From 1936-1938, Joseph Stalin systematically elimated all possible sources of opposition to his rule in what is now known as the "Great Purge." Thousands of top Communist Party members were tried and executed, along with their familes. The leadership of the Soviet Army was obliterated. Generally speaking, the episode wasn't one of Marxism-Leninism's finest moments.
But don't anybody try to make Russia feel guilty for its history, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday to a group of social studies teachers. Noting that this year marks the 70th anniversary of the worst excesses of the Great Purge, Putin conceded, sure, it was "terrible." But not as bad as what some of those other countries did! So stop trying to make us feel bad!
"No one must be allowed to impose the feeling of guilt on us," he said....
Putin suggested the United States' use of atomic weapons against Japan at the end of World War II was worse than the abuses of Stalin.
"We have not used nuclear weapons against a civilian population," he said. "We have not sprayed thousands of kilometers with chemicals, (or) dropped on a small country seven times more bombs than in all the Great Patriotic (war)," as WWII is known in Russia.
Wait a minute!? What's he talking about? Vietnam? Just who is trying to make who feel guilty here? And why all this fixation on musty old stuff? If you want to know what the West would like Russia to feel guilty about right now you don't have to look any further than today's business news headlines, where it is being reported that heavy Russian pressure has forced the oil company BP to sell its stake in a Siberian natural gas development project to Russia's huge state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, for a tidy $600 million.
Talk about your purges! One of the hallmarks of Putin's rule has been the reestablishment of state control over Russia's energy resources. Boris Yeltsin's corrupt regime gave away the candy store. Putin wants it back, and by all accounts he's been quite successful, much to the dismay of Western oil company executives, who were under the mistaken impression that the end of Communist rule in Russia would give them a free hand to play around with the country's vast reserves of oil and gas.
The Wall Street Journal calls BP's decision to sell "the latest example of the Kremlin squeezing foreign investors out of energy assets." Which, to be honest, doesn't sound quite as bad as the crunch of an ice-axe in Leon Trotsky's head. But who cares about ideology in 2007? It's all about the oil, now.