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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 17:27 GMT
Thousands pay respects to Stalin
Communists gather at Stalin's grave
Stalin still has a strong following in Russia
About 3,000 Russians have been gathering near the grave of Josef Stalin on the 50th anniversary of his death, as a poll suggests more than half the population view him positively.

Supporters of the Russian Communist Party followed their leader Gennady Zyuganov in a solemn procession to Stalin's grave, next to the Kremlin Wall in Red Square.

Carrying the flag of the old Soviet Union, they laid flowers beneath a bust of the fomer leader.

Stalin was a great statesman, who had a strong fighting character and a strong will
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov
Many of them were veterans of World War II, when Stalin is credited with rallying the Red Army in the ferocious and decisive battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43, and stopping the advance of German Nazi forces into the Soviet Union.

"Stalin was a great statesman, who had a strong fighting character and a strong will," Mr Zyuganov said, adding that he "was the founder of the biggest superpower and created a country where the working man felt confident".

'Pride of empire'

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
Some see Stalin as a great statesman
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.

Stalin is a great personality, he's like Abraham Lincoln - he's like the captain of a great state, the captain of a ship
Lyuba, aged 16

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 Khrushchev 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.

Read a selection of your comments below.

His article was considered unpatriotic
Gleb Popov, USA
I lived in Ukraine for many years and, perhaps, this country suffered the most from Stalin's deliberate repressions and other evildoings aimed to exterminate so called "enemies of the state". My grandfather was one of his victims. He was an army reporter and was arrested in 1941 for writing an article about the retreat of the Red Army amid the heavy advances of the Germans. His article was considered unpatriotic and he was taken by the NKVD agents. My mother's family never heard from him again. They had to denounce him and accept the fact that he was considered an enemy of the state.
Gleb Popov, USA

I come from a family of Armenians from Kislovodsk, southern Russia. My family there endured constant harassment which climaxed into the arrests of the men of the family in the 1930's. When my great-grandfather was about to be taken away, his little daughter - my grandmother's younger sister - burst into tears and threw her arms around my great-grandfather's legs. The police apparently were affected by this display, because they let him go, instead looting the house before leaving. My family then moved to Iran via Baku to escape.
Karena, USA

My family comes from former eastern Poland - Lviv (which belongs now to Ukraine). Several members of my family either died or suffered tremendously due to this man. One of them was killed in Katyn - a place were more than 20,000 Polish officers were killed by the NKWD. Due to the displacements of my family members during WW2 my whole family is scattered around the globe and only in recent years started moving back to Poland. Let us pray and hope there will never be such an atrocious regime ever again.
Tomasz Stepan, Netherlands

Three quarters of my teenage schoolmates who stayed behind disappeared
Gunars Reinis, USA
When Russia occupied Latvia in 1940 I was 12. Almost daily I overheard my parents whisper about people disappearing never to be heard from again. On 14 June 1941 over 30,000 people were packed in cattle cars and sent to Siberia, including two of my 13 year old schoolmates. From that day I slept in a hayloft, fully dressed and with my boots on. When the German attack started on 22 June, I said to myself; "Finally!" The next 3 years were difficult, but I slept in my bed with my boots under it. When the Russians returned in 1944 I found refuge in Germany and after the war in the US occupation zone. I was poor but safe, while three quarters of my teenage schoolmates who stayed behind disappeared.
Gunars Reinis, USA

My parents and grandparents have some very strong memories of Stalin. We remember the Great Famine genocide in Soviet Ukraine 1932-1933. Perhaps the world forgets the people killed by Stalin's system. Some 22 million of my countrymen died by Stalin's hand. Was this not a holocaust too?
Jan Artymowski, Ukraine

My family is from the Former Yugoslavia. They were also supporters of the former leader Josip Broz Tito. Tito broke with Stalin for one reason. Stalin was a power hungry man, and crazy at that.
Vase, USA

Stalin was an evil tyrant who killed nearly 10 million people in Ukraine alone by starving them in the forced famine of the early 1930s. My grandmother witnessed it first hand and managed to survive. Silos full of wheat lay rotting as the people died - all to force collectivised farming on a proud people. Later he killed millions of his own people and the peoples of the countries he invaded. After being tortured by the same idiots that praised Stalin, my grandfather was sent to Siberia for 15 years for being anti-communist. It's a miracle he survived. My great uncle was not as fortunate. He was sent to Siberia for being in the forestry service of Latvia. This was considered paramilitary by Stalin's regime. He was never heard from again.
Martins Zaprauskis, Latvia

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

How Russia faced its dark past
05 Mar 03 |  Europe
The mystery of Stalin's death
24 Feb 03 |  Europe
Stalin still revered in Georgia
21 Dec 02 |  Europe
Stalin lives on in Budapest
27 Sep 00 |  Media reports

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