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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

The Specter of Stalin Is Haunting the Crimea

1 February, 2005 - 00:00

The Crimea is the scene of a bitter dispute over the erection of a monument to “the Big Three.” The Communist Party held a rally the other day on Simferopol’s central square in front of the Council of Ministers building to urge the government not to block the unveiling of a monument in Livadiya to the participants of the Yalta Conference-Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill. Crimean newspapers have unleashed a genuine war, with some in favor of this idea and others adamantly opposed.

Valery Kucherenko, secretary of the Communist Party city committee, says that the groundwork for a world order that gave the Europeans fifty years of peace was laid on the site of the planned monument. The Council of Ministers of the Crimea, now besieged by picketers, has issued no decisions on this matter and in fact takes a dim view of the monument. Council of Ministers Chairman Serhiy Kunitsyn warned that “erecting the monument will destabilize the Crimea.” He said that no permission had been given to build the monument near Livadiya Palace and that the Council of Ministers never funded the monument or its installation.

Yalta’s chief architect Volodymyr Prystupa told journalists that no documents have been issued to allow the installation of a monument to “the Big Three” on the grounds of Livadiya Palace. “The appearance of this monument on the grounds of the palace without legal permission is out of the question,” the architect said. He pointed out that the palace is a cultural monument of nationwide importance. National events dedicated to the anniversary of the Yalta Conference are based on ministerial decisions as well as Ukraine’s interstate agreements, reports the Council of Ministers press service.

Nevertheless, the bronze figures of Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill are now being completed in Saint Petersburg. The sculptor is the controversial, Moscow-based artist Zurab Tsereteli, and several private individuals from Russia are sponsoring the project.

Tsereteli told the Russian news agency Novy Region that “the Yalta Conference is an historic event worthy of a monument because it predetermined Europe’s postwar setup for almost half a century and unveiled realistic plans for the final rout of Germany.” He said that he is merely seeking to depict a historical fact and in symbolic fashion express the idea of the peoples’ joint struggle against Nazism. One should not ignore Stalin when the Yalta Conference is at issue, he said, adding that Roosevelt and Churchill’s studies- cum-libraries have been restored in Livadiya Palace. Stalin was the equal, if not principal, member of this group of three leaders.” “I have no reason to love Stalin: my grandfather Zurab, in whose honor I was named, was executed in 1937, my mother wore black mourning clothes until she died. My wife’s parents were repressed,” Tsereteli said, responding to a question about dismantling Stalin’s personality cult.

Among those who vehemently oppose the idea of erecting the monument is People’s Deputy Refat Chubarov. Speaking in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, he declared: “On the initiative of some bureaucrats, plans are afoot to erect a monument near Livadiya Palace to Stalin, one of the bloodiest tyrants of the 20th century, as part of the events commemorating the Yalta Conference... The implementation of this hideous idea precisely in the Crimea — from where the Crimean Tatar people were forcibly deported 60 years ago by a decision made by Stalin and his coterie, on the land that was denied to its native inhabitants for 45 long years because they were forbidden to come back, although tens of thousands of Tatars tried to return to their homes but were repeatedly thrown out of the peninsula by brute force — is a desecration of the memory of the hundreds of thousands of people who died in exile, an insult to the tens of thousands of people who survived in exile, and the thousands of people who, despite everything, survived and came back to their homeland.

“The supporters of the idea to erect a monument to the tyrant claim that Stalin is an historic personality. By this logic, you can vindicate anybody, even Hitler... Stalinism, a variety of fascism, will never be tolerated in the Crimea!”

“No matter what your attitude to Stalin is, you can’t rewrite history!” the newspaper Krymskaya Pravda has commented. Another Crimean newspaper, Poluostrov, objects: “Stalin is coming to the Crimea! The Crimean Tatars are against this.” Some favor an outright ban on erecting monuments to tyrants; others suggest that the monument be unveiled quietly and without public gatherings: not in February, the 60th anniversary of the conference, but in March. A huge debate seems inevitable.

By Mykyta KASYANENKO, Simferopol