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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Medvedev Laments Russian Youth Views of Stalin

President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday said he was concerned that the majority of young Russians were unaware of the scope of Josef Stalin's purges and said the crimes of the past should not be forgiven.

Medvedev's comments, on the day Russia honors the victims of Soviet repression, come amid what rights campaigners see as a creeping attempt by some politicians to whitewash the legacy of the Soviet Union's most feared dictator.

Speaking in a video blog posted on, Medvedev warned against attempts to "rehabilitate those responsible for exterminating their own people."

"Two years ago sociologists conducted a poll and nearly 90 percent of our citizens, young people aged 18-24, could not even name prominent people who suffered or died in the years of the repressions," Medvedev said. "This cannot but cause concern."

"There is no justification for the repressions," he said.

The day of remembrance for the victims of repression was introduced 18 years ago by then-President Boris Yeltsin, who believed that facing up to the horrors of the past was essential to build democracy after years of repression.

Stalin is still the subject of heated debate in Russia, nearly two decades after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

For some Russians, Stalin was a cruel tyrant who sent millions to their deaths by building a totalitarian system that corrupted the ideals of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

But polls show that the majority of Russians consider Stalin to have been a tough war leader who defended the motherland from attack and built the Soviet Union into a mighty superpower.

Rights campaigners have been alarmed by what they see as an attempt by officials — especially strong during the 2000-2008 presidency of Vladimir Putin — to justify the atrocities of Stalin's rule by focusing on his achievements.

Recent teachers' manuals have described Stalin as an effective manager who acted rationally in conducting a campaign of terror to modernize the Soviet Union.

Historians say such a view of Stalin ignores the millions of innocent people who either perished or had their lives torn apart under his rule.

In recent years, Russia has been especially angered by what it sees as attempts by foreign politicians to denigrate the Soviet Union's massive sacrifices in defeating Nazi Germany in what Russia calls the Great Patriotic War.

But Medvedev said that Russians should also beware of attempts to revise the history of repression.

"We pay much attention to fighting the falsification of our history," Medvedev said. "For some reason we often think that this is all about resisting attempts to review the results of the Great Patriotic War."

"But it is also important not to allow the restoration of historical truth to be used as a pretext to rehabilitate those responsible for exterminating their own people," he added.

Medvedev said the state should try to promote interest in the day of remembrance, which is not a national holiday and which usually attracts few public expressions of emotion.

"The memory of national tragedies is as sacred as the memory of victories," he said. "We need to study our past and overcome indifference and the desire to forget its tragic sides."