"Stalin will not be forgiven for anything"

Sergei Buntman: Once again, you praised Dmitry Medvedev – you never miss a chance to praise him. Come on, Matvei! You’re a journalist.

Matvei Ganapolsky: I get your joke, but I discovered something important in Medvedev’s interview. He helped me to find my bearings. You and I have said many times that it is not quite clear what kind of state we live in. You remember that I said Russia consists of many Russias. Russia has become free and largely de-Bolshevized. Now, each of us has our own views that we share on the Internet, with our friends, with our political leaders, and Russia also has a personality of its own. It has its own direction, economy, foreign policy. It has its attitude toward Khodorkovsky and it also has an attitude toward Stalin. It is very important for me to sort out Russia’s attitude toward Stalin and his personality. As it turns out, for Medvedev as president, there is no place in modern Russia for Stalin as a builder—and he built a lot of things—or as a hero.

I want to repeat this short comment, which I find very important. It contains, if you like, my ideology and my assessment of the Russian president. I think it pays to distinguish this assessment from the point of view of the state and from a personal viewpoint. You may joke about it, but…

SB: Well, how can I make a joke, you won’t let me…

MG: Until 2012, for reasons you know very well, I will live in a country which, as a state structure, as a state entity, rejects Stalin and does not support moves that glorify him at the official level. This is what the state should be doing. Mind you, the state does not forbid people from carrying his portraits and praising him, and so on. I want you to know that this is very important to me. I am not going to discuss Medvedev’s whole speech, or his interview. He said quite a lot there. He spoke about foreign policy and much of what he said I cannot agree with. But to me this detail is the important one. I understand now that in a sense — I agree with the state regarding Stalin.

SB: How can you say in the same breath that Stalin will not be forgiven even though he built things and it’s good that Medvedev said this. Stalin will not be forgiven for anything. Medvedev said it, and Putin said it. They said it here and there. That’s all well and good.

MG: No, Putin didn’t say it…

SB: Come on, he did say it…

MG: You see, you didn’t listen to me closely enough. Putin said it as his own personal point of view because Putin is a smart man and he wants everyone to love him in 2012.

SB: I understand, but that’s beside the point.

MG: Medvedev said: This is the ideology of the state I lead. That’s worth a great deal, Sergei.

SB: You cannot simultaneously say that Stalin cannot be forgiven for his repressions and speak about a state ideology. You cannot talk at the same time about a future world conflict. This creates a mess in people’s minds. It’s a good thing Medvedev said it, very good. It is wonderful that he keeps repeating it. But this does not signify the destruction of Stalinism. And yet, Stalinism must be destroyed as an ideology. He will come again, and is coming again, not in the guise of old men with moustaches, but in the guise of young men who have a mishmash in their heads and who could be sent anywhere on any mission for whatever ideology.

MG: I agree, but what Medvedev said, the statement, the sentence, this is part of the de-Stalinization of the state.

SB: A small part of it.

MG: Compared to the other things he said there, yes, it is a small part.

SB: At the 20th party congress, the 22nd party congress and throughout perestroika, everybody was saying that Stalin was a criminal. So, has de-Stalinization taken place? No, it has not. You cannot, with your other hand, use Stalin’s methods.

MG: Talking about the official attitude toward Stalin before 2012, if one proceeds from what Medvedev said in his interview, I understand there will be no City of the Sun or State of the Sun. I understand that Medvedev is only human. I appreciate that he is saying things that I agree with.

SB: OK, let’s wrap it up. I think that in order to put an end to Stalinism and his principle of running the country single-handedly, it is not enough to say that Stalin killed a lot of people and he cannot be forgiven for this. Take the Germans. They sorted out Hitler and Hitlerism with the help of the Allies. They built an absolutely new country.

MG: Well, I will convey your request to Dmitry Medvedev. If he has the guts to do what you say, he will do it. If not, let history judge him. We have both said this many times.

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