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Stalin lives...in spirit

By Russell Grenning - posted Friday, 2 February 2018


Arguments that asserted that the movie blackened the name of those who fought against fascism after the Nazi invasion (1941-1945) were dismissed by this columnist who wrote, "The action takes place in 1953 and makes no mention of the war – it takes a great deal of imagination to link the two."

He continued, "The only people who could actually take offense at a comedy about Stalin are those who support him, meaning that the Culture Ministry banned the film out of a sense of personal insult. The authorities' hasty decision to ban the film confirms this hypothesis, as if laughing at Stalin were a dangerous virus that must be stopped at all costs."

Medinsky is a keen re-writer of Russian history and, for example, eagerly endorsed the government's anti-gay stances by flatly denying that Russia's most famous conductor Pyotr Chaikovsky was gay despite many authenticated archival documents, including Chaikovsky's own letters, that leave no doubt that he was. In modern Mother Russia no gay person – now or in the country's past – could ever be considered talented, inventive or intelligent as they are all – that is if they exist or ever existed in Russia – degenerate.

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Stalin himself would have warmly approved that view.

However Minister Medinsky's work for his doctoral theses have been met with scathing criticism by Russian historians who claim that he did not complete original research and that, at best, his work was high school level.

Dissernet, an informal group of journalists and academics, has identified in Medinsky's own published work extensive academic fraud and examples include a bogus bibliography (six books and three articles cited are not found in any library or collection), twenty pages of one dissertation "borrowed" verbatim from two other works, and just plain unapologetic plagiarism. One Russian historian has said that "only a very weird person" would be obsessed by searching for anything that had somehow hurt the Tsars centuries ago while another called him a "mirror of contemporary degradation."

Meanwhile, Medinsky's supporters and acolytes have been falling over themselves supporting the ban on the film describing it as "blasphemous" – which, incidentally, raises the bloody dictator Stalin to god-like status – and "vile, repugnant and insulting". "We don't have to be a country of masochists," one wrote.

The odd thing is that last November Minister Medinsky ruled out banning the film by solemnly declaring "We have freedom of speech here". He defended his u-turn somewhat disingenuously by saying that the ban was not actual censorship per se but was done to draw "moral boundaries" as it could not be right for such a film to be released on the anniversary of the 1943 victory at Stalingrad by the USSR army over the invading Germans. Obviously, last November he had not been given his riding instructions about this movie which was a bit embarrassing but he has lived through that little hiccup.

If anybody thought that this might possibly mean that it could be released some other less sensitive time they would be utterly delusional.

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President Putin, 65, faces re-election on 18 March and he is widely expected to win another six-year term but he is taking no chances. Every organ, every department and every government resource is committed to his victory and woe betide anybody who even whispers any discontent.

Stalin, wherever in hell he is, must be enjoying all of this.

He was rather more robust in making sure that everything he said or even thought was implemented immediately and without the slightest change.

"Ideas are far more important than guns. We don't let the people have guns. Why should we let them have ideas?" he once said. Minister Medinsky would most certainly agree.

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About the Author

Russell Grenning is a retired political adviser and journalist who began his career at the ABC in 1968 and subsequently worked for the then Brisbane afternoon daily, The Telegraph and later as a columnist for The Courier Mail and The Australian.

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