A picture taken on July 4, 2017 shows a plaque in honour of late Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, hanged on a wall of the Kutafin Moscow State Law University in Moscow. Photograph: (AFP)
Officials have increasingly sought to focus on Stalin's role in winning World War II and downplaying the millions he executed and sent to labour camps
A decision to restore a memorial plaque to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin at a state-run Moscow university has sparked outrage as another sign that officials are trying to whitewash his crimes, AFP reports.
The Moscow State Law University last month reinstated the Soviet-era plaque marking a speech delivered there by Stalin in 1924. It was removed in the 1960s.
More than 21,000 people have since signed an online petition on Change.org launched by a former student demanding it be taken down.
"We are deeply concerned about the rehabilitation of the Stalinist regime in Russia in general and in this case in particular," the petition said. The decision saw a prominent rights lawyer and professors of another college break their ties with the university in protest.
But the Kremlin's human rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova has argued that the plaque helps "future lawyers remember how important it is not to slip into repression".
"There is a similar plaque in the foreign ministry," she was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. Officials at the State Law Academy did not comment when contacted by AFP.
This comes the same day as Russian investigators raided the Moscow election headquarters of Alexei Navalny, a prominent Kremlin critic, Reuters reports. Police also entered a warehouse, where activists claim the police confiscated pre-election pamphlets.
Russian investigators raided the Moscow election headquarters of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Thursday and police entered a warehouse, where activists said they confiscated pre-election pamphlets.
Navalny says that he wants to run for the Russian presidency in next year's March election, but the Central Election Commission claims he is ineligible due to a conviction for embezzlement. Navalny maintains this was politically-motivated.
Changing historical narrative
The furore comes as critics accuse the authorities under President Vladimir Putin of minimising Stalin's crimes. Officials have increasingly sought to focus on Stalin's role in winning World War II and downplaying the millions of people executed and sent to labour camps during his rule.
Stalin this month topped a Russian opinion poll as the greatest figure in its history, ahead of current Putin in second place.
Prominent Russian writers--from Varlam Shalamov, Andrei Sinyansky and most famously Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn--were sent to labour camps by Stalin for their writing and they documented their horrors in a genre known as "gulag literature", named after the acronym for the Russian name meaning Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps.
(With agency inputs)