London, Dec 29 (ANI): In a marathon television contest that involved voting by millions of Russians for the title of the 'greatest Russian of all time', Soviet dictator Jospeh Stalin stands defeated.
According to a report in The Times, the winner of the competition, which was modelled broadly on the BBC's Great Britons series in 2002, was Alexander Nevsky, a 13th-century prince who defeated German invaders and was canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Grand Prince Nevsky garnered 524,575 votes, fewer than 1,000 ahead of Peter Stolypin, Tsar Nicholas II's authoritarian Prime Minister, and 5,500 in front of Stalin.
The vote, which some commentators claimed had been rigged, went down to the wire, with presenters counting down the final seconds as viewers of the state-owned Rossiya channel voted by text message during the last programme.
Some 50 million votes were cast on-line and by text message from all parts of the former Soviet Union, except Georgia.
In the competition's early stages in the summer, Stalin was the clear leader, but was closely followed by Nicholas II, whom the organisers admitted plugging to make the contest more interesting.
Among the other 11 finalists were the poet Alexander Pushkin, Vladimir Lenin and Tsar Alexander II, who abolished serfdom.
The vote comes after a concerted campaign in Russia to rehabilitate Stalin, who has been lauded in recent times on state television for his role as a victorious leader in the Second World War while school history books have softened their criticism of his repressions.
A factor in Stalin falling behind other contenders in the competition could have been his Georgian roots, as anti-Georgian sentiment in Russia reached new heights this summer after the brief war in the former Soviet republic, according to The Times.
Before the final vote, Sergei Markov, a member of parliament for the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, had said that a win for Stalin would be viewed by the country's ruling class as an anti-establishment vote.
"The most important issue for Russia's ruling class, and the heads of the TV channel, is that they don't want Stalin to win, because that would give the impression of authoritarianism," he said.
According to analysts, although a win for Stalin would have provided a rationale for present-day crackdowns on political opposition, it would also have sent out a dangerous signal at a time of economic crisis. (ANI)