RUSSIA: Man of the Year, 1939

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Novelist Maxim Gorky was a good friend of Stalin, but perhaps his dearest friends were Commissar for Heavy Industry Grigori Konstantinovich Ordjonkidze and Soviet Executive, Committee Secretary Avel Yenukidze. Ordjonkidze died "of a heart attack," Yenukidze before a firing squad. Defense Commissar Voroshilov has enjoyed the master's friendship and lived longer than anybody. Best pal of late years is said to be Leningrad Party Boss Andrei Alexandrovich Zhdanov, regarded as Stalin's heir. Last week rumors flew thick & fast that Comrade Zhdanov was on the skids. His birthday testimonial to Stalin failed to see the light of print.

Few foreigners have met Stalin, none has come to know him well. He has been interviewed by U. S. Newsmen Walter Duranty, Eugene Lyons, Roy Wilson Howard. Author Emil Ludwig and Professor Jerome Davis each once had long, serious sessions with him. Playwright George Bernard Shaw and his friend, Lady Astor, went on a lark to Moscow and saw him, too. "When are you going to stop killing people?" asked the impertinent Lady Astor. "When it is no longer necessary," answered Comrade Stalin.

Despite the disastrous purges, despite the low opinion that J. Stalin & Co. held of human life, Soviet Russia had definitely gained some measure of respect for its apparent righteousness in foreign affairs. It had supported against reactionary attacks popular Governments in Hungary, Austria, China, Spain. But last year, in three short months, the Man of 1939 found it expedient to toss that reputation out of his Kremlin window.

For long Russians have been obsessed with the nightmare of a combination of capitalist nations that would turn against her. Perhaps it was this haunting fear, rather than any innate sympathy for the Nazis, that led Tovarish Stalin to take measures to insure the Soviet Union against easy attack. He was not astute enough to see that such measures as he has taken in Finland were more likely than ever to unite the world against him.

Once in a plea for greater industrial, and hence military power, Joseph Stalin said: "Old Russia was continually beaten because of backwardness. It was beaten by the Mongol khans. It was beaten by Turkish beys. It was beaten by Swedish feudal landlords. ... It was beaten because of military backwardness, cultural backwardness, industrial backwardness, agricultural backwardness. . . . That is why we cannot be backward any more." Last week, as the news of a Russian rout in upper Finland was broadcast, it began to look as if, temporarily at least, Soviet Russian efficiency was not essentially better than that of Old Russia. It began to appear as though Finnish democrats could be added, temporarily at least, to the Man of 1939's list of those who had laid the Russian bear by the heels. And that the Man of 1939 was making a very poor start on 1940.

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