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Stalin Statues Toppled After Georgians Restore Them

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Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Two statues to Josef Stalin were toppled and spray-painted in Georgia after villages in the Black Sea nation where he was born restored them to commemorate the Soviet dictator’s birthday.

The monuments, located in the villages of Akura and Alvani in the Kakheti region east of the capital, Tbilisi, were pushed from their stands by unknown perpetrators, Public Broadcaster television reported today, citing local residents. One was painted pink, it said.

Georgia’s parliament voted to ban Soviet symbols in 2011, 20 years after the country declared independence from the Soviet Union. The two statues were restored to mark Stalin’s Dec. 18 birthday, with another planned in his hometown of Gori, which removed a monument to him in 2010.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili denounced statues of the World War II 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 a willingness to improve ties with Russia after a five-day war in 2008 over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Helena Bedwell in Tbilisi at hbedwell@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net