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Person cult and left-wing radicalism

The Wall
Regissør: Dmitry Bogolubov

21. December every year an endless number of Russians put down red carnations to pay tribute to their hero Josef Stalin. But who puts down carnations for the millions he made sure to kill?


Dictator Josef Stalin ruled the Soviet Union with iron hand 1924 – 1953, and millions of Russians died as a result of his policies. Nevertheless, around 20 percent of Russia's population now welcome its governance.

One would think these mostly old guys who still live on the memories of their youth's heyday, but that's according to the documentary The Wall there are also a good number of young people who want the return of Stalinism.

Religious worship. In Moscow you will find the Kremlin with the honor cemetery where, among others, Jury Gagarin, Clara Zetkin, Leonid Breshnev and Josef Stalin are buried. This is a little out of the ordinary documentary – it was filmed in front of the bust of Stalin 21. December 2016 and shows us how the head of state is still worshiped closer to 70 years after his death.

The documentary is 40 minutes long. Most of the time you see the march in front of the Stalin bust – the people who pass it, and put carnations and other things in front of it to honor the tyrant. They thank Stalin for still thinking of them and taking care of them. They swear allegiance and promise that all Stalin followers will once again stand together. They rejoice that the Soviet leader is still "with them."

It's almost a little scary to see people cross in front of the bust of a long-dead dictator, as if he were a religious symbol. Stalin was definitely not a savior, but the care, without having to deal with it, caused millions of people to die. In addition, Stalin has long since been "expelled" from the place of honor in the mausoleum at Red Square, and his personal worship was condemned already at the Soviet Communist Party Congress in 1956.

Who are they? What is most eye-catching along the way in the film are all the red scarves that stand in stark contrast to the mostly brown and gray clothes most people wear. In one situation, it starts to hail with slander – Stalin's followers are told to burn in hell, to which a young man replies that those who do not respect Stalin must die. Here it is clear where this conflict can carry as Russia seems to be increasingly divided politically.

The documentary is something a little out of the ordinary – it was filmed in front of Stalin's bust on December 21, 2016.

Who exactly are these people? What stratum of society do they belong to? Do they want Stalinism back so they can fight to keep what they have, or is it to fight for what they need? How do they justify the consequences of Stalin's policies to themselves?

It is shocking that they want to go to the extreme red – the red-black – to get the change they want in their country. There are then many milder branches of communism, and communist leaders who have not committed mass murder during their reign? At the same time, it is probably this form of communism that these people know and from which they have seen the results – and therefore they clearly choose to close their eyes to the atrocities that followed in the wake of Stalinism.

Perhaps this is the best way to criticize the government in Russia, without risking too much.

Realism. This is not a balanced documentary. It does not address more aspects of Russia's policy. It shows a single grouping and their homage to a dead dictator. Few tools other than image composition and colors are in use. You will witness 40 minutes of Russian reality.

Director Dmitry Bogolubov is known for showing a Russia without hope for the future, and in many ways this documentary is the best way he can criticize the government in Russia without risking too much. Because there is strict censorship in the country, and everyone who is critical of the country's current authorities risks being persecuted, subjected to acts of violence, arrested and, in the worst case, killed.

Left radical advance. It is not only in Russia that the far left is on the rise. We saw the same thing during the parliamentary elections here in Norway in September. However, there are some important differences between the far left in Russia and here at home. In Russia, Stalinism – which can be characterized as "left-wing totalitarian" – applies with a focus on one person, a "father" who takes care of the people and makes the right decisions for them. Here in Norway, "left-wing radicals" focus on politics – glorifying cult of personality is completely absent.

It is predicted that four new years of blue government here in Norway will lead to increased differences. A natural reaction is that the people are trying to level the playing field by, among other things, voting for SV and Rødt in the Storting. A left-wing radical reaction is equally logical in Russia, which has (according to its goals) a center-right government and enormous social disparities, and where large sections of the population live near or below the poverty line.

Most communist parties today completely distance themselves from Stalinism. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation, on the other hand, which holds the tribute to Stalin every year, wants his regime back and cultivates a dictator who was responsible for the murder of millions of his own citizens.

In Norway, we fortunately have a completely different value base, which also characterizes our red parties. Although class differences also exist here, violence is not considered a possible way to improve the living conditions of the underprivileged. The struggle is waged by completely different means and through democratic processes. There are probably very few in Norway – regardless of political affiliation – who want a totalitarian regime where large parts of the population are oppressed, where unwanted peoples are exterminated and millions of people are killed.

The film will be shown on DocLisboa in October.

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