Vladimir Putin tells Russian MPs they must pay for a monument to his hero

Prime minister instructs cabinet ministers to cough up to honour Pyotr Stolypin, a tough Tsarist-era reformer

Vladimir Putin has told cabinet ministers they must pay out of their own pockets for a monument to his political guru, a tough Tsarist-era reformer who hanged revolutionaries.

The Russian prime minister told ministers to cough up "at least a month's wages" each to fund a statue of Pyotr Stolypin, who was himself prime minister of the country from 1906 to 1911.

Stolypin launched important agrarian reforms but brooked no dissent and introduced a faster process for prosecuting opponents of Tsar Nicholas II. As a result, the hangman's noose became known as "Stolypin's necktie".

Speaking in Moscow, Putin praised Stolypin for his "unbending will" in striving to ensure economic growth at a troubled moment in the country's history, while recognising the threat of radicalism.

He suggested the current leadership had to demonstrate its own sacrifice in promoting Stolypin's desire to "put Russia on a healthy path".

Stolypin was assassinated by a leftist radical at a theatre in Kiev in 1911, in the turbulent years before the Bolshevik revolution.

Analysts say Putin sees himself as a successful analogue to the former PM who will survive, suppress any protests by foreign-backed wreckers and ensure Russia is the glorious, strong state his mentor.

Putin said: "Members of the government must give a minimum of one month's wages for the Stolypin monument, and, I think, not only the government."

He said MPs should also contribute to the memorial, which will be erected outside the White House, the Russian government building, to coincide with events celebrating the 150th anniversary of Stolypin's birth in April.

Ministers appeared to raise no objection to being told how to spend their cash.

Commentators said that in the speech on Wednesday 13 July, the Russian prime minister's eulogising of his hero almost completely coincided with his image of himself.

Putin said Stolypin was a "real patriot and a wise politician" who displayed "personal courage and a willingness to load himself with the entire burden of responsibility for the state of the country".

Stanislav Belkovsky, a political analyst, said: "Recalling Stolypin helps Putin justify his own deeds, such as limiting democracy and certain liberties."

He added: "It was the rejection of Stolypin's ideas and reform projects by the so-called progressive part of society at the beginning of the 20th century that led Russia to the [1917] revolution.

"In Putin's mind he has become a successful Stolypin who avoided any uprising and ensured a level of stability and a strong state.

"But that interpretation ignores the fact that monstrous corruption has flourished under Putin, and the state machine has run out of control."

Stolypin came second after the 13th-century warrior prince Alexander Nevsky in a state-sponsored nationwide poll to find Russia's greatest historical figure in 2008.

The organisers later admitted in private that Joseph Stalin had won, but the results were fixed to avoid the embarrassment of having a dictator in first place.

"I doubt Stolypin would have even come in the top 10 in a real poll," said Belkovsky. "He's not well known outside the elite."


Tom Parfitt in Moscow

The GuardianTramp

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