Brezhnev Plaque Returns

  • May 29, 2013 - 12:49 am
  • Russia
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May 28, 2013

In Russia, Commemorative Plaque To Be Restored Amid Brezhnev Nostalgia
By Claire Bigg

Authorities have backed a plan to return a commemorative plaque to the Moscow apartment building where Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev spent the last 30 years of his life.

A Moscow City Hall committee has approved the initiative, submitted by a group of State Duma deputies.

Supporters had hoped to have the plaque installed this month, but Aleksandr Khinshtein, a lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party and the driving force behind the project, said on Twitter that it will more likely be ready in December -- in time for Brezhnev's 107th birthday.

Khinshtein said on May 27 that the work had been commissioned to sculptor Aleksandr Rukavishnikov, the grandson of the artist who had produced the original plaque that once was affixed to the stately building at 26 Kutuzovsky Prospekt.

Brezhnev lived at this address from 1952 until his death in November 1982 at the age of 76.

The plaque was removed after the Soviet Union collapsed nine years later.

But critics say Brezhnev, whose 18-year rule was marked by political repression and economic stagnation, does not deserve the honor.

Memorial and other Russian rights group have been particularly vocal against the initiative.

"Our authorities are nostalgic about Soviet times, so they respond to the requests of citizens who feel the same nostalgia," Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the veteran rights activist and head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, tells RFE/RL. "In my opinion, looking back at the past is the last thing leaders and people should be doing. I don't miss those times, even though I'm an old person and I spent my youth during this period. I'm happy that we got rid of this unsuccessful Soviet experiment."

Although Brezhnev continues to be the butt of countless jokes, many Russians praise him for providing stability and presiding over Moscow's detente with the United States in the 1970s ­ a thaw in relations that famously led to the first sales of Pepsi in the Soviet Union.

A spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, has called the Brezhnev era a "huge plus" for the country.

Last month, an opinion poll by the independent Levada Center found that 56 percent of Russians see Brezhnev as the greatest leader of the 20th century, followed by Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin.