Stalin vies for top spot in 'greatest Russian' TV contest

Brutal Soviet dictator has a chance of being named later today as the country's greatest historical figure

He massacred millions of his own people, enforced a system of terror that plagues Russia to this day and, to top it all, he was Georgian. But Joseph Stalin, the former Soviet leader, has a strong chance of winning the mantle of Russia's greatest historical figure.

More than two million votes have been cast in state-run Rossiya television's Name of Russia contest, modelled on the BBC's Great Britons, with the result to be announced today.

Stalin has hovered in the top three for months: just before Christmas he was in second place, fewer than 10,000 votes behind Alexander Nevsky, a medieval military hero, and more than 27,000 ahead of the poet Alexander Pushkin.

A Stalin victory would be controversial by any measure. In recent years the authorities have sought to highlight his Second World War leadership and his economic planning, but the purges, deportations and brutal labour camp system over which he presided are estimated to have cost 20 million lives. Nor was he even Russian. The future dictator was born Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili and raised in Gori, a Georgian town that was overrun by Russian tanks during the two countries' war in August this year.

The contest's organiser doesn't appear concerned – and says he has even gained a new understanding of Stalin. "He won't win," said Alexander Lyubimov, a journalist who rose to prominence in the late 1980s as the Soviet Union began to crumble. During a previous round of voting, Mr Lyubimov helped to rally support for an alternative, Tsar Nicholas II, but says that won't be necessary this time.

Now deputy head of VGTRK, a state radio and television company, Mr Lyubimov claims to understand the backing for Stalin, saying he should be known for more than his repression. "He had no other choice," he said. "He was surrounded by enemies, and domestically it was also full of enemies of Bolshevism."

That's the line promoted in modern Russia. A new government-approved textbook teaches children that Stalin had to resort to violence to modernise the Soviet Union.

Mr Lyubimov is proud that the TV contest is doing its part. "Five or 10 years ago, this wouldn't have been possible," he said, referring to Stalin's place in the poll. "We're creating historical distance, so it doesn't touch us as much emotionally. This is the first brick in the wall toward trying to forget."

Viktor Perov, a member of a Communist Party splinter group in St Petersburg, doubts the contest organisers will allow a Communist to win. "It's all lies," he said. His group, which has gained publicity for protesting against the representation of Soviets in films such as the Indiana Jones series, has thrown its support behind another contender in the poll, Vladimir Lenin. Stalin's predecessor is lagging in sixth place, but Mr Perov thinks he still has a chance. "The masses will wake up in a time of financial crisis," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Travel
travel
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: SEO / Outreach Executive

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a global marketin...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Estimator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Negotiator - OTE £24,000

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic individual is r...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - West Midlands - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?