A Vanishing Oligarch – MP Kobakhidze Gets a Leg Up – Call Me by My Name: Sakartvelas – Prima Ballerina Slips in Siberia – Virus Invades Patriarchate
GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD Georgian politics have been all about endings recently. This time, fresh from the Christmas break, the nation has woken up to a 17-page “Dear John” letter from Bidzina Ivanishvili. Believe it or not, he is leaving (again) and this time – “for good”. Where to, you might ask? Minding his own business(es?) from now on, it seems. Ivanishvili has long been torn between his desire to enjoy his wealth in privacy, and his urge to cast himself as Georgia’s savior. We feel his pain. More factual info is here: Ivanishvili Quits Politics ‘for Good’
A STAR IS BORN Ivanishvili’s decision was anticipated by media reports from mid-December. The rumors about him leaving former Speaker Irakli Kobakhidze as his true heir also appear to have hit the mark. If all goes to script, we may be seeing him in the Prime Minister’s seat soon. Well-deserved for his tireless fight against the “radical” (as he loves to call them) opposition. Truly: curls, sass, and rancor will get you anywhere in Georgian politics these days.
NOW IT’S OFFICIAL Lithuanians are – for some reason – Georgians’ soul brother when it comes to politics. And as true mates do, they never tire of showing love and affection – albeit in an appropriately restrained fashion. This time, our Baltic besties decided to up the ante on their 2018 commitment of using Sakartvelas – Georgia’s endonym. No longer Instead of using this term alongside the historically used Gruzija to denote our country – one step further. Ditching earlier fears that the new name – used alongside more common Gruzija – won’t catch on, the relevant authorities in Lithuania decided that Sakartvelas will be the only official country name. Begone all Russian-influenced Gruzija-s from the official documents issued in the Lithuanian language. The older version can still be used in the public domain, however. Reciprocating for the friendly move in 2018, Georgian official sources have also been using Lietuva (Lithuania’s endonym) in all their references, slowly pushing away the traditional (and – again – Russian-influenced) Litva from the public usage as well.
THE NORTH DISAPPROVES We reported in our previous Dispatch that Georgian Prima-Ballerina Nino Ananiashvili was catching some flack over her decision to take up the role of artistic director at the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theatre (NOVAT), in Russia. Turns out, Siberian ballet-lovers were no less miffed than the patriotic Georgians were. On January 9, NOVAT management issued a statement, saying the deal was off. They said, the Georgian prima disclosing her appointment before being officially presented to the troupe showed “extreme disrespect for the artists”. Damn.
FAITH NO MORE? Georgian public has been watching with trepidation the drama unfolding at the Patriarchate of the Georgian Orthodox Church, where Shorena Tetruashvili, Patriarch’s secretary and longtime close aide, tested positive for COVID-19. Some eminent leaders of the Church have been skeptical of the virus’ existence or its deadly nature when the first, mild wave of the pandemic hit. The Church has openly flaunted the officially sanitary precautions, attracting much criticism. But as the second, much harder wave landed in Georgia this autumn, many clerics were hospitalized or even succumbed to complications. Now the fear is that the latest case in his intimate circle may put Patriarch Ilia II, 88 and ailing, at risk. According to one version, the negligent behavior of one of the bishops brought the virus into the hallowed halls – one of the bishops, who tested positive two days before, still showed up to pay respects for Patriarch’s birthday, allegedly infecting the aide. Gracefully, Ilia II tested negative, the Patriarchate’s speaker said. At least the existence of COVID-19 is now officially confirmed by the Church and – we only hope – there would be some takers for vaccines, too, (when and if they show up) to complement the prayers.
That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!