Plaque honoring Soviet leader Brezhnev restored in Moscow

MOSCOW Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:13pm EST

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A plaque commemorating late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was restored to the facade of his former apartment building on Thursday, a sign of nostalgia in line with President Vladimir Putin's calls to respect all aspects of Russian history.

Critics say Brezhnev presided over a period of political repression and economic stagnation and have likened Putin's nearly 14 years in power to his 1964-82 rule - longer than any Soviet leader but dictator Josef Stalin.

But many Russians see the Brezhnev era as a time of stability for the superpower, which broke up in 1991.

The plaque was removed that year, but a survey last April by independent pollster Levada found Brezhnev evokes positive emotions in more than half of Russians - more than any other Soviet-era leader or the last tsar, Nicholas II.

Moscow authorities restored the plaque, on a stately Stalin-era building that Putin sometimes passes on his way to the Kremlin, following a proposal whose backers included a lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party.

Putin has used Soviet-era imagery to bolster his popularity and encourage patriotism, while portraying the years between the Soviet break-up and his first election in 2000 as a time of chaos when Russia was on its knees and nearly fell apart.

Asked at an news conference on Thursday about calls for the restoration of monuments to Stalin, Putin likened Stalin to 17th century English political and military leader Oliver Cromwell, saying some saw him as "the same kind of bloody dictator".

"Just what makes Cromwell different from Stalin? Nothing at all," he said. "He played a very ambiguous role in British history. His monument stands, nobody is tearing it down."

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov has called the Brezhnev era a "huge plus" for the country.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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