The Dzerzhinskii Question, Again

  • October 22, 2013 - 2:05 pm
  • Russia
  • Comments Off on The Dzerzhinskii Question, Again

In August 1991. after the failure of the coup attempt in Moscow, the statue of Soviet secret police founder Feliks Dzerzhinskii was removed from its plinth in front of the KGB (now FSB) headquarters on Lubianka Square and relocated to a park beside the New Tretiakov Gallery. Since that time, there have been several legislative attempts to restore the statue to its original site. Recently, the government allocated funds to refurbish the statue, and a Duma member in the ruling United Russia party is once again calling for the statue to be returned to the square. What do Russians think about this? Here's an article below . . .


Dzerzhinskii Dzerzhinskii plque

Dzerzhinskii at the Park of Arts by the New Tretiakov in 2010 (Photo: Megan Dietrich)


BBC Monitoring
Russians want Dzerzhinskiy statue to be returned to Lubyanka Square
Rossiya 1 TV
October 17, 2013

Should the statue of Feliks Dzerzhinskiy (Felix Dzerzhinsky) be returned to its plinth on Lubyanka Square in Moscow? It was the topic debated on the Poyedinok (Duel) political show on official state Russian television channel Rossiya 1 on 17 October.

Dzerzhinskiy was the founder and chief of the Soviet secret police, Cheka, which was the precursor of the KGB, which is now the FSB (Federal Security Service).

The monument to Dzerzhinskiy once dominated Lubyanka Square, near the KGB (now FSB) headquarters. A Moscow landmark and symbol of the Soviet Union, the statue was removed from the square in August 1991, after the abortive coup attempt by hard-line Communists.

In 2002, the then Moscow mayor, Yuriy Luzhkov, proposed returning the statue to its original place but the idea was never materialized owing to strong opposition from liberals as well as the government.

The figure of Dzerzhinskiy continues to divide Russian society, moderator Vladimir Solovyev said in his introduction. Some regard Dzerzhinskiy as an "effective manager" who successfully dealt with many problems facing Russia after the 1917 October Bolshevik Revolution, such as a very high level of crime and millions of homeless children.

Others, on the other hand, see Dzerzhinskiy as the "architect of the Red Terror" whose "hands are stained in blood".

In line with the format of the show, two opponents confronted each other in a "duel".

According to Aleksandr Khinshteyn, a member of the ruling United Russia party, the monument should be returned to its original place because it is wrong to demolish monuments and because Russian society is mature enough "to objectively assess Russian history in which there is a place for everyone", including Dzerzhinskiy.

According to his opponent, president of the Union of Right Forces opposition movement Leonid Gozman, Dzerzhinskiy is a "symbol of appalling brutality" who is responsible for the "murder of the best people in our country".

Khinshteyn disagreed. Dzerzhinskiy, he said, "in the conditions of unimaginable devastation and civil war", created one of the "most effective" and "most powerful" security services in the world.

"Had people like Feliks Dzerzhinskiy stood at the helm of the special services and law-enforcement authorities today, we would not have had Biryulevo," Khinshteyn added, referring to mass riots in the Moscow suburb of Biryulevo in the wake of the murder of a 25-year-old ethnic Russian man allegedly by an Azeri migrant.

"Irrespective of whether it is good or bad, it is our history", and Dzerzhinskiy is part of it, Khinshteyn said.

Dzerzhinskiy symbolizes "summary executions" of tens of thousands of political opponents, as well as the "omnipotence of the building (the KGB headquarters) outside which he stood", Gozman retorted. He said these were the wrong symbols to revive.

According to Gozman, bringing up this topic now was a "provocation" aimed at "distracting people from real problems" such as "economic stagnation, ethnic conflicts, the country's growing isolation, unprecedented corruption and 'humanism' in the form of suspended sentences being given to innocent people".

Summing up the debate, the moderator said that in 1991 the monument was regarded as a symbol of the "horrible Soviet system" and removing it was seen as "turning over a new leaf" in Russian history.

But liberals and democrats who came to power in 1991 in actual fact failed to "turn over a new leaf" and create new role models and new ideas. And suddenly it turns out that the "horrible Soviet system", with all its failings, "did create some positive images". For many people Dzerzhinskiy remains a "symbol of order and a symbol of serving one's country", and many people do feel nostalgic for the Soviet past, Solovyev said.

It appears that an interactive poll conducted during the show proved him right. The "duel" was won by Aleksandr Khinshteyn: three times as many viewers supported his position, compared with the number of those who voted for Leonid Gozman.