Annual state-funded literary contest “Litera” was called off on August 2 amid a massive boycott from contesting writers and jury members protesting “attempted censorship” by Tea Tsulukiani, hardline Minister of Culture and Deputy PM.
The Writer’s House, state-run agency which maintains independence from the authorities, said 93 out of 110 book nominations were cancelled by authors and publishers, and four out of five jury members withdrew from the awards after learning about the Minister’s decision to appoint one of the jury members, turning it impossible to conduct the event.
The organization said it tried to communicate with the Culture Ministry to revise the decision, but “there was no response on part of the Ministry.” This led the Writer’s House to make this year’s jury composition public and transparent, eventually resulting in a major boycott against the awards.
Since the inception of the literary prize in 2015, all five jury members had been selected by the Writer’s House and subsequently presented to the Ministry for a final agreement, a tradition that changed this year.
The move came as the the Ministry of Culture on June 3, 2021 ordered to introduce the mandatory appointment of its own representative as one of the jury members in any Ministry-sponsored contests.
PEN Georgia, uniting more than 70 writers, dubbed Minister Tsulukiani’s move “an insulting, brazen interference” and an “attempt at censorship,” and pledged they will not allow “party control over Georgian literature.” The Ministry of Culture denied “any interference” in the contest, stressing it only named its representative to the jury and provided GEL 50,000 (USD 16,000) in funding for the awards.