Russia plans Stalinist monument

Russia plans Stalinist monument

A huge memorial featuring a statue of Soviet supreme ruler Joseph Stalin at its centre is to be rebuilt in a remote village in Russia's far north.

The memorial was built in Kureika near the Arctic Circle in the 1950s, at the height of Stalin's personality cult, by inmates of the Gulag prison system.

Officials in the region insist the new project is not politically motivated, but is aimed at developing tourism.

Critics say it is another sign that Stalin's crimes are being glossed over.

Alexei Babiy, a member of the Russian human rights group Memorial, said the project was part of a large-scale state campaign to rehabilitate Stalin.

The Kureika memorial, measuring 400 sq metres (4,304 sq ft), is to be rebuilt using original diagrams and photographs.

Stalin had spent time in Kureika during his internal exile under the tsarist regime later overthrown by the Bolsheviks.

The original memorial was closed in 1961, at the time of Nikita Khrushchev's drive to undo the worst Stalinist excesses, and in 1995 a fire virtually destroyed the dilapidated building.

An aide to the Krasnoyarsk regional governor, Yevgeny Pashchenko, told Interfax news agency that "this initiative came from businessmen who have long been involved in local tourism - it's a purely commercial project to attract tourists, it has no political overtones".

Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reports that demand has grown for tours to the sites of notorious Gulag labour camps.

An opinion poll carried out by Russia's VTsIOM research centre in March 2005 showed that 42% of Russians felt the country "needs another Stalin", compared with 52% who disagreed, Itar-Tass reported.

Stalin, who died in 1953, is revered by some Russians for his role as a war leader but reviled by others who point to the millions persecuted under his iron dictatorship.