As citizens of Georgia waited in anticipation of the New Year, two high profile scandals were instead set to dampen the holiday spirit. As part of plans to decentralize government, a Soviet-era statue to hundreds of thousands of Georgians who died during World War II was set to be demolished in Georgia's second largest city of Kutaisi to make room for the construction of a new parliament building in the hope of spurring regional economic development.
Originally planned to be demolished on 21 December, the president's birthday, its destruction was brought forward by two days after the city's former mayor started a campaign to collect signatures protesting the destruction of the monument by a noted Georgian sculptor, and while the opposition threatened to encircle the site. What happened next was catastrophic with a mother and her 8-year-old daughter left dead.
The governor of the Imereti region, Mikheil Chogovadze, was dismissed as a result, and several other arrests, including the technical director of the company responsible for demolishing the monument, were also made. However, some bloggers and analysts consider that the real responsibility for the tragedy lies instead with the Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, and his continuing personal conflict with Russia.
Crappy Town is just one of them.
As Mikheil Saakashvili`s rule in Georgia is becoming more dictatorial, the empowerment of his persona`s lunacy is reaching absurd levels. […]
Recently, in his the most bizzare act jet, he decreed the parliament be moved away from Tbilisi to Georgia`s second largest city Kutaisi. Choosing for it from all the sites in and around the city – one already taken by a 46 metres tall monument to the memory of thousands of Georgians who fell in the ranks of Red Army in the Second World War.
In the end Saakashvili desecrated the memory of Georgian WWII fallen to send a message, what message and to whom only he knows, and caused deaths of a woman and a child in the process, jet it has been barely reported on in the West and then only in carefully chosen terms. Too embarrassing for them that their vassal is becoming more and more like Saparmurat Niyazov “Turkmenbashi” or perhaps Idi Amin. An erratic, authoritarian lunatic.
In the mean time official Russia has declared willingness to recreate the monument in Moscow, so the Georgian Red Army fallen may be honoured there if under Saakashvili they can no longer be honoured in Kutaisi.
An Armenian blog, Blogian, calls for Saakashvili's resignation.
First he started a devastating war with Russia allegedly because of personal distaste for fellow autocrat Vladimir Putin and for bullying the latter as “Liliputin.”
Now Georgian president Saakahsvili has finished the demolition of a WWII memorial honoring his countrymen (and countrywomen) who gave their lives in fighting the Nazis. Add two more people to that list of 300,000 people: a woman and her 8-year-old daughter were killed in the blast that brought down the war memorial […] in Kutaisi, Georgia, supposedly to clear up space for a new parliament building.
Georgia’s president Saakashvili has (perhaps completely) lost his mind. It’s time for his dangerous adventure, initially seen as a democratic one, to end. It’s in Georgia’s national interest for her bipolar president – a democrat in rhetoric yet a dictator at heart – to resign.
The Kutaisi Glory Memorial (a distinctly Georgian-faced, semi-naked horseman with a fiery sword in front of a large concrete arch) commemorates the Georgians who served in the Red Army during World War II and went to fight the Germans. A third of them died.
At the same time, Kutaisi has a memorial to Stalin which is guarded by Georgians and survived all waves of demontage of Stalin memorials.
I love that we're backing this guy.
Wu Wei is another who is less than impressed.
His disastrous order to blow up the war memorial in Kutaisi, ignoring local and national feeling, resulted in the death of a mother and daughter who were hit quite a long way away by large chunks of flying concrete.
He rushed home from the Copenhagen summit, but still hasn't gone near Kutaisi after 13 days.
See the video of the demolition […] or perhaps don't, as You Tube warns you it is too gory.
Evolutsia, however, a recently launched blog-based online magazine, takes a more restrained perspective, in an its analysis.
[…] whether authorities like it or not, the whole project is now cursed with serious tragedy: a woman and her 8 year old daughter died on December 19th after being hit by a speeding block of concrete in their backyard during the demolition of the ‘Memorial of Fame’ where the new parliament building is to be established . Part of the opposition gathered to begin protests anew (but failed), and the Russian spin machine did not stay far behind.
The problem of whole situation in Kutaisi is that it occurred in a country with a transitional status. Georgia is struggling to combine independent policy-making, political freedom and political stability. However, so far only the first part of that mix is justifiably fulfilled; post-Rose Revolution authorities act without Moscow’s opinion and often even at cross purposes of its Western allies, and it’s likely to remain this way. However, the facts of the case, the restoration and relocation of Memorial of Fame, and the responsibility of finding justice  seems to be drowning in a sea of pettiness, of a kind of freedom obsessed with Saakashvili’s alleged authoritarianism and megalomania. We have seen the birth of that freedom on April 9, 2009, when the opposition took to the streets and undisturbed remained there for months. Now what Georgia needs the most is that freedom to be filled with substance and constructive dialogue.
The task is to secure stability until political reshuffling for the 2013 presidential elections. Miheil Saakashvili has to pay more attention to internal public relations and reduce the incidence of ‘falling bricks,’ and even so, when the next brick fall off, it has to come down without such a rumble.
Yet, what happened in Kutaisi was not the only scandal to hit Georgia before the New Year. Just days earlier, the office of the Inclusive Foundation, a Georgian LGBT organization, was raided and its head arrested. Following local and international outcry, Paata Sabelashvili has since been released.