ZEMO ALVANI, Georgia - 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
kilometres (124 miles) north-east of the capital Tbilisi,
gathered to witness the unveiling of the three-metre-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
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 recognise 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 Oct. 1 parliamentary election ending a
long period of political domination by Saakashvili, who first
rose to power as leader of the 2003 “rose” revolution.