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
National

New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…

National

On newly released tape, 'Squeaky' Fromme says was…

Manson Family member Squeaky Fromme told a mental health examiner in newly released interview the "X" she carved in her forehead was meant to separate her from "the system."

Local

New York-based Century 21 store coming to The…

The former Strawbridge & Clothier building will once again host a department store. City officials on Thursday announced New York-based Century 21 Department Stores will…

National

Electric Zoo tickets on sale Tuesday as festival…

Electric Zoo tickets go on sale Tuesday. The festival announced plans to amp up security after two attendees died last year from apparent drug overdoses.

Music

Championship of Collegiate a Cappella: Students who are…

Tickets to this Saturday’s International Championship of Collegiate a Cappella reportedly sold out within 11 hours of going on sale.

Music

M.I.A. talks 'Matangi,' divinity, spontaneity and holograms

"There’s pressure for me to become a theatrical production like 'Glee,' or something" says M.I.A., "It’s like, 'the pressure’s on, bitches.'"

Movies

Tribeca: 'Goodbye to All That' star Paul Schneider…

Paul Schneider talks about his new film "Goodbye to All That," not acting too much and how he'd rather indulge in simple pleasures than play the scene.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

NBA

Jason Collins named to Time's 100 Most Influential…

Jason Collins was named to the list after coming out as the first openly gay player to appear in an NBA game.

MLB

The return of Cole Hamels brings optimism

Cole Hamels’ quality start Wednesday was a nice change of pace from his recent season debuts.

MLB

Tony Gwynn Jr. a nice surprise for Phillies

Tony Gwynn Jr. has been a plus in every way for the Phillies.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

Food

Hai Street Kitchen opening in Rittenhouse May 22

Japanese cuisine will get a Chipotle-style twist at Hai Street Kitchen & Co., a new casual, quick-food restaurant opening near Rittenhouse Square on May 22.…

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.