NHL veteran sees logic in Stalin’s actions

2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - Practice Sessions

Ilya Bryzgalov is a better at hockey than history – fortunately for him.

The Philadelphia Flyers goaltender recently raised some eyebrows when he said he could “see logic” in actions taken by Joseph Stalin during the dictator’s vise-like rule over the Soviet Union.

Bryzgalov, a native of the Russian city of Togliatti, on the Volga River, recently gave an interview to the Russian sports outlet Championat in which he was questioned on his views on Stalin, who had many millions killed between 1922 and 1953.

“Positive. I see logic in his action,” Bryzgalov said, according to a translation by Yahoo!’s Dmitry Chesnokov. “Not without going too far, of course. But he came to power in a country that had just lived through a revolution. There were so many spies, enemies, traitors there. A lot of people still had guns after the civil war. The country was in ruins, (people) needed to survive somehow. The country needed to be rebuilt, and in order to do that it needed to be held in iron hands.

“… He knew what he was doing. He is described as a ‘bloody tyrant.’ But at the time it couldn’t be any other way. Yes, there were innocent people who were victims of repression. But it happens.”

This may be nit-picky, but a word of advice to whichever public relations firm is advising Bryzgalov and/or the Flyers: when discussing the deaths of millions, avoid phrases such as “but it happens.”

Lest one think Bryzgalov is some wet-behind-the-ears rookie just off the boat from Novosibirsk, he’s a 10-year veteran who’s played in 425 NHL games, posted more than 200 victories and recorded 30 shutouts.

"But it happens."

“But it happens.” A cemetery for victim’s of Stalin’s Gulag in far Northern Russia.

In other words, he’s old enough to know better. Heck, he’s even got a degree from a Russian university.

From time to time one reads of elderly Russian pensioners who say they yearn for the days of Stalin, when there was order and their country was respected.

Some of these are veterans of the Red Army and no doubt recall a time when they were part of vaunted and feared military force, one that played the key role in defeating Nazi Germany.

It’s a little easier to give a pass to the elderly whose memory may not be what it once was, or who may not have been aware of Stalin’s abuse, or may not have wanted to be made aware.

But a 30-something who has access to an endless supply of history at his fingertips thanks to modern technology and his lucrative paycheck? Inexcusable.

2 thoughts on “NHL veteran sees logic in Stalin’s actions

  1. I spent some time tramping around the hinterlands of Russia and Siberia and was impressed by the hospitality of warm and wonderful people everywhere I went. But there were also people like this, young and, as you say, especially some of the older, who just sort of totally freaked me out. And the hatred of young Army veterans toward the Chechens (who showed up in the news lately) was intense. But Russia has a thousand years of history of hatred and mental illness that drives it. Must be something in the vodka.

    • I think Solzhenitsyn was a genius and understood the Russian psyche better than just about anyone, and he said that you couldn’t apply Western values to Russians. He believed they were and are a different sort of people, shaped by centuries of living in a harsh environment, being ruled by despots and being forced to scratch out a living in a world that would kill many.

      I’d like to think that, optimistically, perhaps the Russians of today who hate the Chechens and other minority groups are akin to whites in the US who hated Indians and did what they could to drive them off their land and exterminate them. Perhaps in 50 or 100 years, this hatred will have eased, as pessimistic as that sounds. But who, 125 years ago, would have thought that whites and Indians would live peacefully in the US? Of course, the Indians got the short end of the stick in that deal, which sped the process along, I suppose.

      I have always wanted to visit Russia and particularly Siberia. It seems like a fascinating region. I can only imagine the sights and stories you experienced.

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