Shida, or ‘inner’ Kartli, is Georgia’s heartland in many ways. At the geographic center of the country, the region is also a major agricultural and industrial center, and is filled with hidden valleys and secret cultural treasures. Spreading out both sides of the Mtkvari valley, Shida Kartli takes in the foothills of the Greater Caucasus, covered in fruit orchards, as well as the forested Trialeti Range. The region’s capital is Gori, famous (or should that be infamous?) as the birthplace of soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin, or as he was known here, Soso Jugashvili. The main sights in town are mostly connected with Stalin, and no student of the Soviet Union should miss the time-warp Stalin Museum. The massive structure, built shortly after the generalissimo’s death, contains several halls outlining the (USSR approved) biography of the great man, as well as a selection of bizarre gifts given to him by world leaders and international communist parties. The tone of the exhibition is hagiographic, there is no mention of Trotsky or the purges. The most spooky exhibit is in the final, dimly-lit room: a golden death mask of the man himself. In the boulevard in front of the museum stands, encased in its own mini-temple, is the one-story dwelling in which Stalin was born – testament to his humble, proletarian roots. His armoured railway carriage, in which he travelled to Yalta and Tehran in the closing days of World War II, is also on display – you can even sit on Stalin’s personal toilet. Just up the road, on the town’s main square, used to stand one of the last remaining statues of Stalin anywhere, until it was removed in the dead of night by the loca authorities in 2010. It is now to be re-erected by the museum, which may alos be re-invented as a museum of Soviet oppression, so hurry and see this amazing xample of outdated propaganda before it’s too late.