From the Telegraph:
While the poll, conducted by the state run Rossiya channel, has been criticised for allowing multiple voting, there is little doubt that Stalin has undergone a remarkable renaissance in recent years.
Opinion polls regularly name him Russia’s greatest post-revolution leader after Vladimir Putin, the prime minister.
The wartime leader’s resurgence owes much to the Kremlin, which under Mr Putin’s presidency appeared to support a campaign to rehabilitate Stalin, with television documentaries, films and books released in recent years eulogising him.
A newly published history text book, approved by the Kremlin for use in all schools, glossed over the more unappealing parts of Stalin’s rule and ultimately concluded that he was the Soviet Union’s most successful leader.
The Communist party in St Petersburg has petitioned the Orthodox Church to canonise Josef Stalin if he wins a television poll to nominate the greatest Russian in history.
Seeking to establish atheism as the Soviet Union’s official creed, Stalin destroyed thousands of churches and sent tens of thousands of priests to the gulags and their deaths.
Despite the church’s reluctance, St Petersburg’s Communists are convinced their vision will come to pass. They have already commissioned religious icons depicting Stalin with a halo round his head that have reportedly sold very well around the city.
“By the end of the 21st century, icons of St Josef Stalin will be in every Orthodox Church,” Mr Malinkovich said.
As media attention drew to this issue, political figures Stalin & Lenin have dropped in popularity giving rise to Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space (view the results). As well there are many others who deserve to be at the top of that list.
The question that is begging to be asked, why?:
Yet the fact that Stalin’s popularity has also grown in recent years – something attested to in opinion polls – is undoubtedly partly to do with an unofficial state campaign to rehabilitate his image.
Why is the Kremlin so intent on rehabilitating Stalin? Garry Kasparov, the former chess giant and opposition leader, reckons that by hamming up Stalin’s greatness, Russians will be more inclined to forgive the government’s march towards authoritarianism.
After all, as the old dictum states, he who controls the present controls the past and he who controls the past controls the future.
The ultimate irony among all this Russian Nationalism is that Stalin is of course from Georgia.
Edit: Taras at his blog Ukrainiana has some further insight and a video uploaded from the local Russian news.