TBILISI, July 31 (RIA Novosti) – Georgia’s Culture Ministry said Wednesday it did not authorize the reinstallation of the six-meter (20 foot) statue of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that was torn down overnight three years ago in his hometown of Gori.
The Gruziya Online website reported Tuesday that the ministry had decided to re-erect the landmark statue outside the local Stalin Museum in time for the dictator’s birthday, December 21, at the request of the Gori assembly. That decision was confirmed to the Associated Press by the ministry’s spokeswoman, Yelena Samkharadze.
But the ministry distanced itself from the controversial decision Wednesday, describing the media reports as “an attempt to mislead the public.” It said in a statement that restoration of monuments was outside its competence and, said it only “gave a technical recommendation” to the Gori assembly about the statue’s restoration as “an exhibit and part” of the Stalin museum.
The statue, which had been a prominent fixture in the town’s central square since 1952, was hastily dismantled by the government of pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili in 2010. But Georgia’s new, more Russia-friendly prime minister, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, ordered the reinstatement of Stalin monuments throughout the country after his Georgian Dream political coalition swept parliamentary elections last year.
Born in 1878, Stalin lived the first four years of his life in a modest wooden house in Gori, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Tbilisi. The two-story Stalin Museum was built beside the house in 1937, at the height of the Great Terror, when hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens were sentenced to death and millions more were jailed or exiled.
Stalin retains a staunch “local boy made good” following in Gori, despite the savage repressive measures taken against his political opponents in Georgia throughout his lifetime.