Stalin lå an til å få flest stemmer i en TV-kåring av Russlands største historiske skikkelse. Nå er stemmegivningen beheftet med svakheter: det var ingen sperrer mot å trykke mange ganger fra samme datamaskin. Det kan derfor tenkes at hele rangeringen er organisert stemmegivning. Tsar Nikolaj II ble nummer en da programleder på statseide Rossija TV ba seerne stemme på ham.

Men for kommunistene er Stalin blitt et ikon.

The party’s leader, Sergei Malinkovich, told The Times that victory could revive the cult of Stalin and help to elevate the atheist dictator to sainthood.

«If he wins, we will ask the Russian Orthodox Church to consider canonising Stalin. Lenin was a Communist for the Church, but Stalin was a real national leader. For us, he is like Napoleon is to the French,» Mr Malinkovich said.

«People remember that Stalin didn’t live for himself but for the country and the people. We see this vote as the first sign that there will be memorials to Stalin in Russia again.

«Of course there were gulags, but they did not have the widespread character that people in the West think. If they existed now, two thirds of bureaucrats would be in jail because they are so corrupt.»

Stalin and Tsar Nicholas II neck and neck for title of greatest Russian