Saturday, November 1, 2014

Day of Dead Memory

By Stephen Wilson

Joseph Stalin
(Moscow, Russia)'Is this the special day where Russians commemorate the victims of repression? ' I asked a thoughtful pensioner who was gazing at the Soveltsky stone on Lubanskaya square. She answered 'I don't think it was today. I thought it happened yesterday because I came here where they read out a long list of the names of victims of repression. It was really well attended.Maybe they are commemorating the victims over a number of days.I'm uncertain' I asked my daughter if she knew about this day. She shot me a confused look as she and her friends were already preparing for Halloween. Practically all the Russians I asked were unaware of this event. This should not surprise us. You won't find any posters proclaiming this event. Instead you see 'Day of Russia       Unity' posters and billboards which celebrates the day the Russians drove out the Poles in 1612.

               As a member of staff at the Gulag museum in Moscow informed me 'Most of my friends don't want to hear about the years of repression or want to visit the museum. They say they don't want to be upset'. Most people would like to forget those years and others think that harping on about those times ruins Russia's reputation and is 'unpatriotic'.

               When I came upon the square I noticed many wreaths had been put next to the stone and candles were still glowing.

               However, many Russians are not so concerned about the past victims as they are about the potentially future victims should history happen to repeat itself. The worsening climate where half the opposition leaders have been driven into exile, jailed or silenced, the hysterical talk of 'fifth columns' and traitors and a rising ugly nationalism which threatens outspoken artists, writers and musicians has made many people anxious. The cheerful pensioner I spoke to said, 'No I don't think those times will happen again. The west is watching us and Russians are still concerned about what the world thinks of us. Putin and the Oligarchs are more interested in economic gain than political repression'.

               However, a recent survey by 'The Fund of Social Opinion' indicates a significant amount of Russians think otherwise.

               According to the survey 45% of Russians don't exclude the possibility of a return to mass repression en-mass, 14% deem it extremely unlikely and 34% think the chance is small.However, only one out of four are certain that it is bound to happen!

               As many as 50% stated they did not consider this repression could be condoned.

               However, anyone who has spent considerable time in Russia will come across die hard Stalinists who claim Stalin made Russia strong and had no choice but to repress enemies of the people who were out to weaken Russia. But you don't meet that many of them. What might be a revelation to some is that a growing number of young children think Stalin did no wrong. I came across a 13 year old boy who defended Stalin, my daughter met a classmate who also supported Stalin and so did Daniel Ogan come across children. What was happening? Perhaps those children are being looked after by a generation of old people brought up in the Stalinist era who brainwash them while their parents are busy working. The grandparents are often asked to take care of their children.

               What is worse is the number of Russians who blatantly claim that political repression should be used against corrupt officials and those who violate the social order.

               The politician Igor Strelkov stated that the opposition to Putin needs to be crushed and this represents a new front after the war in Ukraine.

                The survey found that 16% of people claimed the repression never happened  and 56% said anyone could have been a victim of repression.

                WHO WAS TO BLAME ?

                When it comes to the issue of 'Who was to blame? ', respondents offer a myriad of answers. As many as 40% believe Stalin was to blame, 42% blame the people  around him and 23% the N.K.V.D. One bewildering 'defense' of the purges is that nobody was to blame because 'such were the times'. So grandfather time can take all the blame instead! As many as 15% hold this view.

                A common view held by some is that 'Everybody is to blame' because we are all responsible for each other and nobody is without sin. In that case there would be no need for a justice system of any kind and even victims would be deprived of innocence.

                I remember a dissident called Alexander Ogorodnikov telling an American official that, 'I too am partly to blame for the repression. We are all to blame.' The official tried to futilely dissuade him.

                According to Gregori Kertman, the number of people who believe 'too many people speak about political repression' has grown from 16% of Russians in 2012 to 33% at present.

                 A growing number of Russians argue that we should dwell on the merits of the Soviet Union, such as free health care,education and the success in sending the first man into space. 'Let the dead bury the dead', they argue.

                 Unfortunately, a lot of the dead have not been buried properly and lie in unknown pits without any graves or memorial stones. It is not asking too much to remember them by building more memorial sites or paying homage to them by reading them names out on this occasion.

No comments:

Post a Comment