Levan Vasadze, a businessman well-known in Georgia for his ultra-conservative leanings, announced during a press conference at the Tbilisi Marriott Hotel today about entering into politics and founding a public movement – Unity, Essence, Hope – abbreviated in Georgian as ERI, meaning “nation.”
Vasadze – the self-styled “knight” – cited the country being “in a state of permanent crisis, politically and economically, as well as culturally, socially, ideologically” as the reason behind his decision.
He said “the last straw” for him was the signing of the EU-brokered April 19 deal between Georgian political parties. He claimed that the agreement not only led to the “illegal” release of “criminals,” but more crucially, resulted in “a gross violation and reduction of the country’s sovereignty.”
Should the April 19 agreement be fully implemented, Vasadze argued the Georgian state will no longer be in charge of its election administration, judiciary, and other state institutions “without foreign [EU, U.S.] interference.”
During his speech Vasadze also called for “fundamentally” changing the Georgian political system, citing the switch to a parliamentary system and the diminished powers of the Georgian President as the key reason behind the country’s decline.
He announced that the public movement will hold a rally on May 16 in the capital Tbilisi, a day before the International Day Against Homophobia, which is marked by the Orthodox Church and ultraconservatives as the Family Purity day since 2014.
An influential figure in Georgia’s far-right and ultra-conservative groups, Vasadze for years has been capitalizing on homophobic attitudes prevalent in Georgia’s socially conservative public. He announced the formation of vigilante patrols against “gay propaganda” in June 2019, when he spearheaded an anti-LGBT rally. The statement led to a criminal investigation for forming, leading, participating, or aiding “illegal groupings,“ which yielded no results so far. He was also at the forefront of another anti-LGBT protest in November 2019, when hate groups descended upon a Tbilisi movie theater to disrupt the premiere of a Georgian-Swedish film with gay protagonists.
Levan Vasadze, often referred to as “businessman,” has been an exotic but persistent presence in Georgia’s nativist fringe. Having spent the early 1990s in the United States, where he graduated with MBA at the Emory University in 1995, he seems to have made a radical turn after his graduation, in Moscow, Russia. Here, he is mainly reported to have worked as “a businessman”, but also studied in 2006-2007 at Moscow St. Tikhon Humanitarian University – the life of the apostles and theology.
In Georgia, he ran two companies – “Bagrationi 1882” known for its sparkling wines, and “Samoseli Pirveli” – a clothes brand trying to revive and upgrade Georgia’s traditional clothing.
Back in Georgia since 2009, he has been publishing regularly, mixing nativist, Christian mystical, and messianic messages. He has been called “one of the chief ideologues of Georgian nativism“.
Vasadze is a founder and board member of a conservative school, as well as “Georgia’s Demographic Revival Foundation”, which forms the part of ultra-conservative World Congress of Families (WCF), which was added to the list of organizations designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as anti-LGBT hate groups in February 2014 for its involvement with the 2013 Russian LGBT propaganda law and opposing LGBT rights internationally.
Vasadze is also known to enjoy friendly relations with Alexander Dugin, a Russian Eurasianist ideologue with links to WCF.
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