President Medvedev has issued a stinging repudiation of the Soviet Union, condemning it as a totalitarian state that had deprived Russians of their basic rights.
He also condemned Joseph Stalin’s record of repression before Victory Day celebrations on Sunday marking the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, an event that many elderly Russians attribute to the leadership of the Soviet dictator.
The President’s outspoken verdict on Russia’s Soviet legacy contrasted sharply with that of his predecessor Vladimir Putin, who called the collapse of the Communist state “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Mr Putin, the Prime Minister, has also been much more equivocal about Stalin.
Medvedev said Stalin had committed unforgivable crimes regardless of any progress made by the Soviet Union under his rule. In an interview with Izvestia newspaper that was also broadcast on state television, he rejected arguments that Stalin was responsible for the victory over Hitler in what Russians call the Great Patriotic War.
“The Great Patriotic War was won by our people, not by Stalin or even the generals,” Medvedev said. “Their role was undoubtedly very serious but, at the same time, the people won the war at the cost of great efforts and a huge number of lives.
“Stalin committed mass crimes against the people. And despite the fact that he worked a lot, despite the fact that under his leadership the country achieved successes, what was done to his own people cannot be forgiven.”
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