Six-meter statue of Stalin on a nine-meter pedestal was removed from Gori's central square in 2010. Photo: Civil.Ge.
UPDATE: adds in last three paragraphs quotes from Culture Ministry’s written statement released late on July 30
The Georgian Ministry of Culture approved a proposal by a local municipality in the town of Gori, the birthplace of Josef Stalin, to reinstate a huge bronze statue of the Soviet dictator in his hometown; but instead of putting it at its previous place in the central square of the town, according to the ministry, the statue will be erected in Stalin’s museum in Gori.
Six-meter statue of Stalin on a nine-meter pedestal was removed from Gori’s central square in the middle of the night and under heavy police presence in June, 2010. At the time Georgian officials, including President Saakashvili, were saying that the plan was to relocate the statue to Stalin’s museum in Gori – the plan which never materialized. A decision by the local city council, Sakrebulo, of Gori in June, 2010 also envisaged removing of the statue from the central square to the Soviet dictator’s museum in Gori.
“Local municipality appealed to the Ministry with a recommendation to reinstate the monument of Stalin. There were several options listed: to reinstate the statue back on its previous location in the center of Gori; another possible location was one of the parks of the town and the third one was at the museum [of Stalin in Gori]. The Ministry recommended the statue to be re-erected in the yard of the museum. It is up to the local municipality when the statue will be erected,” Keti Ebanoidze, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection, told Civil.ge on July 30.
According to a deputy head of municipality of Gori district in Shida Kartli region, Nino Tsetsvadze, no date has yet been set for erecting the statue.
“It was not our [Gori municipality’s] initiative to re-erect the statue. As far as I know a petition was filed by local residents to the local Sakrebulo [Gori city council] requesting to reinstate the statue,” she told Civil.ge on July 30. “After that a recommendation was submitted to the ministry [of culture] by the local municipality and we received approval on July 17 and it was decided to put the statue on the territory of the museum.”
Last year the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace commissioned a survey to find out public attitudes towards Stalin in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Russia. While 45% of respondents in Georgia expressed a positive attitude toward Stalin and 68% called him a “wise leader who brought the Soviet Union to might and prosperity”, 63% responded negatively when asked if they would like to live in a country ruled by a person like Stalin. 53% of those surveyed in Georgia completely or mostly agreed with the statement “Stalin was a cruel, inhuman tyrant, responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent people.”
On July 30 President Saakashvili condemned decision to re-erect the statue of Stalin as “barbaric, anti-Georgian, anti-state act” and called on PM Bidzina Ivanishvili “to revise this stupid decision.”
“Restoring Stalin monument in the 21st century is unimaginable barbaric, anti-Georgian, anti-national, anti-state act, because it puts Georgia in international isolation,” Saakashvili said. “Restoring Stalin’s statue in Gori, the town which was bombed by Russians [during the August, 2008 war], amounts to spitting into the souls of the fallen Georgians.”
President Saakashvili made these remarks while speaking after meeting with visiting leader of the Polish opposition Law and Justice party Jarosław Kaczyński, who was Poland’s PM in 2006-2007; earlier on July 30 Jaroslaw Kaczynski visited ex-PM and UNM secretary general Vano Merabishvili, who is now in detention awaiting trial into multiple criminal charges, and condemned the former Georgian PM’s pre-trial detention.
In April, 2012 previous leadership of the Ministry of Culture announced about intention to transform and rename museum of Stalin in Gori into Museum of Stalinism to focus on the Soviet regime’s repressions. Secretary of National Security Council, Giga Bokeria, who also condemned decision to reinstate Stalin monument, called on the authorities on July 30 to follow the previous government’s plan and to transform the museum.
Later on July 30 the Ministry of Culture released a written statement, which says that “the Ministry is working on a new concept of the State Museum of Stalin implementation of which will make it more vivid for visitors the brutality of the Soviet regime.”
In the same statement, the Ministry of Culture clarifies that the decision to relocate the monument of Stalin from the center of Gori to the museum was taken back in June, 2010 by the local city council and “it is beyond the Ministry’s authority” to take decision about where the monument should be placed.
“In response to the June 28, 2013 letter from the Sakrebulo of Gori municipality, from two possible locations of the statue, the ministry recommended an option according to which the monument is considered to be an exhibit and part of the museum complex (which includes a shack, where Stalin was born, exhibition hall itself and Stalin’s train carriage),” the Ministry of Culture said.