In thinking about the recent poll Russian youth: Stalin good, migrants must go, one is reminded of the following concerning another brutal Russian tyrant, Ivan the Terrible:
By the 1580’s Russian society had assumed the essential shape it was to retain until 1861; despite war and revolution vestiges of it have survived until today.
During and since Ivan’s lifetime Russian and foreign writers have argued bitterly about the Terrible Tsar…To what extent was the disturbed personality of Ivan IV itself responsible for the events of his reign, and therefore for the transformation of Russian society?…
Also by 1582, Ivan killed his son and hair and his pregnant daughter-in-law, leaving only the mentally and physically handicapped Theodore Ioannovich to succeed him when he died two years later. Were these apocalyptic events the results of a ‘class struggle’ as so many from Giles Fletcher onwards have suggested? Or could it be that a powerful but deranged individual was able to impose himself on a country in which the social classes had not yet developed to the point at which effective resistance could be organised? (Lionel Kochan and Richard Abraham, The Making of Modern Russia. London: Penguin Books, 1983, pp. 42, 44)
Ivan the Terrible’s legacy has long survived him, even with today’s Russian youth.
Like Ivan the Terrible, Stalin imposed himself on a country where the classes were in a definite state of flux, and did so with brutality against which even Ivan’s paled. Although Americans are shocked that Russian youth look up to Stalin, the truth is that democracy as understood in the English speaking world is not a taste that the Russians have acquired with their centuries of autocracy. To expect a change in idea overnight–especially after the chaos and rampant corruption of the "wide open" Yeltsin years–is to expect too much too fast, just as the Bush Administration’s expectations of democracy in the Middle East are equally unrealistic.