The Dispatch

The Dispatch – March 31/April 1: National & Other Prides

Ex-PM’s Old-fashioned Self-Marketing amid Failed Mediation – Activists See Homophobia in Minister’s Remarks – Big Breakthrough for Trans Rights in Georgia – Teen’s Bold Move Sparks… Questions – Outrage as Controversial Journalist Spotted Feasting in Tbilisi – Georgian Author Lands on Int’l Booker Prize Longlist

Greeting from gloomy Tbilisi, where Europe’s efforts to end the crisis have hit the wall – again. In the meantime, other unfolding developments may either engender new intractable conflicts or, alternatively, lay the groundwork for debates vital for social and political growth. The Dispatch and Nini, your operator, are here to update you about developments on the ground. Subscribe and find us on Twitter: @DispatchCivil 

Back to Abnormal

COMPROMISE THAT WASN’T Good news for those who are not really into leaving the comfort zones: EU Envoy Christian Danielsson was sent packing – once again – by the ruling party and the opposition failing to see eye-to-eye on resolving the crisis. The Georgians are left examining with some curiosity what Mr. Danielsson left on the table – a document with some creative touches, some vital, and other vague points, and without anything implying snap elections – opposition’s key demand. Some frantic finger-pointing followed with the rest of the citizens feeling angry and disappointed, but not surprised.

AM I THE ONE? The failure to agree creates an opening? Perhaps, but it is the newly-departed Ex-PM Giorgi Gakharia who is angling for the spot. He picked March 31, marking both 30 years anniversary of the referendum on restoring the country’s independence and the 82nd birthday of the late First President of Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia. Gakharia, who hails from Georgia’s Samegrelo region, just like Gamsakhurdia, laid a wreath on the first president’s grave. „We need to put an end to political polarization and commit to building a successful state,” he wrote on social media. So far, however, it seems he is mostly committed to building an image of an archetypical Georgian politician. Seems too old-fashioned for a guy who promises something new.

DEBATE ALERT: Measles of Mankind

ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL Speaking of old-fashioned political populism: Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani continued regularly appearing government rhetoric, saying the state needs to fund movies that, among others, fill young people with patriotic love, yearning for freedom, and educate them about human rights or what is necessary for “de-occupation.” Right move: she is likely to get ridiculed slightly less if the word “occupation” is placed somewhere near the cliche-patriotic outpouring.

QUEER REVOLT What did upset some was that the remarks followed her comments that she would not like state to pay for “propaganda” of something she dislikes – referring to stigma-breaking movies, such as the famous And Then We Danced” – the award-winning film that features queer themes. The LGBTQ groups responded, saying it is wrong and homophobic to portray the depiction of queer life – full of hurdles, pressure, and discrimination – as propaganda.  The notions of “a country under occupation” versus fundamental human rights are likely to show up again and again – perhaps maybe it is time for civil society to address that question head-on.

…AND WIN Speaking of LGBTQ struggle, March 31 marks International Transgender Day of Visibility – and a day when Georgian feminist CSO Women’s Initiatives Supporting Group (WISG) got some rare good news: Service Development Agency of the Justice Ministry allowed on March 25 for the first-ever recorded case of recognizing the gender of a trans woman, as it replaced “male” with “female” in the gender field of the civil registry. The applicant had to submit a document confirming sex reassignment surgery first. However, the remaining absence of legal and administrative mechanisms for gender acknowledgment in the country adds to struggles and risks faced by trans people, WISG warns.

REBELL YELL Reports that an Abkhaz teenager was forced into a public apology by Sokhumi police for “Abkhazia is Georgia” video remarks did spark some outrage in Georgia. The humiliation was palpable in video-footage, but beyond indignation, it leaves much to think for the rest of Georgians. What if – just what if – rather than worrying where the true borders are, her action just smells like a teen spirit, of a teen tired of everything around her being determined and overtaken by the shadow of conflict? And if so, what if someone from this side of Enguri bridge did just the same – but with the message being an exact opposite, to spite everyone?! How would the police react? How would we?

…UNFOLDING NOW… A spontaneous rally has spawned in Tbilisi after the word spread that Vladimir Pozner – a Soviet and then Russian newscaster and spin-journalist with US citizenship – came to Tbilisi to celebrate his birthday with a possie of 50, reportedly mostly Russian, guests. The activist and youth groups, as well as some politicians, notably Helen Khoshtaria, led the charge, offended by Pozner’s arrival on the day of Georgia’s independence referendum. Some of Mr. Pozner’s statements were less than friendly towards Georgia and its territorial integrity in the past, even though he always eschewed the flamethrower cynicism of the Kremlin’s uber-propagandists. What’s worse, his birthday party – accompanied by a police escort – has clearly breached rather stringent quarantine and curfew rules. This is an outrage: Tbilisites have been juggling their daily private and professional lives going through multiple restrictions – and fines – due to lockdown regulations. The protest continues as we write this report, and it has a clear propensity of getting ugly. We cross our fingers, while you may read more here.

And Some Culture…

CONQUERING NEW (PEAR) FIELDS There is some good news in the cultural field too: “The Pear Field,” a fiction story by Georgian author Nana Ekvtimishvili made it on the longlist of the 2021 International Booker Prize, a prestigious UK-hosted literary award, along with 12 other contestants. Ekvtimishvili was known to a wider public for co-directing acclaimed Georgian movies “In Bloom” and “My Happy Family”. Here is more info about the book, and it does sound thrilling. We keep our fingers crossed!

That’s the full lid for today. Celebrate the bizarre and the curious in Georgia’s politics with us every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday!


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