Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Off topic: Raw propaganda

STARK CHOICE: A poster appearing around Crimea calls on people to vote in the referendum on Sunday, portraying the choice as between Nazis or Russia. Pro-Russian advocates have accused the new government in Kiev of including ultranationalists who sympathize with Nazi ideology. Reuters       

And a flashback to Soviet history (cartoon by Clifford Barryman):

Apropos Stalin, here is a paragraph from Vasily Grossman's  Life and Fate  (p 21) which somehow crystallized what went on there, more than all other sources.

Getmanov's life had been relatively uneventful. He had not taken part in the Civil War. He had not been hunted by the police and had never been exiled to Siberia at the decree of a Tsarist court. At conferences and congresses he usually read his reports from a written text. Even though he had not written them himself, he read these reports well,  expressively and without hesitation. Admittedly, they were by no means difficult to read – they were printed in large type, double-spaced, and with the name of Stalin always in red. As a young man, Getmanov had been intelligent and disciplined; he had intended to study at the Mechanical Institute but had been recruited for work in the security organs. Soon he had become the bodyguard of the secretary of the kraykom, the area Party committee...

Жизнь Дементия Трифоновича была довольно бедна внешними  событиями.  Он
не участвовал в гражданской войне. Его не преследовали жандармы, и царский
суд его никогда не высылал в Сибирь. Доклады на конференциях и съездах  он
обычно читал по рукописи. Читал он хорошо, - без  запинок,  с  выражением,
хотя писал доклады не сам. Правда,  читать  их  было  легко,  их  печатали
крупным шрифтом, через два интервала, и имя Сталина выделено на  них  было
особым красным  шрифтом.  Он  был  когда-то  толковым,  дисциплинированным
пареньком, хотел учиться в механическом институте, но его мобилизовали  на
работу в органы безопасности, и вскоре он стал личным охранником секретаря

Since we are taking about the USSR, perhaps it is appropriate to mention the most knowledgeable American diplomat on the USSR – George F. Kennan

On Congressmen  meeting Stalin, page 291:

I cannot recall the tenor of the discussion between the Congressmen and Stalin (the Washington archives, I am sure, would show it); but I have a vivid memory of our approach to this occasion. The interview was scheduled, I believe, for 6 P.M., in Stalin’s office in the Kremlin. Just prior to it was scheduled a visit of the congressional party to the Moscow subway system. Having seen the Moscow subway on a great many occasions, I decided not to accompany them on that last venture, but arranged to pick them up, at 5:30 P.M., at the exit from the Mossovyet subway station, where their tour was to end. I came there at a proper time and waited until well after 5:30. To my growing concern no Congressmen appeared. Inquiry elicited the information that the part was being entertained at “tea” somewhere in the bowels of the subway system.  I never discovered the premises in which this repast was being served, but frantic indirect messages finally brought my compatriots to the surface, at about ten minutes before six. To my horror I discovered that the “tea” served to them by their genial hosts of the Moscow subway had, like he tea in Novosibirsk, been not only of the nonalcoholic variety: varying amounts of vodka, depending on the stoutness of character and presence of mind of the individual concerned, had been poured into my charges while they were on the verge of their interview with the great Soviet leader.

We tore away, in two limousines, in the direction of the Kremlin, I riding in the front seat of one of the cars. As we approached the Kremlin gate, protected but what was the most vigilant and elaborate system of guarding  of any place in the world, I was horrified to hear, from the interior of the car behind me, raucous voice saying: ”Who the hell is this guy Stalin, anyway? I don’t know that I want to go up and see him. I think I’ll get out.” Elaborate arrangement had been made, including even the submission of every passport to the Foreign Office, to assure admission of the party to the Kremlin, and I knew that if anyone were missing, things would be royally gummed up. So I said with great definiteness: “You will do nothing of the sort. You will sit right there where you are and remain with the party.” There ensued the formalities at the gate. Doors were opened, identities were established,  seats were looked under. A car full of armed men was before us, and another one behind. Thus guarded, we drove off up the short incline to the heart of the Kremlin. At this point the same raucous voice became audible one more behind me: “What if I biff the old codger one in the nose?”  My heart froze.  I cannot recall what I said, but I am sure that never in my life did I speak with greater   earnestness. I had, as I recollect it, the help of some of the more sober   members of the party.  In any case, our companion came meekly along. He sat  in Stalin’s office at  the end of a long table, facing Stalin, and did nothing more disturbing than  to leer and wink once or twice at the bewildered dictator, thus making it possible for the invisible gun muzzles, with which the room was no doubt  studded, to remain sullenly silent.'"   

On Stalin, page 294:

Those of my colleagues who saw more of him than I did have told of being able to observe other aspects of his personality: of seeing the yellow eyes lit up in a flash of menace and fury as he turned, momentarily on some unfortunate subordinate; of witnessing the diabolical sadism with which, at the great diplomatic dinners of the war, he would humiliate his subordinates before the eyes of the foreigners, with his barbed, mocking toasts, just to show his power over them. I myself did not see these things. But when I first encountered him personally, I had lived long enough in Russia to know something about him; and I was never in doubt, when visiting him, that I was in the presence of one of the world’s most remarkable men – a man great, if you will, primarily in his iniquity: ruthless, cynical, cunning, endlessly dangerous; but for all of this -one of the truly great men of the age.     

(1) Our first step must be to apprehend, and recognize for what it is, the nature of the movement with which we are dealing. We must study it with same courage, detachment, objectivity, and same determination not to be emotionally provoked or unseated by it, with which doctor studies unruly and unreasonable individual.

What a difference a decade makes!  Putin in 2005:

You know, after the  disintegration of the USSR the Russian Federation lost tens of thousand of its ancestral territories . So what do you suggest now? Start partitioning everything again? Get us back Crimea, parts of the territory of other republics of the former USSR,  etc.?  Let's get back Klaipeda?    Let's start partitioning everything in Europe . Is that what you want? No, probably not. We appeal to the Lithuanian  politicians to cease engaging in political demagogy , and engage in constructive work. Russia  is  ready for such work.