process that has to be respected. The West demands that we just get over it. Why does the West not get over itself, then? It is controversial, politically incorrect, counter-intutive to most people, and outright bordering on treasonous, in the eyes of many, for me to support Putin and Russia. However, that support is borne of logical and reasonable assessment and a proper understanding of that for which I stand. The last thing that we need is to deepen the political rift, to widen the social and political gap, to keep at each other’s throats, because then we most certainly will never move on. We cannot forget, but we must move on. I have an entire now-defunct class of military nobility, including my own family, and almost an entire nation of self-martyring people, who would call for my silence. Do not presume to understand and accurately assess the mindsets of those who face the reality of the trauma caused by this last century’s bloody history. The biggest challenge is realising that it is safe to emerge and to trust, and that challenge is not something that the West is facing. It is individual as much as it is shared among the people. As for the rest of what it says here, it is clear that the author of this review read a convincingly written book and decided to just allow themselves to be convinced of it. For shame on anyone who would make an already difficult situation, with which they have no personal experience, into something to just write about, without personal experience, because they have nothing else to publish. The last thing we need are more troubles.