3 March Political Anniversaries in Russia Posted by Maria on Mar 7, 2019 in History, News
I follow several Russian news outlets and commentators on social media, and this past week has been filled with anniversaries having to do with politics. As much as I love Russian party games or quirky memes, I realize that many “Russia aficionados,” especially abroad, are more interested in and familiar with Russian history and politics. Even for the apolitical, the events commemorated this week are worth reflecting on.
The Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (Ио́сиф Ста́лин), known for his brutality, died on March 5, 1953. The Russian human-rights portal Mediazona (Медиазо́на), devoted to the issues of policing and the rights of people in the criminal justice system, featured a collection of reactions to his death by survivors of his terror and their descendants.
One such person, Irina Kryzhanovskaya (Ири́на Крыжано́вская), whose father was arrested and executed by a firing squad, remembers:
Когда́ умер Стали́н, мы пла́кали с ма́мой. Но мы его́ не жале́ли. Мы пла́кали от стра́ха. Кто ещё? Кто ещё? Ещё ху́же бу́дет!
When Stalin died, my mother and I cried. But we didn’t feel bad for him. We were crying with fear. Now who? Now who? They will be even worse!
Other survivors remember genuinely grieving for Stalin after his death. Zoya Vyskrebentseva (Зо́я Выскребенцева), who was sentenced to 20 years of labor camps for dating a US embassy employee, wrote:
Да́же в ла́гере, когда́ нам сказа́ли, что он умер, мы все там, ду́ры, реве́ли в три ручья́. Где́-то нам вдолби́ли, что э́то са́мый-са́мый до́брый, са́мый гла́вный, са́мый хоро́ший челове́к.
Even in the camp, when they told us he had died, all us silly girl cried our eyes out. Somewhere along along the road, they convinced us that he was the kindest, most important, best person.
Stalin was initially buried in the Mausoleum on Red Square, alongside Lenin, and later moved to the Kremlin wall. There has been some talk about moving his body elsewhere. This year, a man was detained for throwing flowers on Stalin’s grave and shouting “Burn in hell!” (“Гори́ в аду́!”)
Gorbachev’s 88th Birthday
Another big date was March 2, when former (and only!) Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev (Михаил Горбачёв) turned 88. Gorbachev is known for the disarmament treaties (догово́ры о разоруже́нии) he negotiated with the US. However, back in Russia, many fault him for “breaking up” the USSR (разва́л СССР). Here is how he commented on the reasons behind that break-up in an interview 2 years ago:
У нас одна́ из причи́н того́, что распа́лось мо́щное серьёзное госуда́рство, ― э́то пози́ция национа́льных ка́дров. Уж о́чень им хоте́лось пра́вить.
One of the reasons our powerful, formidable state fell apart is the attitude of the regional leaders. They really wanted to rule.
One-Year Anniversary of Skripal Poisoning
March 4 marked the first anniversary of the Skripal case, when a former Russian intelligence agent was allegedly poisoned with a nerve agent. The Russian government denied any involvement, but investigative journalists have published evidence linking this case to Russian military intelligence operatives.
This year, UK Prime Minister (премье́р-мини́стр) Theresa May visited Salisbury (Со́лсбери), where the poisoning took place. In the meantime, the Political Science department of Moscow State University, known in Russian as МГУ, announced its inaugural Skripal Lecture (Скрипа́льские чте́ния), named after the intended victim of the attack, and reportedly invited the two men accused of perpetrating the poisoning. The department later denied inviting the two and explained that the invitation was an edgy joke by the professor in charge of the conference.
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