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Georgia rebuilds Stalin monuments
A man speaks at a rebuilt statue of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the Georgian village of Alvani, on December 21, 2012. The statue went back up today in a sign of the slipping authority of President Mikheil Saakashvili, who had ordered its removal. AFP PHOTO /VANO SHLAMOV.

By: Irakli Metreveli

ALVANI (AFP).- A Joseph Stalin statue went back up in the Georgian village of Alvani on Friday in a sign of the slipping authority of President Mikheil Saakashvili, who had ordered its removal.

The pro-Western president is serving out what some are calling a lame-duck term ahead of elections next year from which he is barred on account of the end of his 10-year constitutional mandate.

Saakashvili's powers were weakened still further in October when the Georgian Dream party of his great rival, the tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili, won parliamentary elections and appointed Ivanishvili as prime minister.

Although Ivanishvili is not an open supporter of the Georgian-born Soviet dictator, local authorities appear to think that they can now show up Saakashvili by returning Stalin to his place of prominence.

"We should not forget our past. We should not forget Stalin," Grigol Oniani, leader of Georgia's Communist Party, told dozens of Alvani residents who had gathered for the monument's unveiling.

In a separate case, the city council of Stalin's home town Gori voted Thursday to restore its own monument to the feared late leader -- a man whose memory helps sustain the region's tourism industry.

Saakashvili, whose forces fought a five-day war with Russia in 2008 and who has always sought to ally Georgia with the United States, had spearheaded a furious de-Stalinisation campaign.

A 2011 law, for example, banned the public display of Soviet symbols and prohibited former Communist Party and KGB security service officials from holding public office.

An annual "Soviet Occupation Day" was also launched -- a commemoration of the Red Army invasion in 1921 that forced independent Georgia to become a part of the Communist Soviet Union.

Saakashvili has not been on speaking terms with the Russian leadership since the 2008 war.

im-zak/txw


© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse



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