Stalin and Last Tsar in Neck-and-Neck Race

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The British chose Winston Churchill; the Americans chose Ronald Reagan; and the South Africans chose Nelson Mandela.

Now Soviet dictator Josef Stalin and Tsar Nicholas II, the country's last monarch, are running neck and neck in a contest sponsored by state-run Rossia television called "Name of Russia," a Russian version of the BBC show "Great Britons" aimed at selecting the country's most significant historical figure.

As of 9 p.m. Monday, more than 2.3 million votes had been cast in the Internet poll, which had Stalin in first place with 252,360 votes, narrowly leading Nicholas II, who had 252,262 votes, according to the contest's web site,

Trailing the two front-runners were Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, with 171,224 votes, followed by gritty-voiced folk singer Vladimir Vysotsky, with 150,405 votes, and Peter the Great, with 115,115 votes.

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