Joseph Stalin is a divisive figure in modern Russia. Some regard the Georgian as a war hero who helped crush the Nazis. For others, he is a despicable tyrant, accused of murdering millions during his brutal reign of terror.
One Moscow resident decided to honor the late Soviet dictator’s legacy by opening a kebab shop in his memory called Stalin Doner.
Last week, the takeaway’s opening caused outrage on social media, with users complaining about the glorification of the polarizing figure. The menu includes a ‘Stalin with double meat’, a ‘[Nikita] Khrushchev in cheese lavash’ and a ‘[Lavrentiy] Beria with tkemali sauce’, and all are served by workers wearing NKVD uniforms, the secret police force that implemented the political repressions of the era.
Along with social media discussion and articles in the international press, came police attention. A day after its opening, owner Stanislav Voltman got a visit from the local cops, who told him to dismantle all the signs. He says he refused, noting that he had done nothing wrong. He did, however, shut the shop. According to Voltman, he needs to find a new chef, as his former employee quit after the business came under public scrutiny. Once he gets a replacement, it’ll be back open.
“I was illegally detained in the police department,” he told BFM Media, a Moscow-based business news outlet. “Yesterday, they tried to force me to dismantle all the signs and all the inscriptions. I refused to do it. They said: ‘it will be done, either with you or without you.’”
According to Voltman, some local residents were outraged by the shop’s opening. A Stalinist complained that the former leader was pictured on a food package, and some anti-Stalinists claimed that the portrait shouldn’t be used in public.
While some media sources claimed Voltman had been shut down, he said that wasn’t true. “Journalists distorted my words,” he told tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda. “They ordered me to remove the sign. And even leave Moscow. But this does not mean that I will.”
As well as receiving an adverse social media reaction, Russian officials have also commented on the doner shop controversy. Speaking to news agency RIA Novosti, the chairman of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights expressed the opinion that it should be shut down.
“The decision to close should be made by the public,” Valery Fadeev said. “It’s not an easy topic because Stalin is not a simple figure.”
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