Stalin: Greatest Russian ever?

GENIA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images Tomorrow marks the the 90th anniversary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and the Russian royal family at the hands of the Bolsheviks. It is fitting, then, that the monarch erased an early deficit and is now neck and neck with Josef Stalin in an online vote to select “The Name ...

593973_080716_stalin5.jpg
593973_080716_stalin5.jpg

GENIA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

Tomorrow marks the the 90th anniversary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and the Russian royal family at the hands of the Bolsheviks. It is fitting, then, that the monarch erased an early deficit and is now neck and neck with Josef Stalin in an online vote to select "The Name of Russia" -- the greatest Russian in history.

The vote, sponsored by state-run Russian television, is the latest iteration of a format won by Winston Churchill in Great Britain in 2002 and Ronald Reagan in the United States in 2005.

GENIA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

Tomorrow marks the the 90th anniversary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and the Russian royal family at the hands of the Bolsheviks. It is fitting, then, that the monarch erased an early deficit and is now neck and neck with Josef Stalin in an online vote to select “The Name of Russia” — the greatest Russian in history.

The vote, sponsored by state-run Russian television, is the latest iteration of a format won by Winston Churchill in Great Britain in 2002 and Ronald Reagan in the United States in 2005.

The Tsar currently leads Stalin 267,000 to 263,000, out of nearly 2.4 million votes cast overall. As one might expect, the contest has been far from democratic, with viewers allowed to vote more than once. Alexander Lyubimov, one of the show’s producers, is also openly lobbying for Nicholas II:

I said, ‘Let’s commemorate Stalin’s disastrous input into Russia’s history by clicking for Nicholas II, whose family was massacred by the Bolsheviks’,” Mr Lyubimov said.

A similar effort in Chile is also drawing controversy, with former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet omitted from a ballot for the greatest Chilean. Pinochet is revered by many in the country for modernizing the economy, despite presiding over a brutal regime that killed some 3,000.

What is it about heavy-handed rulers that people seem to love so much?

Patrick Fitzgerald is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

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