Russians long for old age – and Putin delivers

In front of a Moscow bar, a few men are standing in the snow. They emptied some half-liter glasses of beer. A stocky 30’s hugging a German tourist he just met. “Dude, that’s great that we Russians beat you Germans!”, He says and laughs. “How to beat?” Asks the German in wonderment. “Well, kill it!” Replies the Russian. He shines at the German and taps his big hands on his shoulders.

A scene just before the frivolous anniversary of the victory of Stalingrad. Almost all television channels are currently teeming with programs about the Second World War. Today, Russia commemorates the 75th anniversary of the “Stalingrad Cauldron”. On 2 February 1943, the remnants of the 6th German army capitulated. The battle with nearly one million dead is considered the beginning of the end of Hitler’s Germany. Russia celebrates the victory every year as heroic act in the “Great Patriotic War”.

But this year the celebrations are even more pompous. There is a presidential election campaign, and on March 18th the new – and very probably old – Kremlin chief will be elected. Head of state Vladimir Putin is traveling personally to Volgograd, the former Stalingrad.

Violent Stalin debate erupted
The past is alive again in Russia. A few days ago, the Ministry of Culture canceled the cinema license for the Anglo-French film comedy “The Death of Stalin”. The film – dripping with black humor – transgresses the moral limit to taunting history, said Minister Vladimir Medinsky. Whoever shows how the dead Stalin lies in a pool of urine, also disregards the victims of the Stalin terror, scandalized the cinema director Karen Schachnasarov.

In public, a violent Stalin debate has flared up. It culminated initially in the studio of Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda: There, the publicist Maxim Shevchenko sent his colleague Mikhail Swanidse in front of cameras with several blows to the ground, after Swanidse Stalin had earned a merit in the victory over Germany.

According to a survey conducted by Lewada, only 25 percent of Russians consider Stalin’s repressions a “historically justified necessity.” But at least 38 percent of the population consider Stalin the “most outstanding personality in world history,” followed by Vladimir Putin with 34 percent. The Russians like autocratic leaders.

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