After the concert, the singer made a political statement which Abkhaz found offensive
Opera singer Giorgi Todua, a Georgian with Russian citizenship, performed at a concert for the Georgian community of Gal in Abkhazia. The audience was astounded given that such an event is quite rare nowadays, and the young performer being one of the soloists of the academy under the auspices of the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg was also impressive.
But the news focused not on the concert but on the interview which Todua gave afterwards to Georgian news outlet livepress.ge.
Todua said that his entire family is from Gal and that many of his relatives live there now. He spent several of his childhood years in the town and then moved to St Petersburg.
His father remained in Gal where he later died and was buried. Todua told journalists that he had promised his father to come perform a concert for local residents.
He also said:
“Before I came, I had some conditions – this was an arrival to my homeland, a homecoming, and not to the Republic of Abkhazia.”
“I don’t know any of the authorities in Abkhazia, and I had no interest in meeting them… I try not to speak with them.”
“Before the concert, they told me that there was supposed to be a meeting with the authorities, but I refused.”
“During my trip to Gal I was asked to perform in Sukhumi as well, but I refused. Politics isn’t my thing, but I will give a concert in Sukhumi only when I’ll be able to go there with dignity. I want to visit my home the same way as I visit the rest of Georgia.”
The interview gave rise to an enormous scandal in Abkhazia. The head of Gal’s municipal authority administration, Timur Nadaraya, had to answer leading Abkhaz journalists at a news conference organized for the occasion. The opposition again demanded the resignation of the president of Abkhazia.
Answering journalists’ questions at the conference which was organized by the Association of Media Workers (ARSMIRA), Nadaraya called Todua a provocateur and announced that ‘the road to Abkhazia will be forever closed to him’.
“Todua had previously come to Abkhazia on a Russian passport, and we didn’t see anything reprehensible in the fact that an individual from the Mariinsky theatre, which is directed by the great Gergiev, is singing arias in Gal,” Nadaraya said.
The head of the cultural department of the municipal authority Vadim Ekhvaya also had to speak to journalists:
“Todua gave me his repertoire beforehand and his only request was to allow him to sing a song in Megrelian. Megrelian songs aren’t forbidden here of course. Neither during his performance, nor after, did Todua have any political conversations with the audience. He gave an interview to a Gal TV channel where he didn’t say anything in particular. All the organizers of the concert were shocked by what he later said to Georgian journalists,” Ekhvaya said.
Gal authorities emphasized that Georgi Todua came to Abkhazia from Sochi via the Psou checkpoint, and that this was one of the reasons that they had not been ‘vigilant enough’.
“In Georgia there is a law that forbids people from entering Abkhazia from Russia through Psou [which bypasses Georgian territory]”, Nadaraya said.
He promised to write an official letter of protest to the head of the Mariinsky theatre and to the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation. Furthermore, he will appeal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia to send a note of protest to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.
However, the Amtsakhara political party was not satisfied by this. Amtsakhara is the largest opposition organization in Abkhazia which brings together veterans of the Georgian-Abkhaz war of the 1990s.
The party stated that the head of the administration of the Gal region and the Minister of Culture of Abkhazia are guilty of betraying national interests and should be punished.
“We are even more deeply convinced that our demands for President Khajimba to resign are grounded and legal. And we will not take one step back!” said the party’s statement.