APRIL 26 - 29, 2019
A Georgian on Russians’ Minds: A Story of Stalin’s Popularity BY EMIL AVDALIANI
ccording to results released by independent pollster Levada Center on April 16, approximately 70% of the Russians consider the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to have played a completely positive or relatively positive role in Russian history. This is a considerably higher number in Stalinadmirers when compared with the 54% figure recorded in 2016. Historians and Kremlin critics say that under Putin, who has been in a leading role (as President or Prime Minister) since 1999, the Russian authorities have sought to play down Stalin's crimes. While he has criticized Stalin at times, Putin praised the dictator at least once in the past as an "effective manager" and said in June 2017 that the "excessive demonization" of Stalin is "a way of attacking the Soviet Union and Russia." The recent findings were met with irony and concern both in Russia and globally. Many still wonder how a man with the dossier of millions killed under his rule can be acclaimed as a true leader by the majority of Russians. This says a lot about Russian thinking nowadays. Communism was rejected even in the late 1980s, as modern Russians are way better-off materially than in Soviet times. And yet, the Soviet leader
Image source: thetimes.co.uk
is gaining more and more popularity. Many in the West attribute this rise to the fact that economic life in Russia now getting harder: foreign policy has been unsuccessful, resulting in a number of Russia’s neighboring countries falling away (at least partially) from Russian geopolitical influence. Moreover, there are signs that discussions have begun to circulate within the
Russian intellectual elite that the country’s foreign policy and, generally, its course of economic and political development should be reconsidered. In that sense, many believe that Stalin’s popularity is solely based on the fact that Russians are disenchanted with the modern ruling elite. This might be true to a certain extent, but we should also consider another
development in Russia: the centralization of power around a certain group of people headed by the incumbent President Vladimir Putin. It is a general rule in history that a leader, in order to prove himself, relies on historical factors. The Russia political elite, through its new laws on internet restriction, limitation of government criticism, etc., uses examples from Rus-
sian history when all of this was the order of the day. In other words, Stalin’s rule is a good instrument to show to the Russian public that what is happening in the country now already has a historical precedent. In fact, western approaches to Stalin’s popularity miss out on one crucial element: within the context of Russian history, Stalin has arguably been the most successful ruler. It had been a centuryold issue for Russian rulers to exercise strict control over a large space, and lack of economic resources and effective bureaucracy always hindered the development of Russia. Stalin confronted Russia’s inhospitable geography and managed to build a state apparatus which was pretty much capable of controlling the entire geographic expanse. He also set out to resolve what had been a nightmare to his predecessors, the Romanovs: Russia’s industrialization, putting it on the same level as its military and economic capacity and the same level as in western states. Indeed, under his rule in 1929-1953, the Soviet Union was transformed into a superpower. Economic troubles existed, but he nevertheless managed to impose almost total control over the union. As such, what we witness in modern Russia is quite logical: the underlining of the greatness of Stalin based on Putin’s quest to uphold his current centralization policies, as well as Stalin’s major achievements within the context of Russian history.
CoE Approves 19th Consolidated Report ‘Conflict in Georgia’ BY MARIAM MERABISHVILI
he Secretary General’s 19th Consolidated Report on the Conflict in Georgia was discussed during the 1344th meeting of the Committee of Ministers Deputies of the Council of Europe (CoE) on April 24. The report covers the period from October 2018 to March 2019 and concerns the difficult situation in terms of human rights on the occupied territories of Georgia during the reporting period. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia Lasha Darsalia delivered a speech at the session, paying special attention to the occupied territories, installation of barbed wire fences and other illegal processes of raising artifi-
cial barriers along the occupational line. He noted that such actions affect the daily lives of the local population and deprive them of fundamental rights such as freedom of movement, property, rights to education in the native language and more. Darsalia informed the Committee about the death of Georgian citizen Irakli Kvaratskhelia on the Russian military base in the occupied Abkhazia region in uncertain circumstances, noting this “indicates once again that it is necessary to consolidate efforts to end the violations of human rights in the occupied territories and put an end to impunity.” He also spoke about the support received for the "Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili List" and the necessity of imposing sanctions on the persons included there in order to prevent further gross violations of human rights and ethnic vio-
Image source: Ministry of foreign affairs of Georgia
lence in Georgia's occupied regions. He also called upon the Russian Federation to comply with the fundamental principles and norms of international law and the 12 August ceasefire agreement. The Deputy Minister focused on the pressure put on victims of the occupation regime in Akhalgori district; on activist Tamar Mearakishvili living there and the discrimination on ethnic grounds, which clearly demonstrates the difficult situation of human rights in the occupied territories. Taking into consideration the situation on the territories, he underlined the need for immediate responses from the international community and the need to introduce international observation mechanisms on site. Darsalia informed the Committee of Deputies Ministers of the so-called “law” made by the Sokhumi occupation regime that envisages the death penalty for large quantities of drug export, import and / or transit. Attention was also put on the steps taken by the Georgian authorities towards peaceful resolution of the conflict. The importance of the Geneva International
Discussions was underlined in this process. The Deputy Minister also spoke extensively about the Georgian government’s steps towards a confidence-building engagement policy. During the review of the Conflict in Georgia Report, statements in support of Georgia were made on behalf of the EU and GUAM. The European Union expressed regret over the failure to comply with the decisions within the agenda of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers' Deputies "Council of Europe and Conflict in Georgia," including the decision of 2 May 2018. The EU expressed concern about the illegal presence of Russian military units in the occupied regions and enlarged military exercises and the restriction of free movement. The closing of socalled crossing points for unprecedented periods was especially marked as having caused the local population particularly serious humanitarian difficulties. The EU statement also expressed concern over the fact that in the frames of the Geneva International Discussions, Russia and the participants from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali are not participating in
the discussion of IDP issues. The European Union supports the cochairs' appeal for the Geneva International Talks to resume the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings immediately and unconditionally. The EU also expressed its concern over the impunity facts following rough violations of human rights in the occupied territories and called upon Georgia to investigate the tragic deaths of Georgian citizens properly and to enforce justice. The EU also calls upon the Russian Federation to unconditionally and fully fulfill all the provisions of the August 12, 2008 Ceasefire Agreement and ensure unrestricted access for the EU Monitoring Mission to Georgia's occupied territories. A statement was also made on behalf of GUAM expressing concern about the situation in Georgia's occupied territories in terms of the human rights situation. The Permanent Representatives of the Council of Europe member states also spoke at the hearing, supporting the continued practice of consolidated reports in future.
April 26 - 29, 2019