This morning, I came across an article form the BBC about the hero status of Stalin in his home country of Georgia. In his hometown of Gorgi, the city council recently allocated funds to re-erect a statue of Stalin that was removed only three years ago. The town is allegedly divided in their reactions: while one 65-year old man says he has “only ever heard good things” about Stalin, another resident believes that Georgia will hurt its global public image if it pays tribute to the Soviet dictator. On a national scale, research findings from Tibsili University reveal that 45% of Georgians have a “positive view” of Stalin.
Reading this article, I was confused as to how these two drastically different historical narratives could coexist. On one side, it seems that the Soviet policy of socialist realism still seems to play a role in shaping the perceptions of those living in the former USSR. Another Gorgi citizen says that Stalin is particularly revered among older generations, who view him as a “great statesman with small mistakes.” Looking at this narrative of Stalin’s rule, it seems that socialist realism did its job: Stalin’s accomplishments have been inflated, and his transgressions (ie a campaign of terror and the unjust imprisonment and murder of millions) are mostly overlooked. On the other side of the spectrum there exists another kind of historical revisionism: outright denial. Some argue that through removing monuments to Stalin, Georgians are trying to hide their past, and that in re-erecting his large monument they are coming closer to confronting it honestly.
To me, it seems that Georgians need to alter the context of their historical artifacts, documents, and monuments to strike a harmony between their painful (and inextricable) association with Stalin and the desire (among some) to condemn him and his policies. For example, removing a monument on the main street of Gorgi is understandable, as it was likely installed there to create the illusion of Stalin’s omnipresence and omnipotence and alter the psychology of townspeople (as was common of Soviet city planning.) However, the items in the Stalin museum (which is the town’s main tourist attraction) ought to remain open for educational purposes. Georgia cannot erase its connection to Stalin, but they can inform their citizens and visitors to their country by the creation of an objective and factually accurate museum.