In a bellicose speech at its unveiling, the mayor described the bust as “the people’s decision.” But his own poll contradicts that view. The reality is that without Lokot’s 11th-hour intervention, the saga would probably have hit a dead end. Rather, political pragmatism was likely at play here. Within Russia’s hierarchical system, the local mayor’s ability to effect change is limited. And amid grievances over issues ranging from potholes to an increase in energy prices and a higher age for pensions, this was one question the mayor could resolve.
Stalin also provides a population eager for some good news with a dose of triumph. By no coincidence did the unveiling of the Stalin statue fall on Victory Day, which marks the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany and which, under Putin, has seen military pomp eclipsing commemoration. At the ceremony for the unveiling of the bust, veterans sat in the front row.
But just as different tiers of government have varying reasons for supporting Stalinists, so too do Stalinists have different reasons for worshipping his image: Some see the dictator as a panacea for societal and economic ills. For others, it’s one way to express an anti-government sentiment. “Our industry, our agricultural sector—it’s all in ruins,” Denisyuk told me. “This bust is not about honoring Stalin. It’s about resurrecting and furthering his cause.”