Villagers in Georgia have restored a statue commemorating Josef Stalin, with residents of his birth town of Gori also considering plans to rebuild a monument to the former Soviet dictator.
The statue, which was removed last year, was reinstated in a ceremony yesterday in Alvani, in the Akhmeta region north-east of the capital Tbilisi. Villagers gave speeches, recited poems and talked of “happier times” during Stalin’s reign.
Stalin remains a divisive figure in his birthplace, with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili having denounced statues of the Second World War leader as a reminder of the Soviet Union’s control of Georgia. Saakashvili’s party was unexpectedly defeated by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili’s opposition coalition in October. Ivanishvili has expressed willingness to improve ties with Russia.
“Long live Stalin, he liberated us from fascism and improved Georgians’ lives, while Saakashvili’s government did nothing but destroy the economic glory of Georgia,” Grisha Oniani, an entrepreneur who is collecting Stalinist memorabilia, told a crowd in Alvani.
The Stalin statue was removed from Gori in 2010. Georgia’s parliament voted to ban Soviet symbols in 2011, 20 years after the country declared independence from the Soviet Union. Georgia and Russia fought a five-day war over the breakaway region of South Ossetia in 2008 and relations between the two countries remain tense.
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