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Statue of Soviet Intelligence Chief Pulled Down

August 22, 1991 GMT

MOSCOW (AP) _ Five giant cranes pulled down a 14-ton statue of the founder of the Soviet secret police Thursday night, cheered by thousands who viewed KGB participation in the failed coup as the climax of decades of repression.

The removal of the statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky in front of KGB headquarters was sure to be one of the enduring images of the defeated hard-line coup against Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Fireworkers exploded when the statue was lifted from its pedestal at 11:28 p.m. (4:30 p.m. EDT). The crowd of about 10,000 people shouted, ″Down with the KGB 3/8 Down with the KGB 3/8″


″All of our lives the KGB was stronger than the people,″ said Ira Kalina, a spectator. ″This is the first time in 70 years that the people are stronger.″

Kalina’s father, Ignati, was shot in Josef Stalin’s purges in 1938, and she spent four years in a labor camp in the Kazakhstan republic before being freed in 1953, the year that dictator Josef Stalin died.

The huge statue was harnessed with heavy metal cables and lifted into the air by the neck. It was suspended for several minutes as Moscow Deputy Mayor Sergei Stankevich pleaded with the crowd, ″Keep back 3/8 Keep back for your safety.″

But the crowd rushed madly to a flatbed truck next to the statue as crane operators tried to place it carefully on the truck to take it away. One man kicked the head of the statue.

″I am a World War II veteran. I lived through lies all my life, but I am glad I lived long enough to see this,″ said a white-haired spectator, Alexander Lipich.

″The KGB waged war and eliminated millions of people - our Russian people, the best people,″ he said. ″The KGB must be destroyed. They are traitors.″

More than 10 million people are believed to have been shot or died from hunger, cold or hard labor in labor camps under previous Soviet leaders.

Security was light. A couple of dozen police kept watch on the scene, but did not intervene. Not a light burned in the 10-story KGB building looming over the square, which was named for Dzerzhinsky but recently renamed Lubyanka Square.

Around the base of the statue, people waved Russian flags and shouted the name of Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin, who had led the resistance against the short-lived coup.

Dzerzhinsky, a Polish-born Bolshevik, headed Lenin’s Cheka secret police during the 1920s, years of the ″Red Terror.″

People in the crowd, some holding blue and yellow balloons, clambered over the prone statue as red fireworks exploded in the sky.

The statue was finally loaded onto the truck and driven away, reportedly bound for storage until it can be placed in a museum.

″There is only one word for this: victory,″ said 58-year-old Ivan Suchan, whose parents and one set of grandparents died at the hands of the Soviet secret police. ″This is a renaissance for Russia,″ he added.

The monument to Dzerzhinsky was erected in the 1940s and stands in front of KGB headquarters, which earlier was an interrogation center and one of the most feared prisons in the country.

The crowd had painted graffiti on the base of the the pink, gray and yellow granite building, including angry scrawls of ″Fascist 3/8″ and a swastika over the bronze plaque of the late Yuri V. Andropov, a former KGB chief and Soviet leader.

The KGB’s chief, Vladimir A. Kryuchkov, was one of the leaders of the three-day coup. Kryuchkov was fired Thursday and arrested. The KGB pledged to respect the Soviet Constitution.

The crowd had begun gathering about 4 p.m. and repeatedly shouted for the statue to be toppled.

″It is the first celebration in free Russia,″ Stankevich said.

A similar monument to Dzerzhinsky in Warsaw, Poland, was demolished on a square also bearing his name in early 1990, following the peaceful revolution that brought the Solidarity movement to power.