Yabloko and the Union of Right Forces, the country's
two main liberal parties, announced Friday Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov
on Friday called for the resurrection of the
towering statue of Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky
Lubyanskaya Ploshchad, in a surprise move that drew sharp criticism
The 15-ton bronze statue, one of the most controversial and notorious
of the Soviet past, was toppled from its pedestal near the former
headquarters of the KGB by jubilant pro-democracy protesters after
failed coup by Communist hard-liners in August 1991.
Luzhkov steadfastly opposed a proposal by the Communist-dominated
Duma four years ago to return the statue to the square. But he
did an about-face Friday and embraced Iron Felix, as Dzerzhinsky
for his unbending determination to impose harsh punishment. "It's
excellent monument and was the highlight of Lubyanskaya Ploshchad,"
said at a meeting of the city's construction committee, Interfax
He said re-erecting the statue would not mean "a return
to the past."
Luzhkov told reporters Saturday he expected a fierce public debate
announcement and he would stoutly defend his position. Luzhkov
Dzerzhinsky's positive achievements, rather than the mass arrests
executions. "We should remember that he solved the problem
children and bailed out the railroads in a period of devastation,"
was quoted by Interfax as saying. "There were excesses at
that time, the
red terror. But if all the useful things Dzerzhinsky did were
account, it would be worthy of making the decision to return the
Duma lawmakers decried the remarks. "We agree with Luzhkov
on many other
issues, but here we will split with him," Alexei Arbatov,
Yabloko deputy, told Interfax on Friday.
Alexander Barannikov, a deputy head of the Union of Right Forces,
in raising the issue, Luzhkov had experienced "a moment of
insanity." The Kremlin's representative to the Duma, Alexander
said, "Monuments shouldn't be toppled but, if toppled, they
should not be
Leftist politicians and several centrists supported Luzhkov.
Dzerzhinsky had every right to crown the downtown square, while
declared Luzhkov could put up anything he wanted in the capital.
is the master of Moscow, and we must consider his opinion,"
Duma Speaker Lyubov Sliska, a centrist.
Liberal lawmaker Sergei Yushenkov called the mayor's proposal
and said he regretted that the monument would inevitably be restored.
The federal government has no say in the matter, and Luzhkov
reputation for getting things done once he puts his mind to it.
Luzhkov's announcement nearly coincided with the 125th anniversary
Dzerzhinsky's birth -- Sept. 11. Dzerzhinsky, who died in 1926,
was one of
the ideologists and organizers of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution
first leader of the Cheka, the precursor to the KGB. He is well-known
ordering mass arrests and executions.
The Dzerzhinsky statue was erected in 1958 by sculptor Yevgeny
and was a landmark in Soviet times.
When the statue was pulled down in 1991, the U.S. Embassy provided
to help remove it from its pedestal, former Moscow Mayor Gavriil
wrote in his memoirs.
Luzhkov said Saturday that the toppling of the statue had nothing
with Dzerzhinsky personally.
"It was the protest against the [social] order, not against
the statue," he
Luzhkov, who was a top city official in 1991, ordered that the
stored in a graveyard to Soviet monuments at the Central House
The Duma decided to restore the statue in 1998, but Luzhkov balked,
the lawmakers had no right to determine "which monument to
put back and
which to topple." Two years later, just after Vladimir Putin
moved into the
Kremlin, the Communists again put the issue on the Duma's agenda.
voted against restoring the statue.
Human rights activists attempted to place another landmark on
in 1990 to commemorate the victims of the prison camps established
Dzerzhinsky -- the huge Solovetsky Stone from a camp in northern
In early 1990s, rallies at the site by human rights organizations
thousands of people. Now, the meetings are attended by only several
Luzhkov promised Friday that the statue would be on the agenda
construction council's next meeting in October.
YABLOKO and the
Grim Symbols of the Soviet Era