Estonia’s president Toomas Hendrik Ilves tweets:
Syncretism: the amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.
Pause to consider the outrage if a similar icon, but bearing the picture of Hitler, had been included in a march in Germany.
And here’s Serge Schmemann writing in the National Geographic back in 2009:
…Some astoundingly dark and retrograde notions openly circulate in reactionary churches and on nationalist websites. One is a drive to canonize Rasputin and Ivan the Terrible, two of the more noxious characters of Russian history who have been reinvented by extremists as “defenders of Holy Russia.”
Outside St. Petersburg, the decaying summer palaces of old Russia’s tsars and grand dukes overlook the Gulf of Finland. Behind the ruins of one such palace stands a tiny, half-restored chapel. Inside I come face-to-face with a spectacle that makes me gasp—a large icon of Joseph Stalin. He’s not wearing the halo of a saint, but a saint is blessing him.
The icon depicts a legend in which Stalin, at the outbreak of World War II, secretly visits St. Matryona of Moscow, a blind and paralyzed woman to whom many people came for spiritual guidance until her death in 1952. According to the legend she counseled the Soviet dictator not to flee Moscow before the invading German Army, but to stand firm against the onslaught.
The chapel’s pastor, Evstafy Zhakov, is a fiery nationalist highly regarded by his flock for his charismatic sermons. In an interview with the right-wing newspaper Zavtra, he defended the icon by explaining that Russia has a long tradition of saints blessing warriors before battle.
“But Stalin was an atheist,” the interviewer interjected.
“How do you know?” Father Evstafy retorted. Two wartime patriarchs proclaimed Stalin a believer, “and I will believe them before I believe all these liberals and democrats.”