News / Europe

Stalin Statue Roils Georgia 60 Years After Dictator’s Death

Stalin Statue Roils Georgia 60 Years After Dictator’s Deathi
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 Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs