Wednesday, August 24, 2016


The Fall Of Robert Sturua Sets A New Standard In Georgian Public Life

Georgian theater director Robert Sturua
Georgian theater director Robert Sturua
By Ghia Nodia
The educated public learned that renowned Georgian theater director Robert Sturua had been dismissed from the post of artistic director at the country's leading Rustaveli Theater in Tbilisi  from the maestro's own curt posting ("I've been fired") on Facebook late on August 16.

Georgia's Ministry of Culture initially declined to comment, saying a statement by Minister Nikoloz Rurua was forthcoming. But it was only in the afternoon that Rurua explained that Sturua had been dismissed for his overtly xenophobic pronouncements.

Specifically, Sturua affirmed at the end of June that President Mikheil Saakashvili cannot love Georgia because he is of (hidden) Armenian extraction. Then, responding to criticism of that statement, Sturua underscored his contempt for the rules of political correctness by saying that he is under no obligation to love blacks, claiming that they are culturally inferior to him.

If in a Western democracy a public figure who receives his salary courtesy of the taxpayer said something similar, he would not remain in office for very long.

Imagine, for example, that the artistic director of Britain's National Theatre said the prime minister could not be trusted as one of his grandmothers was Jewish, and added some derogatory comment about people with dark skin.

Possible Political Fallout

But it would be premature to leap to the conclusion that Georgia really is turning into a European country whose leaders are guided by European standards. For starters, it is extremely odd that it took the minister a month and a half to formulate a position. It should not take that long to assess the situation: the nature of Sturua's statements was pretty clear.

One possible explanation for the time lag is that the authorities were assessing the potential political fallout. Given that Sturua is widely known to openly oppose the government, sacking him would inevitably look like political scores were being settled and his xenophobic comments merely served as the pretext for this. 

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili
The Georgian authorities have to be extremely careful in light of repeated accusations of authoritarianism. Whether or not those accusations are justified is another matter.

But the primary difference from European practice is the overall context. In a hypothetical Western democracy, a racist pronouncement by the artistic director of a state-subsidized theater would elicit a universal wave of public indignation, which politicians of all ideological leanings except for the extreme right would express solidarity with.

It goes without saying that Sturua should be sacked, assuming that he did not preempt that decision by publicly announcing his resignation.

In Georgia there were some protests against what Sturua said, but they were by no means unanimous, and most "masters of culture" showed solidarity with him as a colleague.

'Status Intelligentsia'

But the issue is not simply Sturua's opposition views. At the root of the problem is the extremely complicated relationship between the present leadership and the segment of society known in the former USSR as the "cultural and scientific intelligentsia," and during the perestroika period more scientifically as the "status intelligentsia."

After Saakashvili and his team of young reformers came to power, the older generation of the intelligentsia lost its status as the moral leaders of the nation.

The fact that Robert Sturua could stage as many plays as he wanted at the Rustaveli Theater on government money, and that no one stopped him making ironic comments about the government in his favorite metaphorical style is beside the point. What matters is that the Rustaveli Theater ensemble no longer felt they were the spiritual center of the nation.

It is also no coincidence that it was accusations of xenophobia that became the stumbling block. Political discourse in Georgia is increasingly taking the form of "culture wars." If Saakashvili's modernizing government identifies with Western liberal discourse, in which it is considered shameful to judge people on the basis of their ethnicity, a predilection for conspiracy theories, in which perceptions of the ethnic roots of "bad" leaders are a key component, remains the hallmark of the post-Soviet intelligentsia.

Armenophobia Equivalent To Anti-Semitism

Hence the myth, popular in these circles, that Saakashvili's concealed Armenian origins explain his "lack of patriotism." In the Georgian context, Armenophobia can be considered the functioning equivalent of Russian anti-Semitism.

Many people were surprised that it was Sturua who embodied that attitude, given his reputation for toppling traditional values: his style, combining irony and elements of carnival, superseded the hitherto dominant heroic-romantic approach.

And, as his defendants rightly point out, nothing in Sturua's body of work even hints at xenophobia. But the fact remains that in terms of his social and political views, Sturua turned out to be just another representative of the Soviet intelligentsia.

In the polarized atmosphere of today's Georgia, Sturua's dismissal would have been construed as a settling of scores whatever the circumstances. But setting the precedent for firing a popular figure because he was accused of xenophobic pronouncements sets a new standard for public figures in state service.

Ghia Nodia is professor of politics at Ilia State University. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL
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Comment Sorting
by: Faris-Al-Kudi from: Tripoli
August 23, 2011 22:56
Soon, Saakashvili will end up like Khadaffi. Georgian people with the help of Russian airforce will overthrow this tyrant.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
August 24, 2011 08:16
Faris-Al-Kudi might be translated "Fe Aris Ali Kudi",
In pre-Georgian It is "bad smelling flame under the hat",
Or "he is wearing a hat as all arround him to hide his moody,
But moody in his head is Russian propaganda - smelling bad".

Today was shown somewhere in Libia bearded Russian face,
Screaming slogan reminding about Bolshevics fooling people.
Maybe he was "fe aris ali kudi", or Moscow's "oboroten's" laces
That cover faces, repopulating other nations housing by "Aces"
That will bomb them (as Russian Fritz bewitch NATO scruples).
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
August 27, 2011 05:21

The problem is that the Georgian society refuses to learn from the past experiences repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results - a clear definition of insanity...

Armenians in their ancestral lands of Samtskhe and Javakh are denied their rights to teach their children Armenian language subjected to forced Gurjification. Georgian customs doesn't allow ANY printed materials in Armenian language to cross the border. Georgian government pronounced prominent (and not anti-Georgian!) Armenian politicians persona-non-grata not allowing them to visit their places of birth in Georgia. Armenian churches in Georgia are converted to Georgian churches with ancient scripts erased from the khachkars.

At the same time, Georgians, who are well known as a nation of great dancers and singers, refuse to fight to take other peoples territories they claim their own and prefer to draft ethnic Armenians to fight in wars against Abkhazia and Ossetia while sending their youth to hide in Armenian villages from being taken by the army.

There will be an end to this - Armenians, Mengrels, Svans, Adjara and other numerous discriminated peoples of so-called "Georgia" will be liberated and free from this Kartvel minority yoke.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
August 28, 2011 05:35
Actually "Taxpayer" Samtskhe and Javakheti, to give them their proper names, are not "ancestral Armenian lands" at all.

The Russians settled Armenians from Turkey there in the mid 19th century after deporting the Muslim (Meshkian) Georgian population, in order to have "reliable" slaves on the border with Turkey.

And also Georgian Churches in north western Armenia are suffering vandalism and destruction in many cases, at the hands of racist little thugs like yourself.

Armenians are well known for being one of the most racist cultures on the planet.
In Response

by: Taxpayer from: USA
August 30, 2011 22:59

Andrew from Auckland (NZ I understand) - thank you for proving my point! You have nothing to say against the facts of discrimination against Armenians and other minorities in your beloved faraway Gurjistan - just the "well-known" argument of Gamsakhurdia Nazis. Keep posting here - the free world needs to learn about the sick psycho of Georgian imperialists.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
August 31, 2011 15:08
Actually "taxpayer" it is easily researched historical fact.

In addition, Georgia is a real multi-ethnic society, unlike the racist political culture of Armenia, the only "ethnicly pure" former soviet republic, where from 1917 to the present day, almost all non Armenian ethnicities have been "cleansed" from the republic, the process beginning in 1920.

It is interesting to note that the President of Armenia recently gave the President of Georgia the highest Armenian award for his country's efforts to integrate and care for it's Armenian minority.

The settling of Armenians in Samtskhe-Javakheti began in 1829, after the 1828-1829 Russo-Turkish war. The Georgian, particularly the Georgian muslim, population were deliberately removed by Russian occupiers in order to place Armenians on the border.

In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
September 14, 2011 03:06
You, "Taxpayer", must pay taxes to Russia -
being so loyal to their conquests.
USA health-care and home-care are so organized
that one ends-up paying to Russians for such jobs,
thus paying the "Russia-tax" - even me, while Russians were
destroying my computers and archive files during August war...
If you still earn money (maybe as chain of plagiarizing from me,
as Russia still do), paying tax also to USA, you and your Russia
use it all too well to get your propaganda point here...

Georgia is all those parts of Georgia you enlisting here and more!
Unlike Russian Varangas that genocidized and inslaved later children
of gang-rapes of surviving women, or Prussia that subjicated nations of would-be Germany, Georgia is one of many names of brotherhood of Ibero-Albano-Colho-Caucasian race of people that united only to a necessary degree - for help and mutual defence.

Today is just the day for it, when Russian imperial resurectors already
used genocide again from Afghanistan through Caucasus - to expand.

It were many Kingdoms, Principalities and United Kingdoms
for last several thousands years of known history, including
United Nations or Common Wealthes, like Hetia, Media,
Lidia, Iveria and so on.

Erevanian Armenia was also part of that, untill Urartu, Chaldean-Persian
hords, invaded Ararat and tried act as an Empire - trying assimilate
Erevanian Armenians (since 15-th Century B.C.).
The areas you mentioned were clearly Iberian in 5-th Century A.D., when
Muhrani and other Kingdoms and Principalities united in Sakartvelo and
later Iveria, and when al Caucasus joined with another Common Wealth
with Georgia.

Georgians had enough of wars - for the last two milleniums alone about
1000 battles.
War is not a game - in August of 2008 Georgians stopped just enough
Russian army units to allert International Community, but giving not
enough excuse to Russia use A and H bombs, usurped by Russia
from USSR nations that created it all in a first place.

Are you a real Erevanian Armenian, so assimilated by Urartu and
Russian occupiers that believe your baseless claims?
One explanation would be - you are Urartu-Russian occupier.
Another explanation is quite scarry - what if Erevanian Armenians
are one group of Iberians that intermarried with the "Dmanici
Cro-Magnon" and indeed feel more affinity with Urartu than
with Iberian for-Fathers of Caucasian race with some
20 Millions of human evolution?
It would explain why lead by imperial resurectors Neanderthals
and lead by them Cro-Magnons making World Race Revolution
and calling for extermination of Kartvelians - the last genetic
library of for-fathers of Caucasian race and Human Civilization.
Do real Erevanian Armenians understand that?
Are they so different from true Iberians?

by: Donovan from: PA
August 23, 2011 23:08
Calm down, Sakashvili is not Armenian. First, Armenians don't run like rabbits when hearing a plane in the sky, compare to Sarkissian. Secondly, he is too tall.
Sturua by the way, has the right to think and say what he thinks. But there are consequences.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
August 24, 2011 04:40

Nodia, come now, the "somehi har" for Georgians was harmless,
Almost as "chop" for Brits. If told for 'family" audience, or friends,
It could mean "smarty", or offering too smart deal - as it was
When I visited there some 35 years ago. Time changed,
Thought, since Bagramyan's battalion genocide gross.

People age, so did Sturua, possibly memory problems
And too many blacks singing and dancing on Rustavi 2,
Quite dissgarmonious for one of old leaders of the Arts.
Sure Georgian politics of survival in the new World, too,
Demand some adjustments to label of "West-scrupple".

It's all superficial except if Saakashvili a part Armenian,
It might be important, but not by a Westernized Nodia's
Terminology. As Georgians created Human Civilization
And first settlements on this planet, inviting a few locals
And intermarrying, they always stood for representation.

Romanov, Alexey, asked Georgian ambassador, King's
Nephew, to start new Russian dinasty with Peter the I-st,
But Georgianhs refused, because representation always
law of lands they helped. Romanovs are still at the thron.
(Later Rashkas brought Prussian Katrin the II be slaves).

If grandmother of President, in times of a foreign attack,
When the existance of Georgians challenged by Russia
Was Erevanian Armenian, that were South Iberians, like
Gurians, it makes not much difference. But if she Urartu
And Bagramyan's genocide against Georgia aunt - wild!

Russia would like it - to scream: "Georgians antisemites,
They do not like "black rap" and Bagramyan's genocides!"
I wouldn't be surprized that all CIS leaders are hypnotized
By Russian nazi invaders, including Saakashvili - but why
Pervert Georgian mentallity by wordings for Russian hell?
In Response

by: LG from: US
August 24, 2011 19:47
Quit your ranting. Georgians have shown again that they are chauvinists. And you are dabbling in pseudo-history with your dribble.
In Response

by: Rasto from: London
August 26, 2011 13:50
Yes, Georgians are chauvinists, as in their country still live sizeable Azerbaijani and Armanian minority ( whose 3rd generation members by the way are very reluctant to learn Georgian language) with about 75 % Geogians living in Georgia, while Armenia cleaned their minorities out of country almost completely and nowadays 98 % Armenians live in Armenia.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
September 16, 2011 06:18
It isn't "ranting", sertainly not "dribble", I am not a boxer -
just "teletype" abriviated writing kind.

For some reason many Russians call it "ranting"...
Are they sent by Russia to "propaganda front" just from "battlefields"
of desecrated, tortured and murdered lands, with driven to mental state
of despare survivals, "ranting" in greef and pain?
My posts on this forums answer it all, "Lying G....", and go to
"" - only lier will deny true history,
as you do, "LG" -
it is your pseudo-history are lies,
like "Maikop" (MineKampf) "origin of Human Civilization" forged by Russia.
Angry with "dabbling" of the truth, Russia?
Envy Georgia, Russia, and accuse Georgians being Chauvinistic?
Blaiming me for "dribbling" like a boxer and throuing punches
at selfindulgent Greatness of Russia?
Not true!
During Peter and Joseph Russia was helped to be Civilized part
of Caucasian race, created by Ibero-Albano-Colhis-Caucasian
predecessors since 10 milleniums B.C., but you usurp only
the benefits and power, turning against Grace and Beauty
of being one of us...

(I am not Georgian, because even Georgia dare not protect my
Intellectual property rights - royalties and even priorities...)

by: Vakhtang from: Moscow
August 24, 2011 08:03
As I can see Mr.Nodia continues to brazenly blunt...

Under his nose a huge amount apsua-nazis who called him a monkey, but he writes about Tbilisi disambly.
Time to wake up Nodia!!!
And write about apsua shapsugs,that killed thousands of you compatriots
Why do you not wright about apsua gangsters but about some crazy people in Tbilisi??
And when are you going to the front release Abkhazia from alien apsua shapsugs

by: Tornike from: Tbilisi
August 24, 2011 10:39
Mr. Nodia the problem here is not whether Sturua as an individual and as a member of "inteligentsia" was a racist or not, the problem I see from his dismissal is the inconsistency and one-sidedness of the ruling elite. Rules which apply to Sturua should apply to every single public figure on the government payroll starting from small town's chief ending with Mr. Saakashvili.
A good example of impunity - just a day ago Saakashvili, while opening his new brainchild project in Anaklia (bordering Apkhazia), while referring to Russian occupants said that just over the bridge there were "Barbarians, ... the Mongoloid remnants and ideology ". I would say he insulted the Asian race by saying Mongoloid and Barbarian in the same context. Not to mention his earlier comments, one of which goes as "Are we Negros or what?". With the same token Saakashvili should have been impeached/dismissed multiple times by now.
I am very sorry that a person as highly regarded as you are failed to grasp the core of the issue and rushed to praise the governments actions yet another time. I am sorry Mr. Nodia but I see a very subjective opinion hiding behind a very elaborated article.

by: Margaret from: Auckland
August 29, 2011 12:59
What do you expect from a neo-nationalist and racist country like this that even does not allow Svans and Mingrelians, so called Georgian themselves, to not even print Bibles and other literature in their own native tongues? Look how they treated Abkhazians during their oppressive hold on them, as well as Ossetians, Armenians, Azeris, Meskhestian Turks, and we can all conclude that this is merely the rest of a mainstream attitude that continues to prevail and grow in Gurjiya today. Did anyone read that article about how this country is asking people to stop calling it "Gruziya" and call it "Georgia" from now on? :) HAHA
In Response

by: Rasto from: London
August 30, 2011 12:31
Margaret. looks like you know hell a lot about Georgia...but I am not sure at all whether yoru knowledge is correct. My wife is Mengrelian and whole here family are Mengrelian she has plenty of mengrelian friends that I met several times. Howeer I have never ever heard from them in whole my life bringing any causes you have created :)...Maybe beacyse these are just artificial cases made to create problems and put bit of smear on Georgia. I think that other things bother Svans and Mengrelians in these days.
I have visited villages around Bakuriani where Hundreds of Ossetians live and I can tell you that they are treated as local Georgians despite their mates in Ossetia has helped Russians to steal part of the georgian land. I have visited areas around Marneuli where Azeris live peacefully with local Georgians. Meskhetian Turks were repatriated and Rusians brought Armenians in to these areas so I do not understand why you blame Georgians for that at all. I think it is a bit of a Russian dirty smearing that you are performing here nothing else.

by: avtandil from: Tbilisi
September 01, 2011 13:51
Since the prehistoric period Georgia was inhabited with different nationalities, armenians among them and nobody has heard about massacres or anything like that, as for teaching Armenian language, are there in any country Armenian schools , there are more Armenians in the USA, do the CHILDREN GO TO aRMENIAN SCHOOLS? Can you name exactly which Armenian church was converted into Georgian? I think Taxpayer has never been in Georgia, or he would hear Armenian speech in the streets and visit Armenian theatre.

by: Kevin from: US
September 04, 2011 03:07
The irony here is that the Rustaveli Theatre was build by Alexander Mantashev (Mantashian), a prominent Tbilisi industrialist and philanthropist in the late 19th century who happened to be of Armenian extraction. That such racism and paranoia survives in 21st century Tbilisi is damning, and telling. Shame.
In Response

by: Andrew from: Auckland
September 05, 2011 06:24
Kevin, there is paranoia and racism in any country.

Russian nationalist groups regularly murder non-slavs, Russian TV carries "comedies" which denigrate non slavs in a fairly disgusting manner.

In Europe there is anti-immigrant feeling, just as there is anti immigrant feeling in most countries in the world.

I think you need to realize that this is one man, and not representative of the overall Georgian culture at all.

by: ika from: USA
September 04, 2011 18:32
This article is written by a person who conducted exit polls after which Saakashvili assumed second presidency. Soon after, the author of this ridiculous article, became the Minister of Education of Georgia. This suggests corrupt nature of both the government and their puppets. Mr. Nodia is a corrupt person and we dont need his standards imposed on world stars such as Robert Sturua. Soon, you will be judged as well Mr. Nodia and your fall and your governments fall will SET THE STANDARD!

by: Liberty Chaser from: Baku
September 06, 2011 08:56
It seems all of these commentors have not read the article. People are free to make racist comments, but when your salary comes from the government, you have a higher standard.

Perhaps by arguing about Armenian's trustworthiness, these readers are just reinforcing stereotypes. In a country with a history of nationalism, those are all worrisome comments. If this happened in France or the US, Sturua certainly would have been fired. Probably sooner.