Stalin portraits appear in Ukraine's rebel regions

Portraits of Stalin on display in Donetsk in show of pro-Russian Soviet nostalgia

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

People walking past a portrait of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin on an advertising board.

Three portraits of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin appeared in the center of Donetsk, with the hanging of his portrait having been made obligatory by the state agencies of the rebel controlled part of the city.

Using portraits of the former authoritarian leader, pro-Russian authorities aim to revive positive memories of Soviet times, something seen as taboo by the Ukrainian Government when the city was under its control.

The cult of Joseph Stalin forms a bridge linking the past and the present of Donetsk as the city was named “Stalino” until the 1960’s administration of his successor Nikita Kruschev.

"I think the portraits of Stalin are a good thing. It's our history and a lot of people have forgotten he even existed," said Yekaterina, a 22-year-old student.

The pro-Russian rebel leaders have never hidden their admiration for Stalin.  

"The Soviet Union was a great country and it was a huge mistake that it was destroyed by the CIA and other secret services,"  said 39-year-old former field commander Alexander Zakharchenko.

"Europe and other countries were scared stiff of us," he added.

The Stalin portraits also include a quote from the wartime leader: "Our cause is just. The enemy will be routed. We will claim victory."

On the other hand, Kiev's pro-Western government has passed laws which made illegal to display Soviet symbols, comparing them to Nazi swastikas.

The laws pave the way for the pulling down of monuments as well as the renaming of streets and towns which carry Soviet names.

The culture minister of the Donetsk rebels, Alexander Paretsky, has condemned the Ukrainian government's stance as  "vandalism and barbarism," while the leader of the allied Lugansk rebel-controlled region Igor Plotnitsky warned of a "moral genocide."

The separatist rebels in the country have called their territories "people's republics," in another emulation of the Ukraine's Soviet past.

The new emblem of the Lugansk People's Republic stands out as a symbol of the political change, featuring sheaves of corn and a red star, like those of the USSR's constituent republics.

However, such nostalgia for the Soviet era has led to the denial of anything that spoils this idealised image.  

In August, separatist authorities decided to destroy a monument to victims of the 1930s famine in Ukraine, which occurred when the country was under Soviet rule.

Donetsk State University also removed a monument to Ukrainian dissident poet Vasyl Stus who died in a jail in 1985 at the age of 47.

TRTWorld and agencies