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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: May 24, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Russian Poet Detained for Tearing Down Stalin Poster in the Moscow Metro
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Russian poet Sergei Gandlevsky was detained by police in Moscow near the Lubyanka metro station for tearing down a portrait of Stalin from the wall, OVD-Info, the police monitoring group reported.

Gandlevsky was released after several hours without a police report filed. As Gandlevsky told OVD-Info (translation by The Interpreter):

"I was walking along [the platform] at the Lubyanka [metro station] when I saw a portrait of Stalin glued on the wall. Since he is a criminal, I tore it down."
He said a man nearby saw him tear the poster and came up to him and asked him what he was doing. Gandlevsky explained his reasons. The man then disappeared, and soon two police came up to him along with the man, who was crying "That's him!".

Gandlevsky was taken away to a glass police booth inside the metro and told he would be jailed for "vandalism and petty hooliganism." He said police were rude and used the "ty" [familiar] form of address in Russian. 

The police didn't make any mention of Stalin. Eventually Gandlevsky was allowed to make one phone call, and then was released without any further explanation.

Gandlevsky is well known in Russia as a poet, prose writer, essayist and translator who has won a number of literary prizes including the "Anti-Booker Award."

In a related story, Stalin's portrait appeared in the metro on April 1 in what at first some media such as Moskovsky Komsomolets thought was an April Fool's joke. The portrait showed Stalin superimposed over a map of Crimea.

Translation: Oohhh! At the Arbatskaya station, piece of plaster in the form of Crimea appeared and a mosaic with Stalin has been exposed.

As a prominent blogger Aleksandr Popov explained later, in fact the Stalin image was originally placed in the metro in a mosaic when it was built in the 1940s, but when the "cult of personality" was denounced by Nikita Khrushchev in 1956, officials plastered over Stalin's portrait with a design. Then someone decided to cut the plaster out in the shape of Crimea to reveal Stalin's face.

The management of the Moscow metro had no comment, said Moskovsky Komsomolets.

Then posters of Stalin appeared in the metro apparently related to preparations for the May 9th Victory Day celebration.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick