One is an odd number


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. 



In 1989, after Nazi Shamanauri’s death, Georgian newspaper Georgia republished her letters. In one, Nazi Shamanauri asks for help from Georgian poets Irakli Abashidze and Jansug Charkviani. She describes the story of her family and their persecution. In the letter, even though she believed in the ideology of the communist party, she publicly criticizes the local government as well. The second letter was published in the same time period and describes her experiences at the mental hospital.


Nazi Shamanauri was a tragic women locked away in psychiatric clynic; Klara Shukvani was arrested as a dissident against Eduard Shevardnadze during his presidency. She was detained over her anti-Shevardnadze poster, where she insulted the president: “Down with  Shevardnadze screwed by Ardzinba ''. She was sentenced to a year in a women’s labor colony in 1998 over her use of the word “screwed” to refer to the Georgian president and resisting police. But the court took into consideration “neighbors’ positive assessment of her character and the decent past of the accused as well as the fact that she was a woman and refugee from Abkhazia and did not have any additional legal charges against her''. She also received support from the public defender. As a result, her sentence was reduced to probation instead of imprisonment. Klara was mocked by the press, which wrote “Shukvani is praying for the souls of the policemen,” “Shukvani invites Shevardnadze to her cellar” and so on. 

It seems to me that today not much has changed in how society explains the protest of women. Even now, women are perceived as either “paranoid” or “naughty” when they protest.  

It is almost impossible not to mention Gia Abesadze, the doctor who set himself on fire in the 1991s, at the beginning of Georgia’s civil war.  His story is also a symbol of the spinning cycle. This country is permanently in need of victims; we have an illusion that a “hero-victim” can support  our development, help us “destroy the system.” 


In Georgia, this citizen was detained over her anti-Shevardnadze poster. However, Georgians are still dreaming of becoming a member of the Council of Europe.

Klara Shukvani believes that God will save her. Georgian society was waiting with a great interest for the court hearing for Klara Shukvani, who was in prison due to an anti-Shevardnadze poster. “Down with Shevardnadze screwed by Ardzinba” was written on the poster. [MP] Elena Tevdoradze thinks that Shukvani is a political prisoner.

Shukvani has invited Shevardnadze to her detention cell. The trial has begun. Klara Shukvani was sentenced to a year in a women’s labor colony in 1998 over her use of the word “screwed” to refer to the Georgian president and resisting police.


We often call victims heroes, so we are not protecting them, nor protecting ourselves and our future. To be honest, we all are victims of the system and regimes as well as simple misunderstandings of history. That is why we are permanently in need of heroes, to support us-and why we do not reflect on history from a new perspective, do not dig into the archives and do not have a real sense of the past.  

The lack of interest in reflecting upon the past and the tendency to create new legends remain; the research platforms online and offline prove this difficulty. The line between real history and myth is so thin, especially today, in the post-truth era.

Other than some inconsequential connections, the examples of individual protest in my film are very different. Some of them are not even connected. Most of them resemble fiction, while others remind us of reports from yesterday's news bulletins, and there is so little information about them in archives and libraries. My collage video is an example of this misunderstanding, of the non-existent line between fiction and reality. On one hand, the lack of reflection about the past and, on the other, the feeling of non-stop spinning. It is not based on any firm conclusions or on searches for the truth or heroes. It simply describes my feelings and thoughts about history and desperate voices from the past. 

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