Soviet-era red star rising again

? President Vladimir Putin brought back the Soviet-era red star Tuesday as the Russian military’s emblem, the latest in a series of restored communist symbols that play to nostalgia but have some people wary of a return to the repressive past.

Once the most recognized icon of the Soviet Union after the hammer and sickle, the five-point star never vanished but was phased out after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Putin’s plan ” if backed by parliament, as expected ” would return the star officially to the military’s enormous parade banners. Military caps and belt buckles would likely be next.

“The star is sacred for all servicemen,” Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said at a meeting of top generals broadcast on television, with a frowning Putin seated behind him. “Our fathers and grandfathers went to battle with the star.”

Restoring the star ” the defense minister’s idea ” was expected to please the conservative military, and appeared to be a Kremlin attempt to reinforce servicemen’s loyalty.

The move comes after the Russian parliament, on Putin’s initiative, rehabilitated the tune of the old Soviet anthem with new words. It also brought back the Soviet-era red banner as the military flag, which now should get back its star.

Putin says he hopes the resurrected symbols will help mend deep rifts in society by acknowledging achievements of the Soviet past that older generations cherish.

But critics say the revivals send a powerful, potentially troubling, signal to the rest of the country. Some fear the return of authoritarian icons could herald a return of a Soviet-style authoritarian regime.

The star had symbolized the Red Army since the army’s formation after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. The Russian military newspaper is called “Red Star.” But the star appeared elsewhere, too, on the communist flag above the hammer and sickle and in the graphics of Soviet-era TV news broadcasts.

Russian soldiers wear the Red Army uniform of World War II and carry Soviet-era military flags with a red star during a parade to mark the Red Army's victory over the Nazis in this May 9, 2000, file photo. President Vladimir Putin has agreed to reinstate the red star as the Russian military's official emblem.

And the star was never wiped out entirely. It remained on older-model tanks and planes. Red stars sit atop the pointed towers of the Kremlin, even today.

In bringing back old icons, lawmakers also endorsed the czarist-era white-red-and-blue flag that Russia has been using since the 1991 Soviet demise, as well as the old imperial emblem of a double-headed eagle.

One observer sees it as Putin’s scattershot plan to broaden his support base.

“No one is left out: Communists get their anthem, the conservatives have a double-headed eagle and democrats their tricolor flag,” said Lyudmila Alexeyeva, a Soviet-era dissident who heads the Moscow Helsinki Group, a leading human rights organization.

“It makes one wonder what kind of national ideology such a state has,” she said.