Tom Parfitt: Medieval warrior overcomes Stalin in poll to name greatest Russian

Roundup: Talking About History

[Tom Parfitt has been a correspondent in Moscow since 2002.]

Joseph Stalin was edged into third place in a nationwide poll to name Russia's greatest historical figure yesterday amid controversy over the results.

The Name of Russia project, which captivated the country for several months, ended with accusations that the final tally was rigged.

More than 5 million votes by telephone, text and the internet were registered in the poll, which named Alexander Nevsky, a medieval warrior prince, as the winner. Stalin had led the poll early on and narrowly missed the top spot.

The dictator took 519,071 votes compared to Nevsky's 524,575.

Critics said the results were massaged to produce winners convenient to the Kremlin. Nevsky rallied Russian forces against foreign invaders in the 13th century and has been promoted as a national hero by the Kremlin, which hints that Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, and the president, Dmitry Medvedev, are unifying figures from the same mould.

In second place was Pyotr Stolypin, an early 20th century prime minister and noted reformer. Stolypin, who served under the last tsar, Nicholas II, has often been lauded by Putin as a role model whose attempts to achieve stability he would like to emulate.

Alexander Pushkin, the poet, came fourth while Catherine the Great, the only woman on the shortlist, was 11th.

Communists said the vote had been "cunningly" manipulated to prevent Stalin or first Soviet leader Lenin (who came sixth) winning because the Kremlin was embarrassed at their popularity.

In a statement, the Communist party said it had "no faith in the organisers of the voting project", who had decided Stalin and Lenin were "bad lads" who should not win. The results prompted the "same level of trust as in the central electoral commission", it said, in reference to Kremlin rigging of the presidential election in Russia earlier this year.

Launched in May, the project offered voters a chance to choose from 50 candidates, a number that was whittled down to the 12 most popular in September...

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