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Josef Stalin 'returns' to Moscow metro
09-05-2009, 10:58 PM,
Josef Stalin 'returns' to Moscow metro
Quote:Josef Stalin 'returns' to Moscow metro
The spirit of Josef Stalin has made a controversial return to the Moscow metro in the form of a giant Soviet-era decoration that lavishes fawning praise on the late dictator.

By Andrew Osborn in Moscow
Published: 7:00AM BST 05 Sep 2009
Josef Stalin Photo: AP

Liberal historians and politicians have condemned the adornment's reappearance after almost half a century, suggesting it reflects a worrying Kremlin-backed trend to rehabilitate the Soviet leader for patriotic propaganda purposes.

The decoration is a huge gilt-edged slogan that takes pride of place beneath eight Socialist realist statues in the newly restored entrance hall to one of Moscow's busiest metro stations: Kurskaya.

It was painstakingly removed in the late 1950s along with other pro-Stalin propaganda after then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin for his murderous purges and cult of personality.

But at the end of August it made a surprise return. A fragment of the Stalin-era Soviet national anthem, it reads: "Stalin reared us on loyalty to the people. He inspired us to labour and heroism."

It will be seen by millions of Muscovites. The metro, which is state-owned, estimates 7-9 million people use it every day, making it the busiest underground transport system in the world.

Giant sword-shaped commemorative plaques dedicated to the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War in the same station have also been altered with the name of the modern-day Russian city of Volgograd changed back to its wartime name of Stalingrad.

"For the Motherland! For Stalin!," reads another newly restored slogan.

"This is the fruit of creeping re-Stalinization," said Arseny Roginsky, Chairman of human rights group Memorial. "They (the authorities) want to use his name as a symbol of a powerful authoritarian state which the whole world is afraid of."

Mr Roginsky and a clutch of other like-minded organisations, political parties, and individuals have demanded the decoration be removed. If it's not, they have threatened legal action.

Survivors of Stalin's repressions are outraged. One, Nikolai Rechkov, rang a radio talk show on the subject asking how he could take legal action. "My honour and dignity has been affronted," he told Ekho Moskvy radio.

But Dmitry Gaev, the head of the Moscow metro, says the criticism is misplaced. The station is a listed architectural monument and the idea, he says, was only to restore it to its original glory. Nor, he adds, was a statue to Stalin that originally stood in the station put back. That though is because it has been lost rather than down to any historical sensitivity.

Moscow's Levada polling centre says Stalin's popularity among Russians has tripled in the last twenty years. It's a trend that has accelerated since Vladimir Putin, now prime minister, came to power in 2000. On his watch, the Kremlin has sought to emphasise Stalin's wartime victory and his transformation of the Soviet Union into a superpower.

New school textbooks reflect that more positive narrative, while playing down the many darker chapters of his rule.

Statues to Stalin have begun to reappear, a museum devoted to him has been opened in Volgograd, and a nationwide poll last year named him the third greatest figure in Russian history despite the fact that he was an ethnic Georgian.

I wonder if SerialExpLain would "heart" Stalin too?

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