Law student Mikhail Kosyrev used to have a negative view of Stalin but his attitude has drastically changed in recent years, he said, insisting the wartime tyrant meant well.
Thousands of Russians gathered outside the former KGB headquarters in Moscow for an annual ritual commemorating the tens of thousands killed in Stalin-era repressions.
Russia has refused to permit the release of a film about the mass deportations of entire ethnic groups on Stalin's orders during World War II, calling it anti-Russian and a falsification of history.
A explosive comparison made by a liberal Russian politician between Stalin's agents and Hitler's secret police has provoked a storm of abusive criticism in Russia that has been tinged by anti-Semitism.
Russia has marked the 60th anniversary of Joseph Stalin's death, with the nation divided on whether he was a tyrant who slaughtered millions or a saviour who created a superpower after World War II.
The Soviet Union 50 years ago allowed publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's landmark account of life in the Stalin prison camps "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", shocking readers by revealing a hitherto hidden horror.