News / Europe

Stalin Statue Roils Georgia 60 Years After Dictator’s Death

Stalin Statue Roils Georgia 60 Years After Dictator’s Deathi
X
August 14, 2013 6:22 PM
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the death of Georgia’s most famous - or infamous - son, Josef Stalin. VOA's James Brooke reports on how a missing bronze Stalin statue has become a lightning rod for controversy.
James Brooke
For 30 years, Josef Stalin ruled the Soviet Union with an iron fist, killing as many as 20 million people through executions, exile and man-made famines.
 
But here in Gori, Iosif Dzhugashvili, or Stalin, is a hometown boy.
 
On Stalin Avenue, Gori’s Stalin Museum preserves the humble brick cottage where baby Stalin spent his first four years.
 
Stalin is Gori’s No. 1 tourist attraction.
 
Khatia Gogrichiani works at the city tourism office.
 
 “Stalin was a historical man, he was a great leader,” Gogrichiani said from her perch where she watches tour buses roll up daily. “People are interested in Stalin, his personality.”
 
Infamous son
 
But 60 years after the death of Georgia’s most famous - or infamous - son, Stalin is once again the center of controversy.
 
Three years ago, Gori’s love affair with Stalin took a jolt.
 
Under the cover of darkness, the pro-Western government of Mikheil Saakashvili removed a massive bronze Stalin statue from Gori’s main square.
 
VOA tracked down the statue to an abandoned industrial site.  We found the six-meter Stalin lying face down in a roofless shed.
 
Jugi Xidasheli, a Stalin fan, happened to be visiting at the same time.
 
“Stalin’s personality is very dear to us - for everyone in Gori,” he said after inspecting the statue’s condition. “Everyone has their own opinions, but Stalin was born here. This is his city and his motherland. There absolutely should be a statue of Stalin in Gori.”
 
Statue to rise again
 
After protests and a petition drive, Gori’s city council now says: Stalin will rise again.
 
By Stalin’s birthday, Dec. 21, the statue will be erected to a place of honor amid the gardens and fountains of the Stalin Museum.
 
Ketino Akhobadze has worked at the museum since 1978.  She says she has never seen such a flow of foreign tourists, many of them day trippers from Tbilisi, a one-hour drive away.
 
“People from all over the world come to visit from Poland, America, Yugoslavia, and Colombia, Brazil, Japan and China,” she said. “They come from every country, absolutely every country.”
 
But other Georgians see more than commerce.
 
Historians say 700,000 Georgians died under Stalin’s rule - half through executions here or exile to Siberia, and half in fighting during World War Two.
 
Alexander Rondeli, president of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies, says most of his mother’s family was killed under Stalin.
 
Wise leader?
 
“If you ask me I would just destroy everything there,” Rondeli said, referring to the museum in Gori. “But many people say Stalin was a historical figure.”
 
In a poll this year, two-thirds of Georgians called Stalin “a wise leader.”  On October 27, Georgians are to elect a new president.
 
Opposition supporters charge that Stalin statues are popping up across the country - while Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili looks the other way.
 
In response, Ivanishvili told VOA that these attacks are "the false politics of lies."
 
"The truth is that we are not for restoring the statue of Stalin,” he added.
 
With or without the big statue, many foreign visitors complain that the musty, Soviet-era exhibits at the Stalin Museum are frozen in time.
 
Spanish tourist Jorge Martin says he is turned off by the museum’s "idolatry.”
 
“There should be balance between what he did,” Martin said. “He beat fascism in Europe. But he also killed millions of people. So there should be more balance, and the materials should be presented in another way - not as if he were an old superhero.”
 
After the election, the challenge will be for Georgia’s new government to modernize the Stalin Museum - to give equal time to his victims.
 

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 17, 2013 1:54 AM
Stalin has been hated by the Japanese because he suddenly declared joinning the allied in WWII breaking a peace treaty signed between Japane and Soviet Union even after the announcement of surrender by Japanese government. His administration took a couple of hundreds of thousands of Japanese soldiers to Shibeli and detained there under heavy works to die for many prisoners for a long years breaking international rules.

What he executed during his administration must have changed and must have been different far from the spirit through which Lenin wished to build up communistic utopia.I agree he should be investigated retionally and scientifically. He should be learned from both plus and minus aspects by contempolary people.

by: Anonymous
August 15, 2013 1:41 PM
Communism was against the nature or the custom of the humankind !!! Communist Figure is the cruel animal on earth !!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More