Russian poet detained for ripping down portrait of Stalin
The OVDinfo website reports that Sergei Gandlevsky was detained on May 23 by police officers at the Lubyanka Metro station in Moscow after he ripped down a portrait of the bloody dictator Joseph Stalin stuck on a wall. He was, fortunately, released after a couple of hours without any protocol being drawn up.
Gandlevsky, a poet, prose writer and translator, explains that he ripped down the portrait of a criminal. A man standing nearby, however, came up to him and asked him what he was doing, and then disappeared. He re-emerged, together with two police officers who carted him off to a police booth within the metro. The officers were disrespectful in their behaviour and threatened to jail him for what they called ‘vandalism and petty hooliganism’.
They avoided mentioning Stalin, however, and presumably understood that even in today’s Russia, ripping down the portrait of a mass murderer, posted without permission on the metro, does not make for a good court case.
Revision of Russian and Soviet history under Vladimir Putin began in earnest in around 2007, and since then there has been a noticeable drive to whitewash Stalin and deny or minimize his crimes. It is a telling sign that monuments and posters of Stalin are appearing in both Russian-occupied Crimea and areas of Donbas under Kremlin-backed militant control. Within a year of Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, a monument was unveiled in Yalta to Stalin, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin Roosevelt. The move was an open insult to Crimean Tatars whom Stalin had deported as a people in 1944, but is deeply offensive to most Ukrainians. A plaque to the dictator has also been erected, and his image is quite often seen at various public events.
An article in Russian state-funded Sputnik International in September 2015 claimed that criticism of the Soviet past, including Joseph Stalin, is part of a US and NATO attack on “today’s Russia and its leadership that is unwilling to bow before the West.” Although the words were those of the ‘expert’ interviewed, they were ominously reminiscent of a recent article from Russia’s Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky effectively defending Stalin’s role in the country’s history. This new accusation of “blatant falsification of history used as a traditional Cold War tool” comes a year after a Russian decree closed access to almost all archival records on the KGB and its secret police predecessors for another 30 years.
In March 2015 the plans were first announced – and later unfortunately implemented - of a museum honouring the murderous dictator in the Tver oblast. Valentina Sharipova, co-head of the Tver branch of the Memorial Society which began as an initiative to finally uncover the truth about Stalin’s crimes and the fate of his victims, gave a blistering assessment of the whole pathos around reinstating Stalin. She suggested that it was all about “propping up the glory of our modern general Putin of Crimea. To draw parallels, so to speak”. She said that there were many teams in Russia now working on monuments to Putin, and wrote: “It has to be admitted: tyranny in Russia is like a hereditary disease. And like a brain tumour, virtually incurable”.