Thursday, January 20, 2005

The city of Florence, Italy, now has a square named after the children of Beslan (via, in Russian).

Meanwhile, the city of Moscow and the town of Belgorod, Russia, as well as Crimea, Ukraine, all expect to have monuments to Stalin erected by the time of the 60th anniversary of the victory in WWII.

But please don't think there are no more reasonable voices left in Russia. Here's the translation of Natalya Gevorkyan's brilliant column in today's

Stalin is Back

They say the monuments to the mustached butcher will appear again. But they also say that the monuments will not be to the butcher but to the victor in the war that ended 60 years ago. How are the authors of this striking idea going to separate them - the butcher and the victor... How are they going to halve him, to tear the tyrant from the victor and the victor from the tyrant... A lofty sculptural and ideological task, I have to admit.

And some 17 years after the end of that war and some ten years after Stalin's death, his monuments were being demolished. Strange, for the war was still so alive in the people's memory, and yet they were taking him down right in front of me, a child then. I have to admit that I had no idea who this uncle on the pedestal was: perhaps because I had spent my childhood years in Africa and perceived the monument to Pushkin as the only one close and dear to me. I genuinely believed Pushkin was black, and it was close to the truth, especially because the poets' ancestors hailed from the very part of Africa in which I was growing up, Abissinia. And my parents read Pushkin's fairy tales to me - but didn't tell me about Stalin, neither the fairy tales, nor the real stories. When I found myself in Moscow at that historic - as I now understand - moment, when Stalin was being knocked down, I watched with genuine childish interest what some men in the backyard next to our house were doing. There, on a low platform stood a guy made of stone in black (!) boots, also made of stone. For some reason, the men cut off the idol right down to the boots and took him away somewhere. Only the platform remained, with two boots, which seemed huge to me, on it. There was something mystical about it: the idol seemed to have left, but not completely. It was as if he had took off his boots and went to sleep. And there was a feeling that he'd be back in the morning, with his boots back on. And I used to come running every morning to check whether the "Stone Guest" had returned. In general, the influence of Pushkin on my life has always been greater than any other influence, thank God. Mama said simply and briefly then: "He's not gonna return, baby." But the way she said it made me, a little girl, understand that she didn't like the guy on the pedestal at all.

What I remembered of the war wasn't Stalin but the guys with an intense smell of vodka around them, the guys someone in the street once called obrubki, the stumps. They were an unbearable sight - rather sturdy torsos attached to wooden boxes on wheels. These people moved around pushing themselves with some wooden objects. And once I saw a man like this, only he was missing not just the legs but one arm as well. As I was growing up, these invalids were becoming fewer and fewer. It was frightening to look them in the eye, and many people walked by with their heads lowered as if in guilt.

When Stalin was still alive, Khrushchev used to ask for the execution quotas to be raised because he had managed to fulfill and over-fulfill the repression plan in the region he was responsible for. Then, he was erasing from the face of the earth the images of the leader doomed after his death to have to answer for his own sins and for the sins of all those who had sinned while he was alive. This was what the then leader of the country needed. And the people, together with this new leader, grew to hate the tyrant as fervently as they loved the victor just a short time ago. I'll never find out what those poor "stumps of war" thought about it, the people who secured the halo of the victor for Stalin, having sacrificed their own lives.

The country I live in have always been carving the wrong idols. The images of Khrushchev later disappered similarly to the images of Stalin before. And then the new idols appeared and disappeared, and it has gone on like this till our days. And even now, having erected and dismantled both the right and the wrong monuments, the country is beginning it all anew, ready to carve the monuments to the tyrant and call him the only name - the victor.

Erect a monument to those legless and armless who saved the country and half the world, the outcasts, the drunkards, this country's Great Soldiers! Erect monuments to them at Poklonnaya Gora [the Bow-Down Hill], because if there's someone worth bowing down to, it's the people whose lives not a single Russian leader has ever used sparingly. How many lives have been woven into the wreath on the victor's head? The lives of the millions that died in prison camps and trenches. How is it possible to separate the former from the latter, how to honor all without insulting some?

The return of the monument to Stalin is a historical point of no return. Even in the seemingly decent company of Roosevelt and Churchill the butcher still remains a butcher. At least, for me and many, many others. Though, as one of my colleagues joked joylessly, the point of no return would be a monument to Stalin in the company of Molotov and Ribbentrop.

1 comment:

  1. This is shocking! Have these people no decency, how can anyone honour a mass murderer? This sickens me.