Mikhail Gorbachev is sounding a warning for people who are smart enough to heed him. There is a real danger of a return of Stalinism in Russia – and the world.
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev warned Russians on Wednesday of the risk of a rebirth of Stalinism, saying their country was in danger of forgetting its tragic past.
"We should remember those who suffered, because this a lesson for all of us," Gorbachev told a conference marking 70 years since the start of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's Great Terror.
"We must squeeze Stalinism out of ourselves, not in single drops but by the glass or bucket," Gorbachev added. "There are those saying Stalin's rule was the Golden Age, while (Nikita) Khrushchev's thaw was sheer utopia and (Leonid) Brezhnev's neo-Stalinism was the continuation of the Golden Age."
During the Great Terror, 1.7 million Soviet citizens were arrested between August 1937 and November 1938, of whom 818,000 were executed, the human rights group Memorial said.
Historians estimate that up to 13 million people were killed or sent to labor camps in the former Soviet Union between 1921 and 1953, the year Stalin died.
Despite Stalin's record, recent polls have shown many young Russians have a positive view of the former Soviet leader and there have been attempts this year to play down his excesses, which have found an echo among the country's youth.
Fifty-four percent of Russian youth believe that Stalin did more good than bad and half said he was a wise leader, according to a poll conducted in July by the Yuri Levada Centre.
There are still apologists for Stalin in the west, too. About every American university faculty is full of them. This is a real danger, not just in Russia, either. Chavez is trying to build a Stalinist cult of personality in Venezuela. The western media is full of neo-Duranty types. And useful idiots abound. There are those willing to do a makeover on a monster.