MOSCOW: A bust of dictator Joseph Stalin was unveiled in the southern Russian city of Volgograd on Wednesday on the eve of commemorations of the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad.
The bronze bust was unveiled ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, on Thursday, for high-profile celebrations that will include a military parade.
Most monuments to Stalin, who presided over purges known as the Great Terror, have been taken down in countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.
But since Putin took power in Russia in 2000, there has been a growing chorus of Russians who take a positive view of the moustachioed despot’s role in history, and historians have pointed to the creeping rehabilitation of Stalin in the country.
Footage released by state news agency RIA Novosti showed teenagers wearing military-style uniforms pulling down white covers from the busts of Stalin and two Soviet military commanders before baskets of red flowers were laid near the statues.
The ceremony, in front of the museum dedicated to the Battle of Stalingrad and attended by several dozen people, as seen in the video, was accompanied by the Russian national anthem.
Artist Sergey Shcherbakov, who was commissioned to create the three busts, said he had to work “fast”.
“The order had to be fulfilled in a short period of time,“ he told local media.
Nostalgic for the superpower status of the USSR, many Russian officials have been promoting Stalin as a tough leader who led the Soviet Union to victory in World War II and presided over the country’s industrialisation.
Since sending troops to Ukraine to “de-Nazify” the pro-Western country in February last year, the Kremlin has frequently compared that conflict and the Soviet war against Nazi Germany.
On Thursday, Volgograd will mark the 80th anniversary of the Soviet victory against the Nazi army in the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the bloodiest in WWII. – AFP