The End of Stalinism Within Me
"I'm a proud Stalinist and Joseph Vissarionovich Dzhugashvilli Stalin is my all-time hero and has maintained that status in my mind since the middle of 5th grade and I've always thought in a quasi-Stalinist way." - Me, February 2, 2012
Stalinism. This has been my main philosophy and arguably my religion for more than seven years. I've often used Stalin's actions to justify my own thoughts and actions and even used expressions like "What in Stalin's name?" or "Sweet Joseph!" as if Stalin were a deity (and for a long time I believed he was worthy of being treated as such). Only recently have I started to doubt my worship of Joseph Stalin. In recent times, I've finally come to terms with a painful truth: Joseph Stalin is not a man to be worshiped. I do not want to go as far as declaring that I hate him, but I can no longer state that I love him. I've come to realize many things about Joseph Stalin and one thing I realized is that Stalinism is not good for me.
My worship of Joseph Stalin began when I was in fifth grade. Although I don't remember exactly when I started to worship him, I do remember what triggered my interest in him. When I was studying history related to World War II, the textbooks I used as well as other books I read for my research (one of which was the Eyewitness Book on World War II) made little mention of Stalin while heavily mentioning Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Hideki Tojo and their participation and impact on World War II. Details on the Eastern Front of World War II that were in the school textbooks also didn't mention Stalin, not even in regards to the Battle of Stalingrad. All of this piqued my interest and led to me doing more research on Joseph Stalin. I found him fascinating because he exuded a sort of "mysterious" atmosphere that seemed so different from the other major World War II leaders (as the other leaders were either American, Western European, or Japanese) and at the time, I had just ended a brief era of admiring Adolf Hitler for a few months (this was due to my lingering anger towards some Jews who'd bullied me when I was in third grade and living in Indiana) after I learned about the Holocaust in school, and Joseph Stalin seemed like a good person to admire instead. I've looked up to Stalin ever since I first learned how he was an all-powerful leader who rose up from being a destitute cobbler's son from the Caucasus who led the USSR to victory in World War II and left it as a superpower as I found this impressive.
Overtime, I learned more about Joseph Stalin through my own research on him and even though I learned about some of his unsavory actions (such as the Great Purge and the Holodomor), I still admired him and focused on how he successfully led the Soviets to victory against Germany and how he improved the USSR's economy. Eventually, I started reading biographies of Joseph Stalin (most prominently Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore) and started to compare my own life to him. As Stalin had a hectic childhood stemming from the fact that he was a destitute Ossetian-Georgian living in Imperial Russia and faced discrimination and bullying from both Russians and Georgians for this (and also had an abusive father who regularly beat him and a mother who tried to force religion on him), I started to see myself as a reflection of him due to my own situation at the time as a Japanese boy living in America and facing bullying and racism from Americans at school and linguistic discrimination from Japanese at the Saturday Japanese schools I had to attend (my abusive mother who'd been giving me hell since I was three and how both my parents forcibly imposed Japanese language and culture on me also made me see more of myself in Stalin). Although I greatly sympathized with and admired Joseph Stalin, it was only in 2010, after I returned to Japan after spending 11 years in the US, did I really start to worship him. Shortly after I returned to Japan, I started to see even more similarities between myself and Stalin. This time I started to face more bullying on a linguistic and cultural basis. I'd faced this in Japanese schools in Michigan, but I paid it less attention as I was more focused on what happened in my regular school there. Although he started studying Russian at a very young age, Stalin was still bullied or mocked by ethnic Russians living in Georgia for his mediocre Russian skills. My status as a Kikokushijo by returning to Japan after 11 years in the US meant that my Japanese skills were low compared to other Japanese my age. This (along with my cultural ignorance in regards to many Japanese practices) was used by many Japanese I encountered as an excuse to bully or ostracize me. Consequently, I started to worship Stalin as I believed that it was more than a coincidence that such a powerful figure had such similar childhood problems as I did. By then I'd learned from my research that Stalin had sent most of the people who'd bullied him to Gulags in Siberia or left them at the mercy of the NKVD after he became the leader of the Soviet Union. This, coupled with what I was going through in Japan and what I'd gone through in America, left me with hope that I could get revenge on all who'd made me suffer the same way Stalin had gotten retribution. This desire for revenge and that Stalin was able to get it was the main reason for me worshiping him as it gave me hope that I could also obtain retribution.
There have been several occasions where my faith in Stalin seemed to waver. These include when I went to Hungary and struggled to keep myself quiet at the Terrorháza (a museum dedicated to victims of Arrow Cross and Communist Hungary), when I learned about Crimeans (and later Kalmyks) and gained an interest in their cultures and languages (both of these ethnicities were victims of genocide ordered by Stalin), when I realized that the Russification of the Uralic and Siberian ethnicities I'm passionate about was Stalin's fault, and when I learned from Hungarians that I met that Stalin was "horrible towards Hungary." Regardless, I forced myself to remain a staunch Stalinist and consoled myself through measures like blaming Stalin's crimes in Hungary on Mátyás Rákosi (the Communist Hungarian dictator who was nonetheless installed by Stalin himself), condemning the Sürgün (the genocide of Crimeans) and Operation Ulussy (the genocide of Kalmyks) as Stalin's only crimes, and blaming the suffering of peoples in the USSR I was passionate about on other Soviet leaders/officials. Moreover, I always reminded myself that Stalin was my hero and after returning to Japan I also started assuring myself that belief in Stalin would allow me to eventually realize my desire for retribution. My faith in Stalin served as a drive for me to work hard and strive for my goals and dreams (one of which was to gain power in a similar way as him and use it to make my enemies suffer) but in retrospect, also damaged me by making me unable to think in many ways that were contradictory to Stalin's way of thinking or Stalin's actions and also making me hostile towards anyone who was anti-Stalinist and not Crimean or Kalmyk.
It was only in 2014 that I finally started to seriously doubt my belief in Stalin. My belief had become a bit shaken the previous year as I found out more about the suffering of Kalmyks and Crimeans from his actions, but as I started learning Kalmyk, I realized just how horrible Stalin was to them due to the paucity of language resources or even Kalmyk speakers (these are the results of Kalmyks being stigmatized after their genocide and consequently not using their language often) and how the Kalmyk speakers I found online would always mention Stalin as the reason for few Kalmyk speakers. Furthermore, 2014 is the last year of high school for me. During my high school years I was always in a state of depression and despair and as a result I always felt alone (save for a few extremely important people who comforted me, though they were gone by this year) and had few friends. Previously, I used my belief in Stalin to comfort myself but that started to erode after the first few months of my H3 year. During this time, the Inter class, which I was part of, was forced to cooperate with the loathsome Go-Kumi class, which contained many of my worst enemies (including many of the ones that had bullied me from the time I first returned to Japan), for an inane and appalling event known as the Sports Festival which caused me no end to grief in all the previous years I had to endure it. During my interactions with those odious cockroaches from Go-Kumi, I fantasized that I was Stalin and they were his bullies, fated to be frozen to death in Siberian Gulags. This, however, didn't cause me lasting comfort as I not only suffered pain from their antics; I also started to lose the support of my Inter class. My relationship with the Inter class was never stable and I hated them all in the year 2011 (which was THE worst year of my life) for contributing to my misery that year, seemingly got along with them (due to the dominating presence of my cordial Japanese-Michigander friend) in 2012, and maintained a shaky relationship with them from the latter half of 2013 (due to tensions arising from the school trip to Okinawa). My disputes with the Go-Kumi only exacerbated my relations with my class and put distance between us. This made me wonder if Stalinism was making me lose relations. I also experienced backlash from people on the internet whenever my Stalinist views came up and even some of my close friends in Michigan started to show anti-Stalinist views. This made me wonder if Stalinism was such a good thing after all. Nevertheless, I didn't want to seem like a coward throwing away his belief just because the majority disapproved of them, so I held onto my faith.
In the end, I realized that my faith in Joseph Stalin was highly detrimental. I'd often criticized Christianity and Islam for corrupting people's minds and ridiculed radical Christians and Muslims for having ludicrous ideas but after I read articles and reports on the negative effects religion has on individuals and the symptoms of extremely religious people, I saw that many of these effects and symptoms matched my own belief in Stalin and my actions based on this belief. Furthermore, my aforementioned love for Kalmyks and Crimeans made me realize that it was wrong to be interested and passionate about these nations while worshiping the man who attempted to erase them. Ultimately, I saw that I was being both hypocritical and just as fanatical as religious extremists due to my belief in Joseph Stalin and that this was hindering my ability to improve myself and only kept in a vengeful and unstable state of mind. Although I like how he managed to rise from humble origins to become a great leader and also managed to punish his bullies and make a name for himself by leading the Soviet Union to victory, Joseph Stalin is fundamentally not a person to be worshiped and I now know that my belief in him has not helped me. On Tuesday, December 3, 2014, I did a presentation Kalmyks and Crimeans as part of a report for political science. During that presentation, I announced that I'd started to doubt my belief in him. However, it's safe to say that although I'm not going to hate him, I can no longer worship him and I'll never become a dedicated Stalinist again.