On February 16, 1938, Josef Stalin prohibited the publication of a book by Vera Smirnova, “Short Stories about Stalin’s childhood”, and recommended its manuscript be burnt.
Stalin’s letter to the publishing house “Detizdat” about that book said: “The book is full of factual errors, misrepresentations, exaggerations and panegyrics. The author was misled by devotees of fairytales, by liars and bootlickers. It is sad, but true, and the main thing is, this book has a tendency to root the personality cult, the cult of the chiefs and impeccable heroes, in the minds of Soviet children and of Soviet people in general. I recommend burning the book”.
The book was not published, and it is unknown whether the manuscript was burned or not. However, Vera Smirnova was not punished. She wrote many other books and was even decorated with an order.
Marxism-Leninism, the ideological basis of Soviet power, preaches the cult of equality and condemns “leaderism”, but it is hard to believe that Stalin opposed the personality cult. Soviet propaganda created the image of “the great chief and the great teacher”. Many Soviet collective farms, plants and cities were named after Stalin, and after World War II, several cities in Eastern Europe were also named after him. Stalin’s name was mentioned in the first version of the USSR hymn, and the schoolbook “Native Language” began with a short story about Stalin’s childhood. All collections of folklore included several “folklore” tales and rhymes about Stalin.
In Stalin’s era, the history of the Revolution and the Civil War was rewritten more then once. The deeds of many lesser-known historical figures were ascribed to Stalin and his comrades. The Bolshevik Party was described as the only revolutionary power, and the role of other parties was disclaimed. In addition, at the end of Stalin’s era, the history of Ivan the Terrible’s rule and of Peter I’s reforms was rewritten also. Stalin called the Oprichnina - Ivan’s uncontrollable army that had terrified the whole country - “a progressive type of force”. Peter I, according to Stalin’s opinion, “opened the doors to the West too widely, and many bad things flew in.”
Stalin rejected praise at least twice more. He did not want to see his portrait on the decorations “Victory Order” and “Glory Order”, and opposed the naming of the Moscow State University after him.