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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Iron Felix' Back at Petrovka 38

APLubyanskaya protesters standing on the Dzerzhinsky statue in August 1991.
His most famous statue remains in the purgatory of Soviet monuments, but a less conspicuous sculpture of Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky has returned to its original home more than a decade after it was hastily removed amid fears of popular discontent.

Moscow's police force has restored a bust of the once-feared "Iron Felix" in the courtyard of its headquarters at Petrovka 38, where the bust had been removed by police officers on Aug. 22, 1991, due to fears that the angry mob that had brought down Dzerzhinsky's 16-ton statue on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad would attempt a repeat performance.

City police chief Vladimir Pronin approved the request of a group of retired police officers to return the bust during a meeting with them Friday, former city police chief Arkady Murashov said.

"Apparently, Pronin decided to give them a gift for Police Day," Murashov said by telephone, referring to the annual Nov. 10 holiday.

City police spokeswoman Olga Chugunova confirmed that the Dzerzhinsky bust had been returned to the courtyard but declined to comment further. She said photographers were not being allowed to take pictures.

Liberal politicians expressed worries that the return of the bust was a sign of a creeping return to the Soviet system.

"The fact that the bust of Felix Dzerzhinsky was returned to its old location is proof that representatives of the current powers that be ... are trying to return to the old totalitarian system," said Nikita Belykh, head of the Union of Right Forces party, Interfax reported.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, an independent State Duma deputy, urged human rights and pro-democracy organizations to appeal to Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev to remove the bust, saying Dzerzhinsky represented the Soviet secret police, concentration camps and "bloody atrocities," Interfax reported.

"We cannot and must not allow everything that this [bust] represents to return to our lives," he said.

Pronin on Tuesday praised the artistic merits of the bust by sculptor Anatoly Bichukov, noting that it had "repeatedly been entered in different art competitions."

"I greet this initiative positively, inasmuch that the opinion of veterans must be respected," Pronin said, Interfax reported.

The statue of Dzerzhinsky in front of the former KGB headquarters on Lubyanskaya Ploshchad was one of the more notorious icons of the Soviet past. It was toppled from its pedestal near the former headquarters of the KGB by protesters after the failed coup by Communist hard-liners in August 1991 and has found a home alongside other Soviet-era monuments outside the Central House of Artists.

A long-simmering drive to resurrect the statue was shot down in January 2003 by the Moscow City Duma's monuments committee despite support from Mayor Yury Luzhkov for the move, which was initiated by Communist Party members in Irkutsk.

Murashov said police officers quickly removed the bust at Petrovka 38 after its more famous counterpart was brought down.

"They were scared that protesters would storm the building," said Murashov, who headed the city police force in 1991-92 and is a member of the Union of Right Forces.

He was not sure where it had been stored all these years, but said that it had been "probably in a warehouse somewhere."

Murashov said he would probably not have approved the restoration of the bust were he still the city's police chief because "Dzerzhinsky is not the type of person who should be revered."

"But if a group of veterans approached me, maybe I would consider it."