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Vladimir Putin and the recreation of Stalin’s Soviet Union

Written By | Mar 20, 2022
Putin, STalin, Ukraine, Invasion

Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and his steady assault on civilian targets, including a maternity hospital, remind us of Stalin’s Soviet Union, which today’s Russian leader seems determined to recreate. Stephen Blank, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Eurasia program, says:

“No one since Stalin has had power in Russia like Putin does. He is isolated from bad news; he listens only apparently to a select few advisers incentivized to tell him what he wants to hear.”

Putin, in Blank’s view, does not camouflage his views:

“The personal aspect of this is his obsession with being the man who restores the Russian Empire or, to use the Russian phrase, ‘regather Russian lands.’ The point here is that he’s saying Ukraine is Russian, and he’s been saying it for a long time.”

In 2008, Putin told President George W. Bush:

“George, what are you doing? Ukraine is not a country. Its territory is a gift from us, and if you persist in trying to take it into NATO, we will destroy it.”

Blank’s assessment is:

“This is a man who has drank his own Kool-Aid, believes his own propaganda, and is being fed more by a system that is incentivized institutionally and intellectually by virtue of the paranoia that pervades the entire Russian political system…in order for him to think that he has to carry out his sacred mission….Russia has never accepted the territorial integrity of any of the European states east of Germany. An empire requires the elimination of everyone’s sovereignty, and if Ukraine has sovereignty, then that means Russia is not a great power. This will not stop with Ukraine. Ukraine is a springboard, if he accomplishes his mission, to Eastern Europe.”

In explaining his invasion of Ukraine, Putin claimed that his goal was to eliminate “neo-Nazism” in Kyiv.

Daniel Moshinsky spent his early years in Soviet and post-Soviet Ukraine before his family moved to the U.S. in 1996 when he was 16. In a recent talk at Kemp Mill Synagogue in Silver Spring, Maryland, Moshinsky points out that there were many restrictions on Jewish life under Soviet rule.

“In the past 30 years, things have changed quite a bit,” he said. “Today, President Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish, and he was elected with 76 percent of the vote. None of the ultranationalist, anti-Semitic parties in Ukraine won any seats at all…If you listen to many Jewish young people in Ukraine, you will see that there is a new and proud Ukrainian identity…This identity is open, free, multicultural…”

Ukrainians remember the enforced famine imposed upon them by Stalin in the 1930s.

Anne Applebaum, author of the 2017 book “Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine,” points out that,

“The famine is one of the things in the back of the heads of the Ukrainians who are fighting on the ground. It’s a piece of history, and it’s remembered by Ukrainians as an attempt to eradicate them. The awareness that they might be eradicated again is part of why they’re fighting now.”

In 1986, historian Robert Conquest told Congress,

“The Soviet assault on the peasantry and on the Ukrainian nation was one of the largest and most devastating events in modern history.”

Thirteen percent of the Ukrainian population perished, as Stalin enforced collectivization through the state’s seizure of private property, livestock, and equipment. Then brutally punishing peasants for failure to meet quotas by taking the last of their food.

Just as at present, people crowded into trains to leave the country.

“The stations were lined with begging peasants with swollen hands and feet, the women holding up to the carriage windows horrible infants with enormous wobbling heads, stick-like limbs, and swollen pointed bellies,” wrote the Hungarian journalist Arthur Koestler.

Known as the Holodomor, the famine led to the loss of 4-7 million victims.

Since 2006, Ukraine and 15 other countries have recognized Holodomor as the genocide of the Ukrainian people carried out by the Soviet Union.

What followed, argues Professor Timothy Snyder of Yale, was “the first big lie in the politics of the 20th century.”

Stalin denied the famine happened. It was nothing but a “yarn,” he said, and the starving were not the victims. “the starving are provocateurs,”

Snyder said the Communists maintained.

“Their bloated bellies are deliberate provocations against the Soviet regime.”

As Stalin lied to the people about the famine in Ukraine, Putin is lying about his invasion of Ukraine. Putin is a genuine successor to Stalin and is even defending Stalin’s lie about the famine of the 1930s.

In 2015, Sputnik News, a Kremlin propaganda website, published an article in English called “Holodomor Hoax.” The famine, it said, “was one of the 20th century’s most famous myths and vitriolic pieces of anti-Soviet propaganda.”

Anne Applebaum concludes :

“The argument had come full circle. The post-Soviet Russian state was once again in full denial: the Holodomor didn’t happen.”

It is difficult to conclude anything other than that Vladimir Putin is trying to recreate Stalin’s Soviet Union. He even denies that Stalin’s most negative assaults on humanity ever happened. Fortunately, the world does not seem ready to believe Mr. Putin’s fancied fabrications.


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Allan C. Brownfeld

Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.