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April 30th 2010
Published: April 30th 2010
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Stalin in GoriStalin in GoriStalin in Gori

The statue is enormous and dominates the centre of town. Gori's favourite son!
A monster was born on 18th December 1878 in the historical city of Gori, Shida Kartli Province west of Tbilisi in the beautiful country of Georgia. Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, better known as Joseph Stalin.

The man has become such a caricature of monstrosity, the murderer of countless millions, that it comes as a shock to visit the place of his birth and to see, still lovingly preserved, the actual tiny cabin in which this monster was born.

I visited Gori in March 2010 as part of a project looking to support rural smallholders (see my other post about Georgia). It was freezing cold but with a bright blue sky and we had been in the countryside visiting farmers who live much as they must have done in Uncle Joe's day. Gori seemed just another post-Soviet town, and I was struck by the ghastly red plastic balconies that someone had built on to the front of the apartments in the main street - Stalin Avenue. 20 years on from the Soviet Union but the taste in architecture obviously hadn't improved, and somehow Stalin was a presence in the town.

And there, right in the town centre, somewhat recovered after
Stalin's birth placeStalin's birth placeStalin's birth place

This tiny cabin is where the monster was born; just one room was rented by his mother.
the Russians had slapped the Georgians down in 2008, was a GIGANTIC statue of Stalin. At the end of Stalin Avenue..... and just over from the Stalin Museum, where the tiny house of his birth is preserved under a weird kind of Greek temple.

Excoriated everywhere, but in Gori Stalin remains a hero.

The bizarre thing is that Stalin actually did very little for Gori and indeed Georgia was the first republic of the USSR to throw off the shackles of communism. Of course they then proceeded to destroy much of the economy by a series of civil wars or wars of secession. The 2008 conflict was thus a continuation of conflict when the Georgian Government was suckered into making a move in South Ossetia. They got slapped back inside a week.

Despite the fighting in central Gori, the Stalin Museum was untouched and lovingly preserves his memory, including his death mask in a red velvet-lined shrine. He looks quite benevolent. The Museum is worth seeing, and one gets shown around by a stern babushka who extols the General Secretary's virtues but will not speak of the his awful heritage. Check out his railway car that is
Stalin's bedroomStalin's bedroomStalin's bedroom

This is the compartment in his train where Stalin slept as he travelled the Soviet Union
parked out back - Stalin travelled everywhere in the Soviet Union in this vehicle since he hated flying; the interesting thing is that the furniture is small and drab, something one might find in a car boot sale.

How it is that such a dreadful person could rise from such a humble beginning and with such obviously modest personal habits to command the Soviet Empire is amazing. Gori and the Museum bring this home in a way that nothing else can.

Go visit: Gori is on the main road 76 miles west of Tbilisi; it has a nice castle as well as the Museum. You can get there easily in about 40 minutes to an hour on a new express way. As you go, you'll pass the ghastly camps for displaced persons (from the various wars) that remind one strongly of the Gulag. Lunch is more of a problem; there seemed to be only one restaurant which double as some kind of disco, with strange green lighting. Also to be found in Stalin Avenue.

For more about Quartermaine's World please visit FoodWorks and Fitness


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