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Russians Increasingly See Stalin as Great Leader in History

Russians Increasingly See Stalin as Great Leader in History

Posted March. 03, 2003 22:35,   


March 5 will mark the 50th anniversary of the death of former Soviet Union communist leader Iosif Stalin. Ahead of the anniversary, Russians are now intensifying the debate on recognition for the political leader.

Opinions are evenly divided between advocates praising him as a great leader who built the Soviet Union, one of the two superpowers in the post-war era, and opponents disparaging him as a ruthless dictator who sacrificed hundreds of thousands of innocent people for his political ambition.

According to a public opinion poll conducted by Russian public research organization Foundation of the Media, 37% of the 1,500 respondents answered `Stalin positively affected the country,` outnumbering 29% who expressed a negative view on the late communist party leader. Of the image Stalin conjures up, 42% said of hunger, terror, oppression and Gulag, while 32% related him with the victory in the World War II, social order and industrialization.

The results of the survey underscore the fact that Russians still feel both love and hatred toward Stalin.

Provinces like Grugia, where he was born, are preparing large-scale celebration events and the leftist parties such as the Russian Communist Party are rushing to announce statements to honor the late party secretary. The Russian government, however, remains refraining from making any official remarks.

Stalin led the country to the victory in the World War II, established social order after the war and successfully industrialized the country. During his rein, however, some 20 million were sent to concentration camps and about 10 million of them were killed.

After his death, his successor Nikita Khrushchyov criticized him at the 20th communist party convention in 1956 and his remains buried in the Lenin Cemetery was moved under the wall of Kremlin Palace. The standing of the communist party leader, however, has been elevated significantly recently.

The change in public views came as people began to miss the old superpower era facing the dark reality of post-Soviet Union Russia, point out political analysts. ˝After Vladmir Putin, who served as secret police agency chief during the Soviet Union era, came to power emphasizing the great country and social order, a motto similar to that of late Stalin, people now increasingly remember him as a great leader,˝ said Oleg Orlrov, director of human rights organization Memorial.

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.com