"In the eyes of the majority, Stalin is a winner," says Russian historian Nikolai Svanidze





Historian Nikolai Svanidze spoke to SPIEGEL about the reasons for Stalin's popularity in Russia. He argues that the archives need to be opened in order to reveal the dictator's crimes and explains why President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin have very different approaches to Russian history.

SPIEGEL: How does one explain that Stalinists or Stalin apologists are a largely accepted part of the political landscape in Russia?

Nikolai Svanidze: Because Stalin is a winner in the eyes of a majority. And we don't condemn winners. Not only do we associate the victory over Hitler with Stalin, but also those of the Soviet Union's successes that are now practically mythical: industrialization, becoming a superpower, the predictability of daily life. Negative things have been forgotten.

SPIEGEL: For Germans, the words of praise for Stalin sound like praise for Hitler. Something that is unthinkable.

Svanidze: Because Hitler lost the war. The world considers him a criminal and the Germans see him as a seducer who led their country into a catastrophe. Those who seek to justify Hitler say that he eliminated unemployment, reduced crime, built highways and unified the nation. Very similar things can be said about Stalin. But unlike Hitler, Stalin was never clearly condemned, and certainly not by his own people. There was no trial, so that formally, at least, he has a clean slate....


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