After five years of studying Ukraine’s history and observing its politics, I thought I could no longer be shocked by Russified Ukrainians, anti-Ukrainian Russians, and those who remain proud Communists with no shame over Communism’s crimes. But yesterday I read that Communists in Ukraine are preparing to erect a monument to Josef Stalin in the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia. (I learned about the story on the great Ukrainiana blog, which is a must-read, along with the author’s @Ukroblogger Twitter feed.)
Proud Communist, Oleksandr Zubchevskyi, explains that the monument to Stalin is a tribute to the murderous totalitarian’s victory over Nazi Germany in WWII. At this point, it’s almost tedious to list the reasons why that view is imbecilic: Stalin’s pre-war alliance with Hitler emboldened Nazi Germany and helped the war happen; Stalin’s pre-war purges of his Army’s officers weakened the Soviet military and likely made the war a longer conflict than it would have been; Stalin’s victory over Hitler meant that much of Europe exchanged one murderous tyrant for another.
But even if Stalin had been a masterful tactician whose leadership was the main reason for Germany’s defeat, would that mitigate his crimes? Would that make it appropriate for a monument to stand in the nation where millions were intentionally starved on his orders and millions of others deported to Siberia?
The monument is an outrage, and it is more evidence that the Communist Party should have been made illegal after the fall of the Soviet Union, just as the Nazi party was banned in Germany after the war. Instead, there were no trials of Communist and KGB criminals, no acknowledgment of Soviet crimes.
The real outrage, though, is that this is another instance of anti-Ukrainian, pro-Communist bias that will likely be ignored by the same entities that were up in arms over then-President Viktor Yushchenko’s honor of WWII-era Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera. The European Parliament condemned the honor, citing Bandera’s alliance early in the war with Nazi Germany. Never mind that Bandera was later arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned in a concentration camp, or that his two brothers died in Auschwitz. (As I explained in this post, Bandera’s alliance with Nazi Germany, like the entire war, was a more complicated affair than most acknowledge.) Those waiting for anyone in the West to condemn the monument to Stalin will likely wait a long time.
Stalin had the advantage of being on the winning side of the war, so he seldom elicits the rage that Hitler does. The world learned about the crimes of Stalinism more gradually. But by now, we know enough that those who would deny Stalin’s crimes by building a monument to him deserve the same derision as those who deny the Holocaust. Even Zubchevskyi seems to know this, as he says the monument will be guarded around the clock to prevent attacks. Here’s hoping the people of Ukraine make sure the guards work hard for their pay.
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