Putin takes another step back to Communist era

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) presents a Hero of Labour award to Mariinsky theatre director Valery Gergiev during an awards ceremony in St. Petersburg May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/Ria
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) presents a Hero of Labour award to Mariinsky theatre director Valery Gergiev during an awards ceremony in St. Petersburg May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Alexei Nikolsky/Ria

President Vladimir Putin likes to deny that he is taking Russia back to the USSR, but today he dusted off another communist relic by restoring a labor medal introduced under Josef Stalin.

A week after telling the nation there was nothing in Russia that smacked of the late Soviet dictator, Putin pinned the Hero of Labour award on five recipients in St Petersburg, the cradle of the 1917 revolution that swept communists to power.

The name has changed slightly from Stalin’s Hero of Socialist Labour, which rewarded outstanding work for the Soviet nation. But the award is clearly back, more than two decades after it seemed to have died with the Soviet Union.

Putin has made no secret of his attempt to appeal to the conservative values and patriotism of the working class, his main power base, and counter the threat of the mainly middle-class demonstrators who led protests against him last year.

“The Hero of Labour title is … a step towards resuming the continuity of traditions, tighter ties between eras and generations,” Putin told a ceremony on May Day, the traditional workers’ holiday and an important date in the Soviet calendar.

“We need to cherish our historical memory, keep in our hearts our pride for the people that built a great country.”

The medal, a golden five-pointed star bearing the Russian two-headed eagle, hanging from a white, blue and red ribbon, bears a striking resemblance to the Stalin-era award, except that this had a red ribbon and a hammer and sickle on the star.

The winners included a coal miner, a lathe operator, a brain surgeon, an agronomist and the star conductor Valery Gergiev.

The Hero of Socialist Labour award was won by more than 20,000 people and was a huge honor, intended to encourage industrialization and glorify Soviet achievements. Famous recipients included the composer Dmitry Shostakovich and the rifle maker Mikhail Kalashnikov.

ORDER AND DISCIPLINE NEEDED

Putin has already brought back the Soviet national anthem and Soviet-style military parades, and critics accuse him of using Soviet tactics to stifle dissent, although he denies this.

“Stalinism is linked to the cult of personality, massive legal violations, repressions and labour camps,” he told his annual question-and-answer session, broadcast live last week across the country of about 142 million.

“There is nothing like that in Russia and I hope there never will be again,” he said. “But this does not mean that we should not have order and discipline.”

Putin has long spoken ambiguously about Stalin, admiring the strides the Soviet Union took to industrialize during his three-decade rule until his death in 1953, but condemning the methods he used, including repression that killed millions of people.

Six decades on, Stalin’s legacy remains the subject of bitter debate and broad interpretation in Russia, where many still believe he did some good, not least in repelling and defeating Nazi aggression in World War Two.

Putin hopes to tap into this sort of nostalgia as he looks for ways to lift his popularity ratings.

The idea of bringing back the medal appears to have been raised last year by Igor Kholmanskikh, a former tank factory worker who said he would go to Moscow to back Putin against the protesters and later became a presidential envoy.

Although Putin’s ratings are still high by Western standards at more than 60 percent, they are lower than they were during his first spell as president, from 2000 until 2008.

An opinion poll last year indicated that more than two-thirds of Russians agreed Stalin was “a cruel, inhuman tyrant, responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people”.

But at the same time, 47 percent agreed Stalin was “a wise leader who brought the Soviet Union to might and prosperity”.

(Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing by Timothy Heritage)



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Sierra Leone Ebola patient, recovered from family, dies…

An Ebola patient whose family sparked a nationwide hunt when they forcefully removed her from a treatment center and took her to a traditional healer has died.

Local

VIDEO: Cop reassigned as NYPD investigates alleged head…

An officer alleged to have stomped on a Brooklyn man's head last week had his gun taken away and placed on modified duty.

National

New York Times calls for legalization of pot

The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea.

National

Two injured after cable snaps on Ohio amusement…

(Reuters) - A cable on a large swing ride at an Ohio amusement park snapped and struck two riders as the swing was in motion,…

Music

Newport Folk Festival: Photo gallery of 35 moments…

As has been the tradition since Bob Dylan plugged in a bajillion years ago, the Newport Folk Festival embraces more musical genres than its name implies.

Music

MKTO: Behind the bromance

MKTO's Malcolm Kelley and Tony Oller talk about the American Dream tour, Demi Lovato and getting turned down by girls.

Arts

James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne head to…

Two-time Tony winner James Earl Jones returns to the New York stage next month as an eccentric grandfather in a revival of the 1930s comedy…

Movies

Box office: Scarlett Johansson wins battle of brains…

Scarlett Johansson's "Lucy" handily dispatched with Dwayne Johnson's "Hercules" over the weekend.

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

MLB

Joe Torre: I'm in Hall of Fame because…

Joe Torre spent 18 years putting together a near Hall of Fame career as a player. But it was the 12 years he spent as…

MLB

Yankees GM Brian Cashman breaks down art of…

The action frequently accelerates as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, as it will on Thursday.

Auto racing

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Jeff Gordon captures fifth title at Brickyard 400

Wellbeing

This Week In Health: Friends share similar DNA,…

Friends share similar DNA, study finds Location: U.S. Study subjects: Nearly 2,000 people Results: When it comes to our social networks, it seems that birds of…

Education

Are liberal arts colleges turning away from the…

Bryn Mawr College, a small women's college located just outside of Philadelphia, announced last week that it would be making standardized tests like the SAT…

Education

Recent grads discover school superintendent plagiarized parts of…

  Two recent high school graduates made a surprising discovery about the commencement speech their school superintendent delivered at their graduation: portions of it was copied…

Career

Feeling stuck? Get out of the entry-level job…

Television and movies may be littered with 20-something characters who seem directionless when it comes to their careers, but author Mary Traina says she finds…