Ultimate Soviet Henchman Returns to His Pedestal





Fourteen years ago, Moscow's summer was filled with sheer exuberance. The Soviet Union was suddenly gone, separated into 15 different states and a thousand pieces. People were afraid, but many believed Russia would turn democratic naturally, like a whole nation taking a sudden breath of fresh, free air after being too long underwater.

On the night of Aug. 22, 1991, several construction cranes and a crowd of about 50,000 determined people gathered in central Moscow to seal that promise of something better than Soviet misery. In front of the sinister K.G.B. building, workers rocked, cracked and then toppled the formidable statue of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the father of the secret police, the founder of the gulag, the man whose people tortured and killed millions to create Lenin's dream state. It was not broken into pieces by protesters but relegated instead to an undistinguished patch of land behind the New Tretyakov Gallery.

Earlier this month, with little fanfare but plenty of dreary symbolism, Mr. Dzerzhinsky was returned to a position of honor in central Moscow. It is not the same statue, and it is not on the same plinth, in the center of a major traffic circle near the place where the K.G.B. tortured its many victims.

Instead, Iron Feliks is a few blocks away at the Interior Ministry, his bronze bust back on a pedestal in the new Russian society. This is the man who in 1917 founded the Cheka, the Extraordinary Commission, which terrorized the nation with the arrests and brutal executions that became known as the Red Terror. This invention was the precursor of the secret police and spy network, the K.G.B., that stood as a symbol of barbarism in the 20th century.



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