Nowhere did Stalin’s hero status last longer than in his Georgian birth town Gori. His statue was only removed from the Central Town Square (still named after him) in June 2010 and his museum is still in full operation today. Comtourist visited the Stalin Museum in August 2011 and we were pleased to find out that nothing seems to have changed for the last 50 years here. The museum is a Soviet Time Capsule where even the guides seem to be imported from the USSR.
Stalin Avenue 32
Daily from 10.00 - 17:00
Gori is located 80km from Tbilisi, it takes around 1 hour by minibus to get there from the Georgian capital. Busses go from Didube Bus Station during the whole day. It takes 1,5 hour by train from Tblisi Central Railway Station to Gori. Arranging a taxi for a day may be a good alternative, especially when combining the museum with other attractions like the Uplistsikhe Cave Town.
History of the Stalin museum
Stalin was Born in Gori in 1878, so there always had to be a shrine to the great leader in Gori after his death. A local history museum begun in 1951 intended to become a Stalin Memorial after his death. Stalin died in 1953, the Museum was dedicated to him in 1957. The Stalin museum managed to survive De-Stalinization in 1961 when his body was removed from the Mausoleum and cities and streets named after him were renamed. Soviet authorities probably did not want to offend the Georgians who were still proud of their most famous compatriot and Gori was also far away from Moscow.
The museum was closed in 1989 but was re-opened in recent years as local authorities understood that the museum is a potent tourist attraction. There have been plans to transform the Stalin Museum into the “Museum of Russian Aggression” since 2008, this has not happen yet since this will impact tourist revenues in a time of great economic depression. Let’s hope that the Georgian government understands the historic significance and uniqueness of the Museum and leave it in its current state!
The museum building is a large palace in Stalinist Gothic style, complete with clock tower and column gallery. There is a small Stalin statue in front of the Museum, this is not the statue that was removed from the Central Square in 2010. The museum intends to erect the big statue in front of the Museum, a hole has already been dug. Stalin’s birth house is located in front of the Museum and his rail carriage on one side.
Virtual tour through the museum
The entrance of the museum is an impressive area, luxuriously furbished with marble floors, red carpet and chandeliers. The ticket booth is a small window tucked away in a corner as customary in Soviet museums. A marble staircase leading to a Stalin statue in front of a stained glass window makes the visitor feel like entering a church or other religious place.
The first exhibition hall is dedicated to Stalin’s early life, with photographs, paintings and newspaper articles about his youth, career as a bank robber and early revolutionary exploits. The second exhibition hall documents Stalin’s rise to power in the Communist Party leading to his position as the most powerful man in the Soviet Union. The theme of the third hall is Stalin’s role as Commander in Chief of the Red Army during the Second World War.
The following room celebrates Stalin’s victory over the Nazis ending the Great Patriotic War. A photo collage shows images of the victorious Red Army and Stalin as divine leader who saved the Soviet Motherland from Hitler. A small entrance leads to the next room where Stalin’s death mask is displayed in the centre of a circle surrounded by pillars. The room is kept dark and painted black with dark red carpet, creating an atmosphere that is similar to the Lenin Mausoleum. The exhibition concludes with a room where personal possessions and gifts that Stalin received from foreign dignitaries are displayed.
Stalin’s gifts and possessions
The last hall of the exhibition shows items that belonged to Stalin and gifts received from foreign dignitaries and communist organization from all over world. Many of the exhibits are basically tableware like plates, tea cups and vases with Stalin’s portrait on it. There are also some very kitschy gifts like a table ornament that functions as a light, ashtray, and cigar box decorated with a victorious T-34 tank. An interesting gift from the Netherlands is a set of small painted wooden shoes from the Dutch communist newspaper “De Waarheid”. The museum also displays one of Stalin’s outfits including his signature overcoat, boots and hat.
Paintings of Stalin
The Stalin Museum exhibits a large collection with works of art dedicated to Joseph Stalin. Various portraits of Stalin posing in his familiar overcoat are displayed in the exhibition rooms. Other paintings depict Stalin during his revolutionary activities or at work in the Kremlin. There are two paintings of Stalin with his mother that seem to be painted at the same moment.
Stalin sculptures and statue’s
Gori is famous for the Stalin Museum and the Stalin statue that was removed from the main square in 2012. The statue should be placed in front of the museum but this has not happened yet. A hole with steel reinforcement has been dug a while ago, but the replacement of the statue probably proved to be too controversial. There are two smaller Stalin statues, one in front of the museum, another on the stairway to the main exhibition. There are also a statue of Stalin as a boy and busts depicting Stalin at different ages. Thanks Bas for the photo of the Stalin Statue before it was removed!
Stalin’s birth house
The house where Stalin was born in 1878 and lived for four years is located in front of the museum covered by a pavilion. Stalin’s father Vissarion Jughashvili, a local shoemaker, rented the one room on the left hand side of the building and maintained a workshop in the basement. A model of the house with the workshop in the basement is on show in the museum.
Stalin’s Railway carriage
The railway carriage that Stalin used to travel to the Yalta Conference and the Tehran Conference at the end of World War II is located on one side of the museum. The carriage that is armour plated and weighs 83 tons was donated to the museum in 1985, recovered from a railway yard at Rostov on Don. It contains sleeping rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom with shower, toilets and a meeting room in the back of the carriage.
Other things to do in Gori, Stalin Square, Stalin Avenue and Uplistsikhe Cave Town
a visit longer than a day trip. Stalin Square close to the Stalin Museum is the place where the famous Stalin statue used to stand until it was removed in June 2010. It is also the place where Dutch cameraman Stan Storimans died during the South Ossetia War in 2008. The Russians fired a cluster bomb propelled by a SS-26 tactical missile from a nearby hill killing 12 civilians including Storimans, injuring many more. The damage caused by the cluster bomb can still be clearly seen on the square. Thanks to Bas for the photo of the Stalin statue on Stalin Square before it was removed.
There is a World War II monument with great Red Army sculptures on Stalin Avenue between the Museum and the Square. The caves at Uplistsikhe cave town are located 10 kilometres east of Gori and date back from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages. Gori Fortes looks out over the town from a hill close to the city.