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Kazakh Villagers See Restored Stalin Statue Fall Again

The Stalin statue being boxed up for storage on May 16.
The Stalin statue being boxed up for storage on May 16.

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin stood tall for over six decades in the southern Kazakh village of Staryi Ikan before the five-meter statue was removed from its pedestal last year.

Then the bronze figure rose again -- thanks to a loving restoration by admiring villagers who erected the statue in the backyard of a pensioner's private home -- only to be toppled one more time by local authorities.

The villagers -- who voluntarily collected nearly $800 for cement, paint, other materials and instruments to repair the statue and spent 1 1/2 months working on it -- are crying foul.

Pensioner Bakhyt Zupporkhonov, whose backyard housed the restored statue, said he and the other villagers don't see themselves as die-hard Stalinists. They simply believe the statue is part of the history of Staryi Ikan and deserves to stay there.

Initially erected in 1949 by the head of the local collective farm, the statue stood years without bothering anyone, the villagers say.

But their initiative angered authorities in the nearby city of Turkestan who also govern the village. Within a week they had the restored statue removed, dismantled, and back in storage.

The Stalin statue's empty pedestal.
The Stalin statue's empty pedestal.

"We told Zupporkhonov and the elders in the village that the statue was reinstated illegally," said Dauren Tanirbergenev, deputy governor of Turkestan. "The villagers didn't obtain an official permission for its reinstallation."

The fall of the statue was a crushing blow to the villagers, who timed the revamped statue's unveiling to coincide with nationwide celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II.

"On that day, we offered prayers for our fellow villagers who lost their lives in the war," Zupporkhonov said.

Less than a week later, the villagers were dismantling the statue as Tanirbergenev and other officials looked on.

Now, they are determined to get their Stalin statue back.

"The residents have submitted an application to the city governor requesting permission for the statue to be reinstalled," Tanirbergenev said.

He gives assurances that the request will go through the proper channels and procedures so a final decision can be made.

But he offers a warning against any attempts to raise the statue again without permission, saying the government "would sue" if that happened.

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on reporting by RFE/RL Kazakh Service correspondent Dilara Isa