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One of the last remaining statues of Josef Stalin has been removed from the central square in the Soviet dictator's hometown of Gori, Georgia, but his likeness continues to stand tall in the northern Tajik village of Asht.

There, in the courtyard of an old nursery school, nearly hidden behind overgrown bushes, stands Stalin in all his former glory.

Stalin isn't particularly popular in Asht, but nobody in the village is particularly eager to get rid of the statue, either.

Some residents, including teachers of a nearby school and those who still consider themselves Soviet-style "intelligentsia," regard the statue as a part of their history and believe it should remain where it is.

Their thinking, I suppose, is that anything that managed to survive the Soviet-era campaign to remove traces of Stalin's personality cult and the dismantling of such symbols following the fall of communism might as well be allowed to live another day.

But there may be a more bona fide reason for the statue's extended existence: Many villagers are simply not aware that it is there, and the majority of those who do know simply don't care. They have more pressing issues than removing some statue in some old, forgotten corner.

Might there be other Stalin statues out there we don't know about?

-- Farangis Najibullah

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