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23 Feb, 2010 08:00

ROAR: “Billboards will not improve Stalin’s role in history”

ROAR: “Billboards will not improve Stalin’s role in history”

The idea of the Moscow authorities placing stands with information about Joseph Stalin during World War II has immediately found its supporters and opponents.

Moscow’s Committee on Advertising, Information and Displaying Advertisements plans to place billboards and stands with information on Stalin as part of preparations to decorate the city for the 65th anniversary of the Soviet people’s victory in the Great Patriotic War. They will be placed at sites where militia detachments were formed during WWII.

The name of “The Father of Nations,” as Stalin was once called, has not been present during celebrations since the Soviet era, the media say.

This May, Moscow “may become Stalingrad,” Izvestia daily said, referring to the city where Soviet troops defeated Germans in one of the major battles of WWII in 1943.

Stalin will become “a hero” on stands since a certain part of the decorations are dedicated to him, the paper said. This design and political decision of the Mayor’s Office was initiated by Vladimir Dolgikh, chairman of the Moscow Council of Veterans and a former secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the paper said.

The city will boast more decorations for Victory Day compared to previous years, including banners with inscriptions in English for foreign guests, the daily said.

Moscow will be also “generously decorated with Stalin,” the paper said, adding that a special topic called “the role of the commander-in-chief in the Great Patriotic war has been created.”

Stalin will be present on displays with archived photographs and historical posters that will be placed at locations where veterans usually meet during celebrations.

The city authorities are ready to defend their decision. “All the statements that the Moscow government will be conducting a propaganda campaign for Stalin are blatant and cynical lies,” said Vladimir Makarov, the head of the city’s committee on advertising. “No more than 10 stands with photographs of Stalin will be erected, purely for information purposes,” he said.

“The Soviet people won the war, and Stalin was the leader of the country,” Makarov said. “We are not going to hide Stalin on photographs taken at the Tehran or Yalta conferences,” Makarov said. “We cannot fight Stalinism with Stalinist methods,” he added.

The decision to place the stands with Stalin has been supported by many veterans and Communists. “History should be as it is, and people should learn from mistakes and be proud of their victories,” said Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party.

The victory in May 1945 would have been impossible “without industrialization, without thousands of assembled tanks,” Zyuganov was quoted by the media as saying.

“And all this was thanks to Stalin, the commander-in-chief,” Zyuganov said. “On the other hand, all Soviet citizens contributed to the victory,” he added.

Those who fought in the war and worked in the background “have very positive attitudes to the role of Stalin” in the victory, said Ivan Khorkov, a member of the city’s council of veterans. “He is really an outstanding state and military figure,” Khorkov told Vesti FM radio.

Human rights activists have immediately opposed the plans of the mayor’s office and urged the officials to reconsider them.

“The intention of the authorities, who use veterans as a pretext, to fill the city streets with portraits of an executioner, should be considered as a political provocation, as another test being conducted by Stalinists,” Aleksandr Brod, head of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights and a member of Public Chamber, told Interfax news agency.

Placing stands with Stalin in the city “is a disgusting idea,” believes Svetlana Gannushkina, chair the Civic Assistance committee for refugees. Not all veterans agree with their colleagues, she told Vesti FM radio.

It is inappropriate to place portraits of a man “who eliminated millions of people and was responsible for the fact that… the Soviet Union was not prepared for the war,” Gannushkina said.

Discussions about Stalin’s role should be “more serious than attempts to place a billboard saying that Stalin is good and cause the opposition of other people,” believes Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society of the Russian Orthodox Church.

“I can expect that someone will spoil these billboards, someone will protest against them,” he told Radonezh and Voice of Russia joint radio program.

Lyudmila Alekseeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki group, has already promised to protest against the stands “with all possible means.” “It will be a shame if Victory Day, the brightest day in our history, is darkened with the appearance of Stalin’s portraits,” she told Izvestia.

“Stalin’s ambiguous role in the life of our country cannot be improved with billboards,” Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the State Duma and head of the ruling United Russia party’s supreme committee, told Interfax. “It would be rather appropriate to speak about the role of the people, veterans who brought victory to the country.”

The portraits of Stalin will offend millions of people, Lev Ponomarev, head of the For Human Rights public movement, told Gazeta daily. “It was not his personal merit in the Red Army’s victory, so history has disposed,” he said.

Sergey Borisov, RT