Re-Stalinization of a Moscow Subway Station

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A central Moscow subway station reopened this week after a painstaking, yearlong restoration of its initial Stalin-era luster, complete with gilt-trimmed words of praise to the Soviet dictator spelled out around the vestibule’s rotunda that add new fuel to debate about his role in Russian history.

That debate has simmered this summer, among politicians, historians, human rights activists and religious leaders, at dinner tables and in blogs, after a resolution passed in July by the parliamentary assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe equated Stalin with Hitler for regimes that “brought about genocide, violations of human rights and freedoms, war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

World War II, called the Great Patriotic War here, is almost sacred to many Russians. They were offended by the resolution, and it was denounced by the government. The Moscow subway system, built under Stalin by some of the best Soviet artists and architects, is seen as one of his great achievements.

One afternoon this week at the Kurskaya subway station, one of Moscow’s busiest, many commuters’ heads turned to catch both the grandness of the renovation and the words of the Soviet anthem as it was sung under Stalin when the station opened in 1950: “Stalin reared us — on loyalty to the people. He inspired us to labor and to heroism.”

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