During 21 - 30 November 1986 I went on a charter tour to Georgia with Finnsov Tours, a Finnish budget travel agency. The tour started from Finland and I lived in Sweden, so first I had to pick the boat to Helsinki.
There I meet the group and we go by bus to Leningrad. At the Soviet side of the border we enter the forbidden zone. We must all climb out of our bus while passengers and luggage are checked by soldiers and drug sniffing dogs.
After that we drive through the grey and dull old city Viborg. This was once a Swedish city, but the last ethnic Swedes probably disappeared from Viborg in 1944.
Finally we arrive at the Leningrad airport for the last leg of the journey. We have to sit and
wait for a couple of hours in a boring terminal building with no shops, no cafes, just one large
After a few hours we land at the tiny Tbilisi airport, and I get a room in the old Tbilisi hotel in Rustavieli street. During the following days I visit the Revolution Museum and the old royal city Mtscheta.
It is said that many Georgians still are proud of Stalin, despite that he terrorized Georgians as badly as other peoples. "He may have been terrible, but he was ours." In Tbilisi I can see traces of Stalin in various places. One Univermag department store has his portrait on the wall. The city's park is still named "Park Kulturi Imena I. V. Stalina" i.e. the Stalin park. However there were no statues, almost all Stalin statues were removed during 1956-61. In the evenings I try the sweet red wine Kindzmarauli, which is said to have been Stalin's favourite brand.
Finally, it's time for a day trip to Gori, Stalin's native city. There the Stalin statue is still standing! They say it's the only Stalin statue remaining in the Soviet Union.
After that, we go the Stalin museum. As part of the museum, Stalin's birth house, is inside. The whole museum has been built around this old shed (photo). The rest of the museum consists of exhibit rooms. The first room displays the typical propagandistic retouched photos from all stages of his glorious life. The second room contains lots of presents given to Stalin at various birthdays from sympathizers in various countries. All these presents are wonderfully disgustingly ugly!
The third room is the most sacred room, the sanctuary of the cult. The lights are dimmed, and in the centre is a plaster copy of the great dictator's death mask. By this time, we have had enough, and return to the warm daylight.
Bonus 1: Play the Soviet national anthem.
Bonus 2: Change this page's background colour to fit the
Per Åkesson, July 1998
Help! Let me out of here!