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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 4 March, 2003, 22:25 GMT
Russians divided over Stalin
Stalin lying in state
Millions came to say farewell to Stalin in 1953
Russians are still divided over the legacy of the Soviet leader, Josef Stalin, on the 50th anniversary of the dictator's death.

A survey by the All-Russian Centre for the Study of Public Opinion released this week showed that 53% of 1,600 people polled said Stalin had played a "mainly positive role" in the country's history.

A total of 33% thought his role negative, and 14% didn't know.

Josef Stalin
Those close to Stalin thought he wanted war
Some of those questioned held a very negative view - 27% thought him a cruel tyrant, responsible for millions of death.

But 20% thought him a wise leader who brought about the blossoming of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, Russian human rights group Memorial marked the anniversary by releasing lists which it said for the first time named thousands of people killed in the Stalinist purges of the 1930s.

'Stalin myth'

The lists - naming about 40,000 people - were posted on the group's website, after Memorial consulted the official presidential archives.

The lists with Stalin's signature. Picture courtesy of Memorial human rights group
Memorial said the lists would help to deflate myths about Stalin
"The public doesn't know that these documents on Stalin's crimes exist," Memorial said in a statement at the launch of the website, which was attended by about 40 victims of the purges.

"This absence of information allows the perpetuation of myth that Stalin wasn't involved in these crimes," the statement said.

Memorial said the documents of the 1937-38 purges were original, and that Stalin's signature clearly appeared on all the lists of people that were ordered to be killed.

Stalin died on 5 March 1953, but it was not until his famous denunciation by Nikita Kruschev in 1956 that the process of rehabilitation of his victims slowly began.

Archive material deflating the cult of Stalin began trickling out when the then Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, launched his programme of greater openness, glasnost, in the late 1980s.

Historians estimate that up to 20 million people perished in Stalin's purges which began with the Soviet peasantry and continued to include intellectuals and military leaders.

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The BBC's Steve Rosenberg
"Stalin's death 50 years ago sparked an outpouring of public grief"

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