Friday, March 08, 2013

Extreme bafflement

Stalinist propaganda 
To most of the democratically governed world, former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) was a despot and mass murderer. To others, he is a beloved figure. The city of his birth, Gori in Georgia, is home to the Stalin Museum and birthplace. Adjoining buildings house artifacts from his life, and for all intents and purposes, are virtual shrines that serve the cult of personality that surrounds him to this day.

Now that the Soviet Union has collapsed, it is one of the unfathomable mysteries of history that a such an evil man could be so loved and admired. After he assumed and consolidated his power, it is believed that with the purges of his enemies, forced famines of the Soviet populace, state terrorism, incarcerations in labour camps, and forced migrations, Stalin was responsible for the death of as many as 40 million people within the borders of the Soviet Union.

So cold and evil was he, and completely unmoved by this massive death toll, that he is believed to have said that, "One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistic." 

By the time of his death in 1953, he was a sick and paranoid man, believing that his cronies were plotting to kill him.

He suffered a stroke on March 1, 1953, and died 4 days later. 

In his seminal 1992 work, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, British historian Alan Bullock (1914-2004) narrates Stalin's slow, agonising death as follows, as recounted by his daughter, Svetlana:

"The death agony was terrible. God grants an easy death only to the just. He literally choked to death as we watched. At what seemed the very last moment he suddenly opened his eyes and cast a glance over everyone in the room. It was a terrible glance, insane or perhaps angry and full of fear of death...Then something incomprehensible and terrible happened that to this day I can't forget...He suddenly lifted his left hand as though he were pointing to something up above and bringing down a curse on us all. The gesture was incomprehensible and full of menace..The next moment, after a final effort, the spirit wrenched itself free of the flesh."

It must have been terrible to die with the blood of millions of innocent people on one's hands, and as a former Orthodox seminarian who died having made an enemy of God. There is nothing here to indicate that Stalin felt any remorse over his crimes. It gets you thinking; it's certainly not the way I would want to die. God doesn't want anyone to die estranged from Him (2 Peter 3:9). Only God knows what is in a person's heart, and I'm not so presumptuous and arrogant as to judge who is and isn't worthy of salvation, because only God can judge. If Stalin had repented of his sins and sought God's forgiveness late in life, accepting the gift of salvation, he would have received it. Some people are so hardened against God that they are beyond help, and Stalin was one of them. 

1 comment:

Dina said...

It is strange that people have a fondness for Stalin. Is it because they themselves are evil and agree with the evil he did? Or do they block out/ignore the bad thing he did and cling to some idealized version of him.