As Lenin statues are tumbling down in Ukraine, Stalin statues are being erected in Russia

The build-up to this year’s Victory Day celebration has coincided with a Stalinist renaissance of sorts. Against the backdrop of the crisis in neighboring Ukraine, a state-sponsored effort to fan patriotic sentiment in Russia has brought about a reassessment of the dictator’s contribution to its history. In Moscow, bookshops are filled with volumes casting a positive light on Stalin’s policies, and new museums praising his legacy are scheduled to open in time for May 9.

A March survey conducted by independent Levada Center found that 45 percent of respondents believe that the successes of Stalin’s rule justify the sacrifices Soviet citizens made during his time in power. That figure was 25 percent in November 2012. The same poll found that while the number of people with a positive opinion of Stalin has remained stable over the past 15 years at around 35 percent, those with a negative opinion have markedly decreased in number, from 43 percent in 2001 to 20 percent today.

In Oryol, surveys indicated that over half of the city’s inhabitants supported the idea of a new Stalin statue in town. So the local Communist party chose to erect one at exactly the same location on Moskovskaya street where his eight-meter figure towered in the 1950s, and commissioned Basarev to sculpt it. The news sparked heated debates far beyond the city itself, one of dozens across the country where Stalin’s rehabilitation is underway.