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Hiding Stalin’s Sins

by Christopher A. Ferrara
Dec. 1, 2008

The New York Times (November 27, 2008) reports yet another sign of the rise of neo-Stalinism in “converted” Russia: Vladimir Putin has closed the K.G.B. security archives from the Stalin years located in the city of Tomsk, where some 15,000 people were executed during Stalin’s reign. In fact, all across Russia “many archives detailing killings, persecution and other such acts committed by the Soviet authorities have become increasingly off limits.” As the Times notes, however, the archives pertaining to the K.G.B.’s role in Russian “security” are “especially delicate, perhaps because Mr. Putin is a former K.G.B. officer who ran the agency’s successor, F.S.B. in the late 1990s.”

Covering up the sins of Stalin is an integral part of Putin’s plan to resurrect Russian nationalism. Nationalist pride requires national achievements to be proud of, and that means “glorify[ing] Soviet triumphs while playing down or even whitewashing the system’s horrors.” This exercise in historical revisionism requires an end to any further inquiries by pesky researchers into Soviet genocide and persecution. Indeed, as the Times observes, “the Kremlin in the Putin era has often sought to maintain as much sway over the portrayal of history as over the governing of the country.”

One seeker of the truth who has been rebuffed by Putin’s Kremlin is Vasily Khanevich, whose grandfathers on both sides of the family were summarily executed by the secret police in a Siberian village in 1938. Acting on rumors of a mass grave in a ravine in Tomsk, Khanevich and another researcher did a little digging and promptly uncovered “two skulls with bullet holes.” Disgusted by the Kremlin’s moves toward secrecy, Khanevich told the Times that “Russia positions itself as a completely different democratic country with democratic values, but at the same time it does not reject, it does not disassociate itself and does not condemn the regime that preceded it. On the contrary, it defends it.”

The Times notes the rise of a movement in Russia that “has sought to idolize Stalin as a leader who defeated Nazi Germany, spurred industrialization and made the Soviet Union a superpower.” The Kremlin has even promoted a high school study guide “that deems Stalin ‘one of the most successful leaders of the U.S.S.R.’ while describing his ‘cruel exploitation of the population.’” The idea that a dictator who cruelly exploits the population is a “successful leader” bespeaks an amorally utilitarian mentality — clearly Putin’s mentality — that does not bode well for Russia’s future.

But then one cannot have any good hope for the future of “that poor nation,” as Sister Lucia called it, until the Pope and the bishops finally respond to Our Lady of Fatima’s request for the consecration that has yet to be done. As Our Lord confided to Sister Lucia in Rianjo in 1931, at the beginning of the Stalin era: “They did not wish to heed My request. Like the king of France, they will repent and do it [the Consecration of Russia by the Pope together with all the bishops], but it will be late.” Very late indeed.