Georgian nationalists step out of the shade
“Glory to the nation, death to the enemies!shouted a group of men marching down the Agmashenebeli Avenue on September 27 in broad daylight. They call themselves “The Georgian Force (“Kartuli Dzala), and their actions normally attract from 20 to 40 persons.
This time over 50 masked men in khaki or plain black T-shirts with Georgian flags and torches in hands were marching down the avenue. They broke into the Turkish cafes and restaurants shouting nationalist slogans. The action was meant to commemorate one of the most tragic episodes in Georgian-Abkhazian war in the early 90s, the day Sukhumi fell – the date, well remembered by the Georgian society.
But according to the witnesses, the demonstrators broke into the Turkish cafes on their way, shouting nationalist slogans and demolishing billboards.
The action ended with 10 demonstrators arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.
By night posts appeared on the group`s FB page, containing threats against the Turkish schools in Batumi and demands of them being closed down.
“The Georgian nationalists have a warning for the illegal Turkish schools in Batumi. Georgia for the Georgians, the Georgians – for Georgia! We will soon come to Batumi from all over the country and react adequately.
By midday September 28 the post has collected more than 14 000 likes, and the number continues to grow.
It is not the first action of the kind, organized by “Kartuli Dzala. Read the article, published by JAMnews in June.
Georgia for Georgians
No matter how much one would like to believe of one’s own exceptional tolerance, the Georgian community has to recognize the emergence of nationalists, who are in not trying to conceal their views.
Quite on the contrary, they are openly displaying them. The slogan ‘Georgia for Georgians’, which emerged in the wake of the national liberation movement in the late ’80s, but quietly died out by the mid-90s, is now returning from oblivion.
Signs of its revival can be seen here and there, sometimes in the form of an inscription on the wall of an underground passage, sometimes as a sticker on a bus door, and sometimes as an outcry from the people.
Tbilisi, 2014. JAMnews photo.
These new groups are given so many different names in Tbilisi – ‘ultra-rightists’, ‘neo-nationalists’ and even ‘anti-anti-fascists’. They are new because people have only become aware of them recently, a year or maybe two years ago. However, until recently, it wouldn’t have appeared in the form of a nightmare to an average Tbilisi resident that the supporters of the concept ‘pure-blooded’ would march in the city center.
How the Nazi treaded the streets
A march along Rustaveli and David Aghmashenebeli (David, the Builder) Avenues was held on Georgian Independence Day – May 26. It was organized by the group ‘Georgian Power’ and the individuals who refer to themselves as the ‘Ultras’, also joined in.
Many people did not even notice the rally amidst some festive events and that could be easily explained, since there were many people in the streets all over the city, and if not looked at with a close eye, the nationalists’ rally merely blended into the festive crowd. But the rally had been planned and announced on Facebook in advance, and therefore, I came to the Rustaveli monument at the appointed time.
The number of people gathered there did not exceed 150 people, mostly youth aged 17-30. Initially, none of them covered their faces, but then, during the march, the majority of them put on masks. They were all dressed in different styles, but some common elements between them occasionally caught one’s eye: military boots, shaven heads and swastika pendants. There was also a flag of the Georgian Mensheviks, which was used in the early 90’s. It wouldn’t have been complete without the slogan of that time. However, the proverbial ‘Georgia for Georgians’ was flipped around into: ‘Georgians for Georgia’.
“Georgia for Georgians, photo by Edita Badasyan
The slogan attracted my attention and I asked one of the participants about it. “We don’t want to separate Georgians from citizens of Georgia, he answered obliquely, “but the ethnic component cannot be disregarded either. We cannot talk only about the citizens of Georgia. People from other nations can live here, but they must live for Georgia.
I decided to carefully continue this line of speaking:
– Have you come here to proclaim this idea?
– People always say that Georgia is a small and weak country, so it needs to hide people a strong. I want to prove that we are indeed a strong country. All we need is to know who our enemies and who their allies are. Then we will become stronger.
– And who are our enemies?
– We have enemies everywhere. All our neighbors have claims for our territories and everyone wants to have political influence on us. None of our neighbors are well-disposed towards Georgia. The same can be said about the West and its allies.
– So, what should be done?
– We need to learn from our ancestors’ experience and direct our entire domestic policy towards the preservation of our nation, ignoring personal interests. For example, Nazi Germany or Communist Russia collapsed, but people managed to fully restore them in a couple of years.
Who is who
The three most well-known groups in Georgia nowadays are: Georgian Power, the Ultras and Bergman. I tried to contact each of them, but it seems, Georgian nationalists don’t really like to give interviews. My requests were ignored. As a result, I had to thoroughly study their social media profiles, read their old statuses and watch the videos that had set to public.
This is one of them, for example. The main characters: Dynamo ultras, i.e. FC Dynamo Tbilisi fans, express their support of fascist ideology, claiming they are ‘anti-antifascists. In this video, the Ultras appear with a corresponding banner:
Whereas this second video features the march of representatives of the aforementioned Georgian Power. It must be mentioned that this rally was less subdued than the previous one on Rustaveli Avenue. Participants apparently tried to exhibit themselves as ‘the adult in the room’ in front of many Turkish people and Iranians, who reside and run businesses on David Aghmashenebeli Avenue and the surrounding areas.
“Georgian nationalist groups’ links to fascism can be viewed a theatrical performance with some Nazi elements, says Revaz Koiava, a researcher at the Center for Cultural Relations, the “Caucasian House.
“If one looks from the sidelines, one may think, they are the supporters of the national-socialist movement, but it’s not so. They are isolating themselves and are not part of some western or Russian right-wing extremist network. It’s a widespread phenomenon in the post-soviet area, said Koiava.
In his words, these groups fall more within the post-soviet counter-cultural movement, criticizing both the Soviet Union and the liberal West simultaneously.
“This new phenomenon sprang up in Georgia about two years ago. There aren’t many of them; they could hardly be regarded as strong and they are unlikely to become a lasting piece of history, said Koiava, adding that many youngsters still find these ultranationalist groups attractive and that fact needs to be ‘paid attention to’.
Traditions vs. diversity
“0 to multiculturalism, 100% to nationalism – this slogan, posted on the profile of the leader of the Georgian Power movement, Nika Burnadze, appropriately reflects the ultranationalists’ attitude towards diversity.
“‘Georgian Power’ is a right-wing nationalist organization. Our goal is to develop the European nationalistic culture in Georgia. We are proud of Georgian traditions, NIka Burnadze told RTVI TV.
Traditions do not always just mean traditions, but rather the standardized routine themselves. A person who follows traditions may get irritated by the ‘wrong color’ of his opponent’s dress; his/her ‘unusual’ hairstyle and even their diet.
Dangerous people with piercings
A vegan café was attacked in the center of Tbilisi just a few days after the nationalists’ march. JAMnews reported about that in its article entitled “Vegan café visitors attacked with sausages. The café, which was attacked by people armed with sausages, is currently looking for a new location. Their lessor is going to evict them from ‘Kiwi’ café, since their patrons are people with piercings and tattoos, as they claim.
A sign ‘For rent’ and the telephone number of Kiwi café can be seen on the window. When I passed by, I dialed that number.
“You know, it’s not an individual decision, said the lessor, whose name is Gulo. “I don’t want to bother my neighbors. Well, they took the tables outside and those hideous people who sit there, with ink all over them and with piercings. It’s just disgusting! You see, we are in Georgia, and we are not accustomed to such people. We need time to get used that, Gulo, answered emotionally.
I met with Lasha, one of the employees of Kiwi café, and he confirmed that on July 1, the café would be moved from Vertskli (Silver) street. At the same time, he rejected popular belief, saying that the incident involving the Georgian nationalists should not be regarded as the reason for moving. It has just given us a push, but the main reason is the community’s antagonism against the ‘dangerous people’ with piercings.
As Lasha told me, during the attack, the vegans didn’t scuffle with the nationalists, but rather with the neighbors, who came running upon hearing the noise and who didn’t even try to help. They have a long-standing discontent with the fact that people who visit the café have a different appearance from them, their customary and traditional appearance.
“Well, let’s say they are sitting outside, with all their tatoos, hugging each other. There are children passing by them! What are we supposed to tell the children about them? Gulo, the lessor, says indignantly. She has probably never thought of how much in common she and her neighbors have with that anti-anti-fascist bunch.
They don’t accept them because they wear make up, have piercings tattoos and don’t eat meat for some unclear reason.