Communists erect Stalin statue in Russian city of Penza

A monument to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was unveiled on Friday at the Russian Communist Party headquarters in the city of Penza in Russia’s Volga region.

It took local Communists a year to collect the money for the monument, the leader of the party’s Penza branch said. “The monument is created with the public’s money,” Georgy Kamnev stressed.

Participants in the inauguration ceremony quoted parts of Stalin’s speeches and read poems dedicated to the “great father of the peoples.”

Kirill Zastrozhny, who heads the local branch of Russia’s association for the protection of monuments and culture, said controversy over Stalin’s role in Soviet history does not mean that monuments to him should not exist in the country.

“I personally regard Stalin negatively; my family was affected during the years of repressions,” Zastrozhny said. “However, he was a prominent statesman. As civilized people, we should treat the inauguration of Stalin’s monument calmly.”

Two monuments to Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union with an iron fist from the mid-1920s until his death in 1953, were removed from Penza in the 1950s as part of a broader campaign declared by Stalin’s successor, Nikita Khrushchev, against his cult of personality.

Russian Communists have been struggling against the course of “de-Stalinization” of the country set by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who has denounced Stalin’s atrocities that resulted in millions of innocent citizens being executed or sent to prisons and labor camps during the Great Purge in the late 1930s.

A total of 45 percent of Russians still believe that Stalin played a “positive role” in Soviet history, while 35 percent describe his role as “negative,” according to Russian pollster Levada Center.

Despite widespread anti-Communist sentiments among young Russians, the opposition Communist Party still enjoys large support mostly among the elder generation, being the country’s second most popular political party after United Russia, with up to 10% of citizens supporting it, according to public polls.

The Communists currently hold 57 seats in the 450-seat State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament. United Russia has 315 seats.

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