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Some of the greatest political figures of the 20th century are dividing opinion in France, where the former mayor of Montpellier is giving the city he loves nine statues - not all of which are welcome.
Georges Freche, a historian who was mayor of the provincial French city for 27 years until 2004, has commissioned French sculptor Francois Cacheux to produce the works, which weigh from 850 to 1,000 kilograms and cost around 200,000 euros ($260,000).
The first five are well on the way to being installed on a square in the west of Montpellier. French socialist Jean Jaures, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, French leader Charles de Gaulle and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt caused no trouble.
But then came the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, Vladimir Lenin.
French officials are not pleased. President Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing UMP was reportedly outraged to find General de Gaulle standing in apparent solidarity with Lenin.
And worse could be to come, with China's communist revolutionary Mao Zedong due to join the scene, along with India's political and spiritual leader Mohandas Gandhi, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Freche, a controversial figure who was expelled from the French Socialist Party in 2007 for making racist comments about black players on France's national football team, staunchly defends his selection, declaring that Lenin "changed the face of the world in the 20th century."
"He personifies the October Revolution as well as decolonization," Freche was quoted as saying in local media. "Without 1917, there would have been no decolonization in Africa, in India, in China, and, in general, the whole of the so-called developing world."
Freche went further with his defense of Chairman Mao, declaring that he "restored China's dignity" and predicting that the "misery" of the Cultural Revolution will soon be forgotten by history.
He added that he would have included Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, were it not for the millions of deaths he was responsible for.
"I am a historian, not a moralist," Freches said. "And I would like to dedicate these statues to all the fools on the political left as well as the political right, who don't know history."
The official unveiling of the installation is scheduled for September 17, although the local Green party has vowed that the statues of Lenin and Mao will not be allowed to stand.
PARIS, August 17 (RIA Novosti)
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