London, Dec 28 (ANI): Joseph Stalin, the former Soviet leader, has a strong chance of winning the mantle of Russia's greatest historical figure, in a TV contest.
More than two million votes have been cast in state-run Rossiya television's Name of Russia contest, modelled on the BBC's Great Britons, with the result to be announced today, The Independent reported.
Stalin has hovered in the top three for months: just before Christmas he was in second place, fewer than 10,000 votes behind Alexander Nevsky, a medieval military hero, and more than 27,000 ahead of the poet Alexander Pushkin.
A Stalin victory would be controversial by any measure. In recent years the authorities have sought to highlight his Second World War leadership and his economic planning, but the purges, deportations and brutal labour camp system over which he presided are estimated to have cost 20 million lives. Nor was he even Russian.
The future dictator was born Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili and raised in Gori, a Georgian town that was overrun by Russian tanks during the two countries' war in August this year, The Independent reported.
The contest's organiser doesn't appear concerned - and says he has even gained a new understanding of Stalin. "He won't win," said Alexander Lyubimov, a journalist who rose to prominence in the late 1980s as the Soviet Union began to crumble.
During a previous round of voting, Lyubimov helped to rally support for an alternative, Tsar Nicholas II, but says that won't be necessary this time, The Independent reported.
Now deputy head of VGTRK, a state radio and television company, Lyubimov claims to understand the backing for Stalin, saying he should be known for more than his repression.
Lyubimov is proud that the TV contest is doing its part. "Five or 10 years ago, this wouldn't have been possible," he said, referring to Stalin's place in the poll.
"We're creating historical distance, so it doesn't touch us as much emotionally. This is the first brick in the wall toward trying to forget." (ANI)