Georgians Shun Stalin in Historical 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 on Wednesday.

Viewers voted Stalin as Georgia's 52nd greatest historical figure in the program "Great Georgians," the show's senior producer, David Grdzelishvili, said by telephone through a translator.

Stalin's failure to make the top 50 eliminated him from the competition 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.

Grdzelishvili denied the accusation.

Oniani could not be reached for comment.

In the Russian version of the contest, 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.

Meanwhile, a web site inspired by the Russian contest, Badnameofrussia.ru, 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.