Published December 27, 2008
A nationwide Russian poll seeking to name the greatest-ever countryman is set to end Sunday, and former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin is in the running for No. 1, the BBC reported.
Rossiya, one of Russia's biggest television stations, has been conducting the "Name of Russia" poll for most of the year, and the original list of 500 candidates has been narrowed down to 12.
More than 3.5 million people have voted so far, and Stalin, a bloodthirsty tyrant who killed millions of his own people, is riding high on the list.
Some others in the top 12 are Ivan the Terrible, Lenin, Catherine the Great and poet Alexander Pushkin.
Leaders of the Communist Party are not surprised by Stalin's status on the hero list.
"Stalin made Russia a superpower and was one of the founders of the coalition against Hitler in World War II," said Sergei Malinkovich, leader of the St. Petersburg Communist Party.
The St. Petersburg branch of the party in July asked the Orthodox Church to canonize Stalin if he wins the poll.
The broader campaign to revive Stalin as a "hero" appears to be coming from the highest levels of government.
A new manual has been given to history teachers in Russia's schools, which says Stalin acted "entirely rationally," the BBC reported.
"[The initiative] came from the very top," says the editor of the manual, historian Alexander Danilov. "I believe it was the idea of former president, now prime minister, Vladimir Putin."
The manual and the standing of Stalin in the national poll has sparked some international outrage.
"By conservative estimates 25 million people were repressed in the Soviet Union [under Stalin] between 1928 and 1953," British historian Orlando Figes told the BBC. "That means people executed, arrested and sent to prison camps or turned into slave laborers or deported. Virtually every family was affected by repression."Click here to see the poll.