Mr Varennikov comes from a poor Cossack family in the Krasnodar region near the Black sea, and was among an early generation of working-class people to receive a good education under Stalin, rising to a senior rank in the army.
The day of Stalin’s death was very hard, a real shock. A part of my time at a military academy, I was given patrol duty near the hall where Stalin’s open coffin lay. I was allowed inside the hall and I could see Stalin’s face clearly. I had a feeling that he had not died, that he only fell asleep, and at any moment he would sit up again. I still could not believe that he was dead.
Most Russians mourned his death. The people knew that he really lived for their sake and did nothing for himself or his close relatives. You remember what Winston Churchill said: he got the country armed with a plough, but left it with nuclear weapons.
Without the progress Stalin ensured, the lives and careers of people like myself would not have been so fruitful.
Russia witnessed progress at a fantastic rate in the 30s. It was a massive accomplishment in science and education unparalleled in world history.
Under Stalin, I never had to worry about tomorrow. Yes, there were some mistakes: some innocent people suffered – accused by the false letters of scoundrels. But all his mistakes are nothing in comparison with his great deeds. Two or three small clouds moving on the bright blue sky cannot obscure the sun.