In the rolling uplands of the valley of the Kura River, flanked on the northern horizon by the Caucasus Mountains, stands the Soviet Georgian city of Gori and in it a handsome, meticulously maintained marble building in the Moorish style, which contains, among other things, a haunted room. Or so the designers would have the visitor feel. This room, perhaps eight metres square, presents an eerie contrast of darkness and light, sunken in gloom except for its centre where spotlights focus on the golden face of a tranquil, strong man. This pool of brilliance is marked by a circle of white columns, the more suggestive of some kind of otherworldly shrine because they do not reach the ceiling and support nothing. The man whose spirit is thus conjured is Iosif Stalin.1 His death mask was presumably the most striking image available to the contrivers of this necromantic, wordless memorial, and it is not a bad prop with which to convey the idea of apotheosis, more evocative than a corpse. An embalmed body had been tried for this purpose, Stalin in military uniform, lying beside and upstaging the austere remains of Lenin in the mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow. In 1961 Stalin was removed from the mausoleum for political, not aesthetic, reasons, but it may be argued that the embalmed corpse was too material, too mortal an artefact and that the death mask, displayed in ghostly splendour, really was the more impressive image.
KeywordsFactory Worker Marxist Theory Caucasus Mountain Peasant Revolt Military Uniform
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