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The Daily Vertical: The Real Reason 'The Death Of Stalin' Touched A Nerve (Transcript)

I'm a little late to the party here, but I probably can't avoid commenting on the Russian Culture Ministry's recent decision to ban the film The Death Of Stalin.

Scottish director Armando Iannucci's highly acclaimed black comedy, of course, lampoons the power struggles, intrigue, and backstabbing that followed the Soviet dictator's demise in 1953.

The authorities in Moscow have called it an "insulting mockery" of the Soviet past and have threatened to shut down and fine cinemas that screen it.

And to be sure, part of the official reaction to the film can be explained by Russians' sensitivity about the darkest chapters of their history.

And part of it can be explained by the revival of the cult of Stalin in the popular imagination and the Kremlin's manipulation of this for political purposes.

But these things are insufficient, I think, to explain what is happening.

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As Vladimir Putin campaigns for what many in Moscow believe will be his last term as president, and as the Russian elite becomes increasingly obsessed with life after Putin, the film appears to be touching a nerve about the Russian present and the future as much as about the Soviet past.

A necessary caveat here: No, Putin is not Stalin. I get that.

But not since Stalin has the Russian political system been so centralized and centered on one individual as it is now.

Not since Stalin has Russia's stability appeared to be dependent on one man.

And a lot of powerful people are getting increasingly nervous about what happens when that one man is removed from the equation.

So I would argue that The Death Of Stalin has touched a nerve not just because it is seen as a mockery of the Soviet past, but also because it appears to be a potential harbinger of Russia's future.

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