Vienna, April 12 – The controversy over whether Stalin’s portraits will appear during the commemoration of the 65th anniversary of Victory Day is distracting attention from the reality that a military parade in Red Square represents “the triumph of the Stalinist type of rule” and the way in which the Russian people themselves actually celebrated that victory.
In an essay on Grani.ru, Irina Pavlova says that the appearance of Stalin’s portraits represents the results of an official effort launched in 2005 “under the slogan ‘Return Stalin to the Victory,’” but that even the elimination of the portraits would not represent the defeat of that campaign (grani.ru/opinion/m.176878.html).
What is needed, Pavlova says, is “an alternative to the military parade in Red Square,” which by its very nature represents “a triumph of power and even more a triumph of the Stalinist type of rule.” And the appearance of Stalin’s portraits “65 years after the fact” is nothing other than “a cruel sentence” to a still unfree Russian society.
What many have forgotten on this anniversary, Pavlova says, is that “the truth of history is that on May 9  the people in Moscow celebrated victory in the war … without Stalin. Recollections about that stay present it as one of infinite joy and gratitude to the soldiers, whom people embraced, kissed and shook hands.”
Robert Tucker, the future biographer of Stalin, was at the American embassy in the Soviet capital in May 1945. He says, the Russian commentator continues, that he will never forget the celebratory behavior and comments of soldiers and ordinary Soviet citizens once victory was announced.
“Now is a time to live!” one young officer said, and Tucker watched as thousands of Soviet citizens came to the American embassy not with official slogans and banners, because this was “an unofficial event,” something “almost unheard of for Stalinist Russia, a spontaneous demonstration.”
It was, Pavlova continues, “a demonstration of gratitude to the country which alongside Russia in the most difficult task helped it to survive by supplying food and clothing. Yes,” she says, “this spontaneous demonstration was a demonstration of free people who had passed through war.”
Some writers who have described this demonstration have called those who took part in it “the new Decembrists,” drawing an analogy with those Russian officers who returned after the defeat of Napoleon and staged the protest in Senate Square in St. Petersburg in 1825 and demanded “Constantine and a Constitution.”
But the analogy breaks down: the participants in the May 19, 1945 protest missed their chance to bring Stalin to account “both for the pre-war decade and for the beginning of the war.” Pavlova says that she thinks that the Soviet people of 1945 “could not imagine the possibility of putting pressure on the powers that be.”
Stalin however was very much worried about such a turn of events, as his toast to the Russian people at the Kremlin meeting on May 24th showed. He said at that time that another people might have “said to its government: You did not justify our expectations, go away, we will establish another government … But the Russian people did not do this.”
The Soviet dictator, Pavlova continued, only organized a victory parade on June 24.. And in that demonstration of the “unqualified triumph of the powers that be” over the Soviet people as well as over the Nazis, “no one remembered the victims” -- although the next day Stalin did make reference to “the cogs” who had supported the regime.
That pattern has only gotten worse in recent years, Pavlova says, with some commentators talking more about the role of the secret police and its various branches during World War II than to the overwhelming contribution of the Soviet people to that effort and that victory.
As a result, “celebrating the jubilee of the Victory according to the scenario of the current Russian powers that be and its ideological inspirers is,” Pavlov says, “an insult to the memory of millions of simple frontline soldiers.” A much better and more honorable thing would be “not to take part in the official celebrations” but rather simply to “bow one’s head and remain quiet.”