By Molly Corso
Secret prison cells from the Stalin era have been discovered on a Tbilisi construction site for a $90-million luxury hotel for the international Kempinski Hotel chain. The cells, located in the city’s former Institute of Marxism and Leninism, are believed to be the first of their kind to be found in Georgia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Construction workers stumbled upon the cells in September when they were demolishing the Institute’s basement for construction of the Kempinski Hotel on the site, said site security manager Davit Kvikvelidze.
Made up of several cage-like structures inserted into the walls of an underground area located beneath the basement, the cells were not visible on the building’s blueprints and did not come to light during an earlier inspection of the building, said a representative of the hotel developers, the United Arab Emirates-based Abu Dhabi Group. Workers also came upon another unsavory discovery -- cemetery gravestones used to build the Institute’s interior walls and columns. The gravestones are believed to come from three Tbilisi cemeteries destroyed during the 1920s and 1930s.
Giorgi Seturidze, the chief executive officer of the Abu Dhabi Group in Georgia, called the discovery "a shock." The Geneva-based Kempinski Hotel chain, which will manage the 240-room facility when it is completed in 2012, would not comment on the discovery.
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