NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia -- Communists in the Russian city of Novosibirsk have unveiled a bust of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in a place that local authorities say will "suit everyone."
Novosibirsk’s Mayor Anatoly Lokot, a Communist Party member, attended the ceremony on May 9 commemorating the 74th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.
"By unveiling this monument, we honor the generalissimo of the Great Victory," Lokot said at the event in the courtyard of the Communist Party's regional headquarters. "We will not allow so-called liberals to distort our history."
Authorities said the site was chosen in order to prevent the statue from being vandalized.
Some 200 people, mainly elderly residents of the largest city in Siberia, came to the event holding Stalin portraits and Soviet symbols.
Many of them said that Stalin saved the country and that the repressions he launched "were necessary, because our country had many enemies then."
Timur Khanov, a civil rights activist from Novosibirsk, staged a one-man protest against the Stalin bust outside the Communist Party building.
Khanov called the Stalin monument "an embarrassment" for the city of Novosibirsk.
"As with many residents of the city, I am absolutely against this monument because I consider Stalin a criminal who was guilty of murdering millions of people," Khanov said.
Novosibirsk was one of many cities and towns in Siberia where hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens were forced to relocate after being declared "enemies of the Soviet people" during Stalin's purge in the 1930s.
After nearly 20 years of public debate about the Stalin monument, city authorities agreed in March to erect the statue in the courtyard of the Communist Party headquarters.
The chairman of Novosibirsk's Artists Council, Aleksandr Lozhkin, said the decision would satisfy all the residents as Stalin’s admirers would be able to visit the monument and lay flowers, while the bust itself would not be very visible and "would not offend feelings of those who consider Stalin a tyrant."
More than 11,500 people signed a Change.org petition to protest the plan to erect the monument in Novosibirsk.
Millions of people were executed, sent to gulag labor camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan, or starved to death in famines caused by forced collectivization during the reign of Stalin.
During World War II, entire ethnic groups in the Soviet Union were sent to Central Asia as collective punishment for what the Kremlin said was collaboration with Nazi Germany.