Georgia smashes history for new parliament site
A memorial to Georgians who died in World War Two is going to be taken down in the Georgian city of Kutaisi to make way for a building that will house parliament when it is relocated from the capital Tbilisi.
The date when the monument is to be completely dismantled – December 21 – coincides with President Saakashvili's birthday.
The plan to pull down the monument has caused outrage.
“This is absolutely unacceptable. It has become a tradition for the authorities to relocate or destroy monuments, without asking anyone. It's yet another example of the Georgian government's total disregard for public opinion and a show of utter disrespect for the creator of the monument,” says Georgi Akhvlediadze from Christian Democratic Party.
Many see it as a sign of disrespect not just to the sculptor, but to the Georgian nation as a whole.
“It's a cynical and absolutely arrogant decision. We condemn it. Maybe not everyone knows, but every 10th Georgian fell in World War Two, so it's very important for us,” opposition leader Zurab Nogaideli says.
The monument was created in the 1980s by sculptor Merab Bedzenishvili. He refuses to speak to the media about the destruction of his work. But he did send out a statement to Georgian newspapers.
“The Georgian government has committed an unparalleled crime by destroying the memorial. With this act, they show they are still living in the Stone Age. By destroying the monument, they are inspiring their own children to violence and cruelty. I am a proud son of Georgia. Those who destroy monuments do not realize they are insulting not just me, but Georgia,” the statement reads.
And what does the Georgian government have to say about all this?
“The President has his own point of view on this issue. As he promised, Kutaisi will become a city that will live up to all international and European standards,” Presidential spokesperson, Manana Manzhgaladze said.
But many are questioning what European standards encourage governments to destroy monuments to their fathers and grandfathers who fell in the war.
Earlier this year, President Saakashvili promised to turn Georgia’s second-largest city into a booming European metropolis. Moving the country’s parliamentary seat to Kutaisi is supposed to help in reaching that goal.
City authorities claim the monument has to be moved to allow the construction of the new parliament building. They say the memorial was vandalized in the 1990s, and is impossible to restore.
The authorities promise they will build another monument, just like the old one, somewhere else in Kutaisi.
How many more monuments and buildings, sacred to the Georgian people, will be destroyed in President Saakashvili's quest to create a brighter future is a question many in Georgia are asking more and more often.