Thursday, July 12, 2007

Welcome to Stalinworld!

Russia has recently declassified documents from the reign of Josef Stalin to allow access to the records of people arrested, jailed, tortured, exiled to the GULAG or executed by family members of the victims.

From the years of 1920 - 1950, nearly 30 million Soviet citizens were "repressed" (to use the official term) by Stalin's security services, with anywhere from 10 to 15 million of them dying either from execution or exposure and starvation in a prison camp. Today, the modern ancestor of Stalin's NKVD (the FSB) is the agency taking the lid off the histories of people who, for all intents and purposes, had simply disappeared.

So is there a catch? Yes. Access to the archives is only provided to surviving relatives of the politically repressed, and will not be made available to the public. While this is certainly a boon to the families of victims, it must be remembered that most of the surviving relatives who were small children during Stalin's bloodiest are now starting to get quite old. Why aren't the Russians releasing the information to journalists and historians? Perhaps they are, and just want the families to have first crack at them, although the current trends under current Russian president Vladimir Putin suggest that these records will head back under lock and key once the "healing period" is over.

I wondered: is it too much to hope that the Russians will opt for total disclosure, as the Germans have with regards to Nazi atrocities? The quick answer is, "yes, of course it is". Since the end of World War 2, no other country on earth has undergone as much self-analysis and self-criticism as Germany has. Russia, by way of contrast, will have none of it. Would you believe that Stalin, even today, remains popular in Russia? Where German schools have spared no details on the nature of Nazi atrocities, most Russians don't learn the extent of Stalin's bloodbaths at home or abroad until they leave Russia.

You know, why dwell on the negative all the time, anyway?

1 comment:

Michael said...

I would love to see those records come to light. There are way to many Stalin apologists out there and they need to understand what kind of monster they are defending.