Last week, after my post on Hammer and Tickle, I looked up “Wind of Change”, which is featured in the documentary. For those of you not schooled in the nuances of hipness, this is one of those songs one never admits to have stuck in your head. Or to have looked up on YouTube. I did both.
Scorpions are a German band, and “Wind of Change” became a symbol of the communist collapse (“I follow the Moskva, down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind of change”). Cue the video intercut with footage of Berlin Wall being torn down, East Germans pouring across the Hungarian border… the works.
In my Wikipedia adventures, I also read that Scorpion was duped into performing for a KGB anniversary party (you can read a copy of the article here – the original in the Moscow Times is behind a pay wall). This was in 2007. The party was to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Cheka. That’d be the Soviet secret police and the predecessors of the KGB. Attendees included Vladimir Putin.
The question of which evil empire was more evil, or who killed how many more people still comes up among historians. But when I read this, I realized it really doesn’t matter. The details are irrelevant. Russian officialdom still celebrates the founding of the KGB. German officialdom has no such equivalent celebration for the SS.
Mr Snyder’s scrupulous and nuanced book steers clear of the sterile, sloganising exchanges about whether Stalin was as bad as Hitler, or whether Soviet mass murder in Ukraine or elsewhere is a moral equivalent of the Nazis’ extermination of the Jews. What it does do, admirably, is to explain and record. Both totalitarian empires turned human beings into statistics, and their deaths into a necessary step towards a better future. Mr Snyder’s book explains, with sympathy, fairness and insight, how that happened, and to whom. –History and its woes (Economist)
So does it really matter who killed how many more people? And in the meantime, Soviet nostalgia, Soviet kitsch, is everywhere online and off. But more on that next week.