In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 7, 2022 at 12:11 am

Sixty-nine years ago, Joseph Stalin, absolute dictator of the Soviet Union, died on March 5, 1953.

And, 69 years later, Russians are still trying to come to terms with his almost 30-year legacy of mass imprisonment, wholesale executions, man-made famine and forced labor.

Of the eight leaders who succeeded Stalin, only Mikhail Gorbachev dared to confront the horrors of the Stalinist past. He recognized that the Soviet Union had reached a point of economic and political stagnation.

And he believed the only way to revitalize Communist society was to face the brutal truths of the Soviet past so new generations of Russians could reach beyond them to create the ideal “workers paradise.”

That experiment, known as glasnost, or “openness,” lasted through the reigns of Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-1991) and Boris Yeltsin (1991-1999) and ended with the arrival of Vladimir Putin (2000).

The price for this unwillingness to face brutalities of the past—and, worse, to deny that they occurred—has been devastating.

It has been vividly described by David Satter, a former Moscow correspondent and longtime writer on Russia and the Soviet Union for the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

It Was a Long Time Ago, and It Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past: Satter, David: 9780300192377: Amazon.com: Books

As the dust jacket of his 2012 history, It Was a Long Time Ago and It Neve Happened Anyway, sums up:

“Russia today is haunted by deeds that have not been examined and words that have been left unsaid. 

“A serious attempt to understand the meaning of the Communist experience has not been undertaken, and millions of victims of Soviet Communism are all but forgotten.

“In this book David Satter….presents a striking new interpretation of Russia’s great historical tragedy, locating its source in Russia’s failure fully to appreciate the value of the individual in comparison with the objectives of the state.

“Satter explores the moral and spiritual crisis of Russian society. He shows how it is possible for a government to deny the inherent value of its citizens and for the population to agree, and why so many Russians actually mourn the passing of the Soviet regime that denied them fundamental rights.”

Today, Stalin’s estimated 20 million victims—the vast majority of them Russians—are being consigned to oblivion. In their place is the image of Joseph Stalin as the victor of “The Great Patriotic War” against Nazi Germany. 

Related image

Joseph Stalin

World War II—now over for almost 75 years—remains a pivotal event for Russians. It marks the time when—after horrifically suffering 22 million casualties—the Soviet Union pushed the German armies all the way back to Berlin.

Left out in this history: The Soviet Union received massive amounts of American military equipment from its 1941 invasion to its ultimate triumph in 1945.

Also removed from this history:

  • Stalin’s wholesale purges of the Red Army in the 1930s had made the country vulnerable to the German attack; and
  • So had Stalin’s “nonaggression” pact with Germany in 1939, where he and Hitler secretly and aggressively divided Poland between them. 

It was the German invasion of Poland, on September 1, 1939, that ignited World War II.

But Russian Communists no longer have a monopoly on rewriting the past. Today they have been joined by American Republicans. 

Just hours after the January 6, 2021 attempted coup at the United States Capitol Building, 147 Republican lawmakers voted to overturn then-president Donald Trump’s election loss. This followed two months of his lies that the November 3 Presidential election had been stolen.

For more than a year since that election, most Republicans have refused to say whether Joseph Biden was legitimately elected President of the United States. 

Reuters asked the office of every lawmaker who voted against certifying Biden’s victory through the Electoral College: “Do you believe that Donald Trump lost the election because of voter fraud?”

Fully 133 lawmakers, or 90%, refused to answer or respond to multiple inquiries.

Among them: Senators Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz and Josh Hawley—who led the coalition of objectors—and Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, who also tried to overturn the election.

Ted Cruz official 116th portrait.jpg

Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz

Hawley claimed in a December 30 statement that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws. 

That was an argument multiple courts had already rejected. 

But he later told CNN: “I was very clear from the beginning that I was never attempting to overturn the election.” 

Josh Hawley, official portrait, 116th congress.jpg

Josh Hawley

On the contrary: His actions had made it abundantly clear that he was attempting to do exactly that.

Hawley refused to respond to Reuters’ multiple inquiries on whether he believed Trump lost because of voter fraud, 

Cruz also tried to stretch the truth in two different directions.

In a January 2, 2021 joint statement with 10 other Senators and Senators-elect, he said: “By any measure, the allegations of fraud and irregularities in the 2020 election exceed any in our lifetimes.” 

But on January 6—the day of the Capitol attack—Cruz said: “Let me be clear. I am not arguing for setting aside the result of this election.”

In fact, he had been doing exactly that.

And the lies spun by Republicans that Donald Trump had been cheated of victory by fraud directly triggered the treasonous attempt by Trump’s followers to brutally overturn the results of that election. 

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