Stalin's Hometown Celebrates His Birth

Yesterday, about 500 people in Josef Stalin's hometown of Gori in Georgia laid wreaths at his monument and held a rally Thursday to mark the 121st anniversary of the Soviet dictator's birth. Historians say Stalin's secret police killed tens of millions of people and imprisoned millions more during the Soviet period. But he retains a following among die-hard communists. ''It is time to stop defaming Stalin, the greatest leader of the 20th Century,'' said Panteleimon Gongoladze, leader of the Unified Communist Party. ''Nobody in the world did more for the sake of working people.'' Stalin's monuments were taken down after the dictator's death in 1953, but some have gone back up in recent years in Georgia, which became an independent country with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, AP reports.