40 More Dismissed from Museum System, Labor Union Says

The Science, Education and Culture Workers’ Union has said that the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia “unlawfully” sacked 40 “high-level professionals” over the past month amid an ongoing reorganization.

The development comes as the latest in a series of controversies over mass dismissals at Culture Ministry-run bodies, including the National Museum system, following Tea Tsulukiani’s appointment as the Culture Minister in March 2021.

In a statement on May 24, the labor union said that among the sacked employees were people who have in the past participated in projects that led to Georgia “becoming globally famous as the homeland of the first Europeans and the ancient civilization of wine.”

The union, established earlier on May 19, added that its chair Nikoloz Tsirakidze, as well as other members, were also among those sacked.

Tsikaridze told today that in the latest order, the Simon Janashia Museum on May 24 sacked 21 employees, whose term will formally end on June 1. The rest of some 40 employees were sacked earlier over the month, he elaborated.

He told online media outlet Publika on May 24 that the dismissals were retribution over the employees “daring” to establish the union and speak out about existing problems in the museum system.

“This is a persecution of differing opinions,” Tsikaridze was cited as saying. “Before Tea Tsulukiani arrived at the Ministry, there was no political pressure on us… there was no conflict in the museum.”

“Whatever a person’s political views may be, you should not terminate their project because they do not agree with you, you should not punish them,” the labor union’s chairperson went on. Otherwise, it means you only need “an obedient majority,” he added.

Among the sacked employees was Iulon Gagoshidze, a historian and archeologist who has worked at the Museum for about 60 years. For a brief stint in 2008-2009, he was also the State Minister for Diaspora Issues (now defunct) during the previous, United National Movement administration.

“What this reorganization means, what they are doing, is shrouded in secrecy,” Gagoshidze told government-critical Formula TV on May 24.

Archeologist and anthropologist Ana Mgeladze was another sacked professional that criticized the way the museum authorities handled the reorganization. Mgeladze said on Facebook that she underwent a “prosecution-style interrogation” at a meeting with the reorganization committee, staffed with “people of an obscure background and/or former director of General Inspection, prosecutor and others.”

The scientist suggested that she was “punished,” for speaking out after the Directorate of Georgia’s National Museum system in February controversially refused to accept thirteen Education Ministry-funded grants, allegedly because the projects included outspoken employees dismissed earlier.

The new wave of dismissals at the museum system was met with a minor demonstration of the sacked employees today in Tbilisi, against the “persecution of professionals.” has reached out to the Culture Ministry for comments, which will be added to the article if provided.

The National Museums system is run by a Directorate set up amid the reforms process kicked off by Minister Tsulukiani after she took office.

The Directorate is headed by David Lordkipanidze, while its other members are all Minister Tsulukiani appointees — Director of Sports Museum Nino Salukvadze, Director of Svaneti Museum Zviad Kvitsiani, Director of Ethnographic Museum Nino Chipashvili, and Nika Akhalbedashvili, Director of Museum of Fine Arts, the National Gallery and Signagi Museum of History and Ethnography.

Chipashvili and Akhalbedashvili previously worked in the Justice Ministry, led by Tea Tsulukiani in 2012-2020.

Noteworthy, the Culture Minister appointed Akhalbedashvili as the First Deputy Director of the National Museum system in March, to oversee human resources, as well as financial and organizational affairs.

The appointment came soon after a disagreement between Akhalbedashvili and Lordkipanidze became apparent during the controversy over the museum system’s refusal to accept the research grants in February. Lordkipanidze was the only member of the Directorate to vote against the move.

Earlier Developments:

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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