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Gorbachev Warns of History Whitewash
2007-09-26 16:30:00
The Associated Press
By STEVE GUTTERMAN Associated Press Writer


MOSCOW (AP) — Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev warned Wednesday against whitewashing the crimes of dictator Josef Stalin, stressing that Russia cannot move forward without facing the truth about its bloody past.

In words that appeared aimed at President Vladimir Putin, Gorbachev also emphasized the need to pursue democracy.

His remarks, less guarded than usual, came amid growing concern among Russia's marginalized liberals that Putin's government is recasting Stalin's legacy to justify its own increasingly tight control.

The Stalin era is being portrayed as a "golden age," said Gorbachev, whose 1980s "glasnost" campaign as the last Soviet president prompted stunning revelations about Stalin's murderous policies.

"We must remember those who suffered, because it is a lesson for all of us — a lesson that many have not learned," Gorbachev said at a discussion marking the 70th anniversary of the bloodiest year of Stalin's Great Terror.

"It is impossible to live in the present or build long-term plans for the future if the disease of forgetfulness afflicts the country and society, or at least certain sections of it," he said.

Rather than reckoning with one of the most traumatic episodes in Russian history, scholars and activists said during the discussion at Gorbachev's charitable foundation and think tank, Putin's government is reshaping that legacy for its own purposes.

"It's not just forgetfulness, not just a lack of cultural memory — what's happening is a massive attack aimed at revising our memory," said Irina Shcherbakova of Memorial, a prominent non-governmental group dedicated to investigating Stalin's repression.

As one of the signs that Stalin's crimes are being swept under the rug, she said a teacher's manual that suggests his actions were justified by the need to modernize the economy is being pushed on high schools nationwide.

"Textbooks today are aimed not to ensure the memory (of Stalin's abuses), but to push this memory to the distant periphery of the consciousness," said Arseny Roginsky, also an official at Memorial.

Roginsky said that despite repeated requests, the state has done little or nothing to help establish the names of the millions killed under Stalin or the locations of their remains — only a fraction of which are known decades later, he said.

More than 1.7 million people were arrested in 1937-38 by the Soviet security services alone, and at least 818,000 of them were shot, Roginsky said.

But there is "decidedly no political will" on the government's part to preserve a "national memory" of those abuses, he said, and he contrasted the atmosphere in Russia with the way Germany has acknowledged the Holocaust.

In central Berlin, he said, there are signposts pointing to Nazi concentration camp sites: "A child passes by and asks his mother, 'What's Dachau, what's Buchenwald?' That's how national memory is preserved and passed down."

In Moscow, he said, "There is not a single memorial plaque that says, 'This person was a victim of the Terror.'"

Public interest in Soviet era crimes began to fade following the 1991 Soviet collapse, which plunged Russia into uncertainty and focused the attention of citizens on the country's economic chaos. Since Putin came to power nearly eight years ago, however, Russia's oil-fueled economy has grown steadily, giving its leaders more confidence.

Putin has stressed the need for patriotism and pride, restored Soviet-era symbols such as the music for the national anthem, and has said repeatedly that Western portrayals of Russia and its history are too negative.

In June, he told social studies teachers that no one should try to make Russia feel guilty about the Great Terror and that worse things happened in other countries, pointing to the U.S. atomic bombs dropped in Japan and its bombing of Vietnam.

Putin and his allies "have sympathies to that time and to that way of ruling the country," liberal politician Grigory Yavlinsky said, referring to the Stalin era.

But he warned that Russia would not thrive under an authoritarian system — "and in Russia, we now have an authoritarian system."

Gorbachev, who rarely criticizes Putin, was more diplomatic. But he had harsh words for the secretive way Putin reshuffled the Cabinet earlier this month, echoing critics who said his maneuvering underscores the lack of popular input in running the country.

"I was not satisfied with this," Gorbachev said, suggesting it smacked of a return to the Soviet era.

He warned against "freeing oneself from being under the control of the people," and said government most be transparent.

"We must do everything we can to ensure we take the path of democracy," he said. "We must all keep in mind that it's necessary to suffer for democracy, to support it and to take the democratic road."
 

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Gorby, complaining about Putin's BS? Gorbachev had no moral qualms about stalinist repression, he just made some tactical errors in trying to reform the USSR and they got out of hand.

Heritage Foundation
January 30, 1991
Responding to Gorbachev's Tough Line
by Kosminsky, Jay P. ; Aron, Leon


..... Veering Toward Repression:
Regardless of whether Gorbachev is leading the retreat from reform or has become a political captive of the Soviet military and hard-line communists, the Soviet regime has veered toward repression.The trend first was evident in October, 1990 when Gorbachev scrapped the "500 Day" economic reform package of Stanislav Shatalin, which was designed to move the Soviet Union toward a market-oriented economy. There followed the December 20 resignation of reform-minded Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze, who warned of a "coining dictatorship." Then came the January 13 Red Army crackdown in Lithuania in which fourteen people were killed and, a week later, the bloody storming of the Interior Ministry in Latvia by elite army "black beret" forces in which five were killed. On January 26, Gorbachev issued a decree ordering secret police (KGB) and army patrols in major Soviet cities and the next day he empowered the KGB to search private businesses and freeze private business assets. All the while, the official Soviet media have reverted to the kind of hard-line reports that characterized the first seven decades of Bolshevist dictatorship.

(Gorbachev's crackdown was met by rioting in the Baltic states, Estonia's commencing a process to withdraw from the USSR, and cancellation of aid, conferences and a summit by the Western powers. Gorbachev had been planning to patch the USSR up with a new treaty giving the republics much more independence, but before it could be signed on August 20, 1991 the coup attempt occurred and Estonia officially declared its independence. By then many of the republics were already in an unofficial state of independence, ignoring the attempts at Soviet repression. Yeltsin, the Russian Republic president, took over, suppressed the coup and the USSR dissolved.)
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Gorby Is Definitely NOT Putin!

Gorby certainly didn't act to deny Stalinism and try to revise history to look favorably upon it! That was the point of the article... here's a neat little treatise from a Russian not employed by The Reagan Worship Foundation:

In 1985, when the first rumblings of Gorbachev's thunder disturbed the moldy Soviet silence, the holy fools on the street — the people who always gather at flea markets and around churches — predicted that the new Czar would rule seven years. They assured anyone interested in listening that Gorbachev was "foretold in the Bible," that he was an apocalyptic figure: he had a mark on his forehead. Everyone had searched for signs in previous leaders as well, but Lenin's speech defect, Stalin's mustache, Brezhnev's eyebrows and Khrushchev's vast baldness were utterly human manifestations. The unusual birthmark on the new General Secretary's forehead, combined with his inexplicably radical actions, gave him a mystical aura. Writing about Gorbachev — who he was, where he came from, what he was after, and what his personal stake was (there had to be one) became just as intriguing as trying to figure out what Russia's future would be.

After he stepped down from his position as head of state, many people of course stopped thinking about him, and in Russian history, that in itself is extraordinary. How Gorbachev left power and what he has done since are unique episodes in Russian history, but he could have foreseen his own resignation: he prepared the ground and the atmosphere that made that resignation possible. Gorbachev is such an entirely political creature, and yet so charismatic, that it's hard to come to any conclusions about him as a person. Every attempt I know of has failed miserably. The phenomenon of Gorbachev has not yet been explained, and most of what I've read on the subject reminds me of how a biologist, psychologist, lawyer or statistician might describe an angel.

Gorbachev has been discussed in human terms, the usual investigations have been made, his family tree has been studied, a former girlfriend has been unearthed (so what?), the spotlight has been turned on his wife. His completely ordinary education, colleagues, friends and past have all been gone over with a fine-tooth comb. By all accounts, Gorbachev shouldn't have been Gorbachev. Then the pundits study the politics of the Soviet Union, evoke the shadow of Ronald Reagan and Star Wars, drag out tables and graphs to show that the Soviet economy was doomed to self-destruct, that it already had, that the country couldn't have gone on that way any longer. But what was Reagan to us, when we had managed to overcome Hitler, all while living in the inhuman conditions of Stalinism? No single approach — and there have been many — can explain Gorbachev. Perhaps the holy fools with their metaphysical scenario were right when they whispered that he was marked and that seven years were given to him to transform Russia in the name of her as yet invisible but inevitable salvation and renaissance.

After the August 1991 coup, Gorbachev was deprived of power, cast out, laughed at and reproached with all the misfortunes, tragedies and lesser and greater catastrophes that took place during his rule. Society always reacts more painfully to individual deaths than it does to mass annihilation. The crackdowns in Georgia and Lithuania — the Gorbachev regime's clumsy attempts to preclude the country's collapse — led to the death of several dozen people. Their names are known, their photographs were published in the press, and one feels terribly sorry for them and their families. Yeltsin's carnage in Chechnya, the bloody events in Tadjikistan, the establishment of feudal orders in the central Asian republics and the massive eradication of all human rights throughout the territory of the former Soviet Union are, however, regarded indifferently, as if they were in the order of things, as if they were not a direct consequence of the current regime's irresponsible policies.

Corruption did exist under Gorbachev; after Gorbachev it blossomed with new fervor. Oppressive poverty did exist under Gorbachev; after Gorbachev it reached the level of starvation. Under Gorbachev the system of residence permits did fetter the population; after Gorbachev hundreds upon hundreds of thousands lost their property and the roofs over their heads and set off across the country seeking refuge from people as angry and hungry as they were.

No doubt Gorbachev made mistakes. No doubt his maneuvering between the Scylla of a totalitarian regime and the Charybdis of democratic ideas was far from irreproachable. No doubt he listened to and trusted the wrong people, no doubt his hearing and sight were dulled by the enormous pressure and he made many crude, irreversible mistakes. But maybe not. In a country accustomed to the ruler's answering for everything, even burned stew and spilled milk are held against the Czar and are never forgiven. Similarly, shamanism has always been a trait of the Russian national character: we cough and infect everyone around us, but when we all get sick, we throw stones at the shaman because his spells didn't work.

When Gorbachev was overthrown, for some reason everyone thought it was a good thing. The conservatives were pleased because in their eyes he was the cause of the regime's demise (they were absolutely right). The radicals were happy because in their opinion he was an obstacle to the republics' independence and too cautious in enacting economic reforms. (They too were correct.) This man with the stain on his forehead attempted simultaneously to contain and transform the country, to destroy and reconstruct, right on the spot. One can be Hercules and clean the Augean stable. One can be Atlas and hold up the heavenly vault. But no one has ever succeeded in combining the two roles. Surgery was demanded of Gorbachev, but angry shouts broke out whenever he reached for the scalpel. He wasn't a Philippine healer who could remove a tumor without blood or incisions.

Strangely enough, no one ever thought Gorbachev particularly honest, fair or noble. But after he was gone, the country was overwhelmed by a flood of dishonesty, corruption, lies and outright banditry that no one expected. Those who reproached him for petty indulgences at government expense--for instance, every room of his government dacha had a television set--themselves stole billions; those who were indignant that he sought advice from his wife managed to set up their closest relatives with high-level, well-paid state jobs. All the pygmies of previous years, afraid to squeak in the pre-Gorbachev era, now, with no risk of response, feel justified in insulting him.

The pettiness of the accusations speaks for itself. Gorbachev's Pizza Hut ads provoke particular ridicule, and while the idea is indeed amusing, they pay his rent. The scorn reminds me of how the Russian upper crust once castigated Peter the Great for being unafraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty. Amazingly, in our huge, multinational country, where the residents of St. Petersburg speak with a different accent from those of Moscow, Gorbachev's southern speech is held against him. After his resignation, Gorbachev suddenly became very popular in an unexpected quarter: among young people. He became an element of pop culture, a decorative curlicue of the apolitical, singing, dancing, quasi-bohemians. It was fashionable to weave his sayings into songs: in one popular composition Raisa Gorbachev's voice says thoughtfully, "Happiness exists; it can't be otherwise," and Gorbachev answers, "I found it."

In the 1996 election, 1.5% of the electorate voted for him. That's about 1.5 million people. I think about those people, I wonder who they are. But I'll never know. The press hysteria before the election was extraordinary. Ordinary people no longer trusted or respected the moribund Yeltsin, but many were afraid of the communists and Gennadi Zyuganov, so the campaign was carried out under the slogan the lesser of two evils or better dead than red.

All my friends either voted for Yeltsin, sighing and chanting the sacred phrases, or, overcome by apathy or revulsion, didn't vote at all. I asked everyone, "Why not vote for Gorbachev?" "He doesn't have a chance," was the answer. "I would, but others won't, and Zyuganov will be elected as a result," some said. This, at least, was a pragmatic approach. But it turns out that there were 1.5 million dreamers, people who hadn't forgotten that bright if short period of time when the chains fell one after another, when every day brought greater freedom and hope, when life acquired meaning and prospects, when, it even seemed, people loved one another and felt that a general reconciliation was possible.

Tatyana Tolstaya
 

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That gushing over Gorby reminds me of the BS about Robert Kennedy, post assassination. He was a real rat, worked for and had a close relationship with McCarthy in the Senate, and continued to use a lot of his questionable tactics when Attorney General in his integration and anti-teamsters and anti-mafia initiatives.
The press was so enamoured of the Kennedy's and so in favor of his goals that they ignored his methods and shady background, and the unfavorable reality has completely disappeared in favor of the RFK mystique since his assassination.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
True about the PRESS treatment of RFK after his assassination; his beatification was typical given the circumstance. The article I posted is far from "gushing" on many points about Gorby and NOT written by the press but by a Russian citizen making their own observations.
 
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