Was Stalin the greatest Russian ever?

He’s often vilified as one of the 20th century’s worst tyrants, but it seems that Joseph Stalin has a big following in modern Russia. In a nationwide poll to find the greatest hero in Russian history, the former Soviet leader is leading the pack by a land

Communists are rubbing their hands at the news, while much of the media are sounding alarm bells.

Two months ago, the state-funded Rossiya channel launched the ‘Name of Russia’ project.  On June 12, a shortlist of 50 finalists was announced.  Since then a second round of voting has been under way. The winner won’t be officially announced until the autumn, but preliminary results show Stalin to be out in front. Way behind in second place is the popular singer and actor Vladimir Vysotsky. Curiously enough, Stalin’s ‘comrade’, Vladimir Lenin, is in third spot.

Not everybody is happy with how the voting is going. Opponents of the poll point to what they say is a serious flaw in the voting procedure: respondents may vote as many times as they want.

It is believed bloggers across Russia are exploiting this loophole. Many Russian websites encourage surfers to vote for this or that candidate. So, Stalin’s position at the top of the poll could be the result of a campaign to manipulate the survey.

Such polls are common in Europe. Since 2002 they have been held in the UK, Germany, Ukraine and other European countries.