22 December 2008
Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet

A woman lights candles at a monument in memory of Stalin victims outside the secret KGB’s former headquarters in Moscow. Today, the FSB security service is in the same building.
Stalin’s terror
Josef Stalin, born in 1878, became general secretary of Soviet Communist Party in 1922.

From 1927 ruled Stalin in practice autocratic until his death some 20 million männizkod. Millions perished in Sibriens labor camps, gulags. Others were killed.

Stalin is said to have personally signed the 39 000 death sentences.

Revaluation of Stalin upsets

First it was nobody who understood why the Russian security service conducted a raid of the human rights organization Memorial. But when the masked men left the office 11 discs with research on abuses during the Stalin era had been taken .

“Memorial” in St. Petersburg has over 20 years of research has built one of the world’s most complete archive of what happened in the Soviet Union under dictator Josef Stalin’s rule. The time is called The Great Terror, began in the 1920s and lasted until Stalin’s death in 1953. During those years the dreaded Gulag camps were built, and where people often without reason was forced into hard labor. Historians estimate that up to 20 million people may have died during Stalin’s oppressive regime.

During Putin’s time in power, however, there has been a clear reassessment of Stalin. New history books describe Stalin’s positive significance for the Soviet Union’s modernization, his “heroic” efforts to stop Hitler’s armies and the road to a superpower.

It is from the background of the new Russian history description that we see the FSB security police’s raid on “Memorial”. The men came in under the pretext of searching for weapons and drugs. But when they disappeared five hours later eleven discs of research on Josef Stalin were missing.

The leader of “Memorial” in St. Petersburg Irina Flakes found that the FSB knew what they were looking for and believe that “the state is trying to reconstruct history and to justify Stalin’s atrocities.”

There are also examples that the state wants to further strengthen its grip over the people and restrict the opportunities for opposition and criticism of the regime. A new law, which is likely soon to be adopted by the Duma, wants to tighten the law on treason. Under it, it’s not just action against national security to be classified as treason, but also such as “may threaten the constitutional order”.

The new law is flexible, but can be interpreted by authorities as criticism of the regime as a threat to national security and therefore classed as treason. Several of the country’s leading human-rights activists have reacted with dismay over the new law.

-The legislation is in the Stalin and Hitler’s spirit, it may be the return to Russian justice from the 1920-1950s, states among others Audio Milla Alexejevna, leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

Tougher pressure against all forms of opposition or criticism can be taken as a sign of growing nervousness among the leaders in the Kremlin. The financial crisis has created a concern that the worsening economic situation also may mean people’s discontent against the Kremlin. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin recently banned its closest to use the word crisis, except when applied to describe the state of the U.S. economy.

The financial crisis also means that Putin himself is caught in an uncomfortable situation. As Prime Minister, it is he, and not the president, who has ultimate responsibility for the economic policy. He may therefore, for the first time since 2000, be losing in popularity.

Two leading Russian analyst, Lilia Sjevtsova and Julia Latynina, have recently warned that the crisis could pose that Putin will return to the presidency sooner than anyone had expected. They believe that new elections could come as early as the end of next year and that Putin in that case may be president for twelve new years.