Italy and Russia look again at Mussolini and Stalin for go-ahead identity
DO countries get the dictators they deserve? In the Times, Ben Mintyre looks at Italy and Russia’s resurgent love for old dictators:
Two of Mussolini’s granddaughters are running for office, only days after Silvio Berlusconi praised Il Duce for the “good things” he did for Italy.
Like Silvio, Benito was very short and bald. Psychologists may care to investigate the trend:
In Russia, on the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Stalingrad, there is talk of changing the city’s name from Volgograd back to Stalingrad, the latest stage in the creeping rehabilitation of Uncle Joe.
And in Germany a bleak ceremony of avowal and atonement took place to mark the 80th anniversary of Hitler’s rise to power, as Angela Merkel acknowledged Germany’s “everlasting responsibility for the crimes of National Socialism”.
Germany confronts its horrific past. Would you rather be a gypsy or a Jew in Berlin or Rome? No contest:
…Merkel drew an explicit link between Germany’s current status in Europe and her willingness to address the unhappy realities of the past: “We are facing our history, we are not hiding anything, we are not repressing anything. We must confront this to make sure we are a good and trustworthy partner in the future, as we already are today, thankfully.”
Precisely the reverse process is taking place to Germany’s east and south, where political uncertainty and economic instability have allowed politicians to amend the past for present gain.
Mr Berlusconi’s embrace of Mussolini is blatant even by his extreme standards of crassness. On Holocaust Memorial Day he declared that the race laws passed in Italy in 1938 were “the worst fault of Mussolini, who, in so many other respects, did good”. Mussolini’s granddaughter Edda, running for parliament, echoes that theme. The race laws were a “mistake”, she says, but “you can’t fail to see the good things done by fascism”: specifically, she cites Mussolini’s support for housewives.
Apart from the death camps, the racism, the torture, the murders and the fear, he was a pretty good guy:
Under Vladimir Putin’s Government, a revised school curriculum describes him [Stalin] as a “competent manager” whose actions were “entirely rational”. The purges, the gulags, the famines, are all downplayed in favour of “Little Father”, the mighty leader who modernised the USSR and led his country to victory against Nazi Germany. His sins, like Mussolini’s, are increasingly described as “mistakes”.
The revision of history goes on all the time. In 200 years from now wil the Holocaust be taught in schools? The fascists were defeated, but they never vanished. They just lost…