For the first time, U.S. and British troops will participate in Moscow's Victory Day celebrations, marking the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. But if Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has his way, they may see an old familiar face around town when they get there:
Posters of Josef Stalin may be put up in Moscow for the first time in decades as part of the May 9 observance of Victory Day - the annual celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany.
The World War II victory came at appalling cost to the Soviet Union - at least 27 million of its citizens are estimated to have died. The toll feeds Russia's self-image as a nation of exceptional valor and any criticism of its wartime role sets of resentment. Stalin's case is especially touchy: should Russians honor him for leading the country's glorious sacrifice, or denounce him for his decades of brutal rule included sending tens of millions into labor camps?
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov believes Stalin should get his due as the Soviet commander-in-chief. "How did people go into the war? ... They went to war with the cry 'For the homeland! For Stalin!'" Luzhkov said on state TV news channel Vesti on Sunday.
Planners say the posters will only be at spots where veterans will gather, not on the parade ground where the international troops will March. It should also be noted that any parade on Red Square will necessarily March past the well-preserved remains of Vladimir Lenin, but this does seem like an unnecessary provocation.
Putin and Medvedev haven't weighed in, but to his credit, State Duma Chariman Boris Gryzlov has denounced the plan to honor the leader who was "guilty in the deaths of millions of people," so it's quite possible that Luzhkov will back down.
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