This is a paragraph from a 2004 letter. The markets no longer have Stalin icons. I have not found Stalin Vodka in recent visits and the Stalin statue in Gori was torn down after the war with Russia, although I am told the authorities had to take the statue down under cover of darkness because he is still the town’s most famous export.
Georgia has a strange relationship with its most famous son, Iosif Jugashvili, Stalin. In T’bilisi markets it’s common to see paintings and photos of him on sale. Some stalls have him next to icons of the Blessed Virgin or pictures of Christ Crucified. I’m not sure if the merchants are hedging their bets, displaying some sort of Georgian irony, or just display what sells. You can also buy “Stalin” brand Vodka. I didn’t. Gori has one of the only remaining statues of Stalin still standing in the former Soviet Union outside a museum. It is in front of City Hall. The small home where he was born used to be in an old town. All the surrounding buildings were torn down and his family home was enclosed in a kind of Greek influenced socialist realism temple. The rail car in which he rode to Potsdam at the end of the Second World War is on display. The Stalin Museum is a strange mix of oriental and, well, Stalinist.