On Saturday I took a field trip a little to the east. This is my last contracted trip to Georgia and the IREX project ends in September. From the start of the summer it will be mostly clean up. I visited three sites, Gori, the Birthplace of Stalin, Ateni Sioni with its Monastery and convent, and Uplistsikhe, an ancient town carved out of sandstone.
Gori was invaded by the Russians in 2008 with a lot of damage to the town. Unlike Serbia, which seems to like to keep its damage visible for decades to prove how wronged they were, aside from some bullet holes I saw none of the destruction pictured in the news. I saw the buildings that were wrecked, but they are rebuilt. In this way Georgia is more like Albania than Kosovo.
Gori’s Stalin museum is a museum in a museum. The curators decided to leave it as it was when it was last refinished in the 1970s to show what Soviet propaganda was like. There was one change: a picture Trotsky was added. The curators felt that Trotsky had to be represented at least once in this museum. Otherwise it is the job of the docent to talk about the horrors of Stalin while we look at his death mask which is in what can only be described as a shrine. Actually the whole thing is a shrine. The house where Stalin was born is under a canopy of stained glass and stone with a star and four hammers and sickles. The Railroad car in which Stalin rode to conferences in Yalta and Potsdam is the most popular exhibit. In the courtyard of this museum Stalin still stands in stone. I passed on the gift shop. It is an interesting museum but I don’t want Stalin souvenirs and I don’t want to encourage them.