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Hitting sovietization with nationalism?27.02.2009 | 10:13
The 88th anniversary of "sovietization" of Georgia by the Red Army that is now annually celebrated on February 25 in memory of the Junkers who died in 1921 has turned into a farce with nationalist rhetoric.
Georgian media declared a day-long boycott of the Russian language announcing that the names of Tbilisian streets that have Russian or Soviet origin would be renamed, politicians and radical NGOs started to compete in protest actions...
GeorgiaTimes observer decided to make sure that Georgia (a muse for Russian poets and artists as well as dissidents for years and centuries) was now refusing to speak Russian? And why is there an equal mark between "Soviet" and "Russian"?
One of my old acquaintances who lives in Tbilisi gave a concise reply: "I don't speak Russian today". There was no chance to continue the conversation in English - my interlocutor got short of vocabulary.
I was a bit shocked and decided to make it clear whether the declared boycott of the Russian language was total. I dialed a dozen telephone numbers of Georgian politicians, experts, singers and just acquaintances. None of them refused to speak Russian. And they were saying things contrary to those printed by Georgian media.
Jondi Bagaturia, a parliamentarian, the leader of "Kartuli Dasi" party: "Georgian and Russian governments have personal dislike of each other. The information war was declared. What can it lead to? There can hardly be anything more absurd than a boycott of the Russian language. We have more in common than difference that can take us apart forever. I would like to take advantage and address Russian readers: in spite of all that has happened, the August events and the information war, Georgians do not hate Russians, former sympathies prevail. We must stick to that. Stupid PR actions poison the interstate relations, make the hurt feelings grow. I am Georgian and I'm simply astonished that there is popularization of russophobia going on in the country".
Paata Zakareshvili, a politologist, a Republican Party member: "The authorities are aggravating the situation deliberately. They speak about a new Russian threat in order to distract people's attention. Today's Anti-Russian campaign is connected with that too. What do the Russian language, Russian songs and films have to do with the "sovietization"? The authorities as well as those who are trying to come to power are playing the nationalist card again. As usual using the Bolshevist methods, i.e. prohibiting to sing, organizing a mass action and those who do not join it become enemies. In this case our authorities have too many enemies - practically the whole Georgian nation. I speak Russian today and I don't feel uneasy about it. Believe me, almost every Georgian will tell you the same".
The conversation with Giga Nasaridze, an activist of "Re-aktsiya" (Re-action) Internet forum initiating the boycott, was quite entertaining.
-We invited radio stations and TV channels to support us and not broadcast Russian films today. We are grateful for their support; - it was a comment in good Russian. -
-You declared the boycott, didn't you? And we are speaking Russian. Looks like violation? - - No, speaking Russian is not prohibited; we are not nationalists after all...
- Only singing is prohibited?
- It's OK if somebody sings at home or in the street, it's prohibited on TV and radio...
- And how are Russian songs and films connected with "sovietization"? Are only revolutionary films broadcast by Georgian channels?
-We have chosen the European way of life and we want to get rid of all Soviet leftovers.
- It's clear, like the names of the streets...Are there still streets bearing Soviet names in Tbilisi? (Like in all post-Soviet space in early 1990s all Soviet streets were renamed and monuments to the leaders of that epoch were pulled down).
- Yes of course. Engels, Kamo and Plekhanov streets were renamed long ago. But there is Alexeevka village near Tbilisi (the interviewee did not recall other Soviet names).
- Was Alexeev a revolutionary or was he associated with the Red Army that entered Tbilisi in 1921?
-Maybe. I don't know who Alexeev was. But our children must know the names of the heroes, and they will give their names to the streets, not like we did.
At the end of the conversation I wished my interlocutor and his children peace and wellbeing. I also wished they could find out about Irakli II who signed the Georgian tractate, as well as commander Bagration, and Griboedov, a Russian writer, loyalty and love for whom Princess Nino Chavchavadze preserved till her last day...
They all are casually mentioned in Georgian history and literature textbooks. My Tbilisian acquaintance complained: "What will become of our children?
Yesterday my daughter came from school saying: we must set up a performance about Russian aggression. The teacher said it was an order from above without any possibility to refuse. And we do not know what to do..."