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Stalin Statue's A Bust So Far For Slovak Collector

The online advert for Milan's Stalin statue.
The online advert for Milan's Stalin statue.

Two years after Milan M. put his statue of the late Soviet dictator Josef Stalin up for sale, the enterprising collector from northwestern Slovakia acknowledges he's had no takers.

Milan says he might be willing to lower his 45,000-euro asking price on a Slovak online shop for the 3.5-meter-high bronze figure.

But for now, Stalin stands alone up high on his plinth in the collector's garden in Povazska Bystrica.

Milan's statue was cast in 1953 at a Czechoslovak factory called Zukov, one of the biggest sculpture workshops at that time. It was originally placed in a park in the city of Litomerice but was removed under subsequent de-Stalinization policies. Decades later, in 2010, Litomerice officials decided to sell it and use the proceeds for a new sculpture -- this time of Czech romantic poet Karel Hynek Macha.

Milan is the statue's second private owner, and possibly its last.

Because whether or not you regard his and other seemingly perfunctory tributes to late Soviet leaders as "art," it is difficult to make a case for "unique."

Tribute statues of Stalin once filled public squares across the Soviet bloc, at least until the de-Stalinization that Nikita Khrushchev announced three years after Stalin's death in 1953. Those that somehow remained were in many cases melted down or discreetly scrapped after the fall of the U.S.S.R. But some of the statues still turn up among public monuments to World War II, and others have become glib public mementos or garden decorations for wealthy collectors in the West.

Within the former Soviet Union, their place in the eyes of the public has proved complex.

In Stalin's birthplace in current-day Georgia, statues of the man whose policies resulted in millions of Soviet deaths continue to divide communities.

In Ukraine, removing monuments to Soviet life and renaming public places related to Soviet historical figures -- particularly ones from Russia, which seized Crimea and is backing a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine -- is reaching its peak.

Every once in a while, public tussles over Stalin statues or busts erupt in places like Kazakhstan.

In Russia, meanwhile, Stalin remains among the country's most popular historical figures. He's even back in Moscow's subway system. And various efforts have been afoot to rehabilitate the image of the man blamed by most historians for millions of unnecessary deaths, whether through forced collectivization and manmade famine or politically motivated persecution.

They have included attemps to whitewash the tragic legacy of the GULAG, an elaborate prison system that was used to punish perceived "enemies of society," as well as exhibitions to highlight Stalin's roles in the "restoration of the Russian Orthodox Church" and his "contribution to victory" and "role in evacuating Soviet industry" during what Russians refer to as the Great Patriotic War.

But if you're still not in the market for a massive token to Stalin's tyranny, Milan has also got a 2-meter-high steel likeness of communist revolutionary V. I. Lenin he's willing to sell.

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    Kristyna Foltynova

    Kristyna Foltynova is a data and visual journalist in RFE/RL's Central Newsroom. She produces a wide variety of data-driven content, including infographics, animated videos, and interactive multimedia features. She is passionate about the topics of gender equality, climate change, and data privacy.

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