Dictator's home town says goodbye Stalin as statue is torn down

Georgian authorities have removed a massive statue of Joseph Stalin from the main square of his hometown, Gori, in a secret late-night operation underlining their determination to sever ties with their Soviet past.

Police sealed off the square in the early hours of yesterday morning as municipal workers struggled to remove the six-metre bronze statue of the Soviet dictator from its stone plinth. At one point, angle grinders had to be used to cut the metal ties that held the statue to its base. After three hours, one of the last remaining statues of Stalin anywhere in the world was finally toppled. Although Georgia's pro-Western government had long seen the statue as an embarrassment, and more than once voiced the idea of removing it, the final decision was completely unannounced.

A CCTV camera that streams live images of the square online was also covered up for the occasion, showing the government's unwillingness to risk a confrontation over the statue's removal.

"Georgian people are very emotional," said Tornike Sharashenidze, founder of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs. "Some radical politician or party could have staged a provocation. That's why the government decided to remove the statue in the middle of the night. It should have been removed long ago."

The sudden move marks the end of a long-running debate in Georgia about what to do with the statue, which was put up in 1952, a year before Stalin's death. While most Gori residents were keen to keep it where it was, Georgia's liberal intelligentsia organised a well-planned campaign to have it removed.

Stalin will not be going far, though. The statue will be re-erected in the grounds of the Stalin Museum, a hagiographic exhibition dedicated to the late dictator, less than half a mile from the square. In his place, a new monument will be built in honour those who died during the war with Russia in 2008.

Georgia's relationship with its most famous son has changed markedly over the years. Since Georgia's independence in 1991, he has been increasingly associated with foreign occupation.

"We know that his roots are Georgian, we can't deny that," says Gigi Tsereteli, vice speaker of the Georgian parliament. "But we also can't deny the terrible things he did to Georgia."

Stalin is vastly more popular abroad than at home. In a 2009 TV show designed to find "The Greatest Russian", Stalin came third; in the Georgian equivalent, he was outside the top forty.

But some in Georgia still revere the Soviet strongman, especially in Gori, where residents laid flowers at the foot of the statue on Stalin's birthday. Georgia's tiny Communist Party is also outraged by the decision. Communist activist Giorgi Mokhigulashvili told The Independent that removing the statue was "a crime of global proportions". "What the government did is vandalism. It is a step taken by a fascist government," Mokhigulashvili said.

Georgia's government, however, says the statue's removal demonstrates its commitment to Western values. Addressing the nation, President Mikheil Saakashvili said it was inappropriate to have a monument to a man who enslaved his own country. He said the decision to move the statue to the Stalin Museum demonstrated "a civilised attitude to history".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: SAGE Bookkeeper & PA to Directors

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Executive

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An On-line Sales & Customer Ser...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map