A Russian state television network says Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, who sent millions to their deaths in the Great Purge of the 1930s, has been voted the country's third-greatest historical figure.

Rights activists have blasted Stalin's inclusion in the 90-day, nationwide project run by the Rossiya channel. They say authorities are trying to gloss over Stalin's atrocities and glorify his tyranny.

Medieval leader Alexander Nevsky was voted the greatest Russian, with over a half-million Internet and SMS votes.

Nevsky, subsequently canonized, amassed numerous military victories over European invaders during his 13th Century reign.

In second place was Pyotr Stolypin — a prime minister under turn-of-the-century czar Nicholas II — who suppressed leftist revolutionaries.