Staunton, September 14 – Now that some Russians have put up statues in honor of past Russian dictators like Ivan the Terrible, something they had not done for 400 years, and Joseph Stalin, which they hadn’t done since Khrushchev’s expose, others are calling for naming a square in a closed city to honor one of the latter’s most horrific henchmen, Lavrenty Beria.
In the closed nuclear city of Lesnaya in Sverdlovsk oblast, Igor Grebtsov, a local historian who recently fought with the pro-Moscow militias in the Donbass, has called for putting Beria’s name on the square of that city for the secret policeman’s contributions to the development of Soviet nuclear weapons in the 1940s.
“When people say that Beria is a murder, an executioner, and an enemy of his own people, Grebtsov says, “I don’t even want to argue with them. Why dispute with people whose words are based more on stereotypes and myths than on knowledge of historical facts?” (evrazia.org/news/46718).
He hastens to add that he is at the same time “far from the position of those who consider Beria almost holy and are making out of him a kind of cult figure.” But history is history, Grebtsov says, and Beria played a key role in the development of the closed cities in the USSR where nuclear weapons were developed and produced.
The activist says that he and his comrades in arms plan to raise the issue at a meeting of the local Social Chamber. And he points out that he is calling for the city to name a square to which people can go or not and not a street that they have to use. So far, however, local officials say, they have not heard about this (classic.newsru.com/russia/13sep2016/lesnoy.html and znak.com/2016-09-12/v_zakrytom_gorode_na_urale_hotyat_uvekovechit_imya_lavrentiya_berii).
“My goal,” Grebtsov says, “is to remind city residents that without this man, however one views him now, there wouldn’t be” their city or the country’s nuclear weapons.
But many are horrified by this idea. Anna Pastukhova, the coordinator of the Urals section of Memorial, says that “talking about the contributions of Beria as an effective manager while forgetting about his crimes is like putting up a memorial to Adoph Hitler for building the autobahn” while forgetting the Holocaust.”
She adds that “it is sad that such proposals are surfacing ever more often” in Russia today.