Communist Party chiefs led a procession of largely elderly people across Red Square on the 57th anniversary of Stalin's death, laying flowers at his grave by the Kremlin wall.
The solemn visit is an annual tradition for communists steeped in nostalgia for the Soviet era. But this year, it comes as Russia's bitter debate over Stalin's legacy sharpens ahead of May 9 celebrations marking 65 years since the Nazi defeat.
For the first time in decades, Stalin's image may appear among the banners and posters that Moscow authorities put up for Victory Day, which will draw foreign leaders to Moscow as guests of the government.
City plans to set up 10 information stands describing Stalin's role in the war have deepened animus between Russians who loathe him and their compatriots who love him.
"Today ... the greatness of Stalin's era is self-evident even to his most furious haters," Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said after laying flowers at Stalin's grave.
Would this be the totalitarian equivalent of battered spouse syndrome.