Is it possible to have a museum dedicated to a Soviet dictator in 2016? In Gori they’d like to think so, as visiting the Stalin museum the number one thing to do when in Stalin’s birthplace. We went to the Stalin museum to see if we could learn anything about the man. And we did!
For one I learned that the Stalin museum is possibly one of the strangest places I’ve been to! Not because the museum is dedicated to a man responsible for millions of deaths during his time of ruling, but because the museum doesn’t speak of that part of his life. At all.
Strange enough the Stalin museum was still one of my top bucket list items. As you know, I love the slightly absurd. This museum is right up my alley.
So, who was Stalin again?
Joey: My agent thinks I should have a name that’s more neutral.
Chandler: Joey… Switzerland?
Chandler: Joe… Joe… Joe… Stalin?
Joey: Stalin. Stalin. Do I know that name? It sounds familiar.
Chandler: Well, it does not ring a bell with me.
Joey: Joe Stalin. You know, that’s pretty good.
Chandler: Might wanna try, “Joseph.”
Joey: Joseph Stalin. I think you’d remember that!
-scene from TV-show Friends
Joseph Stalin (or Iosif Vissarionovitch Stalin) was born in Gori, Georgia, in 1878. In his adult life he was a bank robber (yes, really), writer and leader of the Soviet Union. He created many jobs by industrializing Russia, making it an incredibly prosperous country. Stalin also defeated Hitler in WWII. However, he was so cruel, millions of people died under his ruling. Stalin remained leader of the Soviet Union until he died in 1953.
Fun fact: ‘Stalin’ means man of steel and is not his real name.
Back to the museum…
The Stalin museum looks somewhat like an Italian palazzo from the outside and feel like a church from the inside. From the ground floor two marble stairways – and a statue of the great ruler – lead you to the first floor, where the story of Stalin begins.
Unfortunately one can’t wander off to take in the museum at her own pace. A tour guide – and a terribly grumpy one, too! – accompanies visitors throughout the museum. We got a short, well-collected lady, who I’ve seen smile once. Although she rushed her group through the exhibitions with a clearly memorized (and overly repeated) story, I still found the tour to be very informative.
Later on I heard we were lucky to have her as our guide. Yikes…
When you enter the museum you’re taken through Stalin’s life in chronological order. And there’s a lot of stuff to be seen! Hundreds of images and newpapers grace the walls of the bright, spacious rooms, gifts from countries all over the world are proudly displayed. There are photographs of Stalin in public, girls smiling in the crowd make perfect propaganda. Stalin’s mother’s china has its own cabinet, too.
One thing I’m very impressed with is the building itself. The rooms are so incredibly bright and spacious, perfect for a beautiful exhibition!
Isn’t this the perfect Soviet experience?
The room displaying Stalin’s death mask is probably the most impressive. There it is, in the middle of the well-lit, round space.
The only thing the museum is missing is information on how we remember Stalin in the western world. No-one mentions the millions killed and the museum feels like it hasn’t been touched for 50 years. You could call it the perfect Soviet experience.
When rushed through the several rooms dedicated to Stalin’s life, you’ll be taken outside to where his life began. In front of the palazzo stands the house Stalin was once born in. A little further you can visit Stalin’s private train, which he used for travels often.
A quick walk through the train teaches us that all of the windows are bulletproof. We even get a peek at the great leader’s toilet. A slightly bizarre realisation, I can tell you!
This is where two elderly British tourists dared to ask our tour guide the oh-so dreaded question: “Do you like Stalin?” That’s when she smiled and softly said: “I have a photo of him next to my bed and I greet him every day.”
I still don’t know if she was joking or not.
On the ground floor is a museum gift shop that I highly recommend to visit! I loved browsing through Stalin memorabilia, like mugs, clocks and beer openers. It has a very strange sensation to it.
Is it worth visiting the Stalin museum?
Lack of specific information aside, this museum is a must visit for everyone wanting to know more about Stalin and Gori. When you ask yourself how it can be that there are still Stalin supporters left, try looking at the economical situation of the Caucasus region.
From traveling through Georgia and listening to stories from locals, one thing that’s always mentioned is Georgia’s relationship with Russia and how it has changed over the years. Specifically looking at job opportunities, Russia has had a major influence on Georgia. Stalin brought plenty opportunity. You might understand how something like that is important to people.
In a nutshell, when you don’t mind there’s a piece of history missing, by all means GO!
- Working hours: Everyday, 10.00 – 18.00 in summer, 10.00 – 17.00 in winter
- Ticket price: Adults –10 GEL, children – 1 GEL, students – 3 GEL
- Museum address: 32, Stalin Ave. 1400, Gori