Brezhnev plaque may once more adorn late Soviet leader's home

Mon May 27, 2013 2:50pm EDT
 
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A plaque commemorating late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev may be restored to the facade of the Moscow apartment building where he lived, in a sign of nostalgia that has been harnessed by President Vladimir Putin.

Critics say Brezhnev, who ruled longer than any Soviet leader except dictator Josef Stalin, presided over a period of political repression and economic stagnation.

But many Russians see his 18-year rule, until his death in 1982, as a time of economic stability for the superpower and blame Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, for the break-up of the union in 1991.

A lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party is among the initiators of the plan to restore the plaque. The proposal has drawn criticism from liberals.

Plaques commemorating other Soviet-era figures adorn many central Moscow apartment houses, but the one on the stately building where Brezhnev lived on a main avenue was removed after the Soviet Union fell apart.

A poll last month by the independent Levada Center found 56 percent of Russians had a positive view of Brezhnev - more than had a positive view of any other Soviet-era leader, or of the last tsar, Nicholas II, or post-Soviet President Boris Yeltsin.

Putin has used Soviet-era imagery to bolster his popularity and encourage patriotism, while portraying the years between the Soviet break-up and his first election in 2000 as a time of chaos when Russia was on its knees and nearly fell apart.

Satirists have likened 60-year-old Putin's long period in power to that of Brezhnev, who remained in the Kremlin as his health declined long before his death at 79.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called the Brezhnev era a "huge plus" for the country.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Pravin Char)