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Fairness Doctrine for Stalin on Russian radio?

Josef Stalin: how "balanced" do you want your past? (source: Wikipedia Commons)

RIA Novosti reports that the grandson of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin is suing a Russian radio station for broadcasting “offensive disrespect” against his infamous ancestor. Yevgeny Dzhugashvili is demanding the equivalent of $326,500USD from station Ekho Moskvy. Of late one of the frequency’s hosts, Matvei Ganapolsky, quoted a line from a book titled Staliniada:

“Stalin signed an order that children may be shot from the age of 12,” Ganapolsky read. Then he opined the following: “What kind of bastard would be brave enough to say one word in his [the dictator’s] defense?”

This was no doubt intended as a rhetorical question. But there appear to be a lot of bastards in post-Soviet Russia, among them Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin recently called for a more “balanced assessment” of Stalin, according to Associated Press. Putin conceded Stalin’s “unacceptable” crimes, but:

“If you say you are positive (about Stalin’s rule), some will be discontented. If you say you are negative, others will grumble,” AP quotes him as saying. “It is impossible to make a general judgment. It is evident that, from 1924 to 1953, the country that Stalin ruled changed from an agrarian to an industrial society.”

Plus Stalin defended the Soviet Union from Hitler, Putin noted (after signing a peace treaty with Hitler that allowed the former USSR to gobble up half of Poland. Putin didn’t mention that part).

I just don’t get this “balanced assessment” business. One of the most bone chilling historical debates of our time is how many people Stalin killed. It all depends on what monstrous things you include in your formula besides plain old mass murders and executions. If your equation includes starvation from the forced collectivizations and deportations, the number could go to 20 million or higher.

So how do you “balance” that with modernization? “Stalin killed 20 million people, but now we’ve got electricity and vaccinations, so it all worked out.” [?] Or Hitler? “Stalin killed 20 million Russians, but at least he defended us from Hitler, who would have killed millions of Russians.” [??]

It doesn’t make a lot of sense. But if there’s one thing that nations like to do, it’s to tidy up their pasts—either with obfuscating speeches or lawsuits against radio stations.

Stalin’s real last name, by the way, was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili. “Stalin” was a monicker he created for himself. It means “of steel.”

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