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As for Taisiya's frustrations, she's speaking at lightning speed, bemoaning how Russians
today favor apathy over activism because, she says, there's far less pride: “They don't want
to struggle. And many people say to me—aren't you afraid ? You'll be killed . But I won't
change my convictions or principles.”
“I've been thinking a lot about the Decembrists being on Baikal. Does their spirit live
on in you?”
“I've always been proud of them. They were not afraid. They were sent to exile because
they cared about freedom for their country.”
“Well, what's the solution for today's Russia?”
For once Taisiya pauses. She walks over to her bookcase and pulls out a book. It's called
Generalissimo , by Vladimir Karpov. It's a biography of a man whose face is unmistakable
on the cover. “Do you know who this is?” she asks.
“Yes, Stalin.”
I'm unsure where she's heading.
“In this moment, now, now I'm not saying we need Stalin—”
“I'm not saying that. But we need a person like Stalin. So people don't steal. So people
aren't corrupt.”
“Taisiya, it is worth having the bad sides of Stalin to get whatever good there may be?”
“I'm not talking about having repressions. That was not right. It was very bad.”
“So, maybe there's a better option for Russia besides—another Stalin?”
“I'm not saying we need Stalin. But we need discipline. We need order.”
I came to visit Taisiya expecting to get a vision toward Russia's future. Here is a woman
who has been inspired to take on the government, to challenge power. I am stunned to hear
that she—of all people—has Stalin nostalgia. What a reminder of how complicated this
Russian puzzle really is.
I N HIS 2007 BOOK , The Whisperers , Orlando Figes wrote how nostalgia for Stalin was steadily
growing, especially among older people, who remember a time when “their lives were or-
ganized and given meaning” and “everything was clear, in black and white, because Stalin
did the thinking for them and told them what to do. . . . Nostalgia for 'the good old days'
of Stalin reflects the uncertainty of their lives.” For Putin, Stalin nostalgia is a useful tool,
and according to analysts he's manipulated it to his advantage. Lev Gudkov, director of the
Levada Center—perhaps the only respected independent polling firm in Russia—wrote in
a 2013 report cited by Reuters that Putin, after coming to power in 2000, “launched a com-
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