Georgia’s view of Ukraine: ‘This is our war, too’ | Society | BR . culture stage

Russian forces have been in Georgia for years, ostensibly to protect separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. That is why Georgians look anxiously at Ukraine. Will they be the next target of Russian aggression? Christoph Leibold spoke with Georgian theater maker Data Tavadze about this.

Christoph Leibold: In 2014, Russia occupied Crimea. Now Russia is trying to occupy the rest of Ukraine. In 2008 Russia occupied parts of Georgia. The tanks are less than 50 kilometers from the capital, Tbilisi. If Russia defeats Ukraine in the end, Georgia may be next in line, following the same pattern. Is this fear going on in Georgia now?

Data Tavadze: I would say: Yes, this concern has existed since 2008, because many Georgians fear that in the long run Putin will not be satisfied with the 20 percent of our country that he occupies. It’s a constant threat we live with here. The images from Ukraine awakened our worst fears. We are almost waiting for the same thing to happen with Georgia.

What do you notice from all this in Georgian everyday life and on the streets of Tbilisi?

There are a lot of demonstrations here in solidarity with Ukraine. But the implication is always this: This is not just a war in Ukraine. This is our war too. A war to defend our values ​​and a war against Putin’s values. So many Georgians have switched to the survival situation they have been in since the 2008 war in the Caucasus. For example, there are panic buying in supermarkets and our government provokes this behavior by constantly warning caution when doing business with Russia, or else we could end up like Ukraine. This, of course, is causing more panic in Georgian society.

The Georgian government has not joined the sanctions imposed on Russia. What is the reckoning behind it and how do the residents receive it?

This gives us mixed feelings. Russian forces are very close to our capital. In this case, no one expects drastic steps from Georgia. I think everyone can understand our precarious situation as a very small country of only three and a half million people. But I would like our government to take a clear stand on who we are. That is why large crowds stand in front of Parliament every day to protest the silence of our government (Cover Photo).

To give you another impression of what is happening in Tbilisi. I read that the whole city is more or less enveloped in blue and yellow, the national colors of Ukraine, Ukrainian music is playing on the radio. Is this true?

Yes, this is correct. Walking in Tbilisi, you can see Ukrainian flags on every balcony, in every public square. The Ukrainian anthem is being played, Ukrainian music is being played in restaurants and cafes – all as a sign of our support.

The Georgian government is not trying to anger Putin. However, at the same time, Georgia submitted an official application to join the European Union. One might also seek relations with the West as a form of life insurance, but how does that correspond to trying not to isolate Putin?

On the one hand, the government has already taken a clear stance against Russia, voting against Russia at the United Nations. On the other hand, she tried to be neutral afterwards, but that’s dangerous. There are also pro-Russian forces in Georgia who are now encouraged by the government’s passivity in raising support for Putin. So the government’s reticence lends itself to his propaganda.

I suppose a lot of Russians have also fled to Georgia, in part from Putin because they are anti-Putin. How are they received in Georgia?

At first we didn’t quite know how to act. It is also difficult to determine who is fleeing for fear of Putin and who is fleeing because Western sanctions have worsened living conditions in Russia. Either way, a huge number of Russians come to Georgia and Georgia is not so Russophobic, as Moscow likes to claim. Our government has allowed just about everyone in, with some annoying exceptions. Fearing Putin, opposition journalists were turned away at the border. This is alarming and has sparked protests and hopefully this will convince the government to allow these journalists into the country after all.

We made the Trojan Women after five years of war. This distance of national shock was needed to turn into a piece full of anger, but also a reflection of what was then. But at the moment, the art scene in Georgia is reacting very quickly to the events. Galleries offer Ukrainian artists and theaters, with the image of the ruined theater in Mariupol in mind, on useful performances. At the Royal District Theater where I work, we have decided to donate the entire month’s ticket sales to humanitarian causes in Ukraine. Schedules have been changed and Ukrainian plays have been added. We muster all our forces. We stand with the Ukrainians in this tragedy and show our solidarity.

“The Trojan Women” is the name of the theater production that Georgian director Datta Tavadze also made famous in this country through the production’s guest performances. Against the background of the Euripides tragedy, Tavadze spoke about the 2008 Caucasus War. Since then, long before Russia annexed Crimea, Putin’s forces occupied part of Georgia. In Troerinnen Euripides spoke of the suffering of women in war. For his adaptation, Tavadze interviewed contemporary witnesses to the war in the Caucasus. Since his successful performance as a guest, the 32-year-old has been traveling between Germany and his homeland, going out here and there – in the summer, for example, a play by George Tabori will appear in Frankfurt.

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