TBILISI (AFP).- A two-metre high statue of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin has been daubed with paint less than a day after it was put up in a town in eastern Georgia, local authorities said Monday.
Local authorities in the town of Telavi, some 100 kilometres east of Tbilisi, said the monument to the Georgian-born Communist dictator was erected without permission by local residents on Sunday and could be torn down.
"It was a surprise to us -- the monument has been erected without permission from the local authorities," Aka Sachishvili, deputy head of Telavi municipality told AFP.
"We are studying the issue and will take a decision on the statue's dismantling," Sachishvili added.
Sachishvili confirmed that the statue was covered in graffiti by unknown individuals overnight.
Pictures published by local media showed the statue covered with what looked like orange paint. Slogans including "down with Stalin" were scrawled on a wall behind the statue.
Born Joseph Dzhugashvili in the Georgian town of Gori in 1878, Stalin is a deeply divisive figure in his homeland.
In 2010, pro-Western president Mikheil Saakashvili tore down a six-metre statue of the Soviet tyrant that had stood in the central square of his hometown since 1952.
In July, Georgia's culture ministry said that that statue would be erected at Gori's Stalin museum, but should not be returned to its original location in the town centre.
Saakashvili is serving out a lame-duck term ahead of elections in October from which he is barred on account of the end of his 10-year constitutional mandate, and some see moves to restore Stalin's statues as an attempts by conservatives to rehabilitate the despot's image.
Stalin is a profoundly controversial figure in all the former Soviet Union, accused of causing the deaths of millions of Soviet citizens in his brutal Gulag prison camps and through the forced collectivisation of agriculture.
Stalin's supporters however praise his role in the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
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