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Bulletin 4:9 (2010)

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  • Andreas Umland
    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 4, No. 9(90), 6 March 2010 Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland I
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2010
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      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 4, No. 9(90), 6 March 2010
      Compilers: Scott Littlefield & Andreas Umland

      I NEWS: 16 February – 1 March 2010

      [NOTE: When viewing an RNB issue in the Messages archive of the homepage and the end of the text is truncated, scroll to the end of the message and click "Expand Messages." Only then, the whole text of the - otherwise truncated - issue will appear.]

      I NEWS: 16 February – 1 March 2010

      New bill drafted to put curbs on missionary activities with minors in Russia
      Interfax-Religion, February 16, 2010

      Moscow, February 16, Interfax - A bill has been drafted to put curbs on missionary work conducted by religious groups with minors in Russia, the Justice Ministry has announced.
      "A bill amending the Law on the Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations and the Code of Administrative Offenses has been developed and will be submitted to the government," the ministry said in a press release.
      The bill aims to give a legal definition of the term 'missionary activities' and to put curbs on religious organizations' missionary work with regards to minors.
      In addition to this, the bill limits missionary activities which involves offers of material, social and other benefits for the sake of drawing citizens to religious organizations.


      Kazan Court Hands Down Suspended Sentence to Anti-Fascist
      UCSJ, February 17, 2010

      A court in Kazan, Russia (Republic of Tatarstan) handed down a suspended sentence to an anti-fascist for assaulting a neo-Nazi last year, according to a February 10, 2010 article in the local supplement to the national daily "Kommersant." Denis Shelepov, age 21, and a group of unidentified young people threw bricks and bottles at university student Aleksandr Naumenko, a neo-Nazi, on June 10, 2009, causing
      injury to his face. The victim identified Mr. Shelepov, who was charged with "hooliganism motivated by ideological hatred and animosity," a rarely used statute.
      Local police sources told "Kommersant" that both neo-Nazi and anti-fascist gangs became active in Kazan at the beginning of 2008, engaging in propaganda and occasional brawls. Last May, a Kazan court sentenced two anti-fascists in connection with the stabbing of a neo-Nazi teenager. A court in the nearby city of Naberezhnye Chelny handed down suspended sentences to two anti-fascists in connection with an assault on two neo-Nazis. There is no information in the report about neo-Nazi violence against anti-fascists—a disturbingly common phenomenon in other Russian cities.


      St. Petersburg Police Detain Neo-Nazis on Explosives and Weapons Charges
      UCSJ, February 17, 2010

      Police in St. Petersburg, Russia have made several detentions of neo-Nazis in connection with three explosions in that city targeting ethnic minorities, according to a February 9, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center. Two of the suspects are former members of the now defunct Russian National Unity organization. One of the suspects was allegedly in possession of explosives. On January 25, 2009 police detained two university students in connection with the same explosions. A homemade pistol, explosives and knives were allegedly confiscated from the suspects' homes. On February 6, 2010 police detained two more suspects--both members of the "National Socialism--White Power" gang. In addition to involvement in the explosions, police are charging them with the December 25, 2009 murder of a citizen of Ghana.
      There is no information in the report indicating that the suspects face extremism or hate crimes charges.


      United Russia considers Orthodoxy as moral basis for modernization
      Interfax-Religion, February 17, 2010

      Moscow, February 17, Interfax – The United Russia political party believes Russian modernization should be based on Orthodox faith.
      The party's center for social conservative policy has recently adopted a document that directly binds "success of system reforms, development of corporate culture and growth of national prosperity" to "preserving stable value foundation of society."
      "It is based on Orthodox ethics in Russia, its integral part are values of patriotism, collegiality, work for common welfare," the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily cited the Party's document as saying on Wednesday.
      According to the edition, Deputy Secretary of the Presidium of the Party's General Council Yury Shuvalov initiated the document. The State Duma MPs Andrey Isayev, Irina Yarovaya, Mikhail Babich and others actively backed up the initiative.


      Russian religious organizations likely to gain right for state help
      Interfax-Religion, February 17, 2010

      Moscow, February 17, Interfax – The United Russia members introduced amendments to the presidential draft on NGOs support to secure right of religious organizations for state help.
      Religious organizations will also obtain the socially oriented status. The State Duma Committee on Public Associations and Religious Organizations will consider amendments on February 19, the second reading is planned for February 26, the Vedomosti paper reported on Wednesday.
      The amendments aim at stimulating charitable activities of religious organizations. Having them adopted, parishes of the Russian Church would be able to get money allocated by the government for prevention of abortions and support of young families on priority basis, it would be easier for them to get premises, member of the United Russia parliament faction Sergey Markov said.
      The law did not envisage privileges for all religious organizations, the Patriarchate's legal adviser Ksenia Chernega stressed. According to her, parishes involved in charities, helping the poor and homeless are first to get support.


      Russian Duma speaker against Stalin posters in Moscow
      Interfax, February 18, 2010

      Duma speaker and chairman of One Russia's Supreme Council Boris Gryzlov is firmly against posters with Stalin's portraits appearing on Moscow streets in the run-up to the 65th anniversary of the WWII victory, Interfax reported on 18 February.
      "We can say that the winner was not Stalin but the people," Gryzlov said, when asked by Interfax to comment on a decision by the Moscow advertising committee to put up information points about Stalin's role in WWII.
      Gryzlov said he had no official confirmation of the advertising committee's decision. "But if this decision was made, I think it is wrong," Gryzlov said.
      Chairman of the Moscow advertising committee Vladimir Makarov told Interfax on 17 February that "an information point about the role of the supreme commander-in-chief will be erected at numerous requests by veteran organizations".
      Communist Party leader Gennadiy Zyuganov has welcomed the decision to put up posters and information points commemorating Stalin's role in the war.
      "If the Moscow authorities make this decision, it will be not only absolutely correct but also courageous," Zyuganov told Interfax. If this happens, this will mean that "for the first time in the last 20 years we will reject hypocrisy", he said.
      Former President of the USSR Mikhail Gorbachev believes that people should learn about Stalin's role in the war from books rather than posters on Moscow streets, Interfax reported.
      "Stalin played his role in the war, this is a fact. But I think we have already made up our minds about Stalin. Books and handbooks should objectively tell us what happened and how. If Moscow is filled with Stalin posters, this will cause a lot of surprise and rejection, at least," Gorbachev told Interfax.

      Only Ten of 2,000 Stands Will Feature Stalin on Victory Day
      Interfax, February 18, 2010

      MOSCOW. Feb 18 (Interfax) - A total of ten boards displaying information and images of Joseph Stalin will be set up around Moscow for the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II, the Moscow Committee for Advertising, Information and Design told Interfax on Thursday.
      "The information will be neutral with no assessments of Stalin's role in history, and the boards will be set up in places where war veterans will gather," a Committee spokesman told Interfax.
      "In the wake of media reports, claiming that Stalin's role in the Great Patriotic War was inflated, the Committee officially states that about 2,000 posters of various formats carrying information about the role of the Soviet people, the partisan movement, underground organizations, workers of the home front and artists during the Great Patriotic War, and also about the war-time awards, builders, architects, doctors, teachers, military correspondents and photographers, will appear in Moscow as the city is being decorated for the 65th anniversary of victory in World War II," the spokesman said.
      The ten stands with information about Stalin will be set up at the request of the Moscow Veterans' Committee and of the Moscow City Council of Veterans of War, Labor and Law Enforcement Services, he said.

      U.S. Ambassador Opens Exhibit in St.Petersburg Commemorating Father's Feats in WW2
      Interfax, February 18, 2010

      ST.PETERSBURG. Feb 18 (Interfax) - U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle on Thursday told reporters the story of his father Joseph, who fought against fascism during Word War II with both the American and Soviet armies.
      Beyrle recalled at a press conference in St.Petersburg on the occasion of the opening of an exhibit featuring his father's life, that with his sister he would often ask his father questions about the war.
      "'Do Russians drink vodka? Did you drink with them?' I and my sister would ask him. 'Yes, we drank vodka," he would reply. 'And here is a toast we had: For Roosevelt, for Stalin, for Studebaker!'" the U.S. ambassador recalled.
      Beyrle said they could not understand what "Studebaker" meant until their father told them about the lend-lease plan which brought American vehicles to the Soviet Army in Europe.
      The exhibit, titled "A Hero of Two Nations" features the life of Joseph Beyrle as an American paratrooper, who fought against fascism during World War II in both the American and Soviet armies.
      Two hundred and sixty objects from Joseph Beyrle's collection are on display, including awards, medals, badges, items of clothing, things used by soldiers in the time of war, as well as photographs and archive materials, the Russian Museum said.
      "His record as a paratrooper began on the day the Second Front was opened and ended up near Berlin with a Soviet tank battalion of the 2nd Belarusian Front," the press release says.
      Joseph Beyrle is considered to be the only soldier in World War II to have fought against Nazi Germany with both the American and Soviet armies.
      He was presented with commemorative medals for his unique service during World War II at a ceremony in the White House in Washington in 1994, marking 50 years since the Second Front was opened. The awards were presented to the heroes by the then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
      Joseph Beyrle died on December 12, 2004.

      United Russia clubs haven't adopted any decisions on Orthodoxy as state religion, party official says
      Interfax-Religion, February 18, 2010

      Moscow, February 18, Interfax – Leaders of the United Russia political party consider some media reports claiming the party has chosen Orthodoxy as state ideology and adopted a correspondent document at a closed session of its three clubs as discrediting the party.
      "Nothing like this has ever happened, we haven't adopted any documents of such kind," Deputy Secretary of the Presidium of the Party's General Council Yury Shuvalov told Interfax on Thursday.
      He stressed "clubs are not the instance to take decisions on the party's behalf. They are United Russia discussion platform to hold debates on various, diametrically opposite, points of views."
      "I consider such information "leakage" from our session as a campaign on discrediting serious, creative work of the party members and public figures participating in it. Voluntary or involuntary, but initiators of this campaign pervert intellectual search undergoing in the party," Shuvalov stressed.
      According to him, "nobody doubted constitutional principle of Church separated from the state and representatives of all traditional confessions represented in Russia can and should participate in modernization."
      Shuvalov stated that the clubs at their sessions discussed quite a different thing: a person, his rights and interests should be in focus of all modernization processes. "Key spiritual bases of the society should influence decisions taken at various layers of power. Then these decisions will have a stable basis," the United Russia official said.


      It is impossible to be Catholic in Russia without respecting Russian Church – Archbishop Pezzi
      Interfax-Religion, February 18, 2010

      Moscow, February 18, Interfax – Head of the Archdiocese of the Holy Virgin in Moscow Archbishop Paolo Pezzi urged faithful Catholics to respect the Russian Orthodox Church.
      "It is obviously impossible to be Catholics in Russia without deepest respect to the Russian Orthodox Church, without sincerest and ardent wish to unite with her as she preserves substantial part of the richest spiritual tradition of this nation," Pezzi said in his article for the Vita e pensiero Italian magazine published by the diocesan bulletin in Russian translation.
      According to the Archbishop, "in spite of cultural differences, this tradition is enrooted in faith that almost corresponds to the Catholic faith in its basis."
      Pezzi urges to consider Catholic mission "not as parallel or competing with the mission of the Orthodox Church as if we were trying to convert more Russians to Catholicism, but as truly "ecumenical," penetrated with desire to carry out and demonstrate today (in forms God grants us) the unity we are to promote in full plenitude."


      Seoul calls Moscow for enhanced security measures to prevent hate crimes against South Koreans
      Xinhua, February 19 2010

      The South Korean government requested Moscow to take stronger security measures to prevent hate crimes against its citizens living in Russia, prompted by an attack on a college student earlier this week that resulted in a death, local media reported citing foreign ministry officials Friday.
      "We urged both the central and local governments of Russia to take measures to help prevent any hate crime from happening again, " an official from South Korea's foreign ministry was quoted as saying by Yonhap News Agency.
      "The government expressed its concerns over the gravity of this incident and the negative impact it could impose on the relationship between the two countries to the Russian government through our embassy in Moscow," it added.
      The 22-year old South Korean, identified only by his surname Kang, was reportedly involved in an attack believed to be racially motivated by three local youths in the Russian city of Irkutsk, and died at a hospital on Thursday, according to media reports.
      All three suspects have been arrested by local police who believe it was a racially motivated attack since no cash or valuables were taken from the scene, according to local media.
      Kang was on an exchange student program at a national college of education in Russia where 18 other South Koreans currently enroll, all of whom are scheduled to return home next week, media said.


      Series of Attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses
      UCSJ, February 19, 2010

      In the wake of a government clampdown on Jehovah's Witnesses, several attacks have taken place on that faith's adherents over the past few months, according to a February 11, 2010 report by the Sova Information-Analytical Center, citing reports by the central Moscow office of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia. Jehovah's Witnesses reported the following attacks since December:
      On December 11, according to the report, a man wielding what appeared to be a pistol drove out two Jehovah's Witnesses from his building while demanding that the
      "sectarians" (a pejorative term for minority Christians widely used by Russian officials and media) leave the premises.
      On December 17, a man beat up a Jehovah's Witnesses in Chelyabinsk after finding
      out her religious affiliation. On December 17 in Rybinsk (Yaroslavl region), a man reportedly assaulted two Jehovah's Witnesses inside an apartment building where they were distributing religious literature.
      Finally, on December 22 in Novorossiysk (Krasnodar region), a young man claiming
      to be a police officer assaulted two Jehovah's Witnesses on the street as they were preaching. He punched and kicked the prone women and reportedly took away one of their purses.
      There is no indication in the report that police have detained any suspects in connection with these assaults.


      Bigotry Monitor—UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 7, February 19, 2010

      Police in St. Petersburg have made several detentions of neo-Nazis in connection with three explosions in that city targeting ethnic minorities, according to a February 9 report by the Sova Center for Information and Analysis. Two of the suspects are former members of the defunct Russian National Unity organization. One of the suspects was allegedly in possession of explosives. On January 25, 2009 police detained two university students in connection with the same explosions. A homemade pistol, explosives, and knives were said to have been seized in the suspects' homes.
      On February 6, police detained two more suspects--both members of the "National Socialism-White Power" gang. In addition to involvement in the explosions, police are charging them with the December 25, 2009 murder of a citizen of Ghana. The report offers no information indicating that the suspects face extremism or hate crimes charges.


      Discussion on Stalin's role to be held on more serious level than billboards, Russian Church believes
      Interfax-Religion, February 19, 2010

      Moscow, February 19, Interfax – The Moscow Patriarchate believes Stalin's billboards on Moscow streets will cause escalation of cruelty rather than productive discussion in society.
      "Discussions on understanding, on evaluating history should be held, but it should be conducted on different level than hanging billboard and causing fierce reaction that is already developing," head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said on air of Radonezh and Golos Rossii joint radio program.
      According to him, discussions should be "more serious than attempts to place a billboard saying that Stalin is good and cause opposition of other people."
      "I can expect that someone will spoil these billboards, someone will protest against them," the priest said and added society needs "serious discussions on Stalin's role, it is no way of solving the problem with billboards."
      Giving evaluation to Stalin's personality, the priest noted that he had "positive qualities, he was a clever dedicated person and had good understanding of politics. He never placed family interests above interests of his work (as he understood it.)"
      According to Fr. Vsevolod, any historical personality "especially acting in conditions of 20th century and wars of the 20th century is not ideal: Zhukov is not ideal hero and Stalin is not an absolute evildoer. They had positive and negative sides."
      "Stalin had strong features of character, he had his own morals (we can argue whether it was right morals), it was morals of a statesperson, a ruler of destinies, but he surely had his own morals. He was not a person of decay. He didn't pass on his power to his daughter, he didn't indulge his family – he rather sacrificed it," Fr. Vsevolod said.


      Antifascist from Rostov-on-Don receives a warning about extremism
      SOVA Center, February 22, 2010

      The prosecutor's office in Rostov-on-Don issued a warning about extremist activity to Konstantin Baranov, the author of the report on xenophobia and discrimination in the region (`Xenophobia and Discrimination in the Rostov Region in 2008. A Report on the Results of Human Rights Monitoring'). The warning has been received on February19th though it is dated February 9th.
      The warning is a result of a six month long inspection carried out by the prosecutor's office on demand of the local department of education. The formal grounds were the indication of `the contacts of the National Bolshevik Party' (NBP) in the report. Those were the contacts of the NBP leaders of the region taken from open and generally accessible sources.
      For some reasons, the prosecutor's office supposes that the access to the National Bolsheviks' contacts itself will attract young people to their ranks. But following the law instead of such suppositions, it must be admitted that indicating anybody's contacts doesn't break any laws including the one on counteracting extremist activity.
      Konstantin Baranov who is the leader of a non-violent antifascist group in Rostov has been threatened by neo-Nazi for a long time. His address is posted on the Web together with calls for his murder.
      The Rostov Region has recently become one of the centers of activity of ultra-rightist and openly neo-Nazi organizations including the ones that claimed their responsibility for the terrorist attacks occurred in Russia in 2009. However, the measures undertaken by the authorities to stop ultra-rightists' activity in the region can hardly be called sufficient. In these circumstances, it looks quite puzzling to give a warning about extremism to a consistent and non-violent antifascist for an analytic work focused on ultra-rightist groups' activity and attracting attention of the public and state to the problem.
      Konstantin Baranov is going to appeal against the warning.


      Six killed in hate crimes in Russia so far this year
      Interfax, February 24, 2010

      MOSCOW. Feb 24 (Interfax) - Six people have died as a result of hate crimes in Russia so far this year, Moscow Human Rights Bureau Director Alexander Brod told Interfax on Wednesday.
      "Fifteen attacks motivated by aggressive xenophobia were registered over the period of time from the start of January to mid-February 2010. Six people were killed and 15 more were injured in them," Brod said.
      These incidents were reported in Moscow, the Moscow region, Vladivostok, the Kaliningrad region, Dagestan, St. Petersburg, Ryazan and Irkutsk, the human rights activist said.
      Hate crimes committed this year most frequently targeted Kyrgyz and Uzbek citizens, he said.
      "16 people were killed and 36 were injured [in such crimes] over the same period of time in 2009, and 26 and 48 in 2008," Brod said.
      Russia could see a surge in the number of crimes motivated by xenophobia and ethnic intolerance this year, he said.
      Russian-based nationalist organizations have thousands of activists who attack people from the Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as representatives of youth sub-cultures and sexual minorities, human rights campaigners say.

      Irkutsk Police Detain Suspect in Racist Assault
      UCSJ, February 24, 2010

      Police in Irkutsk, Russia detained a far-right activist in connection with an assault on an ethnic Buryat, according to a February 11, 2010 report by the Teleinform news agency. Police charged the 19 year old suspect with "hooliganism" paradoxically announcing at the same time that he assaulted his victim out of racist animus. It is not clear from the report why, therefore, the suspect does not face hate crimes charges in addition to "hooliganism," especially since he allegedly yelled racist abuse during the crime.


      Nearly half of Russians believe armed forces need chaplains
      Interfax-Religion, February 24, 2010

      Moscow, February 24, Interfax - 45% of Russians believe that the Russian Armed Forces should have chaplains, the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) found after conducting a poll of 1,600 respondents in 140 populated areas in 42 Russian regions on February 13-14.
      "The need for the armed forces to have clerics is supported especially by residents of the Northwestern Federal District (55%), the Far Eastern Federal District (50%) and Moscow residents (48%). Another 17% of those polled were unsure whether chaplains were needed, while 19% believe the military servicemen do not need chaplains," VTsIOM said Interfax on Wednesday.
      The premise that the armed forces need chaplains is shared by 61% of Fair Russia party supporters, 50% of women, 47%-49% of respondents older than 35, and 56% of non-university educated respondents, VTsIOM said.
      Meanwhile, 26% of Communist Party supporters, 24% of Liberal Democratic Party supporters, 24% of men, 24% of respondents younger than 35, and 22% of university-educated respondents hold the opposite view, the poll showed.


      Russia refuses to register NGO set up to help sexual minorities
      Interfax-Religion, February 24, 2010

      Moscow, February 24, Interfax - The Russian Justice Ministry has rejected an application to register Marriage Equality, a nonprofit organization set up to provide legal assistance and information services to sexual minorities.
      "A necessary package of documents for the registration of the organization was submitted with the Justice Ministry Central Office for Moscow on December 14 last year, but the authorities thought the organization's objectives contradict the current laws," prominent Russian gay rights activist Nikolay Alexeyev told Interfax on Wednesday.
      Under the movement's charter, its objectives include, in particular, "to provide assistance and information services so as to overcome discrimination, defamation and violation of the rights of citizens because of their sexual orientation and gender identity; to assist in protecting human rights in the area of spousal relations and to achieve marriage equality for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in the Russian Federation, as well as to carry out activities aimed at achieving the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in the Russian Federation."


      Murder of Russian journalist, lawyer requalified to 'political'
      RIA Novosti, February 25, 2010

      Moscow investigaotors requalified into a political murder the killing of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.
      Moscow investigaotors requalified into a political murder the killing of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were gunned down by suspected neo-Nazis, a source familiar with the investigation said.
      Human rights lawyer Markelov, 34, and Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova, 25, were shot on January 19, 2009 in downtown Moscow, just a short distance from the Christ the Savior Cathedral. Markelov died at the scene and Baburova lost her struggle for life shortly afterwards in hospital.
      Last November, Nikolai Tikhonov, 29, and Yevgenia Khasis, 24, members of a radical neo-Nazi nationalist group, were charged with a "murder committed by previous concert by a group of individuals".
      The case made headlines all over the world and once again highlighted the dangers faced by journalists and human rights activists in Russia, which has one of the poorest journalist safety records in the world.
      "Investigators requalified Tikhonov's charge. He is charged with 'murder on grounds of political, ideological, national or religious enmity,'" the source said.
      Tikhonov, who first confessed to the murder, then said he had confessed to it under pressure. In line with Russian law, he can face life in prison if found guilty.
      The source said Tikhonov is also suspected of the murder of anti-fascist Alexander Rukhin in April 2007. Three people have already been sentenced to prison terms from three to 6.5 years for the murder.


      Russian Church official decisively rejects reproaches of politizing Patriarch Kirill's visit to Yanukovich inauguration
      Interfax-Religion, February 25, 2010

      Moscow, February 25, Interfax – Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will focus on celebrating a Divine Liturgy and a prayer service during his visit to Ukraine, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Information Department Vladimir Legoyda says.
      On air of the Govorit Moskva radio station he mentioned that Patriarch Kirill came to Ukraine in "difficult, destiny time," to "be with his flock, to pray with his flock when the country faces very serious changes."
      "We have stressed more than once that the Russian Orthodox Church is not a Church of the Russian Federation, so today I've been disappointed to read at an information website that head of the Presidential Office Naryshkin and Patriarch Kirill will represent Russia at inauguration ceremony in Ukraine," Legoyda said.
      He added then it was equally possible to claim that Patriarch Kirill represented Ukraine in Russia. To consider pastoral visit as a visit of a state official to another country is "categorically incorrect," Legoyda stressed.
      According to him, flock of the Russian Orthodox Church lives in Ukraine, in Byelorussia, in Moldavia. "All these people are the Patriarch's flock and thus the color of his passport doesn't matter at all," head of the Information Department said.


      Yanukovych moves to give Russian official status in Ukraine
      RIA Novosti, February 26, 2010

      KIEV, February 26 (RIA Novosti)-The party of new Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych will propose giving the Russian language official status at a regional level, Party of Regions deputy head Boris Kolesnikov said on Friday.
      In line with the former Soviet republic's constitution, Ukrainian is the sole state language. However, during his election campaign, pro-Russian Yanukovych promised to give Russian, spoken by some 40% of the population as their first language, official status.
      While the Party of Regions does not have enough MPs in parliament to force a change in the constitution, regional authorities will be given the choice to make Russian official in their respective areas, Kolesnikov told the Gazeta newspaper.
      "Governed by the European charter on languages, we have prepared a very good law, and the president will present it in the next 15-20 days," he said.
      "If some regions do not want to adopt it, they don't have to," he added.
      Earlier this month, Ukraine's Constitutional Court overturned a government resolution prohibiting school teachers from speaking Russian at work.

      Bigotry Monitor—UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 8, February 26, 2010

      Half of all Russians--49%--believe there is a significant military threat for their country; the number of these respondents has risen 12% over the past year, sociologists from the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM) said on February 18, as reported by Interfax. On the other hand, 40% of respondents believe that Russia faces no military threat. But one year ago, that figure was 52%.
      The poll was conducted by VTsIOM on February 13-14 in 140 population centers across Russia. Once an independent polling agency, VTsIOM is now owned and run by the state.


      Bigotry Monitor—UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 8, February 26, 2010

      "On February 10, the organizers of the Moscow gay pride parade sent a complaint against Russia to the European Court of Human Rights over the ban of demonstrations and picketing in support of tolerance and respect for the rights and liberties of homosexuals in Russia and Belarus," movement activist Nikolay Alexeyev said, as reported by Interfax. The complaint's authors claim the ban of the events organized by the gay movement violates the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in particular Article 11 (right to freedom of assembly), Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 13 (the right for an effective remedy). The organizers seek 200,000 euros (about $271,000) in damages from the Russian government.
      The European Court "continues to hear our complaints against the ban of three gay pride parades in Moscow in 2006, 2007, and 2008," Alexeyev noted. "The Russian authorities have just ten days to lay out their position on these bans, as demanded by the Strasbourg Court."
      The court is expected to issue a verdict in this case this year.


      Bigotry Monitor—UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 8, February 26, 2010

      Police in Moscow are investigating a group of high school students in connection with a racist attack, according to a February 17 report by the Sova Center for Information and Analysis. Nine suspects allegedly attacked a Tajik migrant in the suburban town of Dolgoprudny. The suspects beat and stabbed their victim.


      Bigotry Monitor—UCSJ's weekly newsletter, Volume 10, Number 8, February 26, 2010

      Admirers of Soviet dictator Yosif Stalin are not missing an opportunity to celebrate their hero. And the opportunity is a great one.
      As part of the celebrations of the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, Moscow's City Hall plans to set up billboards to emphasize Stalin's role, an idea that has prompted criticism from a senior state official as well as human rights activists alike. The billboards will be erected on the request of "numerous veterans' organizations" in time for Victory Day on May 9, Moscow Advertising Committee head Vladimir Makarov said in a statement reported by "The Moscow Times" on February 19. The billboards will be placed at sites where militia detachments were formed during World War II, the state-funded "Russia Today" television station reported.
      Makarov, who is under investigation for allegedly giving illegal advertising discounts, was released from pretrial detention this week. He said that the content of the billboards will be sent for approval either to the Defense Ministry's Institute of Military History or to the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow.
      TURNAROUND BATTLE IN EXONERATING STALIN? This May, Moscow "may become Stalingrad," the daily "Izvestia" wrote in a picturesque reference to the city where Soviet troops defeated the Wehrmacht in an epic 1943 battle that marked the turn of the war on the Eastern front. Stalin will become "a hero" on stands since a part of the decorations are dedicated to him, the paper said and identified the designer of a political decision in the Mayor's Office. He is Vladimir Dolgikh, chairman of the Moscow Council of Veterans and a former secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
      Moscow will boast more decorations for Victory Day compared to previous years, including banners with inscriptions in English for foreign guests, the daily revealed. Moscow will be also "generously decorated with Stalin," the paper said, adding that a special theme called "the role of the commander-in-chief in the Great Patriotic war has been created."
      The decision to place the stands with Stalin has been supported by many veterans and Communists. "History should be as it is, and people should learn from mistakes and be proud of their victories," said Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party. The victory in May 1945 would have been impossible "without industrialization, without thousands of assembled tanks," the media quoted Zyuganov as saying. "And all this was thanks to Stalin, the commander-in-chief." Discussions about Stalin's role should be "more serious than attempts to place a billboard saying that Stalin is good and cause the opposition of other people," said Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society of the Russian Orthodox Church. "I can expect that someone will spoil these billboards, someone will protest against them," he told Radonezh and Voice of Russia joint radio program.
      ALEXEYEVA: `STALIN IS A CRIMINAL.' Among those who promptly decried the idea of billboards were former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin, and several human rights activists. "Stalin made many mistakes, especially ahead of the war and at the start of it," Gorbachev said, Interfax reported. He speculated that for many the informational billboards would "elicit misunderstanding and surprise." Prominent human rights activists Lev Ponomaryov and Lyudmila Alexeyeva promised to organize protest demonstrations, RIA-Novosti reported.
      "Stalin is a criminal, and it is a shame to advertise his regime that killed millions of people," Alexeyeva told RIA-Novosti. "It will be a shame if Victory Day, the brightest day in our history, is darkened with the appearance of Stalin's portraits," she told "Izvestia."
      Gryzlov called the move "wrong," saying that "posters can't change the dubious role of Stalin in the life of our country," Interfax reported. Mitrokhin said that "numerous documents and facts" discovered after the war provide "indisputable proof that the victory was achieved not thanks to, but rather despite, Stalin and Stalin's system."
      Placing stands with Stalin in the city "is a disgusting idea," said Svetlana Gannushkina, chair the Civic Assistance committee for refugees. Not all veterans agree with their colleagues, she told Vesti FM radio. It is inappropriate to place portraits of a man "who eliminated millions of people and was responsible for the fact that... the Soviet Union was not prepared for the war," Gannushkina said.
      "Human rights activists have criticized the government for what they see as a broad attempt to rehabilitate Stalin in the public's mind while playing down or justifying the violence and terror of his regime against Soviet citizens," "The Moscow Times" reported. The newspaper recalled that in August last year, city authorities reopened a vestibule at the Kurskaya metro station that had been refurbished with an inscription of a verse from the 1944 version of the Soviet national anthem that glorified Stalin. While officials argued that the verse merely restored the station's historical authenticity, critics called it a disturbing lionization of the dictator.


      Chechen families who named babies born this night after Muhammad and his relatives to get 1000
      Interfax-Religion, February 26, 2010

      Grozny – Chechen authorities promise to pay a thousand dollars to some families where children were born in the night of Prophet Muhammad's birth.
      Families in question are those who named newly-born boys Muhammad and girls by the Prophet's mother Aminat or names of his wives and daughters.
      The Republic widely celebrates Prophet Muhammad's birthday. Main celebrations started on Thursday and lasted all night through. Numerous guests from the CIS-countries and far abroad attended the festival.
      A laser show was held in Grozny and then festival fireworks were given at dawn before the morning prayer.


      Russian Jews hope Yanukovich to oppose aggressive nationalism and heroization of Nazi in Ukraine
      Interfax-Religion, February 26, 2010

      Moscow, February 26, Interfax – The Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FJCR) hopes that Viktor Yanukovich will oppose nationalism and strengthen interconfessional peace.
      "As a representative of Russia's traditional religions, I have paid special attention to Your consistent principal position on protection of tolerance, against aggressive nationalism and attempts to make heroes of people who cooperated with Nazi, in securing interethnic and interconfessional peace in Ukraine, free and dynamic development of religious communities," FJCR President Alexander Boroda told Yanukovich in his message conveyed to Interfax-Religion on Friday.
      According to Boroda, this position "gave Ukraine's Jewish communities an opportunity to dynamically develop, preserve spirituality and convey it to growing generation."
      "I sincerely hope that today when You take up such an important state post, this course will become defining for the whole country," the message reads.

      Petersburg citizens against holding gay pride in the city
      Interfax-Religion, March 1, 2010

      St. Petersburg, March 1, Interfax – Number of public organizations request Petersburg authorities not to allow a gay pride parade in the "North capital."
      "We do not urge to hunt down homosexuals. However, we are categorically against any public events that can somehow promote sexual perversions," the statement conveyed to Interfax reads.
      Authors of the document urged the authorities "to show discretion and in no way allow a gay pride or any similar blasphemous "event."
      They point out that any parade is demonstration and promotion, "thus gay parade is promotion of homosexuality."
      The statement notes that all main religions practiced by millions of Russian citizens "consider homosexuality mortal sin equaled to a murder."


      Gorbachev Saddened By Russia Athletes' Performance At Vancouver Olympics
      Itar-Tass, March 1, 2010

      MOSCOW, March 1 (Itar-Tass) -- Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said he was saddened by the failure of the Russian national team at the Vancouver Olympics.
      "From this point of view, my feelings are identical to those of our people. We are not happy about what happened," he told Itar-Tass on Monday.
      "There have been quite a few hot-tempered debates and accusations, and calls for punishing and dismissing everyone, but certainly not the athletes. But we have to sort things out first," Gorbachev said.
      He agreed that it is necessary to "evaluate the work of those who was responsible for the preparation of the athletes", but he also believes it necessary to investigate why the whole sport training system failed.
      "I think that the last years, of the last decades of the 20th century saw such collapse that it affected this sphere too," he said, adding, "Sport infrastructure is a complex and difficult thing, from children's schools to the training of athletes of the highest level."
      Gorbachev is surprised by "why many of our athletes train abroad".
      "We have to look into that and find out what is going on," he said. "Specialists have to be brought back. Why do they work elsewhere but here? If we count all athletes who won the medals and were trained by our coaches, we would get a totally different picture," he said.
      "We have lost traditions and expertise. We must restore them, taking into account new sports," Gorbachev said.
      The ex-Soviet leader, who will turn 79 on March 2, will celebrate one more remarkable even this week: the 25th anniversary of perestroika, which led to the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
      The Soviet flag was last hoisted at the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada, in 1988, when Soviet athletes won 29 medals, including 11 gold ones.


      Russia's rough streets: Editorial
      JoongAng Daily (Korea), February 24, 2010

      Foreigners who aren't Caucasian gamble with their lives if they decide to study or do business in Russia. The streets there are roaming with bands of ultraright nationalist groups randomly targeting nonwhite foreigners with murderous attacks.
      A young Korean student has become the latest victim. The student, surnamed Kang, was studying in an exchange program at a university in Barnaul, a Russian border city near Kazakhstan, when he was brutally murdered by Russian youths while walking down the street.
      Russian police are investigating three suspects in their late teens and early 20s.
      The victim wasn't even robbed, meaning he was likely the target of a random hate crime.
      Kang is the fourth official victim of Korean origin in the spree of murderous attacks in Russia on nonwhite foreigners by extreme nationalistic groups.
      In February 2005, a teenage student from Korea was stabbed to death in St. Petersburg by two Russians. In February 2007, one student died of internal bleeding in intensive care after being beaten by a mob. In January last year, a female student was terrorized by Russians who attacked her with a flammable material.
      Each time, the Russian government promised it would follow up with a campaign to rein in these extremist right-wing groups and end their racist attacks.
      The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and subsequent economic calamities led to extreme nationalism and neo-Nazism across Russia. More than 20 different types of xenophobic groups are active in Moscow alone.
      A recent poll showed that about 15 percent of the young Russian population supports the extreme nationalistic movement.
      Last year, 71 foreigners were killed in crimes motivated by racism and xenophobia. The Russian authorities proudly boast that the number has fallen from 110 in 2008.
      It will be tough to find anyone willing to invest or study in a country where violence and murders are motivated by skin color and nationality.
      Xenophobia and hate crimes should not be tolerated in a country that advocates and runs on a system of laws.
      Russia must act more strongly and sternly against racist crimes by deeming them the biggest threat to its future and security.
      Authorities must investigate Kang's case thoroughly and enforce heavy punishment on the offenders.
      If such incidents continue to occur, Russia will slowly find itself shunned by other civilized nations and become a pariah on the international scene.


      Moscow will see Stalin?
      Statement of Moscow bureau for human rights
      MBHR, February 2010

      The chairman of Moscow council of veterans V. Dolgikh addressed the Moscow mayor's office with request to install informational stands with comrade Stalin's portraits in the city marking the 65th anniversary of victory over fascist Germany. His request was instantly complied with: up to May 9 the capital would be "decorated" with numerous portraits of one of the greatest criminals in the world history. Moscow authorities will start placing these stands (at the expense of city budget) already in April. Meanwhile the district administrations already caught up the "patriotic" initiative and started putting up the portraits of "peoples' leader" at the territories within their jurisdiction.
      Nobody entitled the former secretary of the Central Committee of CPSU Dolgikh to speak on behalf of all the veterans. Not all our veterans are Stalinists. It would be good to recall what estimates were given to Stalin by veterans-front-line soldiers Viktor Astafyev and Alexander Solzhenitsin. Astafyev said that the generalissimo "burned down the Russian people and Russia in the fire of war". Solzhenitsin named Stalin a cannibal and backed this testimonial with his great artistic study "GULAG Archipelago". Astafyev and Solzhenitsin, like their brothers in arms Grigory Baklanov, Bulat Okudjava, Boris Vasilyev, Daniil Granin, Pyotr Todorovsky, have more rights to speak on behalf of front-line soldiers than V. Dolgikh.
      Stalin is the butcher of Russia, murderous tyrant, killer of millions who plunged the country into numerous disasters. This can't be obliterated from the history no matter how his followers try. So Stalin's myth is basing upon the only thing today: they assert that Stalin won the war. Many people believe this. Yes, Stalin was the supreme commander-in-chief during the war. But how did he command? Even if one forgets for a minute that he eliminated the top of the Red Army before the war and thus doomed it to defeats and incredible losses in 1941-1942, it should be known that his command was incompetent and unproductive. Many millions of soldiers and officers who perished during the war are on his conscience (if one can speak about his conscience at all). They could live but Stalin heaped up the fields of Russia and East-European countries with their corpses. He is to blame that our losses in this terrible war were many times more than the losses of fascist Germany. Soviet soldiers and officers who found themselves surrounded, captured by fascists and who then returned to their motherland were finished off then in Stalin's GULAG as traitors. So to say that "Stalin won the war" – this means to spit upon the graves of those who perished "for nothing, in vain" (A. Galich). It were the people who won the war – in spite of Stalin, with incredible efforts, paying with their lives, blood and tortures for this.
      The chairman of the committee on advertisement, information and decoration of Moscow V. Makarov stated that posters with portraits of the generalissimo would appear in the places where the people's volunteer corps was formed. But soldiers of the people's volunteer corps – students, intellectuals who were often released from military service but went to war voluntarily – perished almost entirely due to Stalin: as a rule, they got no arms, no normal clothes; the holes in the front-line were just plugged with their bodies. Few of them who survived would hardly be happy knowing they are used with speculative purposes.
      Intention of Moscow (and not only Moscow) authorities to fill the city streets with the butcher's portraits using veterans as a cover should be estimated as a political provocation, as a next "trial" of Stalinists: what if this succeeds? Then they would be able to go further. Before that the words of Stalin's hymn were revived in Moscow in the entrance hall of Kurskaya underground station, and the chief architect of the capital called to installing the monument to the "moustached" there too. By the way, this is also a test for federal authorities. What would be their response? Because the statements of the President D. Medvedev and the Patriarch Kirill with condemnation of Stalin's crimes were heard just not long ago.


      Russia anxiously waits for Red Machine to find top gear
      By: Steve Gutterman
      Reuters, February 17, 2010

      MOSCOW (Reuters) - Every morning this week, Russians have woken to bad news from halfway around the world: no new Olympic medals.
      In the first four days of competition at the Vancouver Games, Russia won only a single bronze medal -- a stunningly slow start for a winter-sports powerhouse that has seen the Olympics as a chance to show its might since Soviet times.
      "End of the golden era," the daily Kommersant said in a front-page headline on Wednesday.
      At the 2006 Winter Olympics, Russia won 22 medals, eight of them gold. In 1994 -- at a time when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has suggested Russia was on its knees -- it ranked first with 11 golds and 23 medals.
      So far this year, Russia has settled for the bronze won by speedskater Ivan Skobrev on Saturday.
      That left the team in what an announcer on state-run Rossiya-24 television called "a more than modest 19th place" -- right after tiny neighbor Estonia, which has managed a silver, and far behind rivals Germany, Canada and the United States.
      "So when are we going to win some medals?" a headline in the tabloid Sovietsky Sport said on Wednesday.
      There's still some time: the Vancouver Games have not yet reached their halfway point.
      Burned in the past when their publicly voiced expectation have proved over-ambitious, Russian Olympic officials refused to make predictions before the Vancouver Games. Sovietsky Sport predicted four golds and said it hoped that was too cautious.
      But Russia has missed some medal chances already, falling short in events such as biathlon, luge and cross-country skiing.
      More momentously, a dynasty ended on Monday when pairs figure skaters Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov finished fourth. Russian and Soviet pairs had won the sport's top prize at 12 consecutive Games since 1964.
      "The miracle is over," the newspaper Sport-Express announced on Wednesday.
      In a more acerbic comment, the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets said Russia deserves a gold medal for excuses.
      It said athletes and officials had partially blamed performances on factors such as wet snow during a biathlon event, a change in the track after a Georgian luger's death, and a crack-of-dawn drug test before a cross-country race.
      Some of the events in which Russia is expecting gold are in progress or still to come.
      State television networks accentuated the positive on Wednesday: the Russian hockey team's 8-2 drubbing of Latvia and figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko's first-place performance in the short program.
      In headlines on its website, Sovietsky Sport crowed "Plushenko is first!" and "The Red Machine has run over Latvia."
      But Plushenko has only a slim lead over American Evan Lysacek going into Thursday's decisive free skate, and Russia may have to beat powerhouse Canada to win ice hockey gold.
      President Dmitry Medvedev has suggested he may travel to Vancouver to watch the end of the Olympics if Russia makes the ice hockey final on February 28 -- the last day of the Games.
      In the meantime, as a news anchor on state-run Rossiya-24 put it on Wednesday, "We're waiting and hoping."

      Stalin in the city: Stands displaying descriptions of the Great Leader's merits in the Great Patriotic War will appear in Moscow
      By: Ivan Gordeev and Mikhail Moshkin
      Vremya Novosti, February 18, 2010

      Joseph Stalin returns to the streets of Moscow. On the eve of the 65-year anniversary of the Great Victory, the name of the "Father of Nations" will not only be present in the vestibule of the Kurskaya Metro station, but also on information stands, which are being prepared for the holidays by the Committee on Advertising, Information and Displaying Advertisements in Moscow. News agencies, citing high-ranking officials from the Committee, reported yesterday that these stands, which are being installed at the request of the veterans, will provide information on Stalin's role as the Commander in Chief and his contribution to the defeat of fascism.
      This announcement was the highlight of yesterday's press conference with the Advertising Committee's head, Vladimir Makarov which was his first press event since his release from the Pre-Trial Detention Center Number Five, where he had been held on criminal charges of abuse of power and damaging the budget of Moscow. Early this week, Makarov, who has been under arrest since the autumn of last year, was released after Moscow City Duma Speaker Vladimir Platonov volunteered as his guarantor. But the significant news about the fact that the Investigation Committee under the Prosecutor General's Office agreed not to insist on keeping the official under arrest (thus confirming that Russian law enforcement agents know means of constraint other than through arrests), faded after Makarov stated he is ready to meet the requests made by the veteran organizations and place a stand with information describing Stalin's achievements in the center of the city. According to Interfax, which cited the First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Advertising, Information and Displaying Advertisements in Moscow, Aleksandr Menchuk, the main lobbyist for the return of the generalissimos to the streets of the country's capital, was in contact with the head of Moscow's Veteran Council, and it was he who appealed to the authorities with these requests.
      Even for the former Secretary of the CPSU Central Committee and candidate for the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee, Vladimir Dolgikh -- whose last name is mentioned in the Russian press almost as frequently today as it was in the Soviet press -- this is a significant victory. It is one thing when authorities appease the elderly with controversial yet explainable actions such as taking off a sign from the local shish-kabob bistro that reads "Anti-Soviet" and that sparks outbursts of proletarian hatred among the veterans. It is quite another when the miasmas of Stalinism, which have been all the more felt in the society in the recent years, are permitted by state officials to be realized in the form of slogans and posters that read "The Leader of Nations" and that are placed in the heart of Russia.
      According to Menchuk, the stands will be placed in the veterans' traditional meeting places. On previous Victory Days, veterans -- who to this day continue to regard Stalin with admiration -- have always managed to celebrate May Day just fine with their own posters and portraits of the chief, which have been carefully preserved since the days when the state's information sector was aimed at clarifying the important role played in the Great Patriotic War by the head of the Political Department of the 18th Army, Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev. On the 65th Victory Day celebration, this did not seem enough to the capital's authorities, especially since federal authorities have also demonstrated a willingness to acknowledge the generalissimo's military achievements.
      In late December, in the course of his traditional address to the Russian public, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that he does not believe a one-side assessment of Stalin is correct.
      "We won the Great Patriotic War. Despite who says what, victory was achieved. Even if we were to look at the losses, you know that no one can directly point a finger today at those who organized and led us to that victory, because even if we had lost that war, the consequences our country would have endured would have been much more catastrophic," said Putin. It seems that the most important additional statements that were made by the prime minister about the fact that the country "not only encountered a personality cult, but also mass crimes against the people" as well as "attaining results through such forms of governance is unacceptable" were not heard by all.
      Despite the fact that the willingness of Moscow authorities to set up information stands on Stalin in the capital has not been confirmed, the reaction of the democratic society to the statements made by the officials from the Advertising Committee were just as predictable as the veterans' reaction to the "Anti-Soviet" sign above the shish-kabob bistro. Yesterday, leaders of almost all human rights organizations said that they find the emergence of Joseph Stalin's portraits in Moscow and especially the praising of the role he played in the Great Patriotic War unacceptable.
      "I hope that the authorities of Moscow will have enough common sense and competence to abstain from distributing similar posters," Yan Raschinsky, member of Memorial Human Rights Center, told Vremya Novostei. "Such 'immortalization' is offensive to all nations of the Soviet Union, who won the war despite the mistakes and the crimes of the communist government, and despite the fact that Stalin's policies enabled and approximated this war."
      The Head of Memorial, Arseny Roginsky, believes that the stands must also include information on the unnecessary victims and the Soviet leader's cruel acts committed against his own army and people.
      Nevertheless, even some priests, for whom it would seem appropriate to curse the leader of the Godless regime, are ready to abandon "one-sided assessments."
      "I admit, I would be happy if the name of the city where I am currently located, Volgograd, is changed to its original name: Stalingrad," Archdeacon Andrey Kuraev, professor at Moscow Theological Academy, said in his conversation with Vremya Novostei yesterday. "If Stalin's name is mentioned in the context of the Great Patriotic War, there is nothing terrible about that. Meanwhile, one should not completely dignify all of his actions, including those in the years of the war, because it was the time of terrible mistakes and emergence of unjustifiable cruelty. But it would be incorrect to pretend that our people fought without a leader, and that this leader's name had provoked only negative reaction from those fighting on the frontlines and in the rear."
      What collection of information about Joseph Stalin's deeds will be presented by the city officials at these stands is still unknown. Meanwhile, they do not have much time remaining to contemplate this question decorations of Moscow for the celebrations marking the 65th Victory Day anniversary are scheduled to begin in early April.

      Stalin Billboards for Victory Day
      By: Natalya Krainova
      Moscow Times, February 19, 2010

      City Hall plans to set up billboards in central Moscow to explain dictator Josef Stalin's role in the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, an idea that has drawn criticism from a senior state official and rights activists alike.
      The billboards will be erected on the request of "numerous veterans organizations" in time for Victory Day on May 9 as part of the celebrations of the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Germany in World War II, Moscow Advertising Committee head Vladimir Makarov said in an e-mailed statement Thursday.
      Makarov, who is currently under investigation for purportedly giving illegal advertising discounts, was released from pretrial detention this week.
      The Stalin billboards will be placed at traditional meeting places of veterans on Poklonnaya Gora, Manezh Square, Gogolevsky Bulvar, Sokolniki Park, Vorobyovy Gory and several other places, Makarov said.
      The content of the billboards will be sent for approval either to the Defense Ministry's Institute of Military History or to the Central Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow, Makarov said.
      Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, Yabloko leader Sergei Mitrokhin and several human rights activists decried the move Thursday.
      "Stalin made many mistakes, especially ahead of the war and at the start of it," Gorbachev said, Interfax reported. He speculated that for many the informational billboards would "elicit misunderstanding and surprise."
      Prominent human rights activists Lev Ponomaryov and Lyudmila Alexeyeva promised to organize demonstrations to protest the Stalin billboards, RIA-Novosti reported.
      "Stalin is a criminal, and it is a shame to advertise his regime that killed millions of people," Alexeyeva told RIA-Novosti.
      Gryzlov called the move "wrong," saying that "posters can't change the dubious role of Stalin in the life of our country," Interfax reported.
      Mitrokhin said in a statement that "numerous documents and facts" discovered after the war provide "indisputable proof that the victory was achieved not thanks to, but rather despite, Stalin and Stalin's system."
      Rights activists have criticized the government for what they see as a broad attempt to rehabilitate Stalin in the public's mind while playing down or justifying the violence and terror of his regime against Soviet citizens.
      In August, city authorities reopened a vestibule at the Kurskaya metro station that had been refurbished with an inscription of a verse from the 1944 version of the Soviet national anthem that praised Stalin. Proponents argued that the verse merely restored historical accuracy to the station, while critics called it a disturbing lionization of the dictator.

      Rights activists protest at Moscow decision to allow Stalin billboards
      Ekho Moskvy, February 19, 2010, BBC Monitoring

      The Moscow authorities have confirmed today that posters of Joseph Stalin will appear in Moscow on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of victory in the WWII, or the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) as it is known in Russia, the Gazprom-owned, but editorially independent, Russian radio station, Ekho Moskvy, has reported, quoting the Moscow government.
      Vladimir Makarov, head of the advertising committee of the Moscow government, told a news conference today that the Moscow authorities had been guided by the desire to please the war veterans, a correspondent said.
      He quoted Makarov recalling that Stalin had come third in the Name of Russia competition which, <br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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