This paper explores competing narratives of the Stalinist and Soviet past in the Republic of Georgia through examination of two public history sites: the Stalin Museum in Gori and the exhibit of the Soviet Occupation at the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi. While the former remains a site of Stalin’s cult of personality, largely unaltered even during the “de-Stalinization” campaigns that unfolded in the decades following the dictator’s death in 1953, the latter fails to interrogate Stalin’s unambiguous role in the Bolsheviks’ 1921 invasion and political terror amidst its strong emphasis on the martyrs to the Soviet regime. Both museum sites, we argue, are invested in larger scale political and ideological contestations of Georgia’s past in relation to present concerns that anchor, on the one hand, on economic instability and, on the other, on political assertions of Georgian “Europeanness.” The sites raise important questions about the role museums play in the preservation of a contested past and in shaping divergent visions of national memory and identity.
“Unfortunately, Some Mistakes Were Made”: Joseph Stalin and Public History in Post-Independence Georgia
Sergey Salushchev is a historian of the Caucasus region. His dissertation investigates the history of slavery, the slave trade, and abolition in the nineteenth century Caucasus under the imperial auspices of the Russian Empire. His scholarship conceptualizes the Caucasus as a permanent borderland, a site of cultural exchanges, commercial networks, and imperial contestations.
Kalina Yamboliev received her PhD in medieval history from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2019. Her research centers on the Mediterranean region, broadly construed, and explores themes of narrative identity, collective memory, and how notions of belonging are transmitted across generations.
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Sergey Salushchev, Kalina Yamboliev; “Unfortunately, Some Mistakes Were Made”: Joseph Stalin and Public History in Post-Independence Georgia. The Public Historian 5 August 2020; 42 (3): 33–60. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2020.42.3.33
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