The Dispatch

The Dispatch – May 5/6: Brave New World

Peculiar Easter Lawbreaker Stories – Amnesty Bill Booby-Trapped – Cartographer, Journalists Attacked – Church Fears Robots – Saakashvili in Ego-measuring Contest with Navalny – Georgia in DIA’s World Threat Assessment – Controversy ahead of Tbilisi Fashion Week

Greetings from Tbilisi, the Georgian capital that slowly wakes up from its Easter hibernation as thousands of its residents return from the countryside, having spent holidays with their families. The Dispatch and Nini, your operator, are here to update you about all the relevant and bizarre developments that unfolded in this period. 


  • What happened over the past few days looked like a reversed zombie apocalypse: it was the ones still alive who were trying to break into graveyards, while police stopped or scared them away with solid fines. Due to the peaking pandemic, the authorities prohibited – like last year – visiting the loved ones’ graves on Easter, as Georgian tradition has it.
  • Not everyone received the restrictions well. The media headlines were full of peculiar stories of some people fined only for posting pictures from graveyards, while others – including activists – were detained over attempts to enter the area. The fines were set at GEL 2,000 [USD 580], in a country with an average monthly salary of GEL 1,227.3, which is considered too optimistic by many critics.


  • The amnesty bill freshly drafted by the ruling Georgian Dream party is supposed to extend to all violations by law enforcers on the night of June 20-21, 2019, except for those amounting to torture, intentional injury, or inhuman treatment, but will also cover potential future charges. Critics say both the way such crimes are investigated, as well as immunity from future probes carries a significant risk that pardoned crimes will include those in breach of the Constitution and international conventions.
  • Jailed UNM Chair Nika Melia, the intended original beneficiary of the bill now faces yet another dilemma: the bill allows him the right to refuse the amnesty (something that is unprecedented, commenters say) and, pragmatically speaking, no matter what he decides, the officials, perpetrators of the violent dispersal of the rally will still be freed. The amnesty would end the prosecution against the opposition leader for good, while the bail does not free him from the trial. However, the moral burden of “refusing to refuse” still rests on his shoulders, particularly in the face of those injured during the dispersal who still want to seek the remedy. More details here.


  • Iveri Melashvili, one of the state experts prosecuted for alleged ceding lands to Azerbaijan, and the crew of Mtavari Arkhi TV were reportedly assaulted by local clerics while shooting an interview on the territory of the David Gareji monastery complex. The police are investigating.
  • Melashvili himself believes “disinformation campaign” over the Cartographer’s Case to be the main trigger of the crime, which, by the way, did not occur for the first time: the expert was assailed earlier in the shopping center, preceded by an intense social media smear campaign back then. Giorgi Mshvenieradze, Head of Georgian Democracy Initiative who represents Melashvili, now suggests the newly joined opposition form a parliamentary investigative committee to bring more clarity into the controversial case. Read more here.


  • Those who prefer Sci-Fi dystopias over zombie apocalypses, the Georgian Orthodox Church got them covered: in his Easter epistle, Patriarch Ilia II denounced the ideology of “post-humanism” – citing philosophers who point at a “deliberate breach of generally existing norms, decay of state institutions and structures, fall of education level, the disintegration of foundations for deep thought.” Besides general fears that robots are about to take over, the Patriarch also warned that there is a support for a consciousness where “traditional identities defining the human being – ‘man’ and ‘woman’, ‘family values’ have been erased.”
  • Philosophers themselves are long at odds over how to engage with the ethics of the scary future. Russian “political analyst” and the father of the Russian delirious ultra-right, Aleksandr Dugin, for example, has been actively preaching for years now that the policy of post-humanism – “the abolition of humanity” – was the final objective of the global liberal agenda. “Liberation from collective identity requires the abolition of genes and species,” he said in one of his latest pieces for Ria Novosti agency.

HEROES WORK ALONE In his May 3 interview with Deutsche Welle’s Russian language edition, Ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili threw his own “we’re more popular than Jesus” quote. Saakashvili predicted inevitable regime change in Georgia as soon as this year. As for the journalist’s question on whether he risks being treated by Georgian authorities the same way as government critics are treated in Russia, he claimed he enjoyed “crazy support” in his homeland, unlike Navalny, who is a “hero” but… apparently not quite matching the stature of Misha.

AVENGERS The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency published a Worldwide Threat Assessment report on April 29, outlining, among others, regional issues. “Georgian, Ukrainian, and Azerbaijani security cooperation with NATO partners and other external backers reflect an increasingly challenging environment for Russia to exert security dominance” despite Kremlin’s attempt to “remain the preponderant security provider in what it calls the “near abroad” the document reads.

Also in the news: 


  • Georgian fashion business, which has been attracting much international attention lately, appears to be experiencing its own old-fashioned problems: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tbilisi (MBFW), the most significant annual event in the field known for popularizing works of local designers, faced this year complaints from several prominent Georgian models about miserable working conditions during shootings ahead of the major event, including poor shooting environment, low and delayed payments, and snobbish attitudes.
  • Soon, MBFW issued a statement, pointing at “numerous defamatory statements” in social media and claiming it is the business of designers in charge and respective model agencies to tackle the issue. “As an organization with high social responsibility, we are ready to promote the implementation of modern standards in our business, including for ensuring labor rights and better working environment,” the statement adds.

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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