Interview With Medvedev: Russian President Reflects On Fall of the Wall

Medvedev: Every historical figure is revered by some and rejected by others, and this holds true for Stalin as well. In my blog, I clearly defined Stalin's deeds as crimes. Fifty million Russians regularly access the Internet -- over a third of the Russian population. Thousands have responded. Some wrote that the head of state has finally taken a clear stance on the oppression and on Stalin. Others, on the other hand, refused to accept my views. They wrote that our country has Stalin to thank for its developed economy and free social services, and they said that there was virtually no crime under his leadership. They said that today's Russian leaders should first of all try to match those achievements.

SPIEGEL: That doesn't sound very flattering for you.

Medvedev: The government has to be honest and clearly recognize events about which historians are unanimous. As a lawyer I can also tell you that the liquidation of an enormous number of Soviet citizens -- no matter what the pretexts -- was a crime. This also explains why there can be no rehabilitation of the people who were involved.

SPIEGEL: We believe that only once the people have collectively recognized that Stalin was a dictator can there be talk of a mature society.

Medvedev: Ever since perestroika, I and many of my fellow countrymen have taken a critical view of Stalin. This is due to Gorbachev and those politicians who led the country at the time. They had the courage to publish documents that cast a shadow on the government and the Communist Party. There are still older individuals as well as young people with left-wing political views who believe that Stalin's role was completely positive, but they are in the minority.

SPIEGEL: The post-Soviet legacy also includes relations to other former Soviet republics. In accordance with your instructions, there is currently no Russian ambassador in Ukraine, and you are regularly engaged in disputes with Belarus. Why do you constantly try to solve problems with your neighbors with strong-arm tactics?

Medvedev: Are there no problems between EU countries? Germany also has problems with its neighbors. We are therefore no exception.

SPIEGEL: To say that an ambassador will only be sent when another country's president has been toppled -- that's really a pretty unique stance in Europe.

Medvedev: Many things are unique in this world. All of these difficulties have been created by just one man -- the current president of Ukraine. He is guided by anti-Russian ideas, and no compromises can be achieved with him. Everything that he has done over the past four years has been aimed at disrupting bilateral relations. He has breached economic agreements, he tries to rewrite history and he has expelled a number of Russian diplomats from the country. That was an unfriendly act that requires a robust reaction. Presidential elections will soon be held in Ukraine. I sincerely hope that politicians will come to power there who are more pragmatic in their approach to Russia. Then there will be a Russian ambassador in Kiev again.

'We Are Still in the Process of Building a Modern Civil Society'

SPIEGEL: That sounds as if the conflict between Ukraine and Russia could take a dramatic turn.

Medvedev: There is no conflict between our countries. Our peoples are brothers, linked by close relations and solid economic ties. Despite the crisis, we trade goods worth billions of dollars.

SPIEGEL: But are we in for a new round of the annual natural gas war?

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