- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

MOSCOW A Russian reform party and human rights activists staged a rally yesterday in central Moscow to block the return of a statue of Soviet-era secret police chief Felix Dzerzhinsky to its site in front of the FSB security service headquarters.
The Union of Rightist Forces, known by its Russian initials of SPS, began collecting signatures to block the return of the monument, which had been removed from Lubyanka Square in August 1991 after Communist rule crumbled.
Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov sparked the debate on the future of the statue last week, insisting the 14-ton bronze monument was an outstanding work of art that deserved to regain its prominent place in the heart of Moscow.
Mr. Luzhkov said the dismantling of the monument a decade ago was motivated "exclusively by the wave of protest against the existing [Soviet] system, but not against the monument itself."
However, as debate raged among the intelligentsia, politicians representing reform parties, such as Yabloko and the SPS, said they were categorically opposed to the return of "Iron Felix," as the founder of what became the KGB is known.
"Dzerzhinsky was a butcher who killed millions of Russians," SPS leader Boris Nemtsov told a crowd of supporters gathered in front of the headquarters of the FSB, formerly the KGB.
Mr. Nemtsov said Dzerzhinsky's name alone was a constant reminder of the atrocities committed by the Soviet regime.
"It is not a question of whether this monument is good or bad. It is a symbol of a totalitarian era that ended not so long ago," Mr. Nemtsov said.
Among those to support the return of Iron Felix were the leaders of Communist, nationalist and agrarian parties.
Mr. Luzhkov, who had expected a heated debate about the future of the statue, infuriated and astonished many as he had earlier supported the removal of the statue and called for a new monument to replace it.
In 1998, Mr. Luzhkov rejected a motion by Communists to restore the statue, but he was a changed man during the weekend, championing the benefits of restoring the "beautiful architectural and artistic composition which was a dominant feature of the square."
Mr. Luzhkov said the statue was so fine it was "flawless" and "beyond reproach."
In Russian minds, Dzerzhinsky is still most often associated with the brutalities of the Bolshevik regime and the omnipotence of its secret services, which he came to epitomize from the early days of Communist rule.
Dzerzhinsky was the chairman of the notorious Cheka, the first Soviet secret police organization, the precursor of the NKVD and later KGB.
A Pole by nationality, Dzerzhinsky also became known for his fanaticism in serving the Soviet regime and ruthless use of terror against all dissenters. After leaving the secret service, he held other important posts in the Soviet government.

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