Gori (Georgia) – Stalin’s Motherland
On the 12th day of our Caucasian trip we woke up in Tbilisi at 7. Yesterday’s alcohol – cognac, beer, home wine, liquor, again beer – resulted in a little hangover. But after the shower with the breakfast cooked for us by our new friend couchsurfer, life became much better. Peter showed the metro station to us, to help us to get to the railway station quicker. We got there 10 minutes before the Gori train departure, and it took some time to find the train: the platforms at the railway station do not have numbers. The ticket from Tbilisi to Gori cost 4 laris, and the trip took a couple of hours.
The railway station in Gori had leaking roof (due to the rain) – we doubt that this would have been possible at Stalin’s motherland in the Soviet times…
It also lacked any storage rooms or lockers, so we had to go to the bus station by marshrutka for 40 kopeyks. On our way the driver was telling how well he had been living during Soviet Union, and that he had been on military service in St. Petersburg. He also told that marshrutkas in Gori operated till 18.00-19.00, and the taxi cost around 2 laris (he advised to take cars with the taxi phone numbers written on them).
Gori bus station is the center of civilization: it has a market, taxi drivers ready to drive you wherever, the most terrible toilet we had seen before going to Central Asia this year, and the storage room (till 18.00, 1 lari). Having left our backpack there, we went down Stalin’s avenue to the museum of Stalin – the main attraction of Gori.
The entrance ticket cost 15 laris (10 for the students) which included the guided tour around the museum (also in English – the museum is really popular among the foreigners). If you pay 15 laris extra (10 for the students), you may also get to the house where Stalin was presumably born and the armored train which was owned by him.
The exhibition starts with gifts and other belongings of Stalin. Among them, there is a picture made of tobacco leaves in Bucharest:
A wooden panel from the toilers of Belarus:
The portrait of young Stalin, just in case you haven’t seen it:
The exhibition in the museum probably did not change mach after the Soviet Union collapse: it is still maintained in accordance with the ideology which had dominated then. This interesting quotation from Stalin exhibited in the museum, we think, reflects contemporary local public opinion about him (if not in the whole Georgia).
(A person is not eternal. I will also die. How will people and history judge me? There were many mistakes, but there were the achievements as well. The mistakes will be certainly be attributed to me. They will carry a pile of garbage onto my grave, but once the wind of history will scatter it mercilessly).
The guides complained that foreign tourists often asked: why is the museum so positive in evaluating Stalin’s rule? What about the repressions? To satisfy the visitors’ needs the museum employees created a tiny corner dedicated to the repressions with several press-cuttings about them.
The exhibition also includes the information about childhood and youth of Stalin, the Civil War and the ascension of the leader. Judging from the quotes from Stalin all around the museum, as he had to study in the seminary, he hated its “taunting regime and jesuitical methods”. Perhaps, it also influenced his further politics towards the religion: propaganda of atheism, destroying the churches, etc.
The friendship between Stalin and Lenin was also a part of propaganda: Stalin’s cult of personality was largely formed by the proximity with the cult of Lenin. It is not widely known though that there were not so close, and Lenin was not too optimistic about Stalin. These are the excerpts from Lenin’s letters about Stalin claiming that Stalin was too rude and intolerant and should have been exchanged by another person, or (in the second letter) that Trotsky deserved Stalin’s position much more than Stalin himself.
In contrast, official Stalinist propaganda machine was painting pictures like this:
The guides told about Stalin’s family, his women and children a lot: about the son who was captured by the Nazis and whom Stalin refused to exchange to a German officer (there is a famous quotation ascribed to Stalin: “I do not exchange a soldier to a general”):
The death mask of Stalin:
The gallery of his gifts:
All around the museum you will see a lot of statues and busts of Stalin:
Apart from the main museum, you may also visit the house where he as if was born and lived a couple of years as a baby. His mother divorced his father alcoholic then.
It is said that Stalin was terribly afraid of the planes, and preferred to travel by train. The guides say (confessing that nobody is sure about it now) that he even went to the well-known Tehran Conference in Iran by train – quite far away. In the museum, you may visit personal armored carriage of Stalin with its own living room, kitchen, bedroom, cabinet, etc.
We enjoyed visiting the museum a lot, and really recommend it! Gori also has a couple of other attractions: a fortress –
Also, such beautiful women:
… and the military museum. The ticket is 3 laris (1 lari for the student ticket). One photo in the museum cost 1 lari (you may easily ignore it by making photos secretly, although there is not much to capture). The museum is mainly dedicated to the Second World War, and the exhibition includes numerous maps, photos, and even cartoons about it. Again, it was never changed since the Soviet Union collapse, so its mood is still quite Soviet.
A small corner in the museum is about the war in Afghanistan, and the recent war with Russia, when Gori was attacked as well. According to the museum employee, attacking Gori was strategically important to frighten Georgians: Gori is so close to Tbilisi, which also could have been attacked ultimately. The shells hit central streets and squares, people were killed and wounded. Even though the conflict is so recent, there is no prejudice against Russians at all: everyone said that politics and people go separately – politicians have there own interests in war, while people never want it.
On the same day we went to the cave city Uplistsikhe (about an hour by bus from Gori), about which we will tell the next time…