The Legacy of Stalin in Georgia: Ideological Consequences of Hometown Effect

Denis Ivanov (Higher School of Econoimics)

Abstract: I study role of sharing region of birth with a prominent political figure on ideological views of local inhabitants (hometown effect). I consider the case of popularity of the late Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin (born Jughashvili) in Georgia and in particular in its Eastern part where Gori, his hometown, is located. Today, the Eastern Georgia retains many elements of Stalin’s personality cult, like museums and statues, although there is no evidence that left-wing views were particularly popular in the Eastern Georgia before Stalin’s reign, or that the region was hit particularly hard by the hardships of the transition to the market. I use the share of surnames with ending shvili across the Georgian municipalities to measure local inhabitants’ affinity to Stalin according to Caucasus Barometer 2012. I show that respondents in high-shvili municipalities are more likely to hold positive view of Stalin and his deeds, controlling for an extensive set of socio-demographic variables. On the second stage, I instrument the Stalinism index with the share of shvili surnames in municipality and show that Stalinism is positively related to approval of government ownership of businesses, opposition to Georgia’s accession to EU and NATO, and dissatisfaction with compensation for a respondent’s work. These results imply that regional affinity even to a late but prominent politician can affect individual ideological positions on a broad range of contemporary issues. Also, the hometown effect is stronger for people socialized after the independence, when centralized ideology broadcasting ceased, and people got more chances to be socialized within the local culture.