• Stalin in Georgia

    • May 28, 2015 - 11:02 pm
    • Georgia, Stalin
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    By Maryna Polataiko for postcommunistmonuments.ca

    Iosif Stalin, still in Gori (Georgia)


    Although recent history has seen a wave of demolition hitting Soviet monuments, small-town Georgia enjoys a contrary sentiment towards memories of the USSR. Marking the anniversary of Stalin’s death, residents of Stalin’s hometown, Gori, gathered before the Stalin Museum to pay tribute. The monument was dismantled in June 2010, under the presidency of Mikheil Saakashvili. However, in July 2013 Georgian Ministry of Culture made a decision to restore the monument based on the petition of the city council of Gori.

    Similar support can be found in Tsromi—the town where then runaway Stalin hid from the Tsar—where one of Georgia’s last statues of the dictator remains with the backing of public support. Threatened by Georgia’s prohibition on public displays of Soviet emblems, the statue was moved into Tsromi’s Stalin Museum following a town petition to maintain it.




    “Georgia Marks the Anniversary of Stalin’s Death.” The Straits Time, March 6, 2015. Accessed March 20, 2015. http://www.straitstimes.com/news/world/europe/story/georgia-marks-the-anniversary-stalins-death-20150306.


    Caitlin Hu. “This Town is Putting Up Statues of Stalin Everywhere—Even Though It’s Illegal.” Quartz, November 8, 2014. Accessed November 20, 2014. http://qz.com/292901/this-town-is-putting-up-statues-of-stalin-everywhere-even-though-its-illegal/.


    Henry Roe. “Stalin Was Here.” Souciant, February 2014, 2015. Accessed March 1, 2015. http://souciant.com/2015/02/stalin-was-here/.


    «Сталин возвращается в Гори.» Грузия Online, July 29, 2013. Accessed October 25, 2014. http://www.apsny.ge/2013/soc/1375150890.php.

  • Stalin (not) in Telavi

    • January 3, 2014 - 3:21 pm
    • Georgia, Stalin
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    TBILISI, December 31 (RIA Novosti) – A statue of Soviet leader Josef Stalin was demolished on Tuesday in the eastern Georgian city of Telavi months after being vandalized, local media said. The three-meter-high statue, part of a World War II memorial, was commissioned by the local Stalinets social group and the Union of Veterans in September, but was vandalized with red paint hours after being unveiled. The vandals also wrote “Murderer,” “Down with Stalinism!” and swear words on a nearby wall. The city municipality denied issuing any permission to install the statue and ordered it to be removed within five days. Activists said they were not going to comply with the administration’s order and announced the start of a campaign to collect signatures in support of the statue. The authorities had to allocate about $400 from the city budget to eventually tear the monument down. Stalin evokes mixed memories in Russia and other former Soviet republics, particularly in his native Georgia. While being credited with leading Russia to victory in World War II and strengthening the country, he is also remembered for sending millions of people to death in concentration camps during the infamous purges of the 1930s, and for carrying out particularly savage repressions in the Caucasus, including Georgia.

    and . . .

    RFE/RL, December 31, 2013

    Georgian Stalin Monument Removed, Months After Being Raised

    A monument to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin has been removed in the eastern Georgian city of Telavi. Police were present during the monument's removal on December 31. Telavi authorities say the monument was placed near a World War II veterans' memorial in Telavi without official permission. The monument has been vandalized several times since it was first unveiled on September 1. It was made with money collected by the nongovernmental organization Stalinist and the Union of Georgia's Veterans. Stalinist's leader, Shota Lazariashvili, condemned the monument's removal, calling the authorities' decision "a shame." Telavi is about 110 kilometers from Stalin's birthplace, Gori, in central Georgia.

    Telavi's Stalin monument has been vandalized several times since it was first unveiled on September 1.

    Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

  • Stalin in Georgia

    • December 22, 2013 - 9:39 pm
    • Georgia, Stalin
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    Stalin's birthday, December 21, 2013, has come and gone, and still no sign of the promised new Stalin statue:

    RFE/RL, July 30, 2013

    Georgia To Restore Monument In Stalin Birthplace

    Georgia's Culture Ministry has announced that a monument to Josef Stalin will be restored in the late Soviet dictator's birthplace. The ministry's spokeswoman, Elena Samkharadze, said on July 30 that the monument in Gori will be restored by December 21, Stalin's birthdate. The monument was torn down amid a crackdown on Soviet-era monuments by pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili in 2010.

    FROM THE ARCHIVE: Gori Residents Divided Over Stalin Statue's Removal

    Saakashvili's presidential term does not end until October, but his authority has been further weakened by a constitutional reform that has shifted powers from the presidency to parliament and new Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. Speaking on July 30, Saakashvili said the move is anti-Georgian and barbaric and he is "outraged with it."

    VIDEO REPORT: In Stalin's Birthplace, A Divided Legacy

    The 6-meter bronze monument to Stalin is currently lying on the ground at a Georgian Defense Ministry military base in Gori. A spokesperson for the ministry told reporters that the statue will not be returned to its original pedestal in Gori's central square but will be erected at the town's Stalin Museum.
    Based on reporting by AP and Interfax

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty © 2013 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


    So, instead, let's catch up on Stalin-related events in 2012, before our website went up . . .

    From Reuters:

    Georgian village reinstates Stalin monument to mark anniversary

    Fri, Dec 21 2012

    By Margarita Antidze and David Mdzinarishvili

    ZEMO ALVANI, Georgia (Reuters) - Residents of a mountainous village in the former Soviet republic of Georgia reinstated a monument to dictator Josef Stalin on Friday to mark the 133rd birthday anniversary of their famous compatriot.

    Some 30 residents of the village of Zemo Alvani, 200 kilometers (124 miles) north-east of the capital Tbilisi, gathered to witness the unveiling of the three-meter-high stone statue of Stalin.

    The statue was removed a year ago by local authorities after President Mikheil Saakashvili said the late dictator was too closely associated with what he called the "Soviet occupation of Georgia" and called for memorials to Stalin to be dismantled.

    "I came here because I love Stalin and I love my people ... I remember when I was 12 how my grandmother was weeping when Stalin died," said Phatima Patishvili, a Zemo Alvani resident.

    The monument's reinstatement is a sign that Stalin's personality cult is still alive across the former Soviet Union where supporters credit him with the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany during World War Two and with turning the country into a superpower.

    However, for many Georgians, including for pro-Western President Saakashvili, the few remaining monuments to Stalin are an unwelcome reminder of Moscow's lingering influence in Georgia two decades after the small nation gained independence following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Resentment of Russia flared in Georgia when the two fought a brief war in August 2008.

    Saakashvili and others also believe it is wrong to still venerate a man who oversaw the purges, the Gulag prison camp system and man-made famines that killed millions.

    Georgia's former government, then led by Saakashvili allies, removed another Stalin monument in 2010 - a 6-metre-high bronze statue in the dictator's native town of Gori.

    The authorities were planning to replace it with a monument to victims of Stalin's purges and to those of the 2008 five-day war, but the project was never implemented.

    Georgia's new government of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili wants to improve ties with Russia. It said it did not oppose the reinstatement of the Stalin monument in Zemo Alvani.

    It also said it would finance the restoration of the Stalin monument in Gori, the Georgian city most affected by the 2008 war that saw Moscow recognize the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia would not reverse its decision.

    A coalition led by Ivanishvili, who made his fortune in Russia, won Georgia's October 1 parliamentary election ending a long period of political domination by Saakashvili, who first rose to power as leader of the 2003 "rose" revolution.

    (Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Gabriela Baczynska and Andrew Osborn)


    AND THEN . . .

    RFE/RL, September 02, 2013

    Vandals Damage New Stalin Monument

    A new monument to Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in Georgia has been vandalized hours after it was unveiled.Unknown individuals overnight poured orange paint on the 2-meter statue in the town of Telavi, some 100 kilometers from the capital, Tbilisi.It was erected and unveiled on September 1 by a local Stalin society next to a monument dedicated to soldiers who died during World War II.

    In December, to mark the 134th anniversary of Stalin's birth, his hometown of Gori plans to reerect a statue that was removed by the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili in 2010.

    Saakashvili led a campaign against monuments to the Georgia-born dictator, saying the country could not simultaneously host a museum for victims of Soviet occupation and monuments honoring those who carried out that occupation.

    Based on reporting by Apsny.ge and Lenta.ru

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty © 2013 RFE/RL, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

  • Commemorating Victims of Communism in Russia

    Business New Europe

    November 7, 2013

    A memorial day few Russians want to remember

    Julia Reed in Moscow

    "Who was killed in your family?" A man in a beret in his early 60s asked me as he joined the long queue of people. We were both attending the annual recital of the names of the victims of political repressions in Russia by the Solovetsky Stone in Moscow's Lubyanka square, right next to what was the KGB headquarters. This stone was brought from the Solovki Islands in the icy seas off the far northern coast of Russia, where the first Gulag prison camp was opened in 1919. (Bizarrely, the RUB500 bank note pictures the island's monastery.)

    I wasn't ready for this question since I somehow assumed that repressions should concern all members of the society and not just the families of the victims. Yet a large number of people in the queue held photographs of their loved ones. The man next to me had a small self-published booklet that contained photocopies of the verdicts and even names of the people who gave evidence or signed the papers that led to his father being executed and his older sister sent to Mordovia, one of the locations of the Gulag prisoner camps (and where until last week Pussy Riot leader Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was being held).

    "Last year I waited for three hours," said Arkady Grymov, 62. "It's because many people do not just read out the names they are given (by the members of Memorial, a history preservation society that researches and archives information on repressions in the Soviet Union and about the Gulag system), but they also recite poems, make speeches and add the names of the victims they knew personally."

    Indeed, it seemed as if every third person that came to the microphone would call out the names of their family members. Along with each name came the age, occupation and date of the execution. The occupations were strikingly ordinary: worker, shopkeeper, janitor, guard, usher, vet, priest, secretary, low-level government employee. Some of them were junior NKVD (the Soviet secret police in the 1930s and 40s) officers. No famous names or important jobs.

    "Perhaps you know somebody?" insisted the same man behind me in the queue. I realized that I could not think of anyone who I was certain was repressed, and this was telling of the environment of secrecy and avoidance that surrounded my Soviet upbringing.

    Unwanted history

    If you have never heard that October 30 is a memorial day to commemorate the victims of political repressions in Russia, you are not alone. In fact, only a fraction of Russians know. This is not surprising: not only does this date not come up in the top news of the state television channels, it hardly even makes it into the liberal internet news as a newsworthy discussion topic.

    Yet just in Moscow there are archived records of 30,000 people killed between 1937-1938. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev's landmark speech denouncing Stalin in March 1956 made the fact of repression in the USSR public and gave rise to the process of rehabilitation and release for the victims. The topic became widely publicized and debated again in the 1990s with the collapse of the Soviet Union, when even the ban on the Communist Party was being discussed but rejected by the Constitutional Court.

    However, Russia's mass media pay little attention to the subject. It is safe to say that today's Russians have chosen to ignore the darkest days of their history. "My mother told me when I was 15 that my great grandfather was repressed during the war for wanting to build a church in his village, but I never gave it much thought because I was told that it was a regular event for such times," says Natalia Belova, 35.

    There are reasons for that. The current political climate does not favour any other view of the Soviet past other than as a period of heroism and dedication by the people. This year on the annual day when members of the public can come to the Solovetsky Stone to remember the victims, the state channels dedicated airtime to Putin giving out awards to distinguished members of society in the Kremlin Palace and to the celebrations of the 90th anniversary of the Komsomol (the youth division of the Communist Party of the USSR).

    Soviet history is being rewritten in soft and warm tones, portraying life in the Soviet Union with its normal ups and downs, great enthusiasm and romanticism of large national construction projects involving the youth, with a strong emphasis on the real achievements of the "socialist paradise": the rapid industrialization of the economy, the victory in World War II, and Yuri Gagarin's first flight into space.

    Unlike in Germany where there was an official denunciation of Nazism, Stalinism has never been officially denounced. Stalin is still largely perceived as an effective hardliner who won the war and built the nation and is, if not exactly a source of pride, at least not a source of shame either.

    Even the families of the repressed continued to join the NKVD and write letters to "Great Comrade Stalin" in those days. The generation who are now in their 60s ­ the sons and daughters of those who lived under Stalin ­ still don't see him as evil; the truth of his crimes and the revelations of this macabre period in the Russian history have not transformed their psyche. "Those who worked for NKVD had no choice, they were just recruited there. If they protested, they would be killed themselves. Such were the times ­ they were also the victims of the regime", says Lyudmila Kozlova, 66.

    Today's older generations perceive Stalin as akin to Peter the Great or Napoleon: probably lacking some humane qualities, but a strong-willed patriot who did good things for the country.

    Memorial holds tours of the sites in the centre of Moscow that are associated with Soviet terror. None of these places are known to the Russian public and only a few are on tourist maps, like the KGB building (which houses the successor FSB) or the Solovki Islands.

    Tours that give an insight into the history of repressions are not routinely conducted in schools, institutions of higher learning or Moscow-awareness tours. What's more, some of these buildings that should have become memorial museums, such as the Military Council of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union, (where 31,456 people were executed in 1936-1938), have been privatized and turned into offices and commercial property.

    Political repressions of today

    This year's memorial service at the Solovetsky Stone sparked a little more interest than usual from that small segment of the public concerned with the plight of the more recent political prisoners such as jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, his partner Platon Lebedev, the jailed members of punk rock band Pussy Riot, and the protestors arrested and imprisoned following the clashes with the police during the protests in May last year.

    Stalin-style policies of sacrificing individuals for the sake of grand ideas or persecuting those who are seen as different have not only not been denounced, but have taken strong root in the Russian mentality and are silently accepted by the majority. This is seen in the adoption of new laws restricting the freedom of gays, NGOs and in daily treatment of migrants.

    Human life continues to have little value in today's Russia, much the same as it was under Stalin, and the judicial and prison systems have experienced little reform since the Gulag times. Prisons are still characterized by harsh, un-dignifying conditions and almost slave labour, as described in a recent letter from a prison in Mordovia by Pussy Riot's Tolokonnikova. Her observations are echoed by many other former inmates of Russia's prisons.

    Putin is expected to endorse a new unified version of a Russian history textbook soon. One can only wonder if it is going to be history described from different points of view or continue the trend of emphasizing Russia as a "Great Country" and ignoring the suffering of its people.

    "There is no family in Russia who have not been affected by the repressions," says Irina Ostrovskaya of Memorial. Indeed, as I started writing this piece thinking that no one was affected by repressions in my family, I discovered that my great grandfather spent 10 years in jail, was released severely ill and was only rehabilitated in 1991, years after his death.

  • Stalin's birthday marked in Russia and beyond

    Stalin kiss 12-12
    Ushangi Davitashvili kisses the bust of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin that stands in the courtyard of his apartment building in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Photo: Shakh Aivazov / AP
    Updated 12:51 pm, Friday, December 21, 2012

    TBILISI, Georgia (AP) — People across the vast territory where Josef Stalin once imposed his terror have marked the 133rd anniversary of the dictator's birth, some in hatred but others in reverence.

    In Moscow, several hundred Russian Communists led by their leader Gennady Zuyganov laid flowers at Stalin's grave at the Red Square Friday, while smaller rallies were held across Russia and several former Soviet republics.

    Leftists in neighboring Belarus said they found a Stalin statue that was buried after denunciation of his personality cult in 1956, but refused to specify its whereabouts because they fear authorities will order its destruction. Authorities in Stalin's hometown of Gori, Georgia, they will reinstall his statue that was removed in 2010.

    In southern Ukraine, several ethnic Crimean Tatars trashed a small street exhibition on Stalin. The entire Crimean Tatar population of Ukraine was hastily deported in cattle trains on Stalin's orders in 1944 for their alleged collaboration with Nazi Germans during World War II. Of the 200,000 Crimean Tatars, almost a fifth died of starvation and diseases, and the survivors were allowed to return only in the late 1980s.

    According to the prominent Russian right group Memorial, Stalin ordered the deaths of at least 724,000 people during the purges and repression of the 1930s, while millions died as a result of the forced labor system in Gulags, the Soviet prison system.

    But, some people believe he was a strong and valiant leader whose grip on the nation was needed for security and his popularity in Russia has been climbing amid Kremlin-backed efforts to defend his image.


    Mansur Mirovalev contributed to this story from Moscow.