The Russian city where the Red Army defeated the Germans in World War 2—suffering 2 million casualties—will once again be known as Stalingrad, on the days commemorating the victory.
The city was renamed Volgograd in 1961 as part of the Soviet Union’s efforts to erase the remnants of bloody dictator Joseph Stalin’s personality cult. But the name Stalingrad is inseparable from the historic victory.
Local MPs have decided to use the historic name in all city statements on February 2, the day of the Nazi defeat, as well as several other war-related dates each year. This has angered many in Russia, where Stalin’s name and legacy continue to scare little children at bedtime.
Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin sharply criticized the move, saying it should be declared void by court. “This is an insult to the memory of those who died,” he said, according to the Interfax news agency.
Stalin took over the Soviet Union in 1924 and stayed in power until his death in 1953. In thise decades he conducted purges that killed many millions of Russians, and filled up concentration camps in Siberia.
President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, has avoided open public praise or criticism of Stalin, but he is known to be favoring some softening of the bloody tyrant’s bloody image.
Kremlin critics see Putin’s attempts to cleanse Stalin’s image as part of Mr Putin’s rollback on democracy.
For a fascinating essay comparing the numbers killed by Hitler and Stalin, check out Timothy Snyder’s article Hitler vs. Stalin: Who Killed More? in The New York Review of Books.