Activists who want to repudiate Josef Stalin's past by building a monument to his victims drew hundreds of people Saturday to a central square and added more names to a burgeoning petition.
The Moscow activists join groups in the Baltic republic of Latvia and in the Siberian city of Chita in what appears to be a growing social movement to come to grips with the dictator's legacy 35 years after his death.People of all ages gathered around petition organizers, members of a group called Memorial, to listen and sign petitions.
"Many people suffered in this country, not only those who were imprisoned, but others, children too," said a 30-year-old Muscovite who signed one of the petitions. He identified himself only as Yevgeny.
He said he signed the petition because his grandmother had been imprisoned for 12 years beginning in 1937, the height of Stalin's purges. Millions died or were imprisoned during the dictator's rule.
The debate over Stalinism is vital in the Soviet Union because the leadership's attitude toward the past of-ten is indicative of the direction it wants to take the country.
Small groups of people crowded around a man holding a poster of the petition text, and about a half-dozen people collected signatures behind a monument to Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.
Several arguments broke out among those supporting the petitioners and those opposing them.
The group hopes to persuade a conference of 5,000 Communist Party members who meet June 28 to approve a Moscow memorial to Stalin's victims, said Vladimir Lysenko, a political instructor at a Moscow institute and a Memorial organizer.