Dozens of residents of Josef Stalin's hometown celebrated the 125th anniversary of his birth yesterday, singing, dancing and drinking champagne toasts to the late Soviet dictator...

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TBILISI, Georgia — Dozens of residents of Josef Stalin’s hometown celebrated the 125th anniversary of his birth yesterday, singing, dancing and drinking champagne toasts to the late Soviet dictator.

People cried and kissed a 6-foot-tall cardboard cutout of Stalin and laid wreaths at the base of a monument in the small town of Gori, 50 miles west of the capital, Tbilisi, paying honor to the man who oversaw years of brutal purges and remarkable industrialization of an agricultural society.

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“Not a few difficulties we lived through. We stood up to the Germans in the war. We built a great state,” said Kote Kavtaradze, a 78-year-old World War II veteran, as others waved Soviet hammer-and-sickle flags nearby. “And what do we have now? I can’t even feed myself on my pension.”

He said it was about $6 a month.

Yevgeny Dzhugashvili came to the Gori celebration to mark the birthday of his grandfather — whose real name was Josef Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili.

Considered a brutal tyrant for political purges in which more than 10 million are believed to have died and for forced collectivization that wiped out the peasantry, Stalin continues to be admired in the former Soviet Union — even by many non-Communists — for leading the country to victory in World War II and pulling it into the industrial age. He died in 1953.

In Russia, hundreds of people laid flowers and a wreath at a granite bust of Stalin just off Red Square, along the Kremlin’s walls.

“In the years after the war, Stalin managed to mobilize the economy and resurrected 1,700 towns, to rid the country of rationing and turn the country into nuclear power that for 50 years was a reliable shield,” Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said.

Russia NTV television said a poll of 1,600 Russians taken by the respected Levada Center showed that only 31 percent consider Stalin to be a cruel tyrant, while 21 percent think he was a wise leader.