It was probably this piece of mine that precipitated the move—I’m rather popular in certain Georgian provinces, you see—but last night authorities in Tbilisi, under the cover darkness, decided to remove the giant statue of Josif Djugashvili (a.k.a. Stalin) from downtown Gori, the former Soviet dictator’s hometown. Every member of the Georgian government that I spoke with last month wanted the statue removed, though were worried about causing offense to those who love mass-murdering tyrants. One official told me—later confirmed by a second official for a different department—that the Saakashvili government even enlisted their mortal enemy in trying to expunge ol’ Koba from Gori, as I explained last month:
In the center of Gori, in front of the city hall, stands a hulking gray statue of Stalin, who appears, from a distance, to be wrapped in an ill-fitting winter coat. According to one government official, during the August 2008 war, the Georgian military suggested to their Russian counterparts that, in their shelling of the city, they might train artillery on the Stalin statue, thus solving a contentious political issue. The Russians declined, he sighed, and instead hordes of drunk soldiers made pilgrimages to the statue during the brief occupation of Gori.
More thrilling tales from my trip to Gori here.
The BBC has a list of recent statue removals here. And according to this story, the Georgians plan on replacing the Stalin statue with a memorial for those who died in the August 2008 war with Russia. Here is a video from RFE/RFL of the statue being brought down: