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Travel Diary

  • AutorenbildSimon Lundh

Wallowing in the footsteps of Stalin

Aktualisiert: 2. Juli 2019

Figuring out the smoking habits of Stalin was easier than I thought. As soon as we stepped into the Stalin museum in his hometown of Gori, in central Georgia, we stumbled upon a display containing pipes, cigarettes, ashtrays and three of his cigars. Foreseeingly politically correct by his own ideological standards, and very unsurprising for this time period, the cigars were Cuban, described as “very old and knackered” by my colleague, Nick Hammond, when I asked his expertise regarding its exact origin.

More than what was visually obvious was harder to find out, so unfortunately I’m none the wiser when it comes to the frequency and preferred location of his cigar smoking habits. But a better start to my following, and later on wallowing, in the footsteps of The Great Leader, I couldn’t have asked for.

As we wander through the museum, trying to interpret insufficient information, sometimes only given in Russian and Georgian, I’m mostly amazed by the amount of carpets made in his honor. I guess they’re just the picture mugs and celebratory tattoos of that time, but I wonder if they’re wall carpets or floor carpets. I’m hoping the latter, because, come on, who wouldn’t want to step on Stalin’s face? It’s like those toilet paper rolls with George W Bush’s or Fidel Castro’s mug on it?

Also there’s a painting of Stalin hugging a child. Not to death. Just hugging. I guess he had a humane side to him as well, because of course he did. Even Hitler liked dogs. My lack of knowledge of the Slavic languages just makes it impossible to tell whether this museum is a neutral report or an actual tribute. One thing is clear, it’s not a critical look on his doings, and considering all the Stalin figurines and refrigerator magnets we’ve seen in flea markets it might actually be a thing of pride, but again, I’m not sure.

We end our personal non-tribute of a tour in Tskaltubo, a former Soviet health resort now host to about 20 abandoned spa hotels, in none of its former glory. Nature, and refugees from the partially recognized republic of Abkhazia, have now claimed these grand remnants of a Communistic past, and it’s a spectacular journey to visit their decaying ball rooms and courtyards. One is still active, and believe it or not, Bathhouse No 6 is where Stalin used to go. He even had his own bathtub, but in the name of Shroedinger I chose not to ask which one, thereby maintaining the possibility that it was the same in which I chose, I mean was assigned, to wallow.

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