Stalin bust has Virginia town red-faced
Communist dictator deemed unworthy of D-Day recognition
Updated: 9:57 a.m. on Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The small town of Bedford, Va., is home to 21 men who sacrificed their lives on D-Day, June 6, 1944. It is now also the home of one of the world's few public memorial busts of communist dictator Josef Stalin.
Local citizens and organizations have expressed their outrage over the installation of the bust at the National D-Day Memorial, which honored the 66th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy over the weekend. The bust of the Soviet Union's wartime leader was unveiled last week to accompany existing busts of U.S. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman as well as British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
"Having Stalin in our backyard, people are really upset about that," said Karl Altau, the managing director at the joint Baltic American National Committee that has helped in movements against the Stalin bust.
A Facebook page with more than 2,000 members as of Monday afternoon has been set up to protest the statue. In an online poll from the Bedford Bulletin, the town's local newspaper, 94.8 percent of 429 respondents said a bust of Stalin should not be placed at the National D-Day Memorial as of Monday afternoon.
Lee Edwards, chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, another organization involved in the protests against the statue, said he and others thought the prospect of a bust of Stalin was a joke when they first heard about it.
It was "too misplaced and ill-timed," he said.
But confusion soon gave way to frustration. "The National D-Day Memorial Foundation knows it made a monumental mistake by including Stalin in its memorial," he said.
Stalin is infamous for his dictatorial rule of the Soviet Union, which ultimately led to the deaths of at least 20 million people, the largest number perishing during the terror famines he engineered in the early 1930s to collectivize Soviet agriculture. He also entered World War II on the side of Nazi Germany, and only became an ally of the Western democracies when Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.
The erection of the statue is ironic to some because statues and images of the dictator have been torn down all over Europe since the 1950s denunciation of him by his successors in ruling the Soviet Union.