The Dispatch

The Dispatch – April 14/15: Everyone Knew

Celebrity Domestic Violence Allegations Spark Outrage – Third Covid Wave Breaks Upon Absurd Traditions – Police Wall Up Rioni Valley – UNM Chair on Prison Diet

Georgians are (or act) shocked as another celebrity heartthrob succumbs to the domestic violence allegations. Question of the day: how is it that current reactions radically differ from those in a similar case only weeks ago? Greetings from Tbilisi, here is Nini, your operator, and the Dispatch that tells stories of malign traditions – and how to break with them. Subscribe and find us on Twitter: @DispatchCivil  

Grave Abuses Vol. 1

  • TIME IS ALWAYS RIGHT It was in “A Hidden Envelope” – a Georgian entertainment show hosted by actress Ia Parulava and a defile of her celebrity guests – that the Georgian audience was treated to the gospel truth that all that is hidden will one day be revealed, preferably, live. Actress Ninutsa Makashvili openly spoke about being abused and beaten over a decade ago by her husband – a known theater actor Beso Zanguri. Her recollections of the toxic relationship included hours-long beatings, even during her pregnancy.
  • IDES OF MARCH Following the revelations, actors, including those in the toupe of the Rustaveli Theatre where Zanguri plays, vocally distanced themselves from the alleged abuser. Despite the public backlash, Zanguri still had the backing of Robert Sturua, the famous creative director of the same theater, who has amassed a throng of controversial statements in his later career. Sturua, whose darling apparently was Zanguri, compared #metoo campaigns to Soviet repressions, sparking a whole new kind of #METOO as actresses and actors raised their voice against him. Later in the day, Rustaveli Theater folded and said would cancel the upcoming play featuring Zanguri – quite ironically – “Julius Caesar.”
  • THE CONTEXT Speaking up definitely took courage from Ninutsa Makashvili. Only a few weeks ago, the ex-wife of the trophy-winning tennis player Nikoloz Basilashvili, became a target of social-media bullying for bringing similar allegations. The skeptics said it was too early to bad-mouth Basilashvili since the case was pending in court. Others went further to accuse the woman of being a gold-digger. What changed? Makashvili’s case clearly never went to court, and police only got involved now – while Basilashvili’s case sparked a debate whether five restraining orders in case files were sufficient for calling the tennis star a wife-beater.
  • EVERYONE KNEW “Everyone knew absolutely everything about this,” said Tamta Inashvili, Rustaveli Theater actress, adding that the matter was often discussed backstage. So here’s one of your answers – Georgians are skeptical of courts but believe the sincerity of the kitchen talk. But there might be more to this: Makashvili is a known and loved actress herself, while Zanguri – while playing the lead roles – has never galvanized the national pride in quite the same way as prize-toting Basilashvili. ATP trophies do tend to overshadow human rights concerns – at least in Georgia. Still, the jury is out, quite literally, and the court will speak. Another matter is whether it will make any difference in public eyes.

Grave Abuses Vol. 2

  • TONIGHT WE DINE IN HELL If one thing has been stable in Georgia these days, that is the daily inflow of 1,000+ COVID-19 infection cases. With the third wave officially breaking, the Orthodox Easter celebrations are fast approaching. And as befits the clerical rite, the feast of resurrection is intrinsically linked to that of Christmas. The only thing is that last Christmas, the Government and the Orthodox Patriarchate have bitterly clashed over upholding lockdown regulations, a battle that the government lost.
  • JOIN ME IN DEATH Paata Imnadze, a key public health official has tried to save lives by shaming feast-loving Georgians out of senseless traditions. He says, under the circumstances, people shall refrain from wining and dining at the graveyards on Easter Monday (as many actually do). But (to quote a viral joke) the “peer pressure from dead people” is immune to Covid-19 – the Georgians seem bent on rather joining their ancestors in death than leaving them to rest in peace on this holy day.
  • SOUP-STANCE ABUSE The court again remanded opposition leader Nika Melia in custody, but for the good cause (?): the UNM Chair looked uncharacteristically skinny during the hearing and had revealed he lost 19 kgs as all he’s been eating lately was soup. It was unclear whether he was not offered anything else, or that was a quirky dieting spree.  We might need to look into the latest Council of Europe report for clues.
  • WALL IN THE WEST Police seems bent on strong-arming the protesters who rally against the controversial Namakhvani-HPP project. Yet another, this time improvised rally was held in the center of Kutaisi today, as the police have erected a metal wall to prevent the protesting citizens to rejoin their preferred venue.  Some arrests were made. The authorities, clearly puzzled by the protest that is feeding itself from the grassroots, borrowed some political legitimacy from the Orthodox Church today. The Patriarchy issued a statement calling both sides for dialogue, framing the language of “deep concern” so uncharacteristically circumspect that it would have made the heart of a Brussels bureaucrat sing with joy. The protesters were not impressed: upset at the government’s arrogance and the police apparently ignoring their right to free assembly, they pledged to make their voices heard in the capital. As for that portable metal wall,  it has become a mocking tradition too – erected once in Tbilisi, outside the Parliament building, only to be broken through by one Tbilisite lady, much like panzer divisions slicing through the Maginot line.

We Recommend:

  • Following a tragic drowning incident days ago, Georgian authorities finally lifted a 5-day quarantine rule for persons crossing from occupied Abkhazia. A little too late, some think, recalling that ethnic Georgian residents of Gali have been neglected by Tbilisi. Here’s our contribution for seeking the ways out: Q&A | How Can Gali Residents be Heard?
  • In other news, ex-PM Gakharia is rallying the troops as Six Georgian Dream MPs Quit to join him. Even though the six promptly took up (empty) opposition seats in the Parliament, their tone about the Georgian Dream has been quite conciliatory.

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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