The brutal dictator with his financier Averill Harriman, member of the Club of Rome, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Knights of Pythias, the Skull and Bones Society, the Psi Upsilon Fraternity and the Jupiter Island Club who brought generous financial aid to the Soviets in September 1941.
By ANDREW OSBORN
MOSCOW — No matter how powerful the Russian government may appear nowadays, it hasn’t been able to quell nostalgia for some of the country’s most brutal leaders.
Dictator Josef Stalin made the final cut Wednesday in a Kremlin-backed contest to identify Russia’s most significant historical figure, though he was stripped of almost one million votes organizers called “illegal.”
The “Name of Russia” contest is part of a broad effort by the Kremlin and state media to strengthen national pride, drawing on Russia’s Soviet and Czarist past. But the campaign has turned into a political minefield.
When the online contest kicked off in June, Internet voting gave Stalin a huge lead, before a grass-roots campaign pushed Czar Nicholas II into first place. Other figures went on to occupy the top slot but Stalin always remained a close second.
RTR, the state television channel running the contest, changed the voting process last month, saying it had been distorted by automated voting by computer hackers.
But even after the change, Stalin kept his high position, dismaying human-rights activists and delighting Russia’s enfeebled Communist party.
That changed Wednesday when organizers announced the 12 finalists, from an original list of 500. They said Stalin had fallen from second to twelfth place after they had “adjusted” his tally because of what they called “an information war” by malicious hackers. In mid-August, the contest’s site gave Stalin just over two million votes; Wednesday he had just over one million.
One of the organizers, Alexander Lyubimov, told reporters that hackers chose Stalin as a mascot to stir up trouble.
“It caused a reaction in the press, the intelligentsia sighed, and the international media said that the Russian people had chosen Stalin,” as their favorite figure, he said. “Obviously hackers liked this.”
Stalin and the other 11 finalists will each be the subject of a prime-time TV debate among prominent public figures before voting wraps up in December. Who will defend Stalin hasn’t been announced. Organizers said they invited Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov to defend Stalin. Mr. Zyuganov said earlier this year that Stalin, if alive, could solve Russia’s problems “in one day.”
The final dozen included two writers — Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Alexander Pushkin — and one scientist. The others were heads of state, politicians or military men. In the lead was Alexander Nevsky, a 13th-century prince and nationalist pinup who defeated foreign invaders while keeping the peace with Mongol occupiers.
Mr. Lyubimov, who called himself anti-Communist, said he’d be disappointed if Stalin won. In a question-and-answer session on the project’s Web site, he was bombarded with questions about Stalin’s popularity.
One user asked him whose “order” he was fulfilling by depriving Stalin of the top slot. “There’s no ‘order’ here,” wrote Mr. Lyubimov. “Only a desire to make the voting fairer.” He said he hoped that TV shows to come would convince people that Stalin was a “monstrous tragedy” for Russia.
Mr. Lyubimov said he hoped the TV debates would convince people that Stalin was a “monstrous tragedy” for Russia.
Stalin is blamed for killing tens of millions of Russians under a feared police state.
Opinion polls here regularly show a significant proportion of the population respects Stalin as a strong leader who led the Soviet Union to victory in World War II.
The Communist Party continues to eulogize him. Recent official manuals for history teachers portrayed him as an effective manager who turned the USSR into a superpower.
The timing is also awkward for the Kremlin. Stalin was an ethnic Georgian and Russia has just fought a short war with Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russian respect for Stalin was on show there, too. When Russian troops entered the Georgian town of Gori, Stalin’s birthplace, a museum devoted to him was, unlike many other sites, left unscathed.