Friday, September 18, 2009

The Smell of Fascism

by Yuri Zarakhovich

On August 25, the Kurskaya metro station in Moscow reopened after years of restoration works. The most striking feature of the restoration are the lines in the frieze under the station ceilings from the 1944 Soviet anthem: “Stalin raised us to be ever true to the people and inspired us to heroic deeds and labor.”

These “lyrics,” originally placed there in 1950, when the station first opened, were unceremoniously edited once Stalin’s “personality cult” was denounced in 1961 and Stalin’s name was replaced by “Lenin”.

Today “Muscovites and guests of the capital” to use the standard Russian bureaucratese, can again avail themselves of this source of inspiration. They also can enjoy the sight of the huge VOZHD’s bás-relief. (The English word for Vozhd, as Stalin was popularly known, is ‘Leader”. In German it is “Fuhrer”).

“This goes to show who the incumbent regime seeks to identify itself with,” summed up Aleksander Cherkasov of the “Memorial” human rights organization.

Human rights activists launched a web site to gather signatures under an appeal to the Moscow Mayor to remove this outrage. However, as soon as they gathered several thousand signatures, the site came under massive hackers’ attacks—and stopped functioning.

It is time to face the sad fact that not only the incumbent regime seeks to identify itself with the Vozhd; a very large segment of the Russian populace feel likewise. By “populace,” I have in mind those Russian citizens who have never evolved to truly become “people”.

In June 2008, the official state Rossiya TV station launched “the name of Russia” project. Citizens were invited to name the person who they wanted their country to identify with. They did as asked and by July 8, 2008, Stalin ranked first.

To avoid the public embarrassment, the project was quietly curtailed.

According to recent public opinion polls taken by the VTSIOM pollsters, 45% of Russians believe that the Vozhd played a positive role in Russia’s history.

It’s nothing new, really. I remember the hungry Soviet 1970s-1980s, when many a Russian driver demonstratively adorned his vehicle’s windshield with the Vozhd’s portrait? The worse things are in the country, the stronger the longing for a strong arm.

Why? Because our state has never ceased being Stalinist. When King Juan-Carlos of Spain was dismantling Franco’s legacy, he didn’t remove the late Generalissimo’s portraits from the walls. He removed the essentials of the late Dictator’s regime: he replaced authoritarianism with public politics, and restored the rule of law, political and economic freedoms, and respect for human rights.

The Soviets toppled Generalissimo Stalin’s monuments and tore down his portraits in the 1960s, but never dismantled the essentials of his regime. That’s why the regime now emphasizes imperial ambitions and state supremacy rather than individuals’ rights, pins the blame for Russia’s ills on “foreign enemies” rather than on its failures, and encourages nostalgic longings for a strong-arm. Hence, the creeping restoration of Stalinism.

Almost 50 years ago, I read an interview by Erich Maria Remarque, one of my favorite writers. Asked about neo-Nazism, he answered: “The old shit smells the same, no matter how packaged.”

When Putin first emerged as Russia’s ruler back in 1999, we nicknamed him “Stalin-lite.”

But Remarque was right: packaged heavy or light, fascism smells the same, be it brown, or red.


  1. The subject is also true about Iran.

    Per se, The Iranians praise the Achaemenids as their national identity. This is in the light of the fact that the Achaemenids invasion of the region which is now known as Iran was the cause for the demise of many civilizations. The Iranians say that the scriptures belonging to Achaemenids are THE first human rights resolutions while those scriptures are crammed with the explanations of the Achaemenid’s king who used to execute his opponents by brutal means.

    Iranians the same as Nazis believe that they are Aryans and they are the best creatures ever humanity has ever known. I remember the history books we had in the elementary high school. There was a statement like “Nijad-e Pake Arya” which means “the pure Aryan Race”. Ironically this means that all the other human races are impure. Isn’t this disgusting?! This is no surprise that Mr.Ahmadi-nejad and his cohorts still use such expressions.

    As an Azerbaijanis living in South Azerbaijan I have many evidences of Iranian neo-Nazi approach towards non-Persians. E.g. they take their time to weave jokes about the Azerbaijanis people and make them seem ridiculous and moron, they publish insulting cartoons to the Azerbaijanis people, and their Radio programs are almost jammed with humiliating Azerbaijanis people just because we Azerbaijanis do not speak Persian without accent. Despite all these, we are deprived of our right to study in our mother tongue or play our own music freely. I am wondering what’s so interesting about these acts that Persians enjoy practicing?!! As a result Persians are the only people in Iran who think they are the best. All the ethnic communities hate their hypocritical attitudes towards them.

    I agree with Mr. Erich Maria Remarque’s opinion about the smell of the Neo-Nazism and Fascism but the gist of the issue is that these people (i.e. Neo-Fascists and Neo-Nazis) may physically be living in the 21st century but their minds and mentality is mired in circa 1945 era.

  2. it was interesting how many nations at that time had different troubles among them, most of those things were caused due to the fascism they had and their weir way to proceed.


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