On February 6, 2013, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s interview with Reuters was published on his Russian Press Centre website under the heading ‘The risks for the regime are constantly increasing’. In response to a reader’s question on whether the Kremlin’s tactics can be compared with the repression of Stalin, Khodorkovsky replied that a transition from authoritarianism to totalitarianism in modern-day Russia is not yet happening. “[T]here is no cause to speak of Stalinism,” Khodorkovsky noted “… Stalin is a rare maniac on the level of Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, or Hitler – the bar for comparison has been lowered far indeed into the depths of hell”.
In response to these comments, website reader Yana Antonova argued that, “this is too simple – to say that Stalin was a maniac”. Other readers joined in, and a discussion of Stalin and Stalinism ensued.
Below is Yana Antonova’s initial comment, and Khodorkovsky’s response to the online debate:
Antonova Yana | 06.02.2013 16:57
Mikhail Borisovich, this is too simple – to say that Stalin was a maniac and so became one of the first organisers of the underground party building and the revolution of 1917, was the military leader of the largest Civil War, led the defence of Tsaritsyn (today’s Volgograd), subsequently led the construction of the Soviet Union disposing of his competitors in the course of political struggle, was the organiser of industrialisation and collectivisation that embraced a huge country, led the Soviet Union’s resistance to fascist invaders.
In so doing, Stalin did not allow an anti-communist revolution in Moscow when the fascists came to Russia.
Not bad for a maniac, wouldn’t you say?
You are calculating that the appearance of new opposition leaders is possible in today’s political struggle. The pre-revolutionary political struggle brought forward Stalin in a number of other leaders. Putin will not concede power to leaders of lesser personal potential.
Respectfully, Yana Antonova.
* * *
I cannot leave the topic of Stalin singled out by you without commentary.
My definition of a “maniac” does not mean a “fool”; furthermore, Stalin was a talented (on the verge of genius) organiser, human resources manager, and propagandist. As was Hitler, by the way.
Next, let us leave assessments of the defence of Tsaritsyn, the effectiveness of industrialisation, the rationality of collectivisation, and Stalin’s role in the great Victory beyond the framework of this discussion. There are different points of view with respect to these questions. The main problem is with the methods.
I shall cite an example. Ridding humanity of genetic diseases – a splendid goal? There is an effective method. Known since the times of Ancient Greece. You can rid yourself of AIDS and even influenza at the same time. True, a great deal of organisational work would be required. But it is not difficult to find the corresponding “specialists” (with features of genius). While they are being caught and tried as maniacs, they could be making humanity “healthy”. The only thing is that we do not want to pay such a price.
Stalin and his henchmen are the same kind of “un-people” as Hitler. They killed millions. Moreover, in actuality they did this for the sake of their own power. Stalin’s place is not on Red Square, but in a cesspit or in the company of his “alter-ego” – Hitler.
But veterans – they remember the “leader” as a symbol of their youth. And they weep over it, over their long-gone friends. What did they believe in in actuality? Whom did they love? Whom did they curse? Is there anybody today who can say? And is there even a need to? Let the old folks live out their days in peace. But now to poison new generations with the poison of totalitarianism is something we cannot allow. Therefore, my contemporary who excuses Stalin or Hitler out of ignorance must find the time to get things straight. That same person who excuses some of them out of conviction occupies a place on the other side of the barricade.