Nicholas II v Stalin?

As we approach the centennial anniversary of the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, it was interesting –a little while back- to notice that Nicholas II was leading in an internet poll, in which millions voted, for the title Greatest Russian of All Time, narrowly ahead of Stalin! What does that tell us about the conflicting mentalities of Russians today?
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the restoration of the monarchy has become a conceivable solution to the troubled question of constitutional authority in Russia. The thousands who sported Imperial insignia in recent parades testify to an enduring loyalty to a monarchic ideal. The Putin settlement may not be for ever. A restoration is not helped, however, by elements of the extended Romanov family and their supporters who contest the Grand Duchess Maria’s claim and, by extension, that of her son the Grand Duke George. The discussion at could have considerable geopolitical relevance in the future. The restoration of the tsardom would be a possible outcome for a still troubled Russia which is in a state of constitutional limbo.
Fair enough? But I’d have thought it almost verifiable fact that the Romanovs were the most misguided and bigoted ruling house in modern history. As was said (I think by Stalin) the Bolsheviks should have erected a statue to Nicholas II to acknowledge his role in bringing about the revolution!

But “Greatest Russian of all time”? A choice between Nicholas or Stalin? Why not between Rasputin and Gorbachev?

Alexander Lyubimov, the TV producer of the contest, said at the time of the show: “There will be very negative opinions presented when we are discussing Lenin and Stalin. In my opinion these guys don’t have a chance to win because they do not relate to the lives of modern Russians.”
The Communist Party of St Petersburg determined to prove him wrong, believing that victory might revive the cult of Stalin and help to elevate the atheist dictator to sainthood! (I’m sure he’d have appreciated the irony).
“If he wins, we will ask the Russian Orthodox Church to consider canonising Stalin. Lenin was a Communist for the Church, but Stalin was a real national leader. For us, he is like Napoleon is to the French,” Mr Malinkovich said. “People remember that Stalin didn’t live for himself but for the country and the people. We see this vote as the first sign that there will be memorials to Stalin in Russia again. Of course there were gulags, but they did not have the widespread character that people in the West think. If they existed now, two thirds of bureaucrats would be in jail because they are so corrupt.”
But, apparently there are at least as many Monarchists, determined that Russia’s most significant historical figure should be Nicholas II. It’s really a choice between Russia’s imperial history and its Soviet past, isn’t it?.
Now come one, surely the Orthodox Church was never likely to heed calls to canonise Stalin, who ordered the destruction of thousands of churches after the Bolshevik revolution. Let alone a representative of a regime that in the murder of the Tsar’s family marked the start of atrocities that affected the country for decades. You think?
Well, it was all a storm in a teacup. Amidst loud calls of vote-rigging (understandable, given the openly stated prejudice of the show’s producer), Stalin was edged into third place, Nicholas disappeared and some relatively obscure figure takes top billing.
That’s Russian politics in a nutshell.

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12 Responses to Nicholas II v Stalin?

  1. In some respects, logical analysis of Stalin’s achievements is impossible, given the emotive issues surrounding his morally repugnant policies that massacred directly/indirectly around 35,000 Russians.
    Perhaps some Russians are voting Stalin as the Greatest Russian in History because they see how far Russia came under his rule.

    In terms of collectivisation, peasants had to leave the land due to unbearable land pressure and this also provided a workforce for his Five Year Plans. Collectivisation was intended to demonstrate Stalin’s dominance over the peasants and rid the USSR of the Kulak class. Above all, it was a means of financing his Five Year Plans, which in turn allowed Russia to defeat Hitler. Really, it’s a question of whether the end justified the means.

    When Stalin came to power he said that Russia had only 10 years to catch up with advanced nations or they would be crushed. Perhaps a shrewd forecast, given that it was Stalin’s modernisation of the Russian economy that ultimately allowed Russia to defeat the Nazi invasion.

    Yes he was an evil dictator, but he indirectly saved Russia from the Nazis. A controversial perspective…What do you think?

    • kenbaker says:

      Hi HHH,
      Nice to hear from you.
      I’d be interested to know where the figure 35000 came from. According to some recent writers (like Montefiore) you may have missed a few zeros here.
      And did Stalin really save USSR from Hitler? I thought Hitler was defeated by climate (too cold), supply line (too stretched) and geography (too darn big). Let alone the lessons from history… surely Stalin had heard of Napoleon since he modelled so many policies on his? What think ye?

  2. Apologies, that was a typing error- 35,000,000 according to recent sources.
    Yes, to some extent Stalin did save the USSR from Hitler. Without Stalin’s Five Year Plan’s, it is unlikely that Russia’s industries, in particular armaments, would have developed quickly enough to defeat Hitler. Of course these other factors did make it easier for Stalin to defeat Hitler- as you say: climate, supplies and geographical factors to name a few. Above all, it was the Five Year Plans that allowed Stalin to even attempt to defeat Hitler.

  3. kenbaker says:

    Well, ok: I’m going to go with your “to some extent” here. But If Stalin was responsible for 35m deaths then you wonder what exactly he saved USSR from! Would Hitler have been worse, necessarily?

  4. I see where you’re coming from about Hitler being not necessarily worse. However, this article is discussing Russians voting Stalin as the greatest Russian ever. Through the eyes of the Russian people, it is necessary to see that Hitler would have been far worse. Hitler’s invasion would have meant Russia being controlled by a foreign power. Yes, with our benefit of hinsight we can question who would have been the lesser evil. At the time though, (as a result of propaganda,the cult of personality, programmes akin to the Hitler Youth etc…) Stalin was revered perhaps to the extent of a god-like figure. Through the eyes of the Russians, Stalin “saved” them from Hitler, maybe why he is a contender for the greatest ever Russian. Yes, “saved” may not exactly be an appropriate term given Stalin’s atrocities, but at least Russia wasn’t under Nazi rule.

    • kenbaker says:

      Hello HHH,
      Your comments are all true enough. It is certainly alarming (to me at least) to read of so many people committing suicide when Stalin died, and so your phrase “god-like figure” is absolutely accurate. In the event of the poll, however, Stalin only came third after Nevsky and Stolypin, so we add a medieval prince and a Czarist reformer into the mix! Check the post “Reinventing Stalin” above too. I’d appreciate your thoughts.

      Yours Sincerely,

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  7. asdfghjk says:

    This is ridiculous. In any retrospect, considering Stalin the greatest Russian of all makes me sick to my stomach. If anything, i would consider him one of the worst people in HISTORY. This man was responsible for one of the largest death rates throughout history. Also, he implemented a backwards communist regime where instead creating a population equal, it creates a totalitarian reigning society further separating the money from the majority of the people.
    Nicholas II, are you joking, have you ever heard of the Crimean War. Meaningless defeat, with no real contributions.
    Although personally not very fond of any Russian leaders, i would most likely vote for Gorbachev, just for finally getting rid of the most restricting false-utopian regime in history.

    • kenbaker says:

      Hi Deathbythecreek,

      Thanks for your input here. Re Stalin, I can only agree with your words “ridiculous” and “sick to the stomach.” It is a verifiable fact however, that Stalin is still very popular in modern Russian society (just as Hitler gets his followers in modern Germany, I guess).
      But I’m interested that you seem to blame Nicholas II for the Crimean War. Though I do use the words “misguided and bigoted” for Romanov rule generally, that war occurred a decade before his birth, of course.

      Gorbachev, I believe, is generally despised in modern Russia, though I think you express the view of most anti-totalitarian thought.

      Cheers now.

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