The Soviets have had glimpses of him for some time, the hook-nosed profile of the dictator with the jet black mustache appearing for a few seconds in documentaries about World War II.

But during the past few months, Joseph Stalin's image and name have been reappearing with a frequency and regularity to suggest more than the pendulum swing of time.

The resurrection of the once reviled dictator raises questions that seem to have no easy answers.

Some argue that possibly an effort is under way to provide a more objective picture of at least some aspects of Stalin's activities and to stop falsification of history, a practice of which Stalin was an acknowledged master. Others believe that the Stalin revival is connected largely to the celebrations next year of the 40th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany. But the current revival involves not only Stalin's record as a military leader and diplomat but also his economic leadership and his role in the Bolshevik Revolution.

In the past few months, millions of Soviet viewers have seen for the first time documentary film that had been gathering dust in the archives. Stalin was shown in a variety of settings: planning the defense of Moscow in the summer of 1941, in his pristine white marshal's uniform posing for pictures with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at Tehran and Yalta, and at Potsdam with Harry S Truman and Clement Attlee.

A few days ago, Stalin was shown on prime-time television speaking to the troops in Red Square on Nov. 7, 1941. Hitler's armies were less than 20 miles away, near what is now Moscow's international airport. The soldiers were about to march from the snowbound square to the battle. Stalin's speech was remarkable, invoking the names not of Marx and Engels but of ancient saints and heroes of Russia.

But not all references to Stalin are linked to his military role in World War II.

One of the most authoritative Soviet publications, the monthly journal Kommunist, in its November issue had some positive things to say about Stalin's economic policies during the war.

Stalin's name also is being rehabilitated in connection with the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. A front-page editorial on the eve of the 67th anniversary of that event referred to Stalin and four other old Bolsheviks as men whose "revolutionary passion and power" were directly linked to the "ideas and activities" of Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state.

Perhaps even more significant was the scene in a new feature film about the Bolshevik Revolution based on the book "Ten Days That Shook the World" by the radical American journalist John Reed.

On the eve of the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917, Lenin's Politburo was meeting to make the fateful decision. The historical record of this gathering indicates that Lenin made the decision to go ahead despite the opposition of all the others. But the movie shows Stalin, smoking his pipe and pacing around the table, as supporting the leader. "If we do not do it tomorrow, we never will," Stalin says.

It is not, as the Soviets like to say, an accident that Stalin's crimes are being completely ignored, including his forced collectivization of the countryside, his destruction of the Red Army's high command and of much of the Communist Party, and finally the deaths of millions of people during his reign of terror.

The country and the ruling Communist Party are still divided on Stalin; 35 years after his death, a realistic and honest assessment of the late dictator's career still cannot be made here.

The authorities apparently do not want to start a public debate about Stalin because of internal divisions. There is a section of the population, including a substantial portion of the party, that remains haunted by Stalin's atrocities. Yet, there is a larger section that does not know anything about his crimes and has embraced him as a sort of pop phenomenon. Photographs of Stalin can be seen dangling from strings on the windshields of cabs in Moscow and large trucks driving along the Trans-Siberian Railway in Soviet Buryatiya.

It is unclear whether Stalin as a blue-collar talisman reflects merely nostalgia for a more orderly past or disaffection with present conditions.

A decision by the Interior Ministry earlier this month to ban pictures in vehicles -- something now being enforced with only limited success -- appears to reflect fears here that the latter may be the case.

Another reason for not wanting to start a public debate on such a controversial figure is Moscow's reluctance to wash its dirty linen in public. Russia's national poet, Alexander Pushkin, captured an important element of the Russian character when he said, "I despise my country from head to toe, but when a foreigner shares my feeling, I do get angry."

Yet another reason for Stalin's resurrection is that, short of wholesale falsifications, it is impossible here to talk about World War II without mentioning the supreme commander in chief and the man who successfully led the Red Army to Berlin.

Every newspaper, book and movie about the Soviet Union made during Stalin's lifetime featured his image or his words. His likeness stared down from the walls of every Soviet office, restaurant, railway station and hospital.

Political observers here suspect that Stalin's partial rehabilitation this time is more than a necessity connected with the coming victory festivities. It may be an attempt finally to come to terms with that complex part of Soviet history of which younger generations seem completely ignorant -- and do so without reviving the traumatic and divisive emotions of the past.

In many cases, Stalin's resurrection has been made indirectly.

One vehicle was a new book about Roosevelt, written by Alexander Chakovsky, a prominent public figure and editor in chief of the Literaturnaya Gazeta, the largest weekly newspaper.

The book, "An Unfinished Portrait," purports to be a biography of Roosevelt. But large portions of it are devoted to Stalin's dealings with Roosevelt and their meetings. Chakovsky's Stalin is a tactful and considerate man, a great diplomat and a wise military leader.

Precisely these portions of the book were read last week over nationwide radio in three, hour-long installments.

Another vehicle is a new 90-minute documentary film about Marshal Georgy Zhukov, Stalin's deputy during the war. It contains long excerpts from a filmed interview with Zhukov made before his death in 1974 and never shown before.

In the movie, Zhukov only hints at Stalin's confusion on June 22, 1941, when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union. It was Zhukov who informed Stalin about the attack. But Zhukov continues to describe Stalin as a great commander in chief who successfully guided the Red Army to victory. "And I think so today," Zhukov added.

To weigh the impact of all this, it must be recalled that the adulation of Stalin, which once had mammoth proportions, stopped in April 1953, about a month after his death.

Except for occasional obscure mention during the next couple of years, the word "Stalinist" became a pejorative term. Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin's crimes on Feb. 24-25, 1956, at a closed session of the Communist Party's 20th congress.

Later, Khrushchev's speech was read to all party members in closed sessions. Stalin's name was swiftly removed from Soviet bookshelves, and film of him was relegated to the archives.

Khrushchev again denounced Stalin in 1961 at the 22nd party congress. Shortly thereafter, Stalin's body was removed from the Lenin Mausoleum in Red Square and placed in a simple grave near the Kremlin wall marked with a plain flat slab, imprinted only with his name and the dates of his birth and death.

It was at that time that the Soviet press gave wide prominence to Yevgeny Yevtushenko's poem titled "The Heirs of Stalin:"

Double and triple

The soldiers on guard by this slab Lest Stalin rise again and with Stalin, the past.

Ever since Khrushchev's ouster in 1964, Stalin's image has haunted Russia. When Khrushchev's successors took a small but visible step to rehabilitate the dictator by placing his bust at his tomb in 1970, there were fears and whispers in the intellectual community that Stalin's spirit might be in the wings waiting to shroud the whole country once again.

But except in his native Georgia, where his cult had persisted all these years as a rallying point for local nationalism, the memory of Stalin largely has disappeared from the consciousness of the new generations.

When the Soviet press recently published details about an interview here with Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin's daughter, who returned to the Soviet Union after 17 years in the West, younger people did not know what to make of it.

Alliluyeva uses her mother's name, and nowhere in the story was it mentioned that she was Stalin's daughter.

"Who was this Alliluyev?" a young taxi driver asked his passenger.

When told that Alliluyeva was Stalin's daughter, the man said, "I did not know Stalin's real name was Alliluyev." The dictator's real name was Dzhugashvili.