With Mixed Reactions Karelia Remembers Andropov

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 27

A statue of Yuri Andropov, the Soviet leader and KGB head, has been erected in front of the building housing the Karelia Federal Security Service (FSB) directorate in Petrozavodsk, Karelia’s capital city. The 3.5-meter statue stands in a square on a street named after Andropov, who was first secretary of Karelia’s Komsomol organization before World War II. In remarks made at the monument’s unveiling ceremony, Karelian President Sergei Katanandov said, “The people of the USSR and Russia, in particular, link Andropov’s name to a very important stage in their lives, when law and order were restored, when efforts were made to ensure discipline at work, and measures were taken to fight corruption. These are very topical issues now.” Deputy FSB Director Sergei Ushakov and Deputy Presidential Representative to the Northwest Federal District Mikhail Motsak attended the unveiling of the statue (NTV, June 8).

A handful of “anti-fascist” youths carrying signs reading “Is The KGB Returning?” and “Down With Fascism!” tried to approach the monument to place symbolic cardboard wreaths bearing the message, “from grateful Hungarians, Afghans and victims of political repression.” However, people identifying themselves to journalists as “not indifferent citizens blocked their path to the statue (Regnum.ru, Gazeta.ru, June 8).

Lev Ponomarev, leader of the For Human Rights movement, said erecting a monument to Andropov in the Karelian capital confirms that Russia “has embarked on the path of restoring the Soviet past.” Independent State Duma Deputy Vladimir Ryzhkov said he was opposed to monuments recognizing figures from the special services “especially under current conditions and in our country.” Ryzhkov stated, “There is no stable tradition of democracy in Russia.” He added, “The tendency of the authorities to romanticize and lionize the special services today is striking. For example, all the television channels show films about the history of valiant operations by the special services. But the theme of repression and the gulag is artificially pushed to the background.”

Conversely, Gennady Gudkov, a retired FSB lieutenant colonel who heads the People’s Party and is a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia faction in the State Duma, said, “I don’t think that erecting the statue will lead to mass lionizing of employees of the (security) organs. But there are things that should be left in their place. I think that the statue of (Soviet secret police founder Feliks) Dzerzhinsky should also be returned to Lubyanka Square. It is our history, and we don’t do the right thing when we forget it by getting rid of historical monuments” (Gazeta.ru, June 8).