Fighting words

In 1979, when Stalin turned 100, Stephen Cohen published an excellent article about Soviet de- and (partial) re-Stalinization in The New Republic. Describing Khruschev’s boldest criticism of the despot, later reversed under Brezhnev, Cohen observed:

The vaunted generalissimo became a criminally incompetent tyrant who bore personal responsibility for millions of casualties. For millions of veterans who had fought with Stalin’s name on their lips, this part of the anti-Stalin campaign was probably the most resented.

The standard battle cry was, apparently, “For Motherland! For Stalin!” but, according to some war memoirists, it was almost always interspersed with profanities — most commonly the insult that has a close parallel in (black?) American vernacular. “For Stalin, motherf-ck!” or something in that vein. If words ever had any effect at all, it was the mat that worked.


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