Saturday, August 16, 2008
There are two things that stick out in my mind when I recall my travels last year to Gori, Georgia: Countless children shouting at me trying to practice their English and the Joseph Stalin Museum. I’m sure that Russian troops have thoroughly traumatized the children as their tanks continue to rumble through the city. I wonder what old Joe would say about the current Russian occupation of his hometown of Gori, Georgia.
As you enter Stalin’s house, conveniently relocated to the center of Gori, it is filled with “personality-cult” propaganda leftover from his days as the iron fist of the Soviet Union. Even when driving the rural highway leading into Gori you can still see giant marble statues of Stalin, glaring at you from the side of the road. Okay, let’s face it: Atrocities aside, the Georgians still have a thing for Stalin as a symbol of national pride. But would they like him if he were alive today?
During WWII, Stalin invaded Finland. In fact, this invasion could be seen in the terms of the Soviet Union using its superior force to occupy its smaller, yet more democratic neighbor. It’s as Zbigniew Brzezinski said just this week, “Georgia is the Finland of our day.”
So whom would Stalin side with? The anti-Russian Georgia of today is so committed to the West that they’ve even named the road to the Airport “George W. Bush Street.” The people of Georgia are in a bitter double bind: Their idealized hometown hero, Joseph Stalin, wrote the book on the aggressive occupation of another country, a tactic Putin is now practicing on the motherland of Georgia.
If I were in Gori now, I’d sit down beside a statue of old Joe to have a good political chat. He’s dead, but as Russia is demonstrating, not forgotten.
Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent
Scribed By Jesse Aizenstat at 8:55 PM