Stalin's hometown tears down his statue

Stalin's postmortem downfall was (quite literally) on display last night in Gori, Georgia, where a statue of the Soviet leader was dismantled from its decades-old perch in the square of Uncle Joe's hometown. The unceremonious removal -- conducted without announcement or fanfare in the dead of night -- sounded strangely reminiscent of a criminal enterprise (albeit one carried out by amateur vandals). Stalin's unexpected departure, however, came at the directive of the city's parliament, which explained its decision as a necessary product of modernization. Even President Mikheil Saakashvili weighed in to express his approval: "A memorial to Stalin," he declared in televised remarks, "has no place in the Georgia of the 21st Century."

Saakashvili's assessment isn't as cantankerous as it may sound -- in fact, Stalin-bashers in Gori are by all measures behind the curve. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, rioters across the crumbling USSR eagerly demolished all signs of the former leader (à la Baghdad in 2003), but Georgians in Gori staunchly resisted the revisionist portrait of their homegrown hero: Hundreds of locals reportedly gathered to protect the statue against its would-be defilers. Stalin's corpse was removed from its original resting place inside Red Square in 1961, just a few years after its entombment; half a century later, what's thought to be the last remaining statue of the leader in its original locale has finally come down.  

Of course, these Georgians aren't merely catching up with a trend; they plan to take their protest one step further. In a not-so-subtle gesture to their neighbors, the now-ousted statue will be replaced by a memorial for Georgian soldiers who died in the country's 2008 war with Russia.

The now-dismantled Gori Stalin made FP's list of the world's ugliest statues in April. 

-/AFP/Getty Images


Great Chicken War of 2010 comes to an end

As has been widely covered elsewhere, President Obama took President Medvedev to Ray's Hellburger in Arlington for lunch today, but given the day's main accomplishment, El Pollo Sabroso in Mount Pleasant might have been a better choice. (Generally speaking, more important diplomatic meetings should happen at El Pollo Sabroso, but that's a subject for another post.)

It appears that the great U.S.-Russa chicken wars have come to an end

"To deepen Russia's integration into the global economy, I reaffirmed our strong commitment to Russia's ascension to the World Trade Organization," Obama said. "Today, we've reached an agreement that will allow the United States to begin exporting our poultry products to Russia once again."

Obama is keen to bolster meager trade and investment with Russia as a way to take its relationship with Moscow to a new level after gaining Kremlin support over Afghanistan, Iran sanctions and a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty.

Chicken became the two leaders' latest area of agreement. Russia had been the largest overseas buyer of U.S. chicken, but banned the meat earlier this year, claiming a chlorine rinse used here violated its food safety rules.

Since I don't believe U.S. chicken producers have made any major changes in their methods, this makes it fairly obvious that the chicken ban was politically motivated to begin with.

The agreement couldn't come a moment too soon for the American poultry industry. The USDA recently announced a plan to buy up $14 million worth of dark meat chicken to to relieve a glut caused in large part by the loss of the Russian export market. 

There's actually an interesting history of chicken-related angst between the two countries:

The United States under the first Bush administration flooded Russia with American chicken as food aid in the early 1990s, products that Russians came to call “Bush legs.” 

Martin H. Simon-Pool/Getty Images