With a back Turned on Statue
"Cynic cult of violence," the words applied by Giga Zedanya, the Ilia State University Professor when defining the Stalin's heritage last year in the Liberal magazine rubric Two Viewpoints. Within the framework of the rubric Giga Zedanya and Lasha Bakradze, the doctor of history were discussing the proper location for Stalin's monument.
These words and many more from his arguments repeatedly crossed my mind last week when Georgian TV media was telling us about "Stalin" lying down on his face with a rope on his neck in the very center of Gori town. For instance: "Stalin doesn't deserve a monument in the country being now built and trying to liberate itself from violence." "Russia, an obvious enemy of Georgia consciously continues cultivating Stalin's heritage in and out of the country." "It is more conducive to the relevance of the problem related to the detaching from Stalinism in Georgia; Stalin's museum stands a chance to become a unique "museum of museums" - to show the visitors how the cynic cult of violence was being introduced in the totalitarian state through monuments, museums or any other cultural mechanisms."
Last week aforementioned lines were applied by everyone justifying the dismantling of Stalin's statue through the Sunday summarizing TV programs: Minister of Culture and Monument Protection, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Relations, Head of Ilia State University administration, publisher of the Tabula magazine... I have nothing against the relocation of Stalin's monument to the museum but the processes developed in regard to the June 25 occurrence are to be taken into account - fighters against violence forgot the victim of violence.
That very night Gori-based Trialeti TV journalist Lado Bichashvili and cameraman Imeda Gogoladze were restricted by some armed individuals dressed in civilian clothing to film the people protesting the removal of the monument. The journalists having protested the demand were seized the camera and beaten. Reporting to the Liberal and Maestro the armed individuals turned out to be policemen. The footage was missing in the camera returned back later.
It is of no less importance than the action by law enforcers that the dismantling process as well as Lado Bichashvili-related events was attended by other televisions. None of them protested the developments, neither filmed the events to inform the society. They aired the material featuring the removal of the monument. None of the Sunday programs summarizing most important events of the week raised the question: Why were the journalists restricted to film whatever was not the state secret? Why was he beaten? Why was he seized the camera and had the footage deleted?
The Politmeter on Maestro TV was the only exception (the previous day the channel apportioned live airtime to Lado Bichashvili). In the course of the program the Chairman of parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs was posed the aforementioned questions. The answer reads as follows: when trying to film closed territory the journalist is being beaten in Berlin and Prague... Akali Minashvili did not provide the facts proving it. He neither clarified to the society who had announced the dismantling of Stalin statue as a closed event and why - only for Trialeti TV?
On Saturday evening Rustavi 2 and Imedi TV aired long TV stories and talks about bad Stalin, totalitarian Stalinism and moral responsibility of Georgia to the whole world. P.S. on Rustavi 2 told us about the Giorgi Saakadze movie filming initiated by Stalin during war and the way he interfered in the elaboration of the screenplay and other important issues; The Special Report (Imedi TV) anchor was curious whether Stalin's mother Keke would stay in Mtatsminda pantheon. In short their enthusiasm was huge, the scope of the issue - fantastic but in these programs no place was found for the Gori-based journalist's story.
"Georgia has entered a crucial phase of struggle for democracy and Stalin's monument is no more right for us," that was the message. What should we think? That democracy is a fight against suspicious monuments and not the protection of human rights (in this case journalist's rights)? Is it enough to turn your back on Stalin's monument to dissociate from Stalinism as such? The space where people fell victim to unjustifiable ideas, the space where a human was not the main value. On June 25 in Gori (and earlier in Kutaisi) the human didn't turn out to be the main value.
"Cynic cult of violence" can very easily re-inhabit from the past into the present if media further closes its eyes to what it can see.