On Tuesday, March 5th, the anniversary of the death of Generalissimus Stalin, a group of Russian Stalinists traditionally laid flowers at his grave in Red Square in Moscow.
When I was a kid, Stalin lay in the Mausoleum next to Lenin. Later, after the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, where Khrushchev revealed the scale of Stalinist repression, Stalin’s body was taken out of the Mausoleum and buried right there in the vicinity, but still on Red Square. It was a kind of compromise for Soviet society... He couldn't be in the Mausoleum, but nearby in an honorable place in recognition of his merits. After all, he was the victorious commander-in-chief and he led the country from a wooden plow to a nuclear power. It's a fact.
Any historical figure is controversial. Even the canonized Prince Vladimir, who baptized Russia, is a set of good and bad traits. We, as a nation, traditionally see either one side or the other. We still argue whether Stalin is bad or good.
China managed to figure out its attitude towards Mao Zedong. By decision of the ruling Communist Party, he is 80% good and 20% bad. In other words, he made some mistakes. But Mao is still 80% good. Over the last 5,000 years, according to the Chinese, there hasn't been a single bad ruler. Every one of them did his best, and every one of them had his own achievements. Awareness of this supports the Chinese morally, and they continue to move forward with some peace of mind. Although there were a lot of things in the past: purges, hunger, stupidity, and the devastation of the country. But there is something they can rely on. Mao bequeathed a spirit of not being afraid of difficulties in solving large-scale tasks, and in the most difficult years, he set a goal of turning China into one of the world's major powers. So the Chinese live by these covenants, being grateful to their leader. Mao's portrait is in the central square of Beijing as well as on the yuan. It's a lot like that.
However, we do things differently. There are many among us who idolize Stalin as well as those who hate him. As shown by last year’s poll, 80% of Russians know about Stalin’s repressions. Every now and then we can hear shouts that Stalin and Lenin should be removed from Red Square.
This week, Sergei Dorenko, the editor-in-chief of the Govorit Moskva radio station, has publicly appealed to the authorities.
"While Stalin lies in the center of Moscow, while Stalin is the point we measure distances from in Russia, while Stalin is the center of the country, Stalin is alive. We must put an end to this now. Stalin is our shame. Stalin is something every one of us is ashamed of. We must have the courage to admit this shame and be cleansed".
There are well-known statements on removing Lenin from the Mausoleum. There's no need to quote them. In the meantime, neither Putin nor the government enters into the debates.
As for Lenin's body, technically, it is currently not in the Mausoleum. It's been taken away. Once every 18 months, Lenin is taken to the Research Institute of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, where the effect of the embalming mix is renewed. Vladimir Ilyich is dressed in a fresh shirt, a new black tie with a white polka dot is put on him, and he is dressed in a brand-new suit. The body is undergoing exactly this procedure. The Federal Protective Service (FSO) is responsible for everything. Lenin's Mausoleum will reopen after April 16th, just in time for the birthday of the leader of the world proletariat.
As we can see, the state quietly keeps both Lenin and Stalin in their places. But why? In order not to stir up any controversy, in order not to inflame the situation, that's why. On major holidays, for example, on Victory Day or at the Spasskaya Tower International Military Music Festival, Lenin’s mausoleum is draped with colorful chintz so it is unrecognizable. Stalin’s grave is hidden behind guest stands, safely out of sight. On weekdays, Lenin and Stalin are again at their places. In Russia, a kind of pact of forgetting was secretly concluded. For some reasons, we still can't reach an agreement on these historical figures. If so, then we will postpone this controversial issue indefinitely.
We also cannot agree on the revolution of 1917. Its centenary was so quiet, it's as if it never happened. There were no big events, no speeches, no parade. It means it hasn't settled yet. If that's how it is, we'd better keep this pact. We've got other things to do.
In Paris, for example, in honor of the Great French Revolution on Bastille Day, a parade is held every year on July 14th. Just like this one. But in order to recall that revolutionary blood in this way, it took 230 years for the French to pick out the positive aspects of that revolution. The anniversary will be held this year.
100 years isn't long enough to digest such large-scale events like our revolution. The Chinese are much quicker. We and the French can't be that quick. This isn't a judgment. Just a fact.
The Spaniards aren't this quick either. In Spain, there's a dispute in full swing about dictator Franco's grave in the Valley of the Fallen. Until recently, this huge memorial complex, with its 500-feet-high cross, was considered a monument of reconciliation... The victims of the Spanish Civil War of both sides and Franco himself were buried there after all. According to polls, the Spaniards are divided roughly in half. But there are more of those who support the transfer of the grave of Franco to a new place. But the controversy is becoming more and more bitter. Dictator Franco died in 1975. The country had to go to a different, more democratic regime. Society and the new government had the sense not to incite any new discord, not to conduct lustration, but to announce an amnesty to everyone. The package of laws worked out two years after Franco’s death is figuratively called the Pact of Forgetting.
The idea of the pact is to get focused on the future rather than the past, on not making enemies among each other, but on uniting efforts to build a new life. The Pact of Forgetting has been working for decades. Now there are more and more people who are ready to abandon such a pact.