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The Boston Globe

Opinion

JEFF JACOBY

Useful idiots, then and now

On the 60th anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s death last week, the Associated Press reported that admirers of the Soviet dictator, one of history’s bloodiest tyrants, were flocking to the Kremlin to venerate him as a great leader despite his ghastly record of repression. With polls showing a rise in Russians’ admiration and nostalgia for Stalin, observed the Associated Press, “experts and politicians puzzled and despaired over his enduring popularity.”

That some Russians express approval for a despot who has been dead since 1953 is distressing, though perhaps not surprising given the ongoing campaign to burnish Stalin’s image by Russia’s autocratic president, Vladimir Putin. But even more of a reason for puzzlement and despair is the enthusiastic applause for Stalin by influential American liberals when he was at the height of his bloody reign — and the willingness of similar propagandists, naifs, and true believers today to sing the praises of other thugs and dictators.

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