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The word Stalin has been up in the Moscow metro for a few days but it is still drawing glances as people walk into the vestibule of the Kurskaya circle line.

Bright, clean, and strangely new, people were looking up and around for once on Thursday rather than trundling on with their heads down as is more usual.

The sparkling space, which was opened this week after a long restoration, greets visitors with a white triumphal arc dedicated to World War II where these words are inscribed.

“Stalin brought us up -- on loyalty to the people. He inspired us to labor and to heroism!”

The words were written by Sergei Mikhalkov as part of the Soviet national anthem. Nobody knows if he saw his words back on display before his death this week .

Metro travelers first saw the words at the start of 1950 when the station opened, one of the grand postwar constructions that were built in war-torn Moscow.

The words were removed under Khrushchev during his campaign to remove Stalin statues and other attributes of the cult of personality. This included changing the words of the national anthem to remove all mention of Stalin.

The return of the lines is seen in many lights: a simple restoration of the original elements, a sign of the growing rehabilitation of Stalin in Russia, or for many just “whatever.”

“I’m can’t comment on that time as I wasn’t there,” said Artem Remezov, 20, a student who was staring up at the words with a friend. "Only those who lived then can do that.”

“It is just a memory from Soviet times,” said a man, who had glanced up at the words himself as he went past. He waved his hand as if to say it doesn’t matter at all.

However, Natasha, a woman in her fifties who didn’t want to give her last name was outraged by the decision. Looking up at the phrase from beneath, she complained Stalin’s “fascist regime.”

She did not understand why it was done, especially as she said she saw a picture of the metro from its opening that showed that the lines newly unveiled were not actually in that place.

“I’m not saying they weren’t somewhere else but that place was about Lenin,” she said pointing up.

Metro officials have talked about “historical fairness” presumably referring to restoration rather than the words. And the head of the Moscow Communists in the City Duma said that it was a good present for the upcoming 130th anniversary of Stalin's birth in 2010.

“The powers that be are always trying to turn our historical villains into historical heroes,” said Oleg Orlov from Memorial, the organization which tries to preserve the memory of those who died during the Stalinist repressions, newsru.com reported.

"People don’t enthuse about all that is connected with the Stalin epoch. But today’s powers that be, these small bureaucrats who confirm the decor of
Kurskaya metro station, they are people of the Stalinist era through
and through."

-- Kevin O'Flynn

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at transmission+rferl.org

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