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Russian Activists Protest Memorial For Former Soviet Official

Grigory Romanov

Grigory Romanov

ST. PETERSBURG -- Members of the Russian opposition party Yabloko have staged a protest in St. Petersburg against a memorial to a Soviet official they say forced prominent cultural figures into exile, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

On July 19, protesters from Yabloko's youth organization put signs on the former apartment of Grigory Romanov, a 1980s Soviet Politburo member who was also the first secretary of the Leningrad Oblast Communist Party.

The signs were written in the style of plaques that mark historic buildings in St. Petersburg and read: "In this building from 1972-1984 lived Grigory Romanov, who will remain in the hearts of all citizens of the city as the man who expelled [poet] Josef Brodsky and [writer] Sergei Dovlatov from the country and drove [actor/director] Sergei Yursky from Leningrad."

Romanov -- who died in 2008 aged 85 -- was considered Mikhail Gorbachev's biggest rival to replace Konstantin Chernenko as Soviet leader after his death in 1985.

Kseniya Vakhrusheva, the vice president of Yabloko's youth organization, told RFE/RL that when activists heard the city was going to honor Romanov with a memorial they decided to mount their campaign to "inform people of the truth" about him.

"We decided to let the citizens [of St. Petersburg] know that Romanov did very little that was positive for this country," she said.

The Yabloko activists tried to hold a similar protest last week but were disrupted by a group of people who yelled, "Too few of you were shot in 1937."

The activists say they will continue their protest against the Romanov memorial in the coming weeks.