Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another reason I love Tbilisi

TBILISI, Georgia -- I forgot to mention that I wrote my post from a week ago sitting in a friend's office that also happens to be Lavrenty Beria's old apartment. Pudgy and with a dim-looking face, Beria helped Stalin orchestrate the Great Terror in the 1930s. As head of the NKVD -- the KGB's predecessor -- Beria was one of the most feared and powerful men in the Soviet Union; of course everyone lagged far behind Uncle Joe in those two areas.

Both Beria and Stalin were Georgian, but while Stalin is still widely revered in his hometown, Gori, Beria has been disowned by the entire nation.

Beria's former home in Tbilisi.

A brief biographical note on Beria: He didn't join the Bolsheviks until 1917, but quickly rose to prominence by showing his skill at running the original secret police -- the CHECKA. During his early years as a revolutionary in Tbilisi, Beria might have also been working for the British. This claim has never been proven, but it's more than just idle rumor. In the 1930s, he helped Stalin kill millions of peole, and people like Steinbeck showed up and declared it the 'Workers' Paradise.' (Hey, I love the man's writing too, but wow! Talk about being way off.) Beria outlasted Stalin, and was a part of the triumvirate that took over after Stalin died. Within a few years, though, one of the three leaders, Nikita Khrushchev, had pushed aside the other two.

But how many cities are there where you can update your blog from the old apartment of a mastermind of state terror?

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