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Russian Rights Activists Oppose Bid To Call City Stalingrad


A proposal to rename the city of Volgograd after Soviet dictator Josef Stalin has drawn criticism from Russia's most prominent human rights activists.

The pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia reported on February 5 that Communist lawmakers have drafted an appeal to President Vladimir Putin to consider the possibility of calling the large southern city Stalingrad, the name it bore for decades in the Soviet era.

Lyudmila Alekseyeva, the chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group, and Arseny Roginsky, head of the rights group Memorial, condemned the idea.

Called Tsaritsyn under the tsars, the city's name was changed to Stalingrad in 1925 by the Soviet regime to honor then-leader Stalin.

The battle of Stalingrad became a symbol of Soviet resilience in the face of the Nazi onslaught in 1942-43 and marked the turning point of the war.

The rights activists, who have campaigned to expose the crimes of the Stalin era, argued that it was the Soviet people -- not Stalin -- who won World War II.

The chief of Russia's presidential council for human rights, Mikhail Fedotov, also rejected the idea.

Officials at the Volgograd City Duma told state-run RIA Novosti news agency that "there is no reason to rename the city at this point."

Based on reporting by Izvestia, Interfax, and RIA
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