Georgians Shun Stalin in Great Figures Contest

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's solid third-place finish in a television contest last month aimed at identifying Russia's greatest historical figures sparked much controversy and national soul-searching among the country's chattering classes.

But in the equivalent contest in Stalin's native Georgia, he didn't even make the top 50, the Georgian program's producer told The Moscow Times in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Viewers voted Stalin as Georgia's 52nd greatest historical figure in the program "Great Georgians," which is based on the BBC show "Great Britons," the show's senior producer, David Grdzelishvili, said through a translator.

Stalin's failure to make the top 50 eliminated him from the competition, which is being aired on Georgia's Channel One, Grdzelishvili said.

Grigola Oniani, the leader of a Georgian organization called "Stalin," accused the show's producers of rigging the results to rid the dictator from the preliminary running, saying Stalin had in fact finished 39th, Izvestia reported Wednesday.

Stalin was "mechanically eliminated" from the rating, Oniani told Izvestia.

Grdzelishvili denied the accusation. "It's not our fault," he said. "It's the choice of the Georgian people."
Oniani could not be reached for comment.

In the Russian version of the contest, titled "Name of Russia," Stalin was edged out by runner-up Pyotr Stolypin, the reforming tsarist prime minister, and winner Alexander Nevsky, best-known for stopping the advance of the Swedes and Teutonic Knights into Russia in the 13th century.

The votes in the Russian contest were cast by Internet and telephone. An angry discussion erupted in the Russian blogosphere early in the seven-month competition, with many accusing the organizers of trying to manipulate the vote to prevent a controversial figure like Stalin or Tsar Nicholas II from being named the most significant personality in Russian history.

Meanwhile, a web site inspired by the Russian contest is asking visitors to vote for public figures who are the "disgrace of Russia."

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin topped the list as of Wednesday afternoon with 7,130 votes.

The web site, Badnameofrussia.ru, was launched in November. Putin, the former president, was added to the list in December by a user called Alexei, who described Putin's government as "against the people."

Putin was trailed by his predecessor as president, the late Boris Yeltsin, and 1990s privatization architect Anatoly Chubais. President Dmitry Medvedev was in 14th place with 334 votes.