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The destruction of Stalinís monument Ė yet another victory of the Rose Revolution

By Messenger Staff
Monday, June 28
Stalinís monument, which stood in the central square of his home town of Gori, became an intolerable sight for the Georgian leadership after the August 2008 Russian invasion. Last year some NGOs started campaigning to dismantle the monument, but the Government could only allow itself to do so after its victory in the May 30 local elections. These have filled the Rose Revolution leadership with huge confidence and have prompted it to promise yet another new wave of reforms. One of these, it appears, is dismantling Stalinís monument.

This bronze statue of chief of the proletariat Joseph Stalin was erected in 1952, while he was still alive. Six metres high, it has stood on a 9 metre high pedestal in the centre of Gori. It was removed at three o'clock in the morning of June 15-16, in an eerie echo of the way the Berlin Wall was flung up overnight. The formal decision to do this was taken on June 16 at the last session of the incumbent Gori City Council, whose term has expired, but there should be no doubt that the decision was actually taken in Tbilisi by the President himself and his circle.

The administration explains its actions by saying that Stalin was an autocrat leader of a totalitarian regime, responsible for mass repression and the killing of tens of thousands of people in Georgia alone. He was personally involved in the occupation of independent Georgia by the Soviet Red Army in 1921, and the commanders of the notorious 18th Bolshevik Army reported personally to Lenin and Stalin that the red flag was flying over Tbilisi. Saakashvili said that it is impossible for a Museum of the Soviet Occupation and a monument to the person who masterminded this occupation to co-exist in the same country. The destruction of this monument is therefore being presented as a step towards establishing the liberal democratic values the present Government has had a number of years to introduce in more concrete ways.

It has been decided that a memorial to the victims of Stalin's repressions and those who died during the August 2008 Russian invasion will be built on the site currently occupied by the monument. Minister of Culture of Georgia Nika Rurua has invited foreign artists, sculptors and designers to participate in the competition to create this memorial alongside Georgian ones. The ideology behind the destruction of the monument is clear and understandable, but is somewhat undermined by the fact that it was not done in a liberal democratic way, openly in daylight, but in the old Communist style, at night, so that the people could not intervene or question it. The official TV channels showed a group of people applauding during the dismantling, but at the same time there were witnesses there who protested about it and a cameraman from independent TV company Trialeti, who was shooting scenes of people objecting to the destruction, was beaten, had his camera taken off him and had the disc containing the shots of people protesting and being attacked for it erased.

As is known there are some people in Georgia, and in Gori in particular, who still worship Stalin for different reasons. Many of these are elderly people who remember his rule. There is also an acute sense of local pride among some, who consider it a great achievement that a person from their city dominated world politics for nearly 30 years. Some opposition figures have also criticised the dismantling of the monument. Labour calls it an act of vandalism, saying that the administration has destroyed the person who won WWII and destroyed fascism. Some other opposition members and independent analysts suggest that this action does not reflect well on the level of democracy of the current administration, as at the same time they are destroying the monument they are talking about staying in power for 60 years, much like Stalin's party did.

It would have been much better to eradicate Stalinís heritage by not only puling down his statue but introducing real democracy, a free court and fair elections, because it was Stalin and his regime which suppressed human rights, an independent court system, genuine elections and other essential pillars of a democratic society. Letís look around together and see what kind of shortcomings has Georgia today.