Russians vote on returning Soviet secret police chief statue

Three decades after Russians toppled the statue of Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky, they are voting on whether to restore it outside of the domestic intelligence headquarters in central Moscow.

The week-long vote kicked off Thursday over a new monument to stand in front of the headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor agency to the KGB, on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square a stone’s throw from the Kremlin.

Muscovites are choosing between Dzerzhinsky, who is seen as a symbol of the KGB’s dominance over Soviet society, and Alexander Nevsky, a 13th-century prince and Orthodox saint.

By noon (0900 GMT) Thursday some 50,000 votes had been cast on the Moscow government portal, with Nevsky edging Dzerzhinsky by 53 percent to 47.

The vote comes at a time when nostalgia for Soviet leaders like Joseph Stalin is on the rise, while young Russians are increasingly unaware of USSR-era repression.

A survey by the independent Levada Centre pollster last year showed that 41 percent of young Russians did not know about repression under Stalin.

The original statue of Dzerzhinsky was toppled in August 1991 as tens of thousands celebrated a failed putsch against Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s final leader who brought about its dissolution. 

The 11-tonne bronze statue, held in a park of Soviet monuments in central Moscow, is considered part of Russia’s cultural heritage. 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday that he was unaware of former KGB officer President Vladimir Putin’s views on the vote.