The Russian city once known as Stalingrad is thinking of changing its name back to that of the mass-murdering tyrant:

It is a name synonymous with perhaps Moscow’s greatest military triumph, an internecine six-month standoff that killed well over 1 million people. But in 1961, Stalingrad was quickly renamed Volgograd as part of incipient efforts to remove the cult of Stalin from the Soviet Union.

Locals, however, have long agitated for the city to revert to its Soviet-era name – and now senior Russian officials are proposing a referendum. At the weekend, the city re-adopted its old name for a day as it celebrated the 70th anniversary of the decisive second world warbattle in which Soviet forces finally encircled and routed Nazi units. On Monday, the upper house speaker Valentina Matvienko suggested that a plebiscite might give citizens of the city a chance to decide its name once and for all.

“This battle is known all over the world as a turning point,” Matvienko said. “Everyone knows that in Paris they have a metro station called Stalingrad. But we need to ask the people of the city, we need a referendum, [to decide] on renaming. There are pros and cons to this issue.”

Father Victor Potapov, an American priest of the Russian Orthodox Church founded by Orthodox fleeing Bolshevism, is aghast:

“When I heard about this, I was astonished at these people who so easily forget the horrors that Stalin inflicted in the 1920-30′s, the persecution he wrought against the Church. I can only imagine what worldwide outrage would be caused, especially on the part of the Russian people, if Germany, during the few days of celebrating an historic holiday, renamed the native city of Hitler to, say, Hitlerstadt. Stalin was an executioner, one of the main executioners of the 20th century. I simply cannot fathom such tender sentiments for this… this butcher! For me, a believer, this is simply incomprehensible.

I don’t understand what pride for the podvig , the spiritual triumph, of the Russian people in the Battle of Stalingrad has to do with the renaming of a city. The two things are incompatible, and anyway, the city was called Tsaritsyn before Stalin’s time. It was renamed in honor of Stalin because the Communists were sucking up to him. The heroic podvig of the warriors who defeated the fascists cannot be excised, of course. And the name Volgograd takes nothing away from this great achievement. I view this renaming very negatively. I can positively state that every believer and every clergyman of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia feels the same way.