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This article is taken from PN Review 41, Volume 11 Number 3, January - February 1985.

Stalin as Poet Donald Rayfield

It would be hard to find a child of reading age in Georgia who had not learnt the following gem:


The rose's bud had blossomed out,
Reaching out to touch the violet;
The lily was waking up
And bending its head in the breeze.

High in the clouds the lark
Was singing a chirruping hymn
While the joyful nightingale
With a gentle voice was saying:

'Be full of blossom, o lovely land,
Rejoice, Iberians' country,
And you, o Georgian, by studying
Bring joy to your motherland.'

Under Khrushchev, in the 1950s and 1960s, the poem was printed in Georgian school primers without attribution; under Brezhnev it became the title poem of a whole elementary school library (Dila - Morning) and it was given its original signature Soselo (Joey) with a footnote giving us Stalin/Jughashvili's date of birth and telling us that the poem was written and first published when Soselo was fifteen. This note takes up more space than the information that 'he was for the space of three decades at the head of the U.S.S.R.'s communist party and government'.

In 1957, after Khrushchev's 'deStalinization' had begun, but before the statue of Stalin in Tbilisi was toppled, (with riots and many deaths), the same poem could be found in the Soviet version of 'Mother Language' (Deda Ena), a remarkable primer from which almost ...

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