Look Who Never Went Away


The latest extraordinary statement by Georgia’s prime-minister about handling the recently evolved conflict within the ruling coalition contains the following phrase with a veneer of watchful political warning: ‘The Stalinist maxims, radicalism and marginal pseudo-traditions, emanating from the depths of the Soviet Union are foreign and unacceptable to Georgia’s future.’

Joseph Stalin died a little over sixty years ago but his legacy keeps ranking as one of the most controversial issues in the world, especially in the former USSR, and certainly in Georgia, because Stalin was an ethnic Georgian, although he never desired to be mentioned as such – always wishing to remain in the annals as a Russian man and politician. The world knows much about him, and opinions differ.

Summing up millions of pages written, and still being written, about this Kremlin Highlander, every bigger or smaller encyclopedia describes him mostly as a soviet dictator whose reign consumed tens of millions of innocent lives through infamous communist purges and persecutions. The Red Tsar was venerated by soviet people of his own time as an undisputed divinity, and as strange as it might seem, there are people who think highly of him, appreciating his leadership image and ability as something that carries the latent potential of reinstating the erstwhile powers of USSR.

Those who remember Uncle Joe, write and say that he truly was a man of steel – this is what the word ‘Stalin’ means in Russian. Stalin was a vibrant personification of what the communist ideals purported, and a direct embodiment of those ideals in real life. He built socialism on a territory covering one sixth of our planet and maintained the cherished status quo for quite a while until his demise in the early 1950s.

The post-Stalinist era was marked with his denunciation. The criticism, held up by the entire world, was harsh and spiteful, sticking to the recently venerated Vozhd, the stigma of the biggest political monster of all time.

The image has not gotten milder and it has not improved in any way, but Stalin’s faithful adherents are still active, and the talk about the dead dictator is still alive. Time passes and his followers are growing in number, especially in Russia. And we have no shortage of them here in Georgia, too.

Articles in the press about Stalin’s phenomenon are frequent and bulky, and the history is being written all over again. The Stalin issue as such is still hot and it does not fade away. Questions full of doubts pop up with considerable frequency: Was Uncle Joe good or bad, after all? Was the great man and his legacy treated fairly or not by his compatriots, his fellow communists and the world in general? Did his gruesome creation of the Soviet Union really deserve to be demolished and its remnants scattered around the globe? Has the current Russian president a good reason and case to restore the old glory of Russia by implementing the ambitious idea of putting together once more the now defunct geopolitical giant of the USSR? Do the Russian people really want it back? And will they use Stalin’s image, now instilled and enlivened in Putin, as the banner of the resuscitated old cause?

All these questions seem to be viable now because the name of the architect of the USSR gets mentioned more and more often every day. It has become a singular subject of controversy among Georgian politicians. Discussions on the theme are almost ubiquitous and society seems split over the seemingly dead and gone issue. And this is happening not only here in Georgia. Go to any book store in the world and you will find on the shelves new editions about Stalin. Authors – both local and foreign – do not desist from investigating and describing Stalin’s image as one of the most fascinating in history. Machiavelli, Lenin, Hitler, Napoleon and Macedonian look like peanuts in literature compared to him.

What does all that mean? It probably means that we are not yet done with the topic. This might as well mean that there are certain latent historical and philosophical deliberations that need to be gotten off Mankind’s chest. And there should also be some I’s to be dotted and some T-s to be crossed when it comes to Stalin – one of the most talked and written about figures in history.

Nugzar B. Ruhadze

10 March 2016 18:57