Siberian tourist chiefs revive Stalin memorial

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The Independent Online

Siberian tourist chiefs have put political correctness to one side and decided to rebuild a sprawling Communist-era memorial complex dedicated to the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

The Krasnoyarsk region hopes the resurrected "Pantheon of Stalin" will attract Russian and foreign tourists to the remote area.

The original complex contained a museum devoted to the "Man of Steel", and had as its focal point a life-size bronze statue of Stalin with his right hand purposefully tucked into his greatcoat.

The complex was shut in 1961 at the height of a "de-Stalinisation" campaign triggered by Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech in 1956 denouncing Stalin, who died three years earlier. His statue was tossed into the river in the late 1980s when Mikhail Gorbachev's policy of glasnost began to bite. What was left of the complex was all but destroyed by a fire in 1995. It was originally built by prisoners to mark Stalin's exile to Siberia by the Tsarist authorities for revolutionary and subversive activity in the early 20th century.

Yevgeny Pashenko, an aide to the regional governor, said the project was expected to be completed for next year's tourist season. "It is a purely commercial project to attract tourists and there are no politics behind it," he told the Russian media. But Aleksei Babia, the local chairman of human rights group Memorial, said: "This is part of a big public relations campaign... Stalin, his name, and his deeds are constantly exaggerated in a justificatory way."

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