This research project, “Passing or Failing the Stalin Test? Analyzing Contemporary Perceptions of Stalin in Georgia” (PI Dr. Ana Kirvalidze), is a 2 year research project (2014-2016) based at Ilia State University (Tbilisi, Georgia), funded by the Academic Swiss Caucasus Net (ASCN). A recent study, The Stalin Puzzle, edited by Thomas de Waal (2013), has drawn attention to, and spurred considerable debate about, people’s attitudes towards Joseph Stalin throughout contemporary post-Soviet space. The findings surprised many observers both inside and outside the four countries polled – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia. The survey results revealed high levels of admiration for a person considered to be one of the most notorious dictators in history. For some commentators, such as Mendelson and Gerber (2006), this became proof that the people surveyed had failed the “Stalin Test.” Questions undoubtedly arise: How should one approach Stalin’s continued persistent presence into the 21st century, over 60 years after his death? How shall we digest this information? How do we contend with this phenomenon? In this project we will attempt to identify, document, and explain perceptions, opinions, and attitudes towards Stalin in his birthplace, Georgia, where the abovementioned survey respondents demonstrated by far the highest support towards him.
This project focuses on contemporary Georgian understandings of Stalin and the Soviet era. Some of the central themes we explore include how Stalin is remembered in Georgia, how people negotiate representations of Stalin as encountered in daily life, and what role the Soviet past plays in contemporary Georgia. We not only want to highlight the role of Soviet history and memory in contemporary Georgia but also illustrate the contested and multiple meanings and symbolisms of representations of Stalin in public space.
This project employs a mixed-methods approach, generating both quantitative and qualitative data. The three main methods are: survey questions; in-depth qualitative interviews; and focus groups. Blending quantitative and qualitative methods produces a richer data set than if we relied upon a single approach. The data from all three methods will be used in concert with each other, further strengthening our analysis by allowing for other methods to overcome the limitations of any one method.
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