Russian TV watchers have just finished voting for their most treasured countryman. The icon to take the crown was medieval prince Alexander Nevsky. But that's not what everyone's talking about. It's the unlikely figure looming at number three that's stolen the show. Read more...
After the Brits predictably voted Winston Churchill their 'Greatest Briton' in 2002 and the French, Charles De Gaulle Le Plus Grand Français in 2005, this year the world waited to see who Russia would select as their most celebrated icon.
But just weeks after the "Name of Russia" polls opened in May, huge numbers of votes for Soviet leaders Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin had pitched the pair to first and third places respectively. The results came as such a surprise that the project's organiser, state channel TV Russia, suspected Stalin-supporting fraudsters of having dabbled with the counter. Following media uproar, the decision was taken to scrap the online contribution to the tally and suspend internet voting.
But despite the new rules, month after month, Stalin didn't budge from second place. Even though his votes were halved when the organisers cried foul again just before the last round, he still managed to squeeze into the final 12 for the ultimate poll. When the final votes were counted on Sunday, the infamous tyrant had crept back up to take the bronze prize, beating favoured poet Alexander Pushkin. Is Stalin back in fashion? Nokia phone sellers think so, they've already lined the shelved with 'Stalin mobiles'...
Fond memories posted online
The Russian web reacts
"A historical choice" posted by Semen Semenych Gorbunkov, the image is a parody of the famous Russian painting Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine Writing a Letter in Reply to the Sultan of Turkey.
Stalin enshrined with Nevsky (the winner), posted here.
"Saint Stalin" posted on the KPRF forum.
Get your Stalin mobile while stocks last
Before the dust has even settled, there's already a Stalin bandwagon to get on for money-makers. The day the results were announced, Russian mobile phone retailer Ion launched a Stalin emblazoned Nokia 6500. (Nokia has already asserted that they have nothing to do with the design and that they emphatically disapprove of it.)
Photo posted by Vladimir Varpholomeev.
"I can imagine how nervous the show organisers and TV bosses were"
Yuri Bogomolov posted this on his Livejournal account:
Communists immediately said that Stalin won and the organisers forged the results right at the end. I don't know, but I can't exclude this possibility. I can imagine how active Stalinists were in the voting. They are the most fanatical and explosive people. I can imagine how nervous the show organisers and TV bosses were. To let Russia enter 2009 with Stalin's name - no, they couldn't let that happen. They just had to tamper with the results."
"Victory is yours, Joseph Vissarionovich!"
Comment from "NBP":The name of Russia is Stalin! Solgenitser [a mock name given to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn]must be spinning in his grave!
It's clear that the results have been forged. Alexander Nevsky is a semi-mythical, though honoured, person. It's unlikely he's so popular among the people of modern Russia. Stolypin is respected only by chairborn conservatives, who like to speculate how wonderful it would be if those terrible Bolsheviks hadn't taken power. So, the victory is yours, Joseph Vissarionovich!"
"Stalin's values are still sought-after"
Comment from "Sober Loader":Why did Stalin come third in Name of Russia? Anti-Soviet commentators give the simple explanation that Russian people are still heavily affected by Soviet propaganda; they don't know about how repressive he was. But that's not the real reason. The return of the Stalin cult is related to the mindless de-Sovietisation of the nineties, when thieves took power by using the subject of Stalin's repression. Each time the Communists in the Duma [Russian government] tried to stop them from stealing people's property, they'd start talking about Stalin. These criminal practices led to the fact that today, every attempt to bring Stalin into political debate is nullified. But Russian people do have a 'Soviet memory'; they consider the Soviet period their own. That Stalin is among the three leaders of the poll only means that Stalin's values (a strong state and no thieves in power) are still sought-after. There's nothing strange about that."