Most of you won’t care (but you should) about this story, but some will, and so do I.
Two sentences inscribed above the refurbished entrance hall of Moscow’s Kurskaya metro station are causing great agitation for survivors of Russian labor camps.Yuri Fidelgoldsh, who had five ribs removed after imprisonment six decades ago, is one of the offended survivors.
“Stalin reared us on loyalty to the people,” says the inscription above the pristine marble floors of the metro station. “He inspired us to labor and to heroism.”
The phrase at the metro station came from the original Soviet national anthem, written in 1944 by Sergey Mikhalkov. During the de-Stalinization process that began under Nikita Khrushchev after Stalin’s death in 1953, statues and other vestiges of his immense cult of personality were removed. In 1977, Mikhalkov rewrote the anthem to delete references to Stalin, and the metro station removed the original inscription of his words.
The entrance hall to the station underwent extensive renovation over the past year, complete with new columns and polished marble floors. It’s located on the main metro line around the city’s center, through which tens of thousands of commuters pass every day.
Some Russians are none too pleased about this image restoration project, particularly the ones old or studios enough to know the horror and regression Stalin inflicted upon the former Soviet Union.
Fidelgoldsh, now 82, doesn’t use the metro station much, but he has been there to see the restoration. When he invokes the name “Stalin,” he gets angry. “For people who were imprisoned, punished and whose parents were killed, this is still in their hearts,” Fidelgoldsh says.
Kremlin critics are outraged by the restored motto at the station. They say it’s the latest attempt by the government to rehabilitate the image of Joseph Stalin, the late Soviet leader largely responsible for the division of Europe, the deaths of nearly 20 million people and the creator of the Eastern Bloc.
“I have no positive emotions towards Stalin,” Fidelgoldsh adds. “He’s a college dropout who went into politics and became a leader of a party which fit his needs. He didn’t exactly impress me with his ‘great’ mind.”
“This metro station was built by prisoners of gulags who were in there for no reason, just because. They were the ones building this station. I think all of this is simply wrong,” says Valeri M. Shevchenko, a musician, whose father suffered at the hands of Stalin’s regime.
“They came in the morning, Stalin’s police, took everyone outside and shot my grandfather in front of his family. My grandmother and her eight children, including my father who was 8 at the time, were sent to work camps. Only three children survived.”
As Shevchenko looks around the metro station today, he shakes his head.
Why are Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Medvedev, and the rest of the current crop of Kremlin officials concerned with restoring the reputation of a murderer of some 40,000,000 Russians? Could it be that they (Putin in particular) idolize Stalin?