How people see Lenin and Stalin in Modern Russia

How people see Lenin and Stalin in Modern Russia
20 May 2016

To me, as an ordinary foreigner observing modern Russia, Lenin and Stalin went always together. In the Western world, we all knew that Stalin was far more evil, but never had much doubts that Lenin was to be put in the same group of absolutist rulers who embarked the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe into a long and dark communist era. And it goes without saying that communism was to be considered as a totally wrong, violent and inefficient regime which was doomed to failure.

The perspective on Lenin and Stalin is completely different, if it comes from an average Russian citizen. They will tell you that education, healthcare and housing were for free and thus accessible to all. People were far more respectful with each other and the current extreme wealth [by definition, a bad thing] and poverty never existed. Equally, a Russian will inform you that Lenin and Stalin were far more distant from each other than a westerner could expect. Going slightly deeper into this last argument, I devote this post to the attitude Russians display towards Lenin and Stalin respectively.

Lenin is to be seen everywhere around Moscow: on gigantic monuments, on arches, on streets, in many tube stations, etc. This seems to be the situation also around the whole of Russia. For instance, the region around St Petersburg is still called Leningradskaya province. Also, local people seem to display some friendliness towards Lenin. In conversations with them, they underline his intelligence, the fact that he built the Soviet Union and also claim that under his rule life was essentially different from the big terror under Stalin. Finally, it is widely considered that the idea of the welfare state is a Lenin’s creation.

The situation with regards to Stalin seems to be completely different and it is far less easy to understand. Let’s take one example: Kurskaya station on the Moscow tube.

After the station was first built in the late 1930’s, by 1950 the construction of an additional entrance hall was completed. The latter’s architecture reminds that of a temple and multiple references to Stalin [and Lenin] were to be found. Also, a monument of Stalin was placed in the entrance hall of the station. When the cult of Stalin’s personality was suppressed, the Kurskaya metro station was completely overhauled and all references to Stalin were removed. Later, when in 2008 – 2009 this particular entrance to the station was restored again, Stalin’s references reappeared but the monument did not! This seems to suggest that people’s attitude towards Stalin has somehow evolved, but it is difficult to explain in what way. It is up to everyone to draw their conclusions! To me, it was interesting to learn this story and to see the changes with my own eyes. Go and examine closely the swords and you will see what I mean.


This blog was brought to you by Garbis, currently studying Russian at Liden and Denz

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