MOSCOW, October 13 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow legislators have backtracked on claims that they are considering the return to the city’s center of a monument honoring the founder of the Soviet secret police.
The city parliament has made no plans concerning the return of the statue of Felix “Iron Felix” Dzerzhinsky, legislature speaker Vladimir Platonov said on Ekho Moskvy radio Saturday.
City lawmakers have no right to pitch such initiatives anyway and can only rule on their funding, said Platonov, a member of the ruling United Russia party.
Fellow city lawmaker Andrei Metelsky said earlier Saturday that the Dzerzhinsky statue was a historical landmark and could return to its former place in front of the Federal Security Service’s headquarters on the downtown Lubyanka Square after the monument’s restoration, which will cost taxpayers 25 million rubles ($750,000).
Metelsky, also a United Russia member, denied within hours that the monument would return, saying that he was only stating a personal opinion that was misinterpreted by journalists.
Interestingly, Metelsky said the ultimate decision on the statue’s fate should rest with city residents, while Platonov specifically said that they have no say in what statues officials decide to adorn Moscow with.
The Moscow City Duma faces elections next September. United Russia, whose ratings are flagging, has recently banked on ultraconservative policies such as limiting gay rights and promoting Soviet nostalgia in what pundits say are an attempt to rally its core traditionalist constituency.
Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926) founded the Cheka secret police in 1917, which was responsible for mass tortures and executions during the Russian Civil War.
The agency was known as the KGB in 1954-1991 and survived under its current name of the Federal Security Service, though it has lost some of its functions.
The statue of Dzerzhinsky was put up in 1958 and taken down during Perestroika in 1991 in a now-iconic outburst of public disaffection with Communism. It has since been kept in the Museon city park, known as the “graveyard of monuments.”
The article has been amended to correct the repair cost for the statue, previously incorrectly put at 50 million rubles.