MOSCOW -- Russia's Rosatom atomic energy agency plans to put up two statues of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's notorious secret police chief Lavrenty Beria, considered by many as a key force behind Soviet-era repression, in the Nuclear Energy Pavilion at the Exhibition of Achievements of the National Economy (VDNKh) in Moscow.
The Open Media website said on January 19 that it had obtained Rosatom's documents related to the plan to commemorate the controversial Beria, who after Stalin's death in 1953 was arrested and executed for treason, terrorism, and counterrevolutionary activities during the Russian Civil War in 1917-1923.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when many convicted during the Soviet period had been exonerated, Russia's Supreme Court refused to exonerate Beria saying he was responsible for organizing mass political repressions in the Soviet Union such as the Great Purge and the deportation of many ethnic groups to Siberia and Central Asia.
Open Media said the plans include directions to make the statues from "fiberglass reinforced plastic with an anti-vandalism cover," while the heads will be made of silicon and with implants of real human hair.
Rosatom said that it was in no way attempting "to whitewash his legacy or in any way justify Beria’s actions or deny or downplay the crimes of Stalinism."
"Nevertheless, we stand by our decision to include Beria in the installation reconstructing the incipient stages of the Soviet Union’s atomic programme because his key role in those events is a documented fact," Rosatom said in a statement, adding it was supporting a proposal made by an international creative agency curating the exhibition and wanted to "stick to a historically accurate portrayal of these events, despite the sensitivity with which some parts of this history might be perceived today."
It was not clear how much the statues will cost, but a new exhibition in the pavilion where they will be displayed will cost 1.28 billion rubles ($17.4 million). The exhibition was initially scheduled to open in mid-2020 but has been delayed with no new date set for its launch.