In a 1970s-era Soviet joke, the Politburo resurrects Stalin and asks him what it should do to combat economic stagnation and widespread disillusion with communist ideals. Stalin proposes a two-part program: “First, shoot all the communists, and second, paint the Kremlin green.” “Why green?” the shocked Politburo members ask. A smiling Stalin replies: “I was sure there would be no questions about the first part.”

Given the growing state-sanctioned repression and use of torture in today’s Russia, this joke no longer seems quite so far-fetched or dated. In a March 2021 poll, 52% of respondents — by far the highest proportion in Russia’s post-Soviet history — said that they feared a return to tyranny. But what is even more striking is that the Russian government is now following Stalin’s second suggestion and turning the Kremlin green.

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