I think maybe the attitudes to Russia are somewhat different
across the ocean. In Europe there seems to be a new, dangerous tendency
to excuse the whole communist experience, mainly by maintaining that
had it not got into the 'wrong hands', it would have gone
differently,and shown that the idea itself was not 'that bad'. There
are various books written to this effect (recently a vast Oxford
Dictionary of the History of the XXth Century), and many British
friends of mine who, when I arrived from communist Poland in 1977,
dissmissed Eastern European first hand reports as 'exaggerated',
enthusiastically picked up this theory, reluctant as ever to let go of
the beautiful idea.
It seems that the Western world never properly analysed the
phenomenon of communism, never understood the suffering and the
attrocities involved. I get appalled when my son is taught at one of
the top British universities that the Soviet attrocities were
'justified, because the end justifies the means', and when his friends
were t-shirts with hammer and sickle, and no one finds it offensive.
And in Venice, from where I've just returned, we saw several 'Viva
Soviet Union' graffitti.
My impression is that in Europe people love Russia no matter
what, and the Russians can get away with much more than other
nationalities. I must say, however, that I know many Russian people who
DO feel ashamed for the acts of their country, not only today's, but
also those in the past.As for the majority of them, so many of their
own people perished - both under communism and during the war - that
they seem to have got 'desensitivised' to the loss of life in general.