Demonstrators in Moscow celebrate the Bolshevik Revolution’s anniversary
From The Times
July 16, 2008
Tony Halpin in Moscow
He sent millions to their deaths in the gulag, but that has not deterred Russians from voting en masse for Josef Stalin as the face of their nation.
The Soviet tyrant and Second World War leader is battling Tsar Nicholas II for first place in The Name of Russia, a domestic version of the BBC series Great Britons. Stalin had been well ahead in the online vote until the show's producer appealed to members of a popular Russian social networking site to back Nicholas II.
The Tsar edged in front tonight as communists and monarchists whipped up support for their candidates. Stalin has received almost 263,000 votes so far, against more than 267,000 for Nicholas II.
Lenin, the Tsar's nemesis, was third with nearly 187,000 votes. The top dozen included Peter the Great, Pushkin, Catherine the Great, Yuri Gagarin, Boris Yeltsin and Ivan the Terrible.
Alexander Lyubimov, who produces the historical contest for state-run Rossiya TV, said that he had urged a "flash-mob" from Odnoklassniki.ru, a Russian equivalent of Facebook, to support the Tsar against Stalin.
“I said, ‘Let's commemorate Stalin's disastrous input into Russia's history by clicking for Nicholas II, whose family was massacred by the Bolsheviks',” Mr Lyubimov said. Stalin's supporters had also engaged in mass voting, he said, because the site did not prevent people clicking repeatedly for one candidate from the same computer.
Almost 2.4 million votes have been cast for the list of 50 prominent figures from Russian history. The most popular 12 will be reviewed on TV from September before the public votes for the winner in December.
“There will be very negative opinions presented when we are discussing Lenin and Stalin. In my opinion these guys don't have a chance to win because they do not relate to the lives of modern Russians,” Mr Lyubimov said.
The Communist Party of St Petersburg is determined to prove him wrong. The party's leader, Sergei Malinkovich, told The Times that victory could revive the cult of Stalin and help to elevate the atheist dictator to sainthood.
“If he wins, we will ask the Russian Orthodox Church to consider canonising Stalin. Lenin was a Communist for the Church, but Stalin was a real national leader. For us, he is like Napoleon is to the French,” Mr Malinkovich said.
“People remember that Stalin didn't live for himself but for the country and the people. We see this vote as the first sign that there will be memorials to Stalin in Russia again.
“Of course there were gulags, but they did not have the widespread character that people in the West think. If they existed now, two thirds of bureaucrats would be in jail because they are so corrupt.”
The party declared war on the latest Indiana Jones film in May, accusing stars Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett of promoting crude anti-Soviet propaganda. Mr Malinkovich said that activists were urging sympathisers to vote for Stalin.
Monarchists are determined that Russia's most significant historical figure should be Nicholas II. The 90th anniversary of the Bolshevik execution of the Tsar and his family takes place on Saturday.
Nikolai Lukyanov, head of the All-Russia Monarchist Centre, told The Times that it was a contest between Russia's imperial history and its Soviet past.
“There are Soviet people and there are Russian people and the two are absolutely different. Unfortunately, the majority now are Soviet,” he said. “The most important thing for us is that there is interest among the people in the person who was the last Russian monarch.”
The Orthodox Church is unlikely to heed calls to canonise Stalin, who ordered the destruction of thousands of churches after the Bolshevik revolution. Patriarch Alexiy II marked the anniversary of the royal murder with a message, saying: “The murder of the Tsar's family marked the start of atrocities that kept affecting our people for decades ... No political goal and no reforms can rest on the blood of innocent people, especially children.”
Winston Churchill was voted the Greatest Briton in the BBC series. The Ukrainian version was mired in scandal last month after its editor-in-chief alleged that voting had been rigged to ensure Yaroslav the Wise, an 11th Century prince of Kievan Rus, defeated the controversial nationalist Stepan Bandera.
— Born Joseph Dzhugashvili in 1879 to a poor cobbler in the town of Gori in Georgia, which was then an imperial Russian colony
— Joined the political underground in 1900, fomenting labour demonstrations and strikes. Arrested seven times for revolutionary activity between 1902 and 1913, undergoing repeated imprisonment and exile
— Returning from exile in Siberia in 1917, Stalin switched to the policy of armed seizure of power
— Forced 25 million rural households to amalgamate in state farms in 1928, causing famine and deaths of 10 million peasants
— Concluded pact with Hitler in 1939 that encouraged the German leader to attack Poland and begin Second World War
— Died in 1953
Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica
Times Archive, 1953: Obituary: Marshal Joseph Stalin
The death of Stalin, like the death of Lenin, marks an epoch in Russian history. Rarely have two successive leaders of a great country responded so absolutely to its changing needs
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