Books

Stalin exercise books fly off shelves in Moscow

April 09, 2012

MOSCOW, April 9 — School exercise books decorated with an image of late Soviet dictator Josef Stalin bedecked with medals have become a top-seller at a Moscow store, prompting outrage from rights activists.

“We had to restock the exercise books with the portrait of Stalin yesterday. They are selling very fast,” a spokeswoman for Dom Knigi book store, one of Moscow’s largest, told AFP on Thursday.

A man looks at a notebook in the ‘Great Russian’ series with a portrait of Stalin on its cover, in Moscow on April 5, 2012. — AFP picA man looks at a notebook in the ‘Great Russian’ series with a portrait of Stalin on its cover, in Moscow on April 5, 2012. — AFP pic“The exercise books in this series are selling very well,” a spokesman for the Moscow-based publishers, Alt, confirmed to AFP.

The Stalin exercise book is one of a series of five called “great names of Russia,” all of which are lavishly decorated with gold stars and include historical photos and biographies of the figures.

The other exercise books feature far less controversial Russian figures: Catherine the Great, space pioneer Sergei Korolyov, Field Marshal Mikhail Kutuzov who defeated Napoleon and composer Sergei Rachmaninov.

“Stalin is the leader who stayed in power the longest and who headed the country during the hardest time of its history,” the art director at the publishing house, Artyom Bilan, said, referring to World War II.

He criticised what he called “attempts to fight against Stalin as if he were still alive.”

“Stalin is dead and he is part of our history,” Bilan said.

But the sale of the exercise books prompted indignation among rights activists.

“Publishing a portrait of someone on an exercise book for schoolchildren means they will see it in a positive light. We can’t put portraits of criminals on exercise books,” said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has strongly condemned the Soviet regime, calling it “totalitarian” and saying that Stalin’s crimes were unforgivable in a speech two years ago.

But Stalin came third in a national poll in 2008 to pick historic and cultural figures who represented Russia. He won more than 500,000 votes in the online poll, which was organised by Russian state television.

Though Soviet forces under Stalin played a major part in the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, millions died in political purges during his 1924-1953 rule or starved to death as a result of his disastrous agricultural policies. — AFP-Relaxnews