Author : Anna Dziapshipa
Georgia’s recent history is one of protest, including lone protests by single individuals.
Even when it was nearly impossible to speak out against the government, people criticised the system, the authorities and the regimes--sometimes even standing alone. While preparing material for this edition, I asked friends and colleagues to recall individual protests, examples they remembered from the past and those they had heard about or seen footage of. When I looked at their list, it left me with a sense of permanent spinning, the process of lone individuals fighting against the system before eventually becoming part of the system, again and again, over the course of time. I also thought of our own desperate attempts to protest, which rarely changed anything and remain nothing more than a legend throughout history. We tend to forget that individual protest is the voice of desperate people, who are remembered only as heroes, independently of context and history.
I had never heard of the protest of a monk, Gabriel Urgebadze, so I was intrigued to hear the story of how he burned a 12-meter-long poster of Lenin at a parade on May 1, 1965.
It was difficult to determine what the monk actually did based on what was available on the internet in our post-truth era. Though I believe that the Wikipedia entry about the monk was created by his supporters, when I discovered a recording of the monk telling the story of the parade, I could not resist including it in the film. His words explained much more than a documentary fact could tell. Of course, I knew in advance that there would not be any evidence of the burning poster in the propaganda film of the 1965 May parade that I found, but both the audio and the video became the main source of inspiration for this project. The pursuit of truth does not interest me here, but I believe it exists somewhere in between the recording, the propaganda video and wikipedia page.
Monk Gabriel’s struggle against the communism leadership reminded me of the system he served as as a man of the cloth, while the idea of individual protest against the Church brought to mind the memory of Basil Kobakhidze, a former priest who left the Church in 2009, after he went against the Georgian patriarchy, accusing the synod of making non-Christian decisions. The video of his protest is real and, even a decade after it was filmed, it still serves as an example of the struggle against the system.
While researching individual objectors, two women protesters stood out: Nazi Shamanauri and Klara Shukvani. I had heard about Nazi Shamanauri, a dissident journalist who, as punishment for her anti-communist activites, was committed to a psychiatric clinic where she was tortured and eventually executed in the 1980s. While researching in the archives, I discovered new details about her case, which do not diminish Nazi’s role in history, but underscore how different ideologies use the role of “martyr women” for their own benefit, how the contexts of the women’s stories change depending on the needs of the time. For the communist regime Shamanauri was “paranoid” while the nationalist patriotic discourse describes her as a “dissident” or “hero.” In reality, she already told her real story through her articles, which was published in several newspapers.