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Muscovites Set to Vote on the Resurrection of Iron Felix

Allowing a vote on the restoration of the statue of secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky appears to reflect an increased readiness by the Kremlin to resurrect Soviet-era symbols.
Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Moscow residents are set to vote on whether to restore a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police, to a square in the city center, following the approval of a referendum request on Thursday.

In decisions on Wednesday and Thursday, Moscow's city legislature and election commission allowed the Communist Party to start collecting the nearly 150,000 signatures needed to hold a September referendum on restoring the statue to its original location in Lubyanka Square.


The referendum's approval appears to reflect increased readiness by the Kremlin to resurrect Soviet-era symbols amid a showdown with the West over Ukraine.

The statue of Dzerzhinsky, the Bolshevik revolutionary nicknamed Iron Felix, stood outside KGB headquarters in Moscow until it was toppled by protesters in 1991 when the Soviet Union was falling.

Images of demonstrators dismantling the towering monument with the help of a construction crane were among the most powerful symbols of collapse of the Communist rule.

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Dzerzhinsky's statue has remained at a Moscow park since then along with other sculptures of Soviet leaders removed from their original locations after the regime's collapse.

The KGB's main successor, the FSB, now occupies the landmark building on Lubyanka Square. The square was named after Dzerzhinsky for decades after his death in 1926, but after the statue was moved it had the original Lubyanka name restored.

Dzerzhinsky founded Cheka in 1917 — a predecessor to the KGB which conducted the Red Terror campaign of mass killing and torture between 1918 and 1921 during the Russian Civil War.

Communists and other hardliners, who say Dzerzhinsky did a lot of good for the country, have long pushed for restoring the Iron Felix statue to its original place, but authorities had ignored their demands until now.


The proposed referendum caused dismay among liberal politicians and rights defenders.

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a 87-year old Soviet-era dissident who heads the respected Moscow Helsinki Group, denounced the planned vote as a "farce."

"I only can walk with assistance, but if they restore the Dzerzhinsky monument, I will come there to splash it with red paint, the color of blood that bloodsucker spilled," Alexeyeva said, according to Interfax.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.