Stalin icon damaged in Georgia, woman detained

A court in Georgia has ordered five days’ detention for a woman who defaced a religious icon depicting Soviet leader Josef Stalin, an act which ignited large protests last month in the capital Tbilisi, her lawyers said.

The Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association confirmed in an email to Reuters that Natalia Peradze, also known as Nata, was convicted on Friday of petty hooliganism.

A thousands-strong protest erupted in mid-January to demand harsh punishment for Peradze, who was accused of splashing blue paint onto an icon on display in Tbilisi’s Holy Trinity Cathedral in an act of protest.

A side panel of the icon includes a depiction of the Georgian-born Stalin – an avowed atheist who violently repressed religion across the Soviet Union – being blessed by St Matrona of Moscow, a Russian Orthodox saint, during World War Two.

The icon was subsequently removed from the church following the controversy, Georgian media reported.

A view shows an icon, an element of which depicts Soviet leader Joseph Stalin being blessed by Russian Orthodox saint Matrona of Moscow, and that was recently defaced with paint in an act of protest amid controversy over the icon’s apparent honouring of Stalin in Tbilisi, Georgia, January 10, 2024. (credit: REUTERS/IRAKLI GEDENIDZE)

Lawyer requests protective measures

Peradze’s lawyers added that they had requested a temporary measure of protection last week due to numerous death threats against her.

Orthodox Church activists and believers as well as far-right groups have agitated for Peradze to be subject to further criminal investigation for what they say was an act that insulted the icon and their beliefs.

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