Russian guards order Stalin's police-style coats

June 9, 2011 - 2:00 PM

MOSCOW (AP) — The long black leather coats that struck fear into Soviet citizens as part of the ominous dress code for Stalin's secret police appear to be making a comeback.

The security forces who guard President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin are holding a state tender for 60 such coats and 60 shorter jackets. The website for state tenders showed the Federal Guards Service order is worth 3 million rubles ($108,000). The tender closes June 15.

The Kremlin and security forces couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Stalin's secret police, named NKVD after its Russian acronym, was primarily responsible for carrying out the dictator's repression and purges of the 1930s. Its officers executed hundreds of thousands of people and ran labor camps.

The image of the dark garment invokes a deep trepidation in many Russians, who recall — some firsthand — accounts of neighbors vanishing after Stalin's henchmen came knocking.

Bringing the coats back into official use would fit into a wider push by Russian authorities to reintroduce imagery associated with Stalin.

In recent years, old Soviet national anthem lyrics praising Stalin were restored to a rotunda in a Moscow subway station. His portrait has also been put on public buses in St. Petersburg and the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

Rights activists have voiced concern that he is being quietly rehabilitated as memories of his reign of terror fade.