As Russians pay tribute to the victims of Stalin’s purges at memorial services across the country, President Dmitry Medvedev has launched a scathing attack on anyone seeking to rehabilitate the war-time dictator.
Relatives of people who met their deaths at the hands of Stalin’s secret police say they cannot forgive. One former political prisoner, Anatoly Sidorchenko, who was attending a memorial service in Lubianka said: “Stalin should never be rehabilitated. If we do rehabilitate him, it would be our biggest national shame. If we do it, we will betray the millions of people who went to the cemeteries before their time had come.” Under President Medvedev’s predecessor, current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Stalin was often promoted as an efficient leader who turned the Soviet Union into a superpower. But, speaking in a video blog posted on the Kremlin’s website, Medvedev made it clear those days are over. He said: “We hear now that the deaths of some victims could be justified by some higher state reasons. But I am sure that neither the development of the country nor its success and ambitions could be achieved by paying the price with human suffering and loss. We can’t value anything more than human life and we can’t excuse the repressions.” Stalin is still the subject of heated debate in Russia nearly two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union. For some, Stalin was a cruel tyrant who sent millions to their unwarranted deaths. But polls show many believe him to have been a brilliant wartime leader, the defender of the Motherland.