The talk in the United States is of taking down symbols of the Confederacy — Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell expressed his support for removing Jefferson Davis’s statue from the Kentucky state capitol this week.
But in Russia the talk is of restoring the worst symbols of the Communist era to prominence. Yesterday, the Moscow City duma (or city council) agreed to allow a proposed referendum on the restoration of a monument to feared Soviet secret police chief Felix Dzerzhinsky to move towards a September vote.
A statue of Dzerzhinsky — a bloodthirsty Bolshevik and founder of the Soviet secret police, which eventually evolved into the KGB — was removed from its pedestal in front of the KGB headquarters in 1991 as a symbol of the end of Soviet rule.
Now the Communist party, which has five deputies in Moscow’s duma, is pressing for a public vote on restoring Dzerzhinsky to his place of honor. While it’s hard to imagine local residents doing that, the very discussion of the issue shows just how much backsliding there has been in Russia. Vladimir Putin, who has called the collapse of the Soviet Union a “geo-political disaster” and ordered school textbooks to be scrubbed of overt criticism of Joseph Stalin, bears the responsibility for what has to be a Great Leap Backward in Russia’s understanding of its history.