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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid