- The Washington Times - Monday, March 3, 2003

SHANGHAI Comrades around the world may be preparing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Joseph Stalin's death, but in China one of the few remaining communist regimes the former Soviet leader was relegated long ago to the dustbin of history.
"I haven't even heard anyone mention Stalin for years," said Zhang Yongan, a professor at East China University of Science and Technology.
"The main reason is Stalinist theory is currently meaningless and useless to our country."
While Russians may be at odds over honoring a man who symbolized the Soviet Union's power, in China he is a forgotten foreigner.
"I don't know who Stalin is. Neither have I learned his name at school nor have I heard about him from others," said 15-year-old student He Du. Such ignorance was unheard of when the Communist Party of China emerged victorious from a generation-long civil war in 1949.
"I have read Stalin's theory," said Liu Zuxi, a professor at Beijing University. "When I was pursuing my university studies in the 1950s, Stalinist theory was our textbook."
It was then that a technologically backward China pressed its vast northern neighbor for technical expertise, taking the building blocks of the Soviet command economy as its own model.
China relied on Soviet technology and technical assistance, and agreements were signed in 1953 and 1954. It also signed a Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance that remained in force until 1980.
But the Sino-Soviet friendship was short-lived as relations began to sour in the years after Stalin's death in 1953.
In what is commonly referred to as "the Sino-Soviet split," relationships turned acrimonious in 1959 after Soviet Premier Nikitata Khrushchev opened talks with the United States in pursuit of "peaceful coexistence."
Diplomatic relations crumbled in 1960 when Khrushchev withdrew Soviet advisers, and by 1962 both sides had engaged in border skirmishes.
But Stalin had considerable influence on China, and streets were named after him in several of China's northern cities.
This was partly because of the Soviet occupation that followed Japan's defeat in 1945. But paramount Chinese leader Mao Zedong, who was never close to the Soviet strongman, cheerfully followed Stalin's lead.
Mao orchestrated his own reign of terror and, like Stalin, created a bureaucracy of politics that controlled every aspect of life of the "workers' state."
"Using Stalin's doctrine in China's socialist construction was really a catastrophic error for us. We followed his zigzag path, copying his experience until finally we found ourselves driven into a wall," said Mr. Liu.
"Now that we are building a socialist market economy under the banner of Deng Xiaoping's theory, China's economy has recovered its energy," Mr. Liu said. "Our quality of life has improved in the past 10 years, which is the best proof of all.
"Of course, we still have infinite faith in Marxism-Leninism," he added.
In former Soviet Georgia, a Caucasus republic that became independent when the Soviet Union was abolished Dec. 26. 1991, people are still proud of Stalin a native son born in Gori, 45 miles west of the capital Tbilisi, on Dec. 21, 1879.
A statue of Stalin 56 feet tall adorns the town's central square the only public statue of the dictator in all of Georgia.
"How many people in the world know where Churchill or Roosevelt were born?" asked Mikho, a 72-year-old resident who gave only his first name. "Everyone knows that Joseph Stalin came from Gori."
Townspeople say it is less about glorifying a dictator responsible for the deaths of millions during nearly three decades of rule, and more about celebrating the rise to worldwide fame of a humble child of Gori born to a Georgian shoemaker.
Yevgenya, a pensioner walking through Gori's market, said she misses the Stalin era, when "prices went down instead of up, like they do now."
"I taught my children to respect the great leader's memory," said Dato Khubulashvili, 83, who has a portrait of Stalin on his living room wall.
Manana, 40, remembers how her grandmother taught her about Stalin: "Stalin was a poet, a politician, a soldier and a great leader all at once," the elder woman used to say.
The town meticulously cares for the small brick house where Stalin was born, exhibiting photos, grade-school reports and the death mask of the Soviet leader.
Yet they prefer to pass over the repressions and terror that marked Stalin's ruthless rule.
"We're simple people," said Akaki Lejava. "We didn't get involved in politics, we didn't read smart books. We grew apples and peaches."
AFP correspondent Nikolai Topuria contributed to this report from Gori, Georgia.

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