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article image'God or Stalin': conservative Russian editor becomes top culture MP

By AFP     Jul 25, 2018 in World

An ultra-conservative journalist and MP who once said only God or Stalin could save Russia was appointed head of the country's parliamentary culture committee on Wednesday.

The selection of Elena Yampolskaya to the high-profile post at parliament's lower house has provoked a mixed reaction in the country's arts community.

"There is a monstrous appeal nowadays to 'come out from the shadow of Stalin'," Yampolskaya wrote in a 2013 article for the Kultura newspaper, where she heads the editorial board.

"It was precisely this man who was sent to keep Russia on the world map."

In an earlier piece she said only two powers could "preserve Russia from the abyss... the first is called God, the second is called Stalin".

"While we have time, let us choose the first option," said Yampolskaya, who has links to the Russian Orthodox church.

The journalist, who became an MP in 2016, said her newspaper enjoyed a boost in readership on the back of its support for Russia's 2013 gay propaganda law, which has been condemned by rights groups and foreign governments.

Parliament's lower house, the State Duma, confirmed Yampolskaya's nomination after she was put forward by the ruling United Russia party.

The role was vacated after the death of Soviet film director Stanislav Govorukhin.

Vladimir Medinsky, the current Russian culture minister who is known for his fiercely nationalist views, has also previously held the post.

This year he explained a decision to block the release of the British comedy "The Death of Stalin" as "a question of morality".

Russian theatre director Iosif Reichelgaus said the nomination of Yampolskaya was "monstrous" and would make Medinsky seem like a "super liberal", in comments carried by the business media outlet BFM.

Others, such as pro-Kremlin writer Zakhar Prilepin, welcomed the move.

Joseph Stalin's legacy still divides the nation, with many seeing him primarily as the man who led the Soviet Union to victory over Nazi Germany in 1945 and drove the industrialisation of Russia.

Last year the Soviet dictator topped a poll by the Levada Center independent pollster which asked its respondents who they considered the most outstanding figure of world history.

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