Sorry not sorry: Putin at the Wall of Grief, Moscow, October 2017.
SPUTNIK PHOTO AGENCY / REUTERS

Every spring, buses covered in portraits of Joseph Stalin appear on the streets of Russian cities. His face replaces ads for cell phones, soft drinks, laundry detergent, and cat food. With each passing year, the dictator gets more handsome and more glamorous; a portrait of him in his gorgeous white generalissimo’s jacket has become especially popular. He casts his stern gaze on the citizens, as if to say, “Remember me? I’m here, I didn’t go anywhere—and don’t you forget it!” 

The ads aim to remind the country of the dictator’s role in the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. For those who would rehabilitate Stalin, that victory is their final argument, their last chance to drag the tyrant out of oblivion and put him back on his pedestal. They use it to make excuses for the dictator, to wash

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  • NIKITA PETROV is Deputy Director of the Board of Memorial’s Center for Research and Education in Moscow. This article was translated by Bela Shayevich.
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