The Dispatch

The Dispatch – April 2/3: Dead Poet Society

Aftershocks from North & West – Being Casual about European Money – GD Chair Seeks Shelter in Poetry – Outrage as Powerful Man Again Loses It – Zoom Meetings Beat Conflict Prejudices

Greetings from Tbilisi, a locked-down city that goes to bed early for some, and a city that never sleeps for others. Sleep deprivation and spleen go well with poetry, which has been spilling over to politics. The Dispatch and Nini, your operator, are here to update you about developments on the ground. Subscribe and find us on Twitter: @DispatchCivil 

OF NORTH AND WEST Georgians had barely digested yet another mediation failure when the guests from the North again shook the city that was going to bed after many sleepless nights. The curfew-busting visit of veteran Russian TV personality Vladimir Pozner and his high-powered birthday party (apparently including propaganda’s top-brass from TASS and Sputnik) caused some rioting. Pozner&possy retreated rather quickly, leaving some Georgians fuming at who gave the crew that is patently less than respectful of the Georgian sovereignty a clean bill to hit Tbilisi’s [officially closed] restaurants.

TUT-TUT’s INTENSIFY The post-Pozner hangover came with a mighty headache – EU parliamentarians charged with Georgia did not mince words reminding the parties (especially – the ruling one) that their failure to compromise during Mr. Danielsson’s visit will have costs – to the tune of 60 million EUR – which the EU might withhold in assistance. The ruling party tried to wave this off as “private opinion of just seven MPs,” but EU Ambassador Hartzell promptly reminded that these were the magnificent seven that count.

POETRY IN [POLITICAL] MOTION Ruling party chair Irakli Kobakhidze visibly revels in berating the opposition in the most ingenious ways. Unusually, he abandoned his trademark bare-knuckle sarcasm for… poetry. Outraged (at least rhetorically) about the lack of respect for guests (yes, Mr. Pozner again) Kobakhidze recited Vazha-Pshavela – 19-20th century Georgian poet and publicist known for his groundbreaking humanism. The plot of one of his greatest works – “Guest and the Host” – is about the main protagonist putting the sanctity of hospitality above the long-time enmity among peoples. Whence the famous quote: “Today I welcome him as guest, despite the blood he spilled of mine.” Conclusion a la Georga’s politics du jour: the United National Movement is inherent “anti-Vazha,” Kobakhidze said – “just like [anti] anything sacred about our traditions and about dignity.” Since all Georgians read this very poem, they pointed out that the host in question originally ignored his guest’s identity as the enemy. Quite the opposite in Mr. Pozner’s case indeed, but in this modern propaganda world, facts are easily forsaken for the snarky punchline.

STILL, NO APOLOGY On April 2, Georgia marked the 38th birthday of Archil Tatunashvili, ethnic Georgian resident of occupied Akhalgori and participant of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war whose torture and death in Tskhinvali custody shook the country in 2018. While a couple of high-ranking officials went to his grave to pay respects, some activists went to the headquarters of the Georgian Dream to protest the occupation responsible for Tatunashvili’s death. This is when GD MP Gia Volski was spotted giving an obscene hand gesture to the protesters who called him “slave”. He was quoted by the media as saying  “perhaps I should have held back, but I could not help it .” Party spokesman said youngsters should not call “a man of the age of their father” names. It seems GD officials are reading from the same manual when it comes to reacting to personal insults.

ZOOMING THROUGH DIVISIONS Not all hope is lost, as we remain in peace & conflict theme: a new article published by Georgian online media outlet Netgazeti tells a story of Tamta, a 34-year-old woman-IDP with grave and traumatic childhood memories of the 1992-1993 Abkhazia war. Her honest reflections show that past traumas do not necessarily have to grow into rage and spite, but can rather turn into empathy that gives way to peace and understanding: Tamta speaks how regular Zoom talks with ethnic Abkhaz people made her rethink and change her perceptions of the conflict. We guess she did not skip those essential parts in Vazha-Pshavela’s poems. Stories like this spark questions: if so, why is it that we are still going through endless mad circles of hate and anger? Ask those who’d rather yell than listen.

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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