A few years ago – in those days of Perestroika and Glasnost (Restructuring and Openness) of the late 1980s and early 1990s when Mikhail Gorbachev was General Secretary of the Communist Party – there was talk of removing the embalmed body of Lenin, ‘father’ of the October 1917 Russian ‘Bolshevik’ Revolution from where it lies […]

President Putin

President Putin

A few years ago – in those days of Perestroika and Glasnost (Restructuring and Openness) of the late 1980s and early 1990s when Mikhail Gorbachev was General Secretary of the Communist Party – there was talk of removing the embalmed body of Lenin, ‘father’ of the October 1917 Russian ‘Bolshevik’ Revolution from where it lies in the mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square, and burying it.

The embalmed Lenin

The embalmed Lenin

Today, however, voicing such a thought may well lead to a hard-labour camp or a prison term because there is great nostalgia in Russia for the old USSR – Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – dissolved on December 26, 1991.

No less nostalgic for the USSR – apparently – is Vladimir Putin, President of Russia since May 7, 2012, his second term as such. (His first presidency was from 2000/2008 and before that he was Prime Minister of Russia for a year (1999 /2000) and again PM from 2008/2012.  And before his first term as PM he was Lieutenant Colonel Putin of the KGB – in English, the Committee for State Security, which, in 1917, began its existence as the Cheka on a decree issued by Lenin.)

As we here in the West are now being reminded, in 2005, Putin, in a State of the Nation address in the Russia Duma (parliament) said: “Above all, we should acknowledge that the collapse of the Soviet union was a major geopolitical disaster of the century. As for the Russian nation, it became a genuine drama. Tens of millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots found themselves outside Russian territory. Moreover, the epidemic of disintegration infected Russia itself.”

You can read the English translation of Putin’s speech here in the Kremlin Archives.

Those words of Putin are being quoted regularly now by Western politicians and publications, each giving his or her or its own translation of what he had said. The news agency Associated Press (AP) for example used the word ‘catastrophe’ instead of ‘disaster’, and changed the description of ‘a major geopolitical disaster of the century’ to ‘the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century’.

There is a big different between ‘greatest’ and ‘major’, but the message is clear: Putin wants to recreate the Soviet Union. Create the Soviet Union according to those here in the West who sees him as Bad Boy No. 1. Did Hillary Clinton not liken him to Hitler?!

Now, the news coming from Moscow is that by an Executive order signed by Putin on March 24 this year (2014) the Soviet Union’s  – no Stalin’s – GTO program has been revived.

The GTO is a fitness program compulsory to all those of healthy mind and body: the ‘GTO’ being the initials for the Russian of ‘Ready for Labour and Defence’, as the program used to be known and is known again now.

What form Putin’s GTO, which will commence in September, will take we do not know yet, but if it is in any way like Stalin’s it will mean that all, male and female, between the age of 6 and 60 will have to participate.

If it is to be like Stalin’s GTO, those between 16 and 18 years of age will be enrolled in their schools’ ‘Strength and Courage’ program which will mean compulsory training and participation in summer and winter sports. It will also mean compulsory basic military training: learning to shoot for example and how to disarm and overcome an enemy.

As for adults, they will be enrolled in their community’s ‘Vigor and Health’ program which will mean keeping fit and one presumes staying off the Vodka.

There will be 11 age groups in all in Putin’s GTO he said.

Stalin’s GTO had a slogan which made its purpose quite clear: ‘Your Motherland Calls for You to Be Ready for Work and Defence’.  Bear in mind that this was during the Cold War era. Putin however has not gone as far as to speak of defending the motherland, but he did say that in reviving the GTO the citizens will ‘pay homage to our traditional historical traditions’.

Therefore, will the goose-stepping parades on Red Square return? Will the banners and slogans return?

Already in 2000 Putin said that on every May 9 – V.E. Day (Victory in Europe Day) when the German capitulation, signed the previous day in the French city of Rheims, had become effective  – all in the Russian Federation must display the Ribbon of St George. As the British wear a red poppy flower on November 11 in remembrance of their war dead, on May 9 Russians must wear the black-and-orange Ribbon of St George pinned to their clothing and fly it from their cars or dwellings in respect of those who had died in the Second World War.

The ribbon

The ribbon

Saint George, the warrior saint, he who had fought the dragon, is the most revered saint in the Christian Orthodox Church. For this reason on November 26, 1769, Empress Catherine the Great established the ‘Order of Saint George’ as the highest military decoration in Holy Russia but in 1917 it was discarded by the atheist communist regime and thus it had remained until 2000 when Putin revived it.

Saint George has been associated with Russia since Yaroslav the Wise (978-1054), Grand Prince of Rostov, Grand Prince of Novgorod and Grand Prince of Kiev, had adopted the saint as his emblem. Later, Ivan 11 The Fair (1326-1359) Grand Prince of Moscow adopted Saint George as his emblem and in 1883 the saint on his horse, sword in his hand and slaying the dragon, was incorporated into to the Coat of Arms of the city of Moscow. In 1917 the Saint George Coat of Arms was banned and the Moscow Soviet replaced it with one showing a red star and the hammer and sickle. In November 1995, the URSS having been dissolved, the Saint George Coat of Arms was restored.

Moscow's Coat of Arms.

Moscow’s Coat of Arms.


What I want to say now is: what is so bad about wanting your people to honour those who had died for the freedom of your country? And what is so bad about wanting a nation of healthy and fit citizens, rather than a nation of fat, bloated drunks?

But it is Bash-Putin time.


My novel - For the Love of a Poet - set in Stalin's Russia.

My novel – For the Love of a Poet – set in Stalin’s Russia.


Above is the cover of my new novel – FOR THE LOVE OF A POET. The novel’s narrator – Tanya – is a young copy editor on PRAVDA in Moscow when she meets a dissident poet – Beretzkoi – whom she has admired for a long time. He is married and the father of two sons, yet she allows her admiration for him to develop into a very deep love. In narrating the story of their life together, she also tells of life under Stalin, of his collectivisation program when millions died either of starvation or in deportation camps, of his Chekists (secret police), his Purges, his persecution of the intellectuals.

Josef Stalin

Josef Stalin


Below is Boris Pasternak, a Russian poet and writer whom I have admired now for so long …

Boris Pasternak - who I admire.

Boris Pasternak

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

One Response

4-8-2014 at 11:54:19

Well written and interesting article.

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