Investigating the Vandalism of Stalin’s Icon in Georgia: A Tale of Political Tensions and Cultural Divide

Georgian officials are currently probing the vandalism of an icon featuring Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, which was recently placed in Tbilisi’s prominent Holy Trinity Cathedral. This incident, reported by Reuters and covered by European Pravda, has sparked protests from the pro-Russian group Alt-Info.

On January 9th, an individual defaced the Stalin icon in the cathedral, where it had been for several months, by splashing it with blue paint. This act of vandalism was captured in videos circulated on social media.

Interestingly, the icon portrays Stalin, born in Georgia and known for his atheist beliefs and harsh suppression of religion in the Soviet era, receiving blessings from the Russian Orthodox saint Matrona of Moscow during World War II.

The Georgian nationalist party Alt-Info, known for its pro-Russian stance, donated the icon to the cathedral. This action was recently criticized by ex-Georgian Parliament member Georgiy Kandelaki, who labeled it a political effort to rehabilitate Stalin’s image in Georgia.

Following the icon’s defacement, Alt-Info supporters gathered outside the residence of Georgian artist Nata Peradze, who had shared a video of the vandalized icon. Police intervention prevented the group from approaching the house.

In response, Georgia’s ruling party, Georgian Dream, announced plans to toughen penalties for desecrating religious symbols, which currently only incurs a fine.

At a recent rally, Alt-Info members expressed outrage that the person responsible for defacing the Stalin icon might only face a fine, contrasting this with the six-year prison sentence faced by an Alt-Info member for burning the European Union flag.

The perception of Stalin in Georgia is complex. A 2021 survey revealed that while most Georgians view Stalin as a tyrannical figure responsible for countless deaths, they also see him as a strong leader who contributed to the Soviet Union’s prosperity.

In another related incident, in March 2022, an unidentified group beheaded a Stalin statue in the Georgian village of Variani.


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