ROAR: “You wake up, and Iron Felix is in his place”

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
Deputies of the Russian parliament have urged the authorities again to return the monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the first Soviet secret police, to its place on Lubyanka Square in the center of Moscow.

The monument was toppled by a crowd from the pedestal outside the KGB headquarters following the attempted August 1991 coup by hardliners of the Communist Party against the USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev. The memorial (a stone from the Solovki prison camp) to the victims of

Stalin’s repressions

was erected beside the monument in 1990.

There have already been a lot of proposals to return the monument nicknamed “Iron Felix”. The last one was made by Sergey Abeltsev, State Duma deputy from the Liberal Democratic Party on the eve of the day of the workers of security organs, which is celebrated on December 20.

Abeltsev urged his colleagues to ask the Moscow government to restore the monument and return the name of the square. From 1926 to 1990 the square bore Dzerzhinsky’s name.

The deputy said he had raised the issue again “because negative attitudes are being cultivated to the workers of law-enforcement agencies.”

“I think that tremendous disasters of our society result from mass ‘legal nihilism’ of citizens who do not believe at all neither in justice nor in law and order,” he was quoted by Russian News Service radio as saying.

“Why Dzerzhinsky cannot be a symbol of law and order, if he headed for a long time one of the most powerful special services in the world?” Abeltsev asked. He believes it will not take a long time to return the sculpture to its place in the square. “It is done overnight – the monument was dismantled in four hours,” he said. “It may be restored even quicker – you wake up tomorrow, and Felix Edmundovich already stands on his pedestal.”

“Felix should stand in the previous place, but face the Solovki stone and Detsky Mir (Children’s World shopping center),” the deputy said.

The day of security organs has passed, but the dispute over the fate of the monument is continuing. More so, it has not been the first attempt to return Iron Felix to Lubyanka. A Moscow city commission on monumental art which periodically receives these kinds of requests has already said that the sculpture “would symbolize terror, the creation of the first labor camps and sending intelligentsia to exile.”

In 2004, “a certain activist” appealed to the Supreme Court, but it refused to consider her request to return the sculpture “because it is a political issue rather than a judicial one,” said.

The Communists have always supported the idea of restoring the monument. They say that Moscow “has a monument to processed cheese, but lacks a symbol of law and order,” Komsomolskaya Pravda daily said.

The Foundation of Assistance to Strategic Security has already collected money to make the task easier for the city’s authorities. President of the foundation and State Duma deputy Viktor Ilyukhin said that the monument would be in its place against all the odds to pay tribute “to the outstanding person.”

The monument is now in a bad condition and needs restoration, Ilyukhin was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying. “We will appeal to the Moscow authorities and insist on returning the monument to its legitimate place,” the deputy said.

Grigory Ivliev, head of the State Duma’s Committee on Culture, believes that Iron Felix may return to Lubyanka “only after a serious twist of consciousness.” “When ideas are floated which do not have the public’s support, these ideas have no perspective,” Russian News Service quoted the deputy from the ruling United Russia party as saying.

“There are people who want to restore the monument, and we know that there are a lot of people who categorically oppose this sculpture,” he said. The restoration would mean “that we are spreading discord and division in society,” he said.

“History will probably judge between all sides and determine the importance of every person, answering who has deserved the monument, the restoration or creation of the sculpture,” Ivliev added. “In this case, such a historic period has not come yet,” he said, adding that was one of the reasons why United Russia did not support Abeltsev’s proposal.

“Humanity does not erect monuments to brutality and confrontation based on the class principle,” Ivliev said. "The Moscow government has the right to solve this issue, but it will base its decision on public opinion,” he added.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov also proposed in 2002 to restore the monument, saying that 60-75% of Muscovites and Russians supported the idea. He said that the issue should be discussed calmly, and even suggested holding a local referendum.

Iron Felix was “a strong, flamboyant person” who defeated the homelessness of children, helped to reconstruct railways and helped to establish the Soviet economy, Luzhkov said, adding that this side of Dzerzhinsky’s work was “positive.”

Dzerzhinsky is being blamed “for decisions on repressions of 1937 because he headed ‘Cheka’ (the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage) in the first years of the Soviet power,” Luzhkov said. But if Dzerzhinsky had been alive, he would have been the first victim “of the terror unleashed in the country by Josef Stalin,” the mayor added.

Luzhkov also said that the monument erected by Soviet sculptor Evgeny Vuchetich in 1958 is now “a lost, dominating detail of the square,” Vremya Novostey daily noted.

Amir Gallyamov, member of the Federation Council believes that “Russia needs a symbol of law and order,” but Dzerzhinsky could not be that symbol. Dzerzhinsky is rather “a symbol of fear, threats and repressions,” he told website.

The return of the monument to Iron Felix “would be a signal for restoration of all monuments to Lenin and Stalin or a police state,” he said. Something symbolizing “honest law-enforcement organs enjoying citizens’ confidence” would be a better monument to law and order," he added.

Sergey Borisov, RT