Moscow City Hall has dropped the proposal that could replace the statue of the founder of Soviet state terror, Felix Dzerzhinsky, in front of the former KGB headquarters.
As Mayor Sergei Sobianin announced this weekend, “statues must unite and not divide society”. “So I think it is right to abandon this process and leave Lubianka Square as it is,” he said.
The decision came after an online vote was, he said, rather inconclusive: 45% opted for Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926), and 55% for Prince Alexander Nevsky (1221-1263) , Russian hero and saint.
Sobianin wanted to avoid the confusion. Almost 30 years ago, the toppling of the statue of Dzerzhinksi was the first of great significance in the capital, and marked the process of the implosion of the Soviet Union that took place at the end of 1991.
Several human rights activists protested against the possible return of Dzerjinksi, founder in 1917 of Tcheká (Emergency Committee), the first political police force of the Communist Empire. Over the years it has grown into a number of law enforcement agencies, condensed in 1954 into the dreaded KGB.
Today, the FSB (Federal Security Service) is its main successor – it occupies the same building as the KGB in Lubianka, which since the collapse of August 22, 1991 has been empty.
The return of Dzerzhinsky had already been attempted by the nationalists. It has a tiny statue on Petrovka Street, next to the Criminal Police Headquarters, which was erected in 2005.
The events of 1991 are historic. Although protests for more freedom in the Communist Empire and the loss of European allies have been going on since 1989, the heart of the system has never been so hard hit.
A radical coup by the KGB and the army was defeated, and then President Mikhail Gorbatchov was returned to power.
It would be for a short time, but that August night the people supported and celebrated it by forcing the city to drop the statue – at 14 tons it was too heavy to go to the ground with mere physical force.
The monument, inaugurated in 1958, was transported to the so-called Sculpture Park, where today there are around 700 other Soviet statues torn from their place of origin.
There are still many statues from the Communist period of Russia, including Moscow, most of the founder of the Soviet state, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924).
President Vladimir Putin was a lieutenant colonel of the KGB and headed the FSB before arriving in the Kremlin, and promotes aspects he considers positive about the regime, although he rejects communism.
It is not known whether the question of Dzerzhinsky, to whom he honored by appointing an elite police unit in 2014, reached him. Especially since he faces the formal accusation from the United States that the FSB has poisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalni, who is under arrest.