Long time ago (and I mean long,long time) I was traveling in what was then a beautiful and welcoming Republic of Georgia, still a part of soon to be defunct Soviet Union. Georgia is known for its beauty, Caucasus mountains and warm beaches on the Black Sea, ancient cultural relics, great food and some of the best wine in the world, and as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin. Stalin was born in the City of Gori which was a huge source of pride for the Georgian people. When Stalin was alive, his portraits, monuments and various other likenesses were literally everywhere. After Stalin’s Cult of Personality was condemned in 1956 most of this junk was removed and one of the few places that kept all of it’s pre-1956 glory was the City of Gori. From the huge portrait of Stalin at the entrance to the railway station to his monument and museum at his birthplace, complete with Stalin’s personal rail car, the city looked like the old days when it was the Birthplace of the “beloved” leader.
By the time I was born all of the history books and movies were edited not to dwell on Stalin’s persona and the horrors during his regime. In the movies he was shown as a wise man of a few words, issuing battle-winning military directives, and in the books there may have been a mention or two about the cult of personality. It wasn’t a secret but it wasn’t talked about either. As it turned out later,everything was much worse than it was presented in 1956. So when I found myself staring in amazement at something I have never seen in my lifetime, I didn’t really think twice about standing at the birthplace of evil, on the contrary, it was neat to take a step back in time.
A lot has changed since I stood next to the Stalin’s rail car in Gori. There is no Soviet Union, Georgia is not so welcoming anymore, and I don’t have curls. I found this old photo in my album and thought about my careless youth and fun memories I still have from that time.