Russian Orthodox Warn Against Glorifying Stalin

Decries Presence of Leader's Image on Victory Day

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By Inma Álvarez



MOSCOW, MAY 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- As Russians prepared to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany over the weekend, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow expressed concerns regarding what its sees as the "glorification" of Josef Stalin.

Russia celebrated the Day of Victory on Sunday, during which soldiers from the three allied countries of World War II -- Britain, France and the United States -- marched in Moscow's Red Square together with troops from Russia and a honor guard from Poland.

The annual celebration, which marks the victory of what the Russians call the Great Patriotic War, was marred this year with controversy over the presence of posters of Stalin put on display in Moscow by the Communist party, and with the support of the city's mayor, Yury Luzhkov.

Stalin is remembered in Russia for his many brutalities, including the process of industrialization and collectivization that resulted in food shortages, and the mass executions and labor camps. But, he is also remembered for defeating Hitler.

The presence of Stalin's image as part of the Victory Day celebrations made the Orthodox Church uneasy, as reported by the Russian news agency Interfax.

According to the agency, the Orthodox patriarchate's Department of External Relations sent a letter to the newspaper Zavtra on behalf of Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev, in which it stated that "no achievement of the Soviet Union, including the victory over Fascism, can justify Stalin's crimes."
 
"Under Stalin's regime an inhuman system was established and nothing can justify it -- not industrialization, or the atomic bomb, or the safeguarding of the borders, or the victory in the Great Patriotic War -- because it was not Stalin's personal merit, but the conquest of our multi-national people," the letter added.
 
Stalin's regime "was based on terror, coercion, the suppression of the person, deceit and false denunciations," the note continued. "This regime was devouring itself, when the torturers themselves became victims.

"The glorification of the unbelieving and of their methods of government of the country cannot consolidate the peoples of historic Russia. On the contrary, it only separates our communities."
 
Moreover, the letter questions Stalin's role in World War II: "Several competent historians believe that it was Stalin who was to blame for all the incalculable losses suffered by this country, by sacrificing millions of lives of our citizens for victory, due to the irrational internal policy before the War."
 
It also asserted that it was Stalin's policy that put a "time bomb" between the Russian territories, "by re-making them according to his will, creating artificial borders between the Soviet Republics."
 
"As a result of this policy of Stalin, we now gather the fruits of extremism, nationalism and xenophobia," added the letter.
 
The Orthodox Church wasn't the only one speaking out against Stalin. President Dmitri Medvedev said in remarks released Friday that "Stalin committed massive crimes against his own people. Despite how hard he worked and the successes achieved under his leadership, what he did to his own people cannot be forgiven."