Rehabilitation of Stalin criticised by Russian presidential candidate

Kseniya Sobchak wants dictator’s body taken from Kremlin and praising him outlawed

Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak: says it is “shameful and scary”  six of the eight politicians standing for president had “glorified Stalin and justified his crimes”.Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak: says it is “shameful and scary” six of the eight politicians standing for president had “glorified Stalin and justified his crimes”.Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

 

As Russians laid flowers on the grave of Josef Stalin in Moscow on Monday, presidential candidate Kseniya Sobchak slammed the Kremlin for allowing the creeping rehabilitation of the Soviet dictator who died 65 years ago.

“Stalin is a shameful stain on our country’s history,” Ms Sobchak said in a YouTube video filmed in Moscow’s Museum of the Gulag. “The only way to get rid of this stain . . . is to speak the truth.”

One of the most ruthless leaders of the 20th century, Stalin was responsible for the execution, torture and imprisonment of millions upon millions of people in the Soviet Union.

The Soviet authorities began dismantling the cult of personality Stalin built after his death on March 5th, 1954, and eventually denounced his crimes. Originally laid to rest beside Lenin’s embalmed body in a tomb in Moscow’s Red Square, Stalin’s remains were moved to a grave in the nearby Kremlin wall in 1961.

Yet while Stalin is widely reviled in the West, he has a more complicated legacy in modern Russia where many see him as a strong leader who imposed order and led the country to victory in the second World War.

Bloody repressions

Russian president Vladimir Putin has encouraged a revised view of history that presents Stalin as an effective manager and downplays his bloody repressions. Statues of Stalin have reappeared in several Russian cities and officials have begun discouraging talk of his repressions.

With a recent poll by the Levada Centre indicating that 46 per cent of Russians view Stalin in a positive light, praising the Soviet leader has become a vote-winning gambit in the presidential election campaign.

Ms Sobchak, a famous Russian TV presenter who is running for president as a liberal candidate, has challenged many taboo subjects in her campaign, criticising Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and intolerance of the LGBT community.

On Monday she went out on a limb, saying it was “shameful and scary” that six of the eight politicians standing for president had “glorified Stalin and justified his crimes”.

Russia’s foes

Singling out Mr Putin by name, Ms Sobchak criticised his statement last year that the “excessive demonisation” of Stalin was being used as a weapon by Russia’s foes.

But she reserved particular scorn for Pavel Grudinin, describing how the Russian Communist Party candidate in the election had held up Stalin as the best leader for the last hundred years while “tugging on his Stalin-like, barbarian moustache”.

“Can you imagine a candidate for chancellor in modern Germany saying ‘Vote for me, I have whiskers like the Fuhrer’ ?”she asked.

Ms Sobchak called for the removal of Stalin’s remains from the Kremlin wall. Moves to publicly rehabilitate the dictator should be punishable by law, she said