Ukrainian communists on Wednesday unveiled a controversial monument to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, despite angry criticism from nationalists.
About 1,000 supporters of the Communist Party, including many elderly World War II veterans bedecked with medals, cheered as the monument was dedicated in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporozhia.
“Long live Stalin!” said one of the speakers at the festive, Soviet-style event, as the audience responded: “Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!”
Stalin is a deeply controversial figure who is accused of causing the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens in his brutal Gulag prison camps and through the forced collectivization of agriculture.
Nationalists in Ukraine — which won independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 — revile Stalin as the instigator of a 1930s famine which killed millions of Ukrainians.
But Stalin’s supporters praise his role in the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
Svoboda (Freedom), a Ukrainian nationalist group, had sought to hold a protest against the dedication of the monument, calling Stalin “the executioner of the Ukrainian people.”
But Svoboda was denied permission by Zaporozhia authorities to hold its protest, the Interfax news agency reported.
The dedication comes three months after the election of Ukraine’s new pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Yaunkovych has downplayed the importance of the Stalin statue, saying it was a communist initiative not backed by the government.
“Since this territory belongs to the communists, the consent of the city council was not needed,” Yanukovych said last week in comments carried by the presidential press service.
Also it was noted:
The monument is the first to Stalin to be erected in Ukraine since 1953.
Ukrainian Communist Party leaders said similar monuments will be erected in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk, Odesa, and Lviv soon.
Here is a video of the unveiling – is this progress?