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What’s behind Russian Communists’ plans for re-creating monuments to Stalin

December 25, 2014, 18:24 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, December 25. /TASS/. While the Moscow authorities have begun preparations on instructions from President Vladimir Putin for creating a special monument to the victims of political repression Russian Communists are pressing for the idea of reestablishing the monuments to the man who more than anyone else was responsible for setting the machine of reprisals in motion - Joseph Stalin.

Earlier this month the Communist Party created on its own or supported the creation of groups of activists for erecting monuments to Stalin at least in eight territories of Russia, says the daily Novyie Izvestia. In the city of Kirov the Communists have even launched a fund-raising campaign. Once the money is collected, the regional Communist Party office will ask the local authorities for a plot of land. Similar initiatives for commemorating Stalin have been advanced by the Communists and their followers in the Oryol Region, Tula, Tyumen, Vladivostok, Saratov and other cities.

Repression in the Soviet Union peaked in 1937-1938. Some historians prefer to call this period as Great Terror. Over less than two years 680,000 “enemies of the people” were shot for political reasons and another 300,000 died in labour camps.

The personality of the Soviet leader of the first half of last century, a cruel tyrant whose policies claimed millions of Soviet people’s lives, these days, 62 years after his death, still causes turbulent and controversial emotions in society, which remains largely split over the issue. Stalin’ admirers - mostly Communists and marginal leftist and nationalist groups - tend to see him as a historical personality who steered the USSR towards a triumphant victory in World War II. They praise his managerial talent and give him credit for building a major industrialized power. The opponents and critics recall mostly the mass terror against his own people.

Of late, as economic problems in the country keep mounting, speculations about “iron hand rule,” and about “another Stalin” have been ever more frequent in the media space. “These days the interest in the personality of Stalin in Russia is growing, mostly with the loss of the country’s previous foothold on the world scene and profound economic and social problems inside the country,” says an article on the website of the Moscow city committee of the Communist Party, timed for the 135th anniversary of Stalin’s birth, which the Communists marked on December 21.

“Stalin … was a genius,” Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said at a flower-laying ceremony at the tomb of the “the leader of peoples.” “Today his policy is knocking on our door and I hope that the country does hear it.”

Last year’s Levada Centre poll, held on the eve of the 60th anniversary of Stalin’s death, revealed the following change in public sentiment: the share of those who were generally positive about Stalin’s role in the country’s history was up from 27% in 1994 to 49% in 2013, while that of those who offered “generally negative” comments shrank from 47% to 32%. As for the 19% who failed to reply were mostly young people having very little idea of their own country’s history.

“Many people say they like Stalin mostly because for them he is largely a synonym for a strong country, ruthless struggle against corruption, an architect of a powerful industry with reliance exclusively on internal resources and, lastly, a symbol of victory in the war with Hitler’s Germany,” the director of the Political Studies Institute, Sergey Markov, has told TASS.

In contrast to many of his colleagues Markov, a political scientist whose grandfather, he says, died in a Stalinist labour camp, sees nothing terrible about this trend. “It does not mean that the people really want the comeback of Stalin and his policy of repression. In this way they rather send a message what sort of qualities they would like to see in politicians today and hint the authorities to adjust their policies accordingly.”.