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YEKATERINBURG, September 15. /TASS/. Activists have illegally put up a bust of Josef Stalin in Surgut, Western Siberia, near a site where a monument dedicated to Soviet era political prisoners is expected to be built, local authorities said on Thursday.
"The bust of Stalin that was erected today has been deemed illegal. A commission on toponymy has approved a place near it for installing a monument to the repressed and the funds are being collected," said Yekaterina Shvidkaya, who heads the Surgut administration’s information policy department. Most likely, the statue will be demolished, she added.
The activists had asked the authorities to erect the monument to Stalin this May. A decision was taken later that the dispute should be solved by a public council due to be set up after the elections to the State Duma (Russia’s lower house of parliament) on September 18. However, the activists created their own council that decided in favor of putting up the statue.
Pavel Akimov, who initiated the installation of a monument to the former political prisoners, has condemned the plans to build a Stalin statue nearby. "The tears of those people who had been sent here have not dried up yet. Some 9,000 people were deported in 1932 - that is half of this community’s citizens. Erecting the monument here is blasphemy."
The administration of Surgut, in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area, said tensions flared up over proposed installation of the monument due to the historic memories of the local citizens. "Political prisoners were deported here, there was a whole village with people in exile. Now their relatives live in Surgut and of course they have a very negative assessment of the situation," a local official explained.