Samuel Rachlin: Stalin’s Long Shadow

Roundup: Talking About History
tags: World War II, NYT, Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin, Samuel Rachlin

Samuel Rachlin, a Danish journalist based in Washington, was born in Siberia, where his family lived in exile for 16 years, and came to Denmark at age 10. A collection of his essays, “Me and Stalin,” was published in Danish in 2011.

SIXTY years after Josef Stalin’s death on March 5, 1953, Russia is still struggling whether to view him as mass murderer or a national hero. Although his name and statues have been almost absent from Russia since the de-Stalinization campaign that followed his death, he continues to impose himself onto Russia’s political discourse far more prominently than Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state whose body still lies in the mausoleum on Red Square.

Although Russians know more about Stalin’s crimes than they did ever before, many politicians and historians want to pull him out of the shadows and celebrate him for his role in the industrialization of the young Soviet state and the victory over Nazi Germany.

Communists have collected 100,000 signatures on a petition to give Volgograd back the name Stalingrad; others are seeking a referendum to this end. If there is a Metro station in Paris called Stalingrad, they argue, why should the name be banned in Russia? Earlier this year, on the 70th anniversary of the battle of Stalingrad, buses in several Russian cities were decorated with portraits of Stalin....

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