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21 Aug, 2007 19:38

Georgia's Writers' Union left without a roof

Minor clashes have broken out on the streets of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, after Georgia's Writers’ Union was evicted from its headquarters. Georgian officials reclaimed the building on Monday, saying it was government property, but the Union members

About a hundred mainly elderly writers gathered outside the building of the Georgian Writers’ Union on Tuesday to protest the Union’s eviction from its central Tbilisi home. Some writers attempted to re-enter, leading to scuffles with police.

The elegant art-nouveau building in the heart of Tbilisi was being guarded by the Union members, who slept inside in shifts. Police evicted them from what the authorities said was a state-owned building.

“The eviction is absolutely illegal, especially taking into account the fact that the property of the union is actually the property of the individual writers. We have seen yet another infringement on people’s personal property and the rights of artists: it was an act of vandalism,” said Makvala Gonashvili, the head of Writers’ Union of Georgia

The Union says they, not the state, legally own the building. They claim a case is still pending in court which would make their eviction illegal. The cause is also being taken up by some opposition groups.
The government has brushed off the accusations. They say not only are they fully within the law, but that the Writers’ Union itself is an outdated institution.
“I don’t think that the Writes’ Union building existing at the expense of the state will benefit literature in Georgia. The Writers’ Union itself is a vestige of the Soviet Union. This is an organisation that aimed to control writers during the Soviet regime,” said Minister of Economic Development, Giorgi Arveladze.
The Georgian authorities plan to sell this prime piece of real estate, but the Union has vowed to resist.