Russia: Local Communist Party plans 'year of Stalin'

Georgi Kamenev next to the Stalin bust at the event to announce the "year of Stalin" Image copyright kprfpenza.ru
Image caption Georgi Kamenev announced the party's plans next to the recently unveiled gold bust of Stalin

Members of the Communist Party in the Russian city of Penza have announced plans to open a study centre in honour of Joseph Stalin.

The party has declared 2016 "the year of Stalin" and is arranging a number of events in honour of the late Soviet dictator, the RBK television channel reports. Local party chief Georgi Kamenev says the Stalin Centre will host talks and show films to "counter the falsehoods and attacks on Stalin's reputation and legacy with facts and the truth".

The year kicks off with a photo exhibition at the party offices on 21 December - the wartime leader's birthday - and a series of "Stalin Readings" to mark his death on 5 March will see "renowned scholars and public figures" gather in the city, according to Mr Kamenev.

Next year marks the 80th anniversary of the so-called Stalin Constitution of 1936, and the party says it will fund grants for young historians to research its legacy. While Stalin dubbed the document "the most democratic in the world", in reality it marked the start of bloody purges that wiped out the generation of Bolsheviks who led the 1917 Revolution.

Penza's Communists have already shown their devotion to Stalin by unveiling a bust of him outside their offices in September. The move was denounced by the liberal Yabloko party, which said it "insulted the memory of the more than 26,000 Penzans who died during his repressive rule". Local authorities say they can do nothing, as the statue stands on private property.

Despite the nostalgia for Soviet rule that President Vladimir Putin encourages, Stalin remains beyond the pale for many Russians. An authoritative opinion poll by the Levada Centre in March found that 39% of respondents admired Stalin to some degree, while about 25% considered him to be a criminal.

Image copyright kprfpenza.ru
Image caption A small crowd gathered to hear plans for the "year of Stalin"

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