It’s an ill wind that truly blows nobody any good, or so the idiom/cliche goes. Last week we caught a glimpse of the struggling Russian economy trickling its hardship down onto an impoverished workforce. It’s been a long slow preamble into the pit, and will no doubt be a slow climb out. As Timothy Taylor reaffirms on his Conversable Economist blog:
“Even before the recent plummeting of the price of oil, Russia’s economy was showing signs of slowdown and stress. With oil prices now in the neighborhood of $30-$35 per barrel, and maybe with additional declines still to come, Russia’s economy is already in recession and probably headed for worse”.
Some do indeed benefit, but more of that next time. Some are so stricken that even as we edge relentlessly toward the 30th anniversary of the demise of Russian Communism; the ghost of its past era can not entirely be shaken off. It’s no longer an awkward spectre at the feast, more a long lost brother for some anxious for its return. Can it be true that the figure I found online: 50% do indeed wish for the old days again? They really want their Soviet Union back?
There’s more; we closed last time with the remarkable fact that for some, the desire for the older, better days extends to the apparent forgiveness, even adulation of Stalin himself. This reached some bizarre milestone when the Russian Orthodox Church released their now famous/infamous 2014 Stalin calendar. (Stalin and even NKVD calendars are still available in 2016! From various sources).
Most of us in the West probably remember school history lessons on the Soviet persecution of religion; principally Russian Orthodoxy because of its overt support of the Tsars and the Tsarist White Army during the revolution. The subsequent inter-war period saw the nationalisation of church property, the erosion of church power and the murder, imprisonment or exile of many church members and officials.
Considering that Joseph Stalin came to power in 1929, it should be fairly apparent that much of this was under his rule. However things were to change in 1941 when Germany reneged on its pact with Russia and attacked the USSR. The opening by Hitler of a second (Eastern) front was undoubtedly strategic insanity and contributed to his defeat (could the world have survived a unified push by both Germany and Russia?), but at the same time heaped more misery and suffering upon the Russian people.
In a 180° shift, Stalin, seeking a patriotic boost for the Russian war effort, reinstated the Russian Orthodox Church giving it official recognition and a new patriarch two years later. Perhaps the term “cynical manipulation” may apply here? Still, he had progressed from revolutionary to politician, so, in line with the office: whatever course of action is expedient at the time will do.
It’s funny how things change. Nikita Khrushchev became Secretary of the Communist party in 1953 following Stalin’s death, and subsequently: premier in 1958. One year later the persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church began once again, in earnest. Perhaps they had served -and outlived- their purpose?
So that is why Stalin is -quite literally- the Orthodox Church’s poster boy, and figurehead of the good old days that ostensibly over half of the Russian population currently wish to resurrect.
To be fair, that is an extremist stance; there are surely those who desire a return of Communism without the return of Stalinism, perhaps those too who are pro-communist but anti-Stalinist, or those who wish to see a modern re-interpretation of the Communist ideal whilst learning lessons from the past. All to make things better and make the bad go away.
So here in 2016 consider the plight of a young, skilled manual worker with a wife and child who has to move his family in with relatives in order to stretch his meagre wage over bare essentials. If someone came along purporting any kind of lifeline, even one from a dubious history; wouldn’t that be at least, tempting?
[Photo by Peggy Marco]