Saturday, October 24, 2015

Well, that's a bit bothersome: Stalin's making a comeback in Eastern Ukraine

Credit: Alexey Filippov/AFP/Getty Images
Saw an article on The Guardian about how portraits of Josef Stalin are being installed in Donetsk, the capital of the rebel-held and unrecognized Donetsk People's Republic. In fact, the rebel government is also reviving other artifacts of the Soviet-era.
The previously taboo display comes as the rebels revive Soviet customs to cement their Moscow-backed rule – while glossing over Stalin’s atrocities.

The portraits went down well with one young woman walking past. “I think the portraits of Stalin are a good thing. It’s our history and a lot of people have forgotten he even existed,” said Yekaterina, a 22-year-old student.

The horrors of Stalin’s repressions and the deaths of up to five million Ukrainians in the 1930s due to famine caused by forced collectivisation go unmentioned.
The Donetsk rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, said how he regretted the break-up of the Soviet Union.

“The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services,” said the 39-year-old former field commander who prefers to dress in camouflage gear. “Europe and other countries were scared stiff of us.”

Stalin portraits have become de rigueur in the offices of rebel officials in eastern Ukraine, where the separatist conflict has killed more than 8,000 people.

The Donetsk rebels’ deputy defence minister, Eduard Basurin, wears a badge with Stalin’s profile on his uniform.
Side note: Donetsk was also once named Stalino, so I wonder how long until that gets revived as well.

But it gets worst. The New York Times ran an article last year quoting a Donetsk defense official as saying the aim of the DPR government is to "build military communism". I had to look this up on Wikipedia and according to it, military communism (also called war communism) was something the Bolsheviks initiated during the Russian Civil War.
War communism or military communism was the economic and political system that existed in Soviet Russia during the Russian Civil War, from 1918 to 1921. According to Soviet historiography, this policy was adopted by the Bolsheviks with the goal of keeping towns and the Red Army stocked with weapons and with food. The system had to be used because the ongoing war disrupted normal economic mechanisms and relations. "War communism", which began in June 1918, was enforced by the Supreme Economic Council, known as the Vesenkha. It ended on March 21, 1921, with the beginning of the New Economic Policy (NEP), which lasted until 1928.
It didn't work out all that well. The economy collapsed and was replaced by the black market, there were rebellions by peasants and military units. Mining and industrial production also nose-dived. On the other hand, the DPR's economy is in the shitter to begin with, so there probably won't be any discernible effect there anyways.

But my own 2 cents is that this is all about aesthetics and bluster. I seriously doubt that the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics have any intention to revisit communism. They're reviving all of this Soviet-era stuff in order to project an image of being strong and tough. I think it also fits with the mindset of the leadership and their supporters. They see how Putin rules in Russia and they're trying to emulate it by going back to a period and ruler that ruled the Soviet Union in a similar, but more extreme, fashion: Stalin. I also think that if the DPR and LPR get their wish (as unlike as it is) and Eastern Ukraine becomes part of Russia, then all this Soviet revival stuff will either be toned down or quietly disappear.

1 comment:

  1. It's fallen off the front pages of the news but is still going on. It's bad news for the people of the region no matter how it plays out