Communist Businessman Erects Illegal Stalin Statue in Russia

On the same day that a military parade was hosted in Moscow commemorating the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, a statue to the dictator who oversaw the Soviet war effort was unveiled 250 miles away.

The Victory Day Parade held in Red Square on Wednesday had been delayed from May 9 due to the coronavirus and involved over 14,000 troops from 13 countries, more than 200 historic and modern military vehicles and 75 aircraft.

Meanwhile in the town of Bor, located across the river from the city of Nizhny Novgorod, east of the Russian capital, a concrete and bronze statue of Stalin in a military coat and cap was unveiled to the applause from locals and Communist Party supporters to the strains of the Soviet national anthem.

Joseph Stalin
A statue of Joseph Stalin is pictured on Berlin's Karl-Marx Allee on January 23, 2018 in this illustrative image. A statue of the dictator has been erected in a Russian town. John MacDougall/Getty Images

Local businessman and first secretary of the Bor branch of the Communist Party, Alexei Zorov, flouted opposition from local authorities to build the monument on land that he owned, describing it as a symbol of the fight against corruption.

"It was necessary to put it not only on this site, but near the city administration," he said according to the newspaper Kommersant, which reported he plans to build a Stalin Center nearby. Local authorities said the installation of the statue was illegal and will take further action, the paper reported.

During a speech beside the monument, another local Communist Party member, Vladislav Egorov said it was the first Stalin statue in the region and praised Stalin's role in the economic growth of the USSR, making it a nuclear power and its victory in the Second World War, known in Russia, as the Great Patriotic War.

"Stalin is a genius, the greatest man of the 20th century," Egorov said.

The legacy of Stalin in Russia is fraught with ambiguity, especially given the fanfare of the Victory Day Parade, marking the Soviet Union's significant role in defeating Nazi Germany, an achievement Stalin is inextricably linked with.

Despite the large-scale human rights abuses committed during his rule and the millions who died as a result of his repressions, Stalin's approval rating in 2019 hit an all-time high of 70 percent among Russians, according to a poll by the independent Levada Center.

Город Бор в Нижегородской области. Вчера открыли.

— Грани.Ру (@GraniTweet) June 26, 2020

Globally, a debate is ongoing about statues to people whose legacy is under renewed scrutiny and Russia is no exception. Stalin statues were taken down across Russia after his death in 1953 as Soviet authorities dismantled the cult around him during the period of "de-Stalinisation."

However nearly three decades on from the fall of the Soviet Union, statues of Lenin, whose tomb is in Red Square, remain across Russia. In the view of Alexandra Polivanova, from the Moscow-based Memorial human rights centre, this shows that "the events of 1991 turned out to be incomplete."

"Unfortunately, crimes have not been properly denounced either at state level nor at the level of society. Decommunisation has not happened," she told Reuters.