Author`s name Lyuba Lulko

Lubyanka monument controversy: Felix Dzerzhinsky or Alexander Nevsky?

The Russians are going to vote to decide the fate of the monument on Moscow's Lubyanka Square, opposite the former KGB headquarters (currently FSB).

Felix Dzerzhinsky or Alexander Nevsky?

From February 25 to March 5, 2021, the Active Citizen website will hold a vote regarding the monument on Lubyanka Square in Moscow.

The background of the story is as follows. In December 2020, Officers of Russia organisation  appealed to Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov with a request to evaluate the legality of the demolition of the monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky. The monument by Yevgeny Vuchetich was dismantled on the square after the failure of the August putsch in 1991. The public organization initiated the procedure to return the monument to Lubyanka (the monument is currently located in Muzeon Park).

On February 19, members of the Council of the Public Chamber of Moscow supported the the idea of the survey among Muscovites to find out their opinion about which historical persona should be dominant on Lubyanka Square. Representatives of the Moscow administration told TASS that they were ready to consider this proposal.

Two personalities were offered to choose from: Felix Dzerzhinsky and Alexander Nevsky (a proposal from the museum community), Public Chamber chairman Konstantin Remchukov said. No one offered the "fountain" that had been the centrepiece of the square until 1936.

"We decided that the purity of the genre is as follows: we received two proposals, and we are submitting these two proposals for discussion. Otherwise, we do not have a mechanism to pick other candidates," he said.

According to Remchukov, responses received from all 146 Moscow municipalities will be studied, and the results of the survey will be forwarded to the mayor's office.

"When the Moscow City Duma votes, the authorities will have reasons to make decisions based on, as we hope, a slightly more accurate picture of ​​the opinion of Muscovites."

We would like to point out two things:

  • it's good that they decided to ask Muscovites;
  • secondly, this is a political issue that needs to be resolved once and for all.  

Alexander Nevsky is not good for Moscow

Many Russians, especially Muscovites, associate Alexander Nevsky with St. Petersburg. Given the bitter rivalry between the two capitals, Nevsky is unlikely to win the vote in Moscow.

It is worthy of note that the discussion about the monument to Prince Alexander Nevsky is currently being conducted in Nizhny Novgorod (next to the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral). Five years ago, they discussed the installation of the monument to Nevsky in Kirov. The authorities supported the idea then. They even set the opening date - June 12, 2015, but the project was never implemented. All those initiatives (including the one regarding Lubyanka Square) came from the Russian Orthodox Church.

The ROC believes that the return of the monument to Dzerzhinsky would be "an indicator of historical amnesia about the period before 1917," Bishop Savva (Tutunov), deputy manager of the Moscow Patriarchate, wrote in his Telegram channel.

In his opinion, "the treatment of historical amnesia, which does not allow to see such a symbol in such prominent men of our country as Ivan III or, closer to the subject, Benckendorf, would help." The bishop also pointed out that "Saint Alexander Nevsky could be remembered this year without difficulty (the year of the 800th anniversary of the prince)."

Nevertheless, he admits that it is not only "fanatics of the Soviet past," who advocate the idea of the monument, but also the people who simply "need a symbol of the harsh and just power of the state."

Dzerzhinsky is not "historical amnesia"

The monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky is historically linked with the iconic KGB-FSB building on Lubyanka. The people who work there obviously lobby for the monument to their founder to return.

It was KGB servicemen of middle and lower ranks who did not support the 1991 putsch, although their leader Kryuchkov was a member of the State Emergency Committee. Kryuchkov was not defending the state, which the Russian people and the Russian elite had been building for centuries. He was defending the rotten Soviet nomenklatura system that had lost its connection with the people.

Therefore, the return of the monument to Dzerzhinsky would put an emphasis on "clean hands and cold heart", rather than "dictatorship and regime glorification." This is not "historical amnesia", because the monument to the repressed - the Solovetsky stone - is located near the KGB/FSB building, meaning that the lesson of history has been taken into account.

It is worthy of note that it was Dzerzhinsky who issued an arrest warrant for Lavrentiy Beria for abuse of power in the Azerbaijan Cheka (emergency committee) in 1921. It was only the intercession of Sergo Ordzhonikidze and Joseph Stalin that saved Beria.

"Since the mid-1920s, Dzerzhinsky had been actually in opposition to Stalin, although he was fighting against all oppositionists, trying to preserve the unity of the party. That was one of the reasons for his silence at high party forums, but he expressed his opinions in private letters and conversations. On June 2, 1926, he told Rykov: "I do not share the policy of this government. I don't understand it nor do I see any point in it," Doctor of History Alexander Plekhanov wrote.

Dzerzhinsky as a brilliant statesman

Any monument does not mean to glorify and hail an object, for which it is created. Many Russians still see Dzerzhinsky is a symbol of brilliant statesmanship.

Dzerzhinsky's merits included:

  • revealing conspiracies of foreign intelligence services and conducting a fight against banditry;
  • restoration of infrastructure (People's Commissar of Internal Affairs, Railways, Chairman of the Supreme Council of the National Economy),
  • social rehabilitation of children was carried out (one of the tasks of the Cheka was to eliminate  homelessness and neglect among children, whose parents died during the First World War and the Civil War, intervention, hunger, and Entente sanctions.

He was also a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Western Front during the war with the Poles, when Soviet Russia returned part of the lands of the former Russian Empire. To crown it all, Vladimir Lenin used to entrust most difficult cases to Dzerzhinsky: "Give it to  Dzerzhinsky. He will do it."

A monument to Dzerzhinsky is not only a monument to him specifically - this is a monument to a whole era. This monument pays tribute to our history, memory of our fathers and grandfathers who lived and worked to build our state.

Monument to Iron Felix
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