Personality cults and Communism have historically often gone hand in hand–from Stalin to Mao.
Oddly, today the only remaining political legacy of Stalinism is not in Russia, but within North Korea under the regime of the “Great Leader” Kim Jong Il.
And now an interesting historical exhibit has opened at Moscow’s Museum of Russian Contemporary History, titled, “Stalin: Man and Symbol.”
This retrospective explores the strange phenomenon of Stalinism through its residue of artifacts and memorabilia, which fills two rooms, reports the London Telegraph.
Stalin died in 1953 after a reign of terror that lasted thirty years and in many ways paralleled the modern history of North Korea.
Millions of Russians died through Stalinist purges, forced labor, gulags and mass starvation. But all this took place while the evil despot was seen as a benign father figure of almost supernatural stature, as the artifacts now on exhibit attest to.
Sound like the “Great Leader“?
But today Russians overwhelmingly recognize the horrors of that era, though a small minority still long for the certainty that accompanied Stalin’s rule.
There were no loose ends or ambiguity in Stalin’s Russia. He was the “great leader” and seemed to have all the answers.
Looking back it was Stalin’s total control of Soviet society, which enabled the dictator to essentially “brainwash” his people.
Russians were kept ignorant and unable to obtain and asses the information necessary to think outside of the box Stalin constructed, then known as the Soviet Empire.
Today some in Russia fear that admiration for President Vladimir Putin might evolve into another “personality cult.” However, it is doubtful that he has the will or the infrastructure to implement such a reactionary change.
Plainly put, Putin probably couldn’t close the box again, even if he wanted to. Russia is now a far more open society.
Old pensioner’s fond memories of Stalin seems like a longing for childhood, when daddy told them stories, controlled their lives and provided for the necessities.
It is very difficult for a totalitarian state to make the transition, from a society built upon learned dependence and absolute authority, to one based instead on independence and the value of individual freedom. In a free society people are expected to think for themselves.
North Korea’s Stalin was ironically born in Russia and died in 1994. But unlike his Russian prototype he left behind a family dynasty. Now Korea’s second Stalin rules over a closed, controlled and isolated domain with another son and heir apparent in waiting.
The question is, how many “Great Leaders” can North Korea endure?
Hopefully, one-day North Korea like Russia, will have an exhibit rather than a ruler to reflect upon the meaning of its own personality cult.
The museum curator of the Stalin artifacts said, “The exhibition is supposed to show how far propaganda can carry people in the praise of one person.”