It was the dead of night. Police cordoned off the area and shooed away curious onlookers. When the townspeople awoke, the city square in Gori, Georgia—the birthplace of Joseph Stalin—was missing its most famous icon.
Last night, Georgian authorities finally removed the 20-ft. bronze statue of the former Soviet dictator to the confines of a local museum. To most, the statue had been a painful daily reminder of darker days when the forces of communism gutted Georgian society and shrouded the region with tyranny.
The statue had proven remarkably resilient until today. The Soviets themselves once tried to purge the memory of Stalin as they attempted to rewrite their own history in the 1960s. In Russia’s 2008 war of aggression against Georgia, bombs fell nearby. But since that most recent conflict, the statue could not withstand the popular outrage against what it still symbolized. As Giorgy Baramidze, Georgia’s minister for European integration, explained the government’s decision, “Our historical ideals should be people who tried to build a normal civilised country rather than bloodthirsty hangmen.”
It is shameful that Georgians understand that symbolism but Americans have apparently already forgotten it. Bedford, VA saw fit to commemorate the recent 66th anniversary of the D-Day invasion by erecting a new statue to Stalin. It is some perverted sense of fairness that opts to celebrate the forces of freedom by remembering the most fearsome communist leader, valuing pluralism ahead of justice. (In the interest of genuine fairness, however, it is only right to point out that fully 94.8 percent of Bedford residents disagreed with the emplacement of the new statue.)
Today happens to be another sobering anniversary. On this day in 1950, communist forces of the Korean People’s Army crossed the 38th Parallel into South Korea. This aggressive act of communist tyranny cost the lives of 33,739 Americans in combat. But on this 60th anniversary, the symbolism was not lost on North Korea, which demanded again yesterday that the United States pay $65 trillion in compensation for American “atrocities.”
Next week, America will observe the 147th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg—the single bloodiest battle in American history, but also the turning point of the Civil War, after which the reunion of America again became possible. This weekend, America will celebrate our day of independence and the forces of liberty. There is no better opportunity to prove that America is still a symbol of something greater than mere pluralism. Coincidentally, a new president, Robin Reed, will assume leadership of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation this week as well—the foundation responsible for the new Stalin bust in Bedford.
Mr. Reed’s first priority should be obvious. Mr. President: tear down this statue!
Nick Krueger is the Jordan Saunders Intern in the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.