Monday, June 29, 2015

KGB Monument Return?

By Stephen Wilson

            If the Russian Communist party manages to acquire the stipulated signatures of 146,000 of Moscow's citizens,       then the City Duma will give the go ahead for a local referendum where voters can voice their opinion on three questions; do you approve of the monument of Felix Dzerzhinsky being returned to the centre of Lubyanskaya square? Do you support the reforms in education? Do you approve of the reforms in medical care?

            Unfortunately the deeply bitter controversy concerning the return of 'Iron Felix', the founder of the KGB , has so overshadowed the other more urgent issues that most Muscovites don't even know those other two questions are on the agenda.

            The implications of voting against reforms have  not been spelled out and no details of concrete plans have emerged of how those reforms, could be reversed...Even if voters vote against the reforms, it is highly unlikely they will be reversed. It is difficult to imagine the reopening of around
20 hospitals  and restoring the jobs of countless doctors and
teachers who have lost their jobs. Nevertheless, a vote
against reforms would certain boost the morale of trade-union activists who are struggling to defend their interests. An indictation of how far bent officials are going ahead to stifle opposition was starkly demonstrated by a  doctor being
physically assaulted in his own office ! The dentist, Ivan Stepanov, had simply sent an official complaint to the mayor about how bad conditions had deteriorated in his clinic.

            Teachers I have spoken to over the past months continue to tell me that if they express any opinion against change, or dare attend a demonstration, they will promptly be
fired! Medical staff face similar threats. However, now
some are actually being beaten up not by mysterious thugs on the streets but out in the open, in their own offices! Officials are so confident that the law will always support their interests that they no longer make an effort even to conceal their crimes!

            IRON FELIX

            What are the chances of Iron Felix being returned to
Lubyansakya square?  It is diffficult to say because polls
indicate it could be a close vote with around 50% voting
against, while 50% for. One survey found 49.4% were for restoration, while 42.4% were categorically against.

            The toppling of the monument in 1991 by opposition
demonstrators was seen as a symbol of 'the end of
communism'. The restoration might be interpreted,
misleadingly as the return of the Soviet Union. In reality, the old Soviet system can't be revived because it was marred by too many defects and chronic faults which people would far from relish. People tend to remember the 'good times' and blot out the worst times.

             Nostalgia can invent phantom memories. The historical and social context for  a revived Soviet union is entirely absent.

             IRON FELIX

             Who was Iron Felix? Ask most Muscovites and they can't tell you much about him. He has almost become an
obscure figure. The founder of the KGB was not a Russian
but a Pole, from an aristocratic family background. He was
an unlikely revolutionary. Before he endorsed Marxism he
as a relatively normal person who loved to sing, write poetry and was highly educated. Dzerzhinsky was kicked out of grammar school, exiled to Siberia and later badly beaten up and tortured in prison. He wrists bore the permanent scars of iron prison shackles. Dzerzhinsky could be very pedantic insisting on an exact number of pencils on his table. He also suffered recurrent illnesses.

             The philosopher, Berdeyav, who was held and interrogated by him gave a generous interpretations of his character saying he was not a very bad person but only a fanatic who sincerely believed in what he was doing. When Lenin offered him the post of head of the Cheka he at first refused.

             Joseph Pilsudski, who led Poland to independence, recalled that 'Dzerzhinsky distinguished himself as a student with delicacy  and modesty. He was rather tall, thin, and demure, making the impression of an ascetic with the face of an icon.

             Tormented or not, this is an issue history will clarify; in any case this person did not know how to lie'. How he came to become one of the main architects of the 'red terror' who condoned mass executions of not only opposition leaders but anyone who happened to be in the wrong place and wrong time without a passport or simply because of their
'bourgeois background' is an open question!

             Lyudmilla Alexeyena, an outspoken dissident descibed the proposed referendum as 'a farce' and stated if they do restore this monument, 'I will come there to splash it with red paint, the colour of blood that blood-thirsty person

             The referendum is set to take place in September which gives supporters about 2 months to collect the required
number of signatures. Despite the fact that many Russians are at their dachas or on holiday abroad, the Communist party seems confident they can gather such signatures. Whether the referendum will still include a vote on whether people can support or reject reforms in education and health is questionable! A vote against unpopular reforms would openly undermine any legitimacy officials claim to have.

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