Putin has never lost his Commie-stalgia. In 2005, he used his “state of the nation” address to tell Russians that “the demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. . . . As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy.”
If that weren’t enough proof, the Sochi Olympic Games opened last Friday with a lavish choreographed tour of Russian history. The 20th century was depicted as a time of rapid industrialization, symbolized by a hammer and a sickle floating above the performers. There wasn’t even a hint of the horrors of Stalinism or the deaths it caused.
Many Russian émigrés were disgusted, and they were appalled that there was so little censure of the use of the provocative symbols. “We don’t need to imagine the reaction if an Olympic ceremony in Germany featured a swastika,” Cathy Young, a columnist for Newsday who emigrated from Russia in the 1980s, told me.
To make matters worse, NBC whitewashed Russia’s Communist past in its video tribute to the host country that preceded the opening ceremonies. Actor Peter Dinklage began by intoning that “Russia overwhelms. Russia mystifies. Russia transcends.” He lapsed into phrases that truly have a double meaning, given the 70 years of Communist conquest in the 20th century, such as references to Russia’s resisting “any notion of limitation” and “redoubling its desire to cast a towering presence.”
But then NBC’s video really went over the top: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments.”
Hmmm . . . my dictionary says “pivotal” means vitally important. That could be said in a tragic way of Communism’s blood-soaked record, but is that the best way to refer to it? Garry Kasparov, the Russian former world chess champion, accused NBC of pushing Putin propaganda, and Florida senator Marco Rubio noted that when Soviet Communism collapsed even some of its ideologists finally agreed with Ronald Reagan that it had been “an evil empire.”