Separating Church, State and History
The Russian Orthodox Church called on government authorities this month to condemn the Soviet communist regime. It’s odd that the church should think about this now. It’s been two decades since Mikhail Gorbachev initiated an avalanche of public disclosures about the horrors of the gulag and the masterminds of the bloody communist dictatorship — Lenin, Stalin, their accomplices and their followers.
That national journey into history was followed by the collapse of communism and then the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, evolved as a passionate anti-communist and banished the rule of fear and repression that had plagued the nation for seven decades. In the following years, the government and public organizations sought to restore the historical record.
But Russia’s next president, Vladimir Putin, distanced himself from his predecessor’s outlook. During his presidency, anti-communism was strongly played down. Some Communist symbols, including Stalin’s national anthem, were brought back, and references to Stalin’s crimes all but disappeared from official discourse. Government rhetoric promoting Russia as a strong state and warning of a hostile Western world seeking to harm the country boosted admiration for Stalin, which never quite died out during the post-communist years, and a general nostalgia for Soviet times.