Will Stalin Be Made A Saint?
Moscow, July 23: The Orthodox Church in Russia is under growing pressure to make former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin a saint if he wins a popularity poll to nominate the greatest Russian in history.
The Communist party in St Petersburg has petitioned the Orthodox Church to canonize Stalin if he wins the poll for the 'Name of Russia' being conducted by the state-run Rossiya channel.
The Soviet leader, who was responsible for the deaths of around 15 million people during his 31-year dictatorial rule, is in second place in online voting that seeks to nominate the greatest Russian historical figure. But with months still left for the end of the polling, Russian Communists are determined to put Stalin on top.
Stalin has undergone a remarkable renaissance in recent years with opinion polls regularly naming him Russia's greatest post-revolution leader after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"By the end of the 21st century, icons of St Josef Stalin will be in every Orthodox Church," said Sergei Malinkovich, the Communist party leader who is driving the Stalin canonisation campaign, was quoted as saying by The Daily Telegraph newspaper of Britain.
The London-based daily said the Communist leader's resurgence owes much to the Kremlin, which under Putin's presidency appeared to support a campaign to rehabilitate Stalin, with television documentaries, films and books released in recent years eulogising him.
The Russian strongman destroyed thousands of churches and sent tens of thousands of clerics to the gulags and their deaths.
Despite the church's reluctance, St Petersburg's Communists are convinced their vision will come to pass. They have already commissioned religious icons depicting Stalin with a halo round his head that have reportedly sold very well around the city.