GORI, Georgia, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- The nation of Georgia has a complex relationship with its most famous son -- the late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, residents say.
Stalin, whose real surname was Dzhugashvili, enjoys an enduring cult of personality among a large minority of Georgians who tend to overlook the millions who suffered under the darker sides of his rule and concentrate on his accomplishments as an empire builder and defeater of Nazi fascism, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
"All Georgians respect Stalin, because he was a great leader who created a great empire -- and of course, he was the most famous Georgian who ever lived," Jamil Ziyadaliev, who impersonates Stalin for weddings and other functions, told the newspaper.
The Times cited a survey taken by the political Web site Tbilisi Forum that asked whether people were proud that Stalin was Georgian in which a vocal minority of 37 percent of the several hundred respondents said "yes," while 52 percent said "no."
"Every Georgian knows Stalin came from here. He may have given his execution orders in Russian, but he did so with a heavy Georgian accent," Georgian historian Vakhtang Guruli told the newspaper.