Russia's President Vladimir Putin has dedicated the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi to brutal Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
During an interview on the state-owned Russia One channel, Putin said bringing the Winter Olympics to Russia confirmed its status as a world power, comparable to the Soviet Union in the Stalin era.
"Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, I have tried to rebuild Russia into a world superpower, much like Stalin rebuilt this country after the czars," Putin said. "The Sochi Olympics are an important project for me, but I could not have done it without Stalin laying the groundwork through his vision, leadership and wisdom.
"In honor of Stalin, I dedicate the Olympics to him."
Brutal training regimen
From 1924 to 1953, Stalin's brutal regime was responsible for the imprisonment and deaths of millions of people, as well as the spread of totalitarian communism over Eastern Europe.
However, Stalin's reputation in modern Russia has undergone a revival, with many Russians seeing him as a strong leader who turned the country into a world superpower. More than half of Russians say they have positive memories of the Soviet Union. Putin has also made efforts to pay tribute to Stalin.
"Koba would be delighted to have millions of international visitors view the glory, the strength and the military might of our country," Putin added, using a popular nickname for Stalin. "During the opening ceremonies, when the athletes come marching into the stadium, we'll have a giant statue of Koba there to greet them. I think it's what he would have wanted."
Putin said he consulted Stalin's diaries for inspiration, focusing on his major construction projects throughout the Soviet Union.
"Unfortunately, we have to pay our construction workers instead of just arresting them and forcing them to work," Putin said when asked if the construction projects in Sochi were similar. "The Olympics committee insisted on this for some reason."
Putin said Stalin's diaries also provided advice on how to create a winning Olympic team.
"I wanted to send a terrific team of athletes to the Olympics, so I studied Stalin's notes about motivating people to work hard. His advice was to shoot them if they failed. So now, Russia's athletes are training harder than ever."
No more brides
Putin also discussed the controversial Russian law that bans "gay propaganda."
"Do you know why Russia's most beautiful women become mail-order brides to foreign men? Because all the good Russian men are gay," Putin said. "If more Russian men turn gay, we'd have no more marriages in Russia. That's why we need this law."
Putin was also asked about the ongoing protests in neighboring Ukraine, stemming from public anger over the government's move toward closer ties with Russia instead of the European Union.
Putin said Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, still relies on Russia for its gas needs and should treat Russia with more respect.
"If necessary, I will deliberately starve Ukraine of its gas until the protests end," he said.