Montpellier unveils statue to 'great man' Lenin

Georges Freche in front of a statue of Lenin in Montpellier on 18 August, 2010
Image caption The bronze statue is 3.3m (11ft) high and weighs at least 850kg (1,870lbs)

A controversial French politician has unveiled a statue to the Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin in the southern city of Montpellier.

The statue, commissioned by left-wing regional leader Georges Freche, is one of five celebrating "great men of the 20th Century".

The other statues are of Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, former US president Franklin Roosevelt and early French Socialist leader Jean Jaures.

Each cost 200,000 euros ($260,000).

Mr Freche, who is president of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, enjoys strong local support.

However, he was expelled from the Socialist party in 2007 for saying there were too many black players in the national football team.

In 2006, he was fined 15,000 euros ($19,000) for describing Algerians who fought on France's side in the Algerian war of independence as "sub-human".

Stalin, too

Mr Freche said a further five statues were planned for next year, of India's Mahatma Gandhi, Israel's Golda Meir, Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, South Africa's Nelson Mandela and China's Mao Zedong.

In an interview with the local La Gazette newspaper, the former mayor of Montpellier said people would eventually forget the millions of people who died in China under Mao, and would instead remember that he "gave China its dignity back".

He added that he would not rule out erecting a statue to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.

The Green Party has threatened to dismantle the statues, while a local right-wing UMP politician Jacques Domergue described Mr Freche as a megalomanic "who probably wants a statue of himself one day".

More on this story