By: Terresa Monroe-Hamilton
History is repeating itself in all its murderous glory in Russia. While the world swoons over Vladimir Putin taking charge in Syria and offing a bunch of blood-thirsty Islamists who are in his way and serve as bloody propaganda for his next moves into the Baltics, the Middle East and Europe, Putin is getting the old band back together a la the Soviet Union. He is using nationalism to stoke the hatred of America… blaming all of Russia’s ills on the US. You see this play out in Donetsk, Ukraine, where three giant portraits of the former Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin, are proudly displayed in the center of the city. It is the rebel capitol of eastern Ukraine and separatists are fueling Soviet nostalgia there.
The young have no clue what a monster Stalin really was. They seem proud of the portraits and feel that they engender Russian pride. “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. Did you also forget the atrocities that Uncle Joe committed? Soviet customs are being revived to cement the rebels’ Moscow-backed rule.
The Stalin portraits feature a quote from the wartime leader: “Our cause is just. The enemy will be routed. We will claim victory.” Sounds a lot like Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, doesn’t it? Under the glorified butchery of Stalin, approximately five million Ukrainians were starved to death in the Holodomor.
The Holodomor, or extermination by hunger, occurred in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1932 and 1933 and it killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians, with millions more counted in demographic estimates. It was part of the wider disaster, the Soviet famine of 1932–33, which affected the major grain-producing areas of the country. Scholars believe it was a long term plan of Joseph Stalin’s… an attempt to eliminate the Ukrainian independence movement. Actions such as rejection of outside aid, confiscation of all household foodstuffs and restriction of population movement confer intent, defining the famine as genocide. The massive loss of life has been compared to the Holocaust. The horrors of Stalin’s repressions and the deaths of Ukrainians in the 1930’s due to famine caused by forced collectivization go unmentioned.
Vasil Kiseliev, deputy mayor of the eastern Ukrainian town of Stakhanov
Now, the rebels have become nostalgic for the good ole days of the Soviet Union. The Donetsk rebel leader, Alexander Zakharchenko, told AFP 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 seems to have a thing for camouflage gear. “Europe and other countries were scared stiff of us.”
In eastern Ukraine, the rebel separatists have killed more than 8,000. In their offices, stylish posters of Uncle Joe adorn their dens. Stalin was a fascist dictator draped in Communist attire. The Donetsk rebels’ Deputy Defence Minister Eduard Basurin wears a badge with Stalin’s profile on his uniform.
A Soviet Union flag flutters as people attend the unveiling of a Lenin statue in the town of Novoazo.
At one time, the coal mining city of Donetsk was known as Stalino. In the early 1960s, the city was renamed after Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev seized power after Stalin died and vociferously and aggressively condemned Stalin’s cult of personality.
It’s a different story in Kiev’s pro-western government. Last May, they made it illegal to display Soviet symbols, just as it is illegal to display Nazi swastikas. They pulled down and destroyed Stalin monuments. They renamed streets, towns and establishments that had Soviet names. Lenin statues were toppled across the Ukraine, which incensed the rebels. The Donetsk rebels’ culture minister, Alexander Paretsky, condemned “vandalism and barbarism” while the leader of the Lugansk rebel region, Igor Plotnitsky, warned of a “moral genocide.” In the town of Novoazovsk on the Azov Sea, the rebels ceremonially restored a Lenin statue to its pedestal after taking control from Ukrainian forces.
Soviet symbols of the hammer and sickle in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol (AFP Photo)
This is the revived Soviet nationalism that Putin has brought back. That and the Russian Orthodox Church. In hearkening back to pre-collapse days, a fierce Russian pride of the motherland is being reignited. This is the new face of the rebels.
The rebels’ territories are called “people’s republics,” echoing the Soviet-era names of Communist satellites such as Bulgaria, Mongolia and Romania. Lugansk People’s Republic has a new emblem featuring sheafs of corn and a red star, just like those of the USSR’s communist republics.
The rebels are also bringing back the Soviet-era Young Pioneer youth group. Think Boy Scouts for communists.
A portrait of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin displayed in Donetsk, the rebel capital of eastern Ukraine.
I especially like what they have named their security agency… the Ministry of State Security or MGB. Does that sound familiar? It should… it’s the same name given to Stalin’s secret police from 1946 to 1953. And just to keep it authentic, if you are put on trial there, I wouldn’t count on an acquittal. Not in a Russian court. “It’s the Soviet model of the prosecutor’s office that we adopted in Donetsk,” said Andrei Spivak, the official charged with overhauling the system.
An additional exhibition of paintings pays homage to the Soviet hero “shock worker” Alexei Stakhanov, who achieved record coal production levels at a mine in the Lugansk region in the 1930s. Historians now see Stakhanov’s feats as carefully choreographed by the authorities as a propaganda tactic to push up norms. Always with the propaganda.
Young and old alike are romanticizing Russia’s past – remembering what they see as better, more prosperous times when they were a world power, as opposed to what has now become of Russia. If they can have that back, they’ll take the monsters with it. “Things were better back then. It was a totally different life,” says Galina, a 73-year-old.
With propaganda comes the whitewashing of history as well. In August, the Donetsk rebel authorities decided to pull down a monument to victims of the Stalin-orchestrated 1930’s famine in the Ukraine. Donetsk State University removed a monument to Ukrainian dissident Vasyl Stus, a poet and campaigner for national culture, who spent decades in jail and died in a prison camp in 1985 at the age of 47. “That was a criminal act,” said Maria, a pensioner — but her views seemed to be shared by very few.
In the last year alone, Russia and its proxies have begun a systematic campaign of harassing religious minorities in the Ukraine. The Department of State just released its annual report on International Religious Freedom. In it, it was noted that the conditions for religious minorities in the Ukraine and Crimea had severely deteriorated, thanks to the Russian-backed separatists. Those are the rebels. “In the areas they control, the separatists have kidnapped, beaten, and threatened Protestants, Catholics, and members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate, as well as participated in anti-Semitic acts,” the report said.
Rebels declared the primary religion to be the Christian Orthodox faith of the Russian Orthodox Church.
From the Washington Free Beacon:
Armed assailants in Donetsk, calling themselves the Russian Orthodox Army, abducted Tykhon Kulbaka, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic priest, last July.
According to the report, “His captors reportedly subjected him to repeated mock executions and took away his medication, threatening him with a ‘slow death’ unless he joined the Russian Orthodox Church. He also sustained physical injuries before his release July 14.”
Donetsk authorities also detained Fr. Pawel Witek, a Roman Catholic priest, last May and accused him of being a sniper. The separatists blindfolded him, tied his arms and hands, and guarded him in a basement before eventually releasing him.
Other churches that were targeted include God’s Church of Ukraine, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, and a variety of Protestant denominations.
In a statement last July, the heads of the Evangelical Protestant Churches of Ukraine said that militants had subjected their members to “abduction, beating, torture, murder threats, and damage to houses of worship, seizure of religious buildings, and damage to health and private property of the clergy.”
One pro-Russian group also placed anti-Semitic pamphlets near the Donetsk synagogue and threatened to force Jews to register with a local commissioner and pay a fee.
Russia’s occupation authorities used “harassment, intimidation, detentions, and beatings” against members of minority Christian denominations and Muslim Tatars, the report said. Russian forces prevented some priests from entering their churches, raided mosques, and sponsored a new Muslim organization to supplant the local leadership body for Tatars.
In one incident last June, unmarked Russian forces stormed into a Ukrainian Orthodox Church and “verbally abused the parish priest and beat his pregnant wife and daughter, who suffered from cerebral palsy.”
“The occupation authorities refused to investigate the incident,” the report said. “The church was since closed.”
Authorities also denied residency permits to Turkish imams within the Tatar community and priests in the Greek Catholic Church.
Putin has an alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church. It is the State-sanctioned church. Of course he denies anything to do with all of this and the rebels. Here’s my shocked face… because Putin never lies. Meanwhile, Moscow has continued to supply the rebels with advanced weapons systems such as a multiple rocket launchers.
Russia is creating an illiberal coalition to oppose NATO and the West, a theory consistent with the rising tide of nationalism and Soviet nostalgia in Russia. In the end, this all leads to war, which is what Russia wants. They feel it will reinvigorate the Russian bear economically and nationally. Plus, they are just itching for a fight with the US now that her military has been gutted by Obama. They will use Syria as a springboard into the Middle East and as a doorway for seizing territory in the Baltics. Europe is on the brink of war and doesn’t even seem to realize it. Looks like Stalin is back from the dead.