Dictator Stalin voted third most popular Russian
By Dmitry Solovyov
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Soviet dictator Josef Stalin was voted Russia's third most popular historical figure in a nationwide poll that ended on Sunday, despite the famine and purges that marked his rule.
The "Name of Russia" contest run by Rossiya state television channel over more than six months closed on Sunday night with a final vote via the Internet and mobile phones. It drew more than 50 million votes in a nation of 143 million.
Millions of Soviet citizens perished from famine during forced collectivization, were executed as "enemies of the people" or died in Gulag hard labor camps during Stalin's rule which lasted for almost 30 years until his death in 1953.
"We now have to think very seriously, why the nation chooses to put Josef Vissarionovich Stalin in third place," prominent actor and film director Nikita Mikhalkov, one of the contest's judges, said after the results of the vote flashed on a screen.
"We may find ourselves in a situation where absolute power and voluntarism that ignores people's opinions may prevail in our country, if a fairly large part of the nation wants it."
At the top of the list was 13th century prince Alexander Nevsky, who defeated German invaders, followed by Pyotr Stolypin, a prime minister in the early 20th century known for agrarian reforms and a clampdown on leftist revolutionaries.
The project was launched in mid-June with a list of 50 historical figures selected from some 500 original ones.
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