Thursday, August 25, 2016


Putin’s Selective Reading Of Soviet History

Vladimir Putin seems to have played fast and loose with the facts when it comes to a supposed difference of opinion between the communist leaders Vladimir Lenin (left) and Josef Stalin (right).
Vladimir Putin seems to have played fast and loose with the facts when it comes to a supposed difference of opinion between the communist leaders Vladimir Lenin (left) and Josef Stalin (right).
By Merhat Sharipzhan

Russian President Vladimir Putin often accuses the West of distorting history. But in his latest comments about Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin and his successor, Josef Stalin, Putin’s penchant for reshaping the past to suit his goals was on stark display.
Speaking to pro-Kremlin activists in the southern city of Stavropol on January 25, Putin -- for the second time in a week -- accused Lenin of setting a time bomb that blew the Soviet Union apart in 1991. He also seemed to conflate Russia with the entire U.S.S.R., saying:“They placed an atom bomb under the building called Russia, and it later exploded.”
The bomb, Putin said, was Lenin's concept of the Soviet Union as a federative state, with each of its republics having the right to secede. He said Lenin was on the wrong side of a dispute with Stalin, who he said opposed giving the largely ethnic-based republics that right.
According to Putin, Lenin’s concept was one of the major causes of the Soviet collapse.
Putin’s remarks were striking because the former Soviet KGB officer has been known to be very cautious when talking about Lenin, whose embalmed corpse still lies in a mausoleum on Red Square 92 years after his death -- and who is still revered by millions across Russia.
Putin’s attempt to portray Stalin as a wiser leader -- one who opposed the republics’ right to part with the U.S.S.R. -- is badly undermined by a look at the dictator’s record on the issue.
Here’s why:
The first Soviet Constitution, adopted by the Second Congress of Soviets on January 31, 1924 -- 10 days after Lenin’s death -- enshrined as law the 1922 Treaty on Creation of the Soviet Union.
Signed by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Trans-Caucasus Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the treaty granted each of those entities the right to leave the union. At the time, Stalin was one of several men jostling for power in the wake of the Bolshevik leader’s death.
In 1936, when Stalin’s autocratic power was at its peak and his Great Terror purge campaign in full swing, the Soviet Union adopted a new constitution that changed the legal status for Central Asian ethnic autonomous republics within the Russian Federation, which are currently Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and turned the Trans-Caucasus Federation into three separate republics, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.
The number of the republics with so-called union status within the U.S.S.R. was increased from four to 11 by Stalin. In other words, at a time when Stalin could potentially have used his power to strip Soviet republics of the right to secede, he instead extended that right to a total of 11 republics rather than four.
If Stalin indeed opposed the right of ethnic republics to secede from the Soviet Union, he had more than enough clout to change the constitution in the opposite direction, turning the U.S.S.R. into a unitary state. But that never happened.
In 1940, the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were forced to join the Soviet Union along with Moldova, bringing the number of republics to 15 -- though many Western countries never recognized the Baltics as part of the Soviet Union.
Stalin died in 1953 and the right the republics to leave the Soviet Union was reiterated in the Soviet Constitution adopted under Leonid Brezhnev in 1977.
In 1991, they all left the Soviet Union -- a right granted them, in part, by Stalin.

Ethnic republics that had only autonomous status remained within the larger union republics -- Chechnya, Daghestan, Tatarstan, and Buryatia within Russia, for example, and Karakalpakstan within Uzbekistan.
Exactly why Putin criticized Lenin in public and once more praised Stalin may be known only to Putin.
Was it another attempt to justify Russia’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014, and its backing for separatists in eastern Ukraine? Was it another attempt to glorify Stalin among ordinary Russians?
Although Putin said in Stavropol that the issue of Lenin’s burial is not on the agenda, his bold statements regarding what he suggested were Lenin’s “mistakes” -- including the destruction of Russia as a state and the killing of Tsar Nicholas II and his family -- sounded like an attempt to revise Lenin’s role in Russian history in general.
The answers could come soon, with the centennial of the Great October Revolution of 1917 approaching next year.
Will Russia bury Lenin by then? 

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Mr Stuie from: UK
January 26, 2016 18:44
Putin thinks that territories home to a particular ethnic group should not be allowed to secede from a nation. Well, in so much as that nation is called Russia. Any other country should apparently be obliged to jettison without hesitation any and all territory on which ethnic/linguistic/cultural Russians reside.
Putin thinks that a government must, for the sake of it's own survival, be strictly unitary and lack any real devolution and territorial self-government whatsoever. Well, in so much as that nation is called Russia. Other countries must "federalize" to the point of fracturing into 26 micro-states each one of which can pursue it's own war plans and foreign policies.

And to claim that the Soviet "republics" lacked the right to secede, this is yet another obvious hint from the heads of the Russian government that the independence of the Baltic states is false, illegal, and is in all likelihood being subject to review.

by: Carlos Matos from: Berlin, Germany
January 26, 2016 22:36
It´s interesting to see, that even nowadays Lenin is constantly in the headlines all over the world. In Germany, where I live, an artistic project has gathered all the incredible stories of the last statues of Lenin still standing 25 years after the reunification: There are some amazing stories! Check it at

by: Mekhlis from: Ohio
January 26, 2016 23:28
The three Baltic States became republics of the USSR in 1940, not 1939. In 1939, Moscow demanded and received military bases in all three states, but they did not invade until the next year. At that time, governments installed by the Soviets "requested" admission to the Union, and they became republics of the USSR.
In Response

by: Moderator
January 28, 2016 19:34
Thank you for bringing this error to our attention. It has since been corrected. -- English Web Team

by: Petr
January 27, 2016 12:05
Well, am not sure about this analysis (am not defending VVP, though). In the 1920s the Soviet government indeed tried to create something of a genuine federation, even supported local languages and culture (of course, the right to secede was always highly questionable) but this changed dramatically in 1930s. The wording of the 1936 constitution was meaningless.

by: Jack from: US
January 27, 2016 20:23
it is remarkable that Stalin's constitution is more democratic than US constitution, because it allowed constituencies to secede from the union. US ruling mafia stripped US states from that right as a result of Civil War which pres. Lincoln instigated, to grab more power for the central government (i.e. "central" mafia syndicate, which calls itself a government). The current official mythology, of course, is that Lincoln wanted to free the slaves..

by: Anonymous from: Daniel
January 27, 2016 20:45
"In 1940, the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were forced to join the Soviet Union along with Moldova, bringing the number of republics to 15..." - 16, actually: in 1940 (connected with the Soviet war against Finland), the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (KASSR) was united with the annexed finnish territories and transformed into the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic. It existed until 1956 - the number of union republics reaching the number of 16 in those years. In 1956, it became again KASSR and was re-integrated into the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.

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