Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 129

President Vladimir Putin has reportedly spoken in favor of rehabilitating the hymn of the Soviet Union. That, at least, was the claim made today by Segodnya, the daily newspaper published by Media-Most, the media holding run by Vladimir Gusinsky, who was recently arrested and remains under investigation for allegedly embezzling government funds. The Soviet anthem would reportedly replace the one which replaced it following the 1991 Soviet collapse and which Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, officially confirmed as the country’s anthem in a presidential decree. Segodnya noted that Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka called for the rehabilitation of the Soviet anthem during a meeting of the joint Russia-Belarus parliamentary assembly earlier this year, and that Rossiiskaya gazeta, the official Russian government newspaper, also came out in favor the idea in May. According to Segodnya, one of the co-authors of the lyrics to the Soviet anthem, Sergei Mikhalkov–father of Nikita Mikhalkov, the award-winning film director and monarchist–has told the presidential administration that he is not against re-writing its lyrics (Segodnya, July 3).

If the report on the Soviet anthem is true, it would correspond to the recent calls to restore the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky–the founder of the Cheka, the Soviet Union’s first secret police agency and the forerunner of the KGB–which stood outside the KGB headquarters at Lubyanka Square before being removed following the August 1991 abortive hardline putsch. A KGB veterans group recently sent a letter to Putin, himself a veteran KGB officer, asking that the statue be restored. Last month, Nikolai Kharitonov, leader of the Agro-Industrial deputies’ group in the Duma, also called for the Dzerzhinsky statue to be restored (Moskovsky komsomolets, June 24). Meanwhile, a poll carried out by the Public Opinion Foundation found that 60 percent of the respondents supported the idea of re-erecting the Dzerzhinsky monument at Lubyanka Square, while only 21 percent opposed the move. The poll found that 53 percent of Muscovites supported restoring the monument, while 35 percent opposed it. At the end of 1998, when the State Duma called on the Moscow city government to restore the statue, 45 percent of Russians polled said they supported restoring “Iron Felix,” while 36 percent opposed the move. At that time, 53 percent of Muscovites polled said that they opposed re-erecting the Dzerzhinsky monument (Russian agencies, July 2).

It should be noted that the Public Opinion Foundation, one of Russia’s leading polling agencies, has in the past worked on a contract basis with the Kremlin. This means that the foundation’s poll concerning the Dzerzhinsky monument, along with the demarches by the KGB veterans’ group and Nikolai Kharitonov, could be part of a Kremlin push to restore the monument–or, at least, a Kremlin trial balloon.