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Founder of Soviet secret police ‘loved Christ’

Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Soviet secret police, "loved Christ very much", Argument i Fakty, a Russian weekly newspaper published in Moscow has reported.

The words were attributed by the newspaper to Dzerzhinsky’s sister Yadwiga who is believed to have died in 1949. "Christ’s commandments were deeply rooted in his heart," the newspaper quotes her in a 19 July report as having written of her brother, who organized mass arrests and executions and was known as "Iron Feliks". He was also known for helping a huge number of orphans and homeless people who appeared after the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Civil War.

By some accounts, as a young man Dzerzhinsky, who was Polish, wanted to become a Roman Catholic priest. He was distracted from religion after he began reading materialist philosophers, his sister writes, "but Feliks retained his respect for the person of Christ for a long time, maybe to his death – I don’t know." Dzerzhinsky died in 1926.

The Argument i Fakty article portrays him as being weary of his job, which included overseeing economic reform during the tumultuous period known as the New Economic Policy, and especially frustrated by bureaucratic corruption.

A popular phrase attributed to Dzerzhinsky is that a member of the secret police "should have a cool head, a warm heart and clean hands".

A statue of Dzerzhinsky in front of KGB headquarters on Moscow’s Lubyanka Square was torn down after the failed August 1991 coup attempt by communist hardliners against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. After the ascent to power of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, a former KGB officer, some politicians called for the monument to be restored and Dzerzhinsky’s positive actions to be accentuated.

The portrayal of Dzerzhinsky in a positive light underscores what is sometimes seen as a strange intermingling of communism and religion in post-Soviet Russia. In recent years, some ultraconservative Russian Orthodox groups have suggested that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin should be declared a saint.

(c) Ecumenical News International