John Belushi died today in 1982. Joseph Stalin died today in 1953. Both of these people left a great impact on society and the world, and their contributions are significant, but I wouldn’t recommend emulating either of them. However, what often comes with anniversaries is nostalgia, which particularly seems to be the case with Comrade Stalin, and nostalgia for something can be easily separated from its original meaning.
When reading about the ceremony that the Russian Communist Party held today at the Kremlin wall the article said that there were about 300 people, mostly pensioners, that paid their respects. Based on recent polling that revealed that more than a third of Russians view Stalin positively, this seemed small, but much of this support is probably not from members of the Communist Party. The KPRF only received 17% of the vote in the last presidential election (I am taking that number at face value, if only for this exercise), meaning that many of Stalin’s admirers are coming from somewhere else. This seems to be a case of nostalgia being used for selective reasons.
In Stalin’s case, Russia seems to have taken a nationalistic approach to using his nostalgia, at a time when Russia is becoming more extremely nationalistic in general. The residents of Volgograd recently voted to refer to their city as Stalingrad on patriotic military holidays celebrating WWII, in order to remember the great sacrifice that Russia overcame to win the war. The Great Patriotic War, as it is referred to by Russians, is designated as such because of the enormous casualties (Russsia lost more than 10% of it population due to military and civilian deaths). For this reason Stalin, despite the fact that he was personally responsible for the deaths several million people, can be remembered for his military leadership instead. It is probably not a good sign that the current regime is supporting this refocus of history.