Putin's No Stalin

tags: Russia, Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Putin, Russian history



Dimitri A. Simes is an editorial assistant at the National Interest.

As world leaders get ready to convene in St. Petersburg for the annual G-20 meeting, they ought to be wary of an increasingly fashionable political phenomenon. Ever since Vladimir Putin was sworn in for a third term as President of Russia, numerous academics, journalists and politicians have been pressuring the U.S. government to view modern day Russia as the second incarnation of the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin. It’s a dangerous trend that should be resisted.

In response to the Pussy Riot trial, the Washington Post editorial page wasted no time likening the feminist punk band to victims of Stalinist repression. Then, at an event held in Washington in early June, the Russian activist Boris Nemtsov condemned Putin “as a modern combination of Stalin and Abramovich” and suggested that Stalin, whom he deemed a “murderer but...not corrupt,” might have been the preferable one, at least morally, of the two. Most recently, writing in the US News & World Report, Stephen Blank has proclaimed that: “In his quest for a pure autocracy, Russian president Vladimir Putin and his government have improved upon Joseph Stalin's epic achievements.” Even Putin’s call for an increased emphasis on physical education in Russian schools was interpreted by some in the media as further evidence of his affinity for Uncle Joe. Putin’s government record on corruption and civil liberties is unimpressive at best, yet, that does not logically lead to the conclusion that modern-day Russia is the Soviet Union redux. This interpretation is not only wrong, but it also interferes with the United States’ ability to pursue its national interests in dealing with Russia. When you demonize somebody, working together with them on issues of common interest becomes far more difficult.

Let us first establish the obvious. The number of people murdered by Stalin’s regime is in the millions, with some estimates as high as sixty million dead. Not only is there no evidence that Putin has done anything similar, but no one has accused him of doing so....

comments powered by Disqus
History News Network