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Meet Josef Stalin, ‘Competent Manager’

Posted on Sep 16, 2009
Flickr / agitprop

Is Vladimir Putin’s dictator chic to blame for Josef Stalin’s makeover? The Soviet tyrant who presided over the suffering of millions and helped launch World War II has been rebranded as a “competent manager” and, if Moscow’s deserted Gulag Museum is any indication, Russians appear to be lapping it up.  —PS

Global Post:

Inside Russia, the story is more complicated. [Stalin] was, according to a school textbook adopted last year and endorsed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a “competent manager” who committed atrocities at home out of necessity.

Earlier this year, Stalin nearly won a nationwide call-in poll asking people to vote for the person who best represents Russia.

Stalin’s grandson, Yevgeny Dzhugashvili, is fighting the claim that Stalin was directly involved in the Gulag deaths. He has launched a libel suit against Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s leading opposition newspaper, seeking more than $300,000 in damages for saying that Stalin had personally signed execution orders, according to declassified documents.

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By Stephen Smoliar, September 16, 2009 at 7:24 am Link to this comment

As bogi666 suggests, this goes beyond the usual boundaries of politics and foreign affairs.  Back when I was on the conference circuit, I remember a story about a poll to identify the “ideal CEO.”  It was based on Jung’s model of personality types.  A sample space of CEOs had to answer a series of questions that would identify the Jung profile of who they felt was the ideal CEO.  A sample space of historians was then engaged to prepare profiles of major historical figures.  The best match to the profile based on the CEO poll was Stalin.

As I see it, this reinforces the precept that you need authoritarianism to get through times of crisis;  when times are good, you can afford the “luxury” of such things as individual rights.

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, September 16, 2009 at 6:41 am Link to this comment

Ray Duray:

Not an expert on the region but I know about the constant wars that waxed and waned across Eastern Europe for hundreds of years.  That is a major reason for Russian angst before and after WW2.  But there was an agreement between Germany and Russia to partition Poland so, theoretically, Russia did help start the war.  Even if it is an extension of the ongoing conflicts that periodically pulsed over the area from time to time.  What is pissing the Poles off is Putin’s implication that Poland, not Russia, started the eastern front attack on Sept. 16th.  Since Poland was already deeply involved in the West with Hitler, I find that position somewhat perplexing and illogical.

Tartars are in the Crimea.  Cossacks were further north in Ukraine and Russia.

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By bogi666, September 16, 2009 at 6:18 am Link to this comment

The “Family” which is a group of American politicians and conservatives headquartered in Washington D.C. also admires Stalin, along with Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Goering, Suharto the Indonesian military dictator and they fashioned their goals for the USA to be a military dictatorship fashioned on the model of Suharto’s Indonesia. This is the Repubican Party’s unofficial policy goal for the USA since 1978. It is the unofficial policies which are important, official policies are public relation window dressing.

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By Gnews1, September 16, 2009 at 5:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stephen Cohen in a June, 1974, NY Times book review of Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, refers to the Jewish Stalin’s [Dzhugashvili was his real name] death labor camps, that were responsible for killing tens of millions of people [Solzhenitsyn estimates upwards of 50-60 million], as the other Holocaust of the 20th century. Can we even conceive that the
guy who was responsible for that other 20th century Holocaust getting this type of makeover?

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By Ray Duray, September 16, 2009 at 5:11 am Link to this comment

Hi C.Curtis.Dillon,

Re: “Going back to 1918 to gin up an excuse for his invasion of Poland is more than a little stretching of reality.”

My forbears are from the Krakow region in Poland, so I’ve made a bit of a study of the waves of invasions that have swept back and forth across Poland for centuries. I don’t find it at all unrealistic to consider the post-Russian Revolutionary period as a pretext or a case of perceived revanchism for Stalin’s agreement to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact.

In fact, one could look to the Partitions of 1792, 1793 and 1795 rather than to 1918 for the realpolitik excuse for the partition of Poland in 1939. After all the independent country of Poland did not exist from 1795 until the end of WW I.

By the way, maybe you can clear something up for me. You said: “I live in Crimea and tartars here still remember”.
In my mind, I have always associated the Crimea with the Cossacks. Would that be a term that can be used interchangeably with ‘tartar’?

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, September 16, 2009 at 3:20 am Link to this comment


Yes ... he actually did.  I was watching a documentary from Germany about the beginning of WW2.  One of the clips showed German and Soviet soldiers swapping cigarettes and other goods while standing near Warsaw in late September of that year.  The Germans started the war in early September and Stalin, who was supposed to invade at the same time but waited until signing the Japanese armistice agreement on September 15, invaded from the East the following day.  That is the history based on fact.  Going back to 1918 to gin up an excuse for his invasion of Poland is more than a little stretching of reality.

Stalin was, as you rightly point out, a brutal tyrant.  His place in Soviet history has been greatly influenced by the contribution he made to the war against Germany but that shouldn’t overshadow his brutality.  He killed all who opposed him and sent many ethnic minorities into exile because they had the audacity to resist his moves.  I live in Crimea and tartars here still remember how he sent them to Siberia and elsewhere because they refused to buckle to his demands.  There were routine purges of the Soviet military (one reason why Russia was so ill prepared to resist German advances) and he personally ordered executions of over 40K Polish officers captured in his invasion.

As for Putin, remember his background.  He was KGB in St. Petersburg when the union collapsed and advanced quickly to become a favorite of Yeltsin who anointed him successor.  I believe Putin has designs on being president for life and this effort to rehab Stalin may be a way to connect with the intense Stalin hero worship that I see all the time.  I would say it is working as many, even in Ukraine, view Putin quite favorably and would accept him being proclaimed lifetime leader without any problem.

It is a shame that Putin attempts to whitewash this man’s brutality.  It is a dangerous move.  People need to be reminded of all the terror he unleashed on his country.  To forget is to relive it again with someone else (maybe Putin or his successor).

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By Commune115, September 16, 2009 at 2:47 am Link to this comment

Stalin “helped launch World War II”? Stalin was a brutal tyrant but this is just classic American revisionism. Russia had already been invaded first by the Allies in 1918, the UK and US were hesitant to side with Stalin against the rising Nazi war machine and both also stood by happily while Hitler helped Franco crush the Spanish Republic, the US even blockaded the Republic, depriving it of needed aid, letting the Nazi war machine continue growing more efficient. And of course when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, the UK and US stood by hoping the Fuhrer would rid them of the Communist menace.

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