From the Independent:
Georgian authorities have removed a massive statue of Joseph Stalin from the main square of his hometown, Gori, in a secret late-night operation underlining their determination to sever ties with their Soviet past.
Police sealed off the square in the early hours of yesterday morning as municipal workers struggled to remove the six-metre bronze statue of the Soviet dictator from its stone plinth. At one point, angle grinders had to be used to cut the metal ties that held the statue to its base. After three hours, one of the last remaining statues of Stalin anywhere in the world was finally toppled. Although Georgia’s pro-Western government had long seen the statue as an embarrassment, and more than once voiced the idea of removing it, the final decision was completely unannounced.
Georgia’s relationship with its most famous son has changed markedly over the years. Since Georgia’s independence in 1991, he has been increasingly associated with foreign occupation.
"We know that his roots are Georgian, we can’t deny that," says Gigi Tsereteli, vice speaker of the Georgian parliament. "But we also can’t deny the terrible things he did to Georgia."
Stalin is vastly more popular abroad than at home. In a 2009 TV show designed to find "The Greatest Russian", Stalin came third; in the Georgian equivalent, he was outside the top forty.
Georgia’s government, however, says the statue’s removal demonstrates its commitment to Western values. Addressing the nation, President Mikheil Saakashvili said it was inappropriate to have a monument to a man who enslaved his own country. He said the decision to move the statue to the Stalin Museum demonstrated "a civilised attitude to history".
A second statue was recently removed as well in a neighbouring town:
Authorities in Georgia on Sunday tore down another monument to Soviet dictator and native son Josef Stalin.
The monument in the town of Tkibuli in western Georgia was taken down two days after authorities tore down a bigger and more famous monument to Stalin in his hometown of Gori.
The Georgian government says a younger generation who have embraced Western ideals of freedom favor the dismantling of Stalin’s monuments.
"A memorial to Stalin has no place in the Georgia of the 21st Century," President Mikhail Saakashvili said Friday. Saakashvili’s government said a memorial to the fallen in the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 will replace Stalin’s statue in Gori.
Georgia’s Culture Minister Nikolos Rurua said the government will also soon rename Georgian streets still carrying Stalin’s name.
There are very few Stalin monuments left on the face of the Earth, but recently two more have been erected in the oddest of places: Ukraine – which hasn’t erected one since the 50’s and the USA – which is its very first. The former were raised by Communists at their party headquarters after a pro-Russian government came to power, and the latter was raised by the county and private donors for a D-Day memorial in Bedford, Virginia which refuses to divulge their name – despite public outcry.