Georgian authorities have torn down two statues of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, one of them in his hometown of Gori. They removed the Gori monument overnight, out of concern about pro-Stalin sentiment.
Agence France Presse (AFP) quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria who said it had been dismantled overnight on June 26. The statue is to be replaced with a monument to honour “victims of the Soviet dictatorship and to those killed in the 2008 war”, a reference to the small country’s war with Russia.
The six-metre (20-foot) high statue stood in the town’s central square since the 1950’s but has irked the country’s pro-Western government as well as humanitarians recalling his 20-million victims. However, many remain proud of the dictator, arguing his role in defeating German dictator and former ally Adolf Hitler.
Stalin was an alias taken by Joseph Vissarionovich Jugashvili (December 8, 1878 – March 5, 1953) a Georgian, born in Gori.
Following a brief stint at a seminary, Stalin embarked on a career as a bank robber, kidnapper, extortionist and terrorist, after which he joined Lenin’s Bolshevik revolutionary group in 1917 and was involved in organising executions and political murders as part of his normal duties.
He became the top student of Bolshevism’s founder, Vladimir I. Lenin, and after having his main rival, Leon Trotsky, murdered.
He played a key role in the conquest of Georgia and its inclusion into the Soviet Union in 1921.
On Lenin’s death in 1924, Stalin seized power in the now-renamed Communist Party and expanded Lenin’s secret police and his forced labour system, known by the acronym of the department which dealt with prisons -- GULAG. He also worked on a massive industrialisation plan for the Soviet Union which, although it cost a great number of lives, modernised the country rapidly.
Human rights groups like Memorial blame him for the deaths of millions of peasants all over the former USSR in his forced collectivisation of farming, as well as political murders, the attempted destruction of religion and massive relocations of ethnic groups, among other crimes.
He is best known for his role in WWII, first as an enthusiastic ally of Hitler, invading Poland with the German dictator in 1939, followed by invasions of Finland and the Baltic states. In 1941, the two fell out and Hitler invaded the USSR.
Stalin’s critics say he threw away millions of Soviet citizens’ lives in the war by his profligate use of human resources, for instance, human wave attacks on well-prepared positions. His admirers argue that he made Russia and its fellow Soviet republics great and played the most important role in defeating Hitler and Nazism.
Meanwhile, the Straits Times reports that another Stalin statue has been torn down, this time in the Georgian town of Tkibuli at the weekend as part of reconstruction work.