Moscow okays referendum on restoring monument to Russian secret police founder

Moscow City Council gave approval for the proposal of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation to organise a local referendum on the return of the monument to Felix Dzerzhinsky aka Iron Felix. 21 councilors were in favour of the initiative, while 11 voted against it. Up to that moment the Moscow authorities had repeatedly refused to grant permission for the reconstruction of the monument.

A monument to Dzerzhinsky is to be erected before the former KGB headquarters in Lubyanka Square, where it had been located since the 60s: in 1991, in the times of political transformation, it was removed from the square. In its place a stone from the Solovetsky Islands was established – there Bolsheviks founded the first camp for dissidents .

Russian Communists pursuing their goal

It is not the first time Russian communists have gained notoriety due to for initiatives related to Dzerzhinsky. To celebrate the 137th birthday of revolutionist in September, 2014, they staged a rally in Lubyanka. During the event they mounted a copy of the monument 1.5 metres in height.

Interestingly, Moscow City Council failed to sanction the Communist Party’s action, but unlike the demonstration of democratic opposition activists, its participants were not dragged into a police bus.

“Military operations are in progress on the border of our state, that is why it is necessary to remember the man who established the borders of our country and control them with the help of his determined character and a firm hand,” MP Vladimir Rodin explains why the monument is needed now.

What’s next?

To hold such referendum, the organizers have to collect 146 315 signatures of voters registered in Moscow: at least 2 % residents should support the idea of a local referendum, Russian law says.

However, the results of a survey conducted in September, 2014 on the occasion of the Communists’ action play into the hands of Dzerzhinsky’s fans. According to information provided by Russian public opinion research center (VTsIOM) 45 % of Russians endorse the idea of restoring the monument to the founder of Russian secret policein Moscow, and only 17 % are against it.

Felix Dzerzhinsky established the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission (popularly known as the CheKa), the first political terror body in the history of Soviet Russia, which was later converted into the NKVD and into the KGB after the Second World War. He was born in a Polish noble family from Oziembłowe (which is currently located in the territory of a central Belarus). Until today the Dzerzhinsky Museum is open there, and young Belarusian Chekists take oath in front of the statue of Iron Felix.

Karol Łuczka/MS,

See also