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Lustration Amid Stalin Debates
/ 17 Feb.'07 / 16:59
Civil Georgia

Stalin’s monument in his birthplace, town of Gori,
in front of the local administration headquarters.
Photo: Civil.Ge
When the ruling majority in the Georgian Parliament turned down a draft law targeting former KGB employees, it unexpectedly unleashed criticism of Tbilisi-based Rustavi 2 television for “a shameful attempt” to promote Joseph Stalin as the “greatest Georgian politician.”

On February 16 the Georgian Parliament debated an opposition-sponsored draft law on lustration that would exclude former Communist Party functionaries and officers of and collaborators with the ex-Soviet secret service KGB from serving in the state structures of Georgia.

Opposition lawmakers from the Democratic Front parliamentary faction, who have been lobbying for the draft since December 2005, claim that although the document may have no major effect in practice, it will have the symbolic importance of cutting Georgia’s ties with its Soviet legacy.

President Saakashvili’s administration pledged to pass a law on lustration back in February 2004 when the new cabinet was formed under the leadership of late Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania.

However, lawmakers from the ruling National Movement party argue that the proposed law will be ineffective, as the main list of ex-KGB agents is currently in Moscow and unavailable to authorities in Tbilisi.

“We are not against a law on lustration. We are only saying that the proposed draft law does not provide effective tools necessary for putting the law into practice… So it will lead to a situation wherein those [ex-KGB agents] on which information is available in [Tbilisi] will be revealed and those about whom we have no information available will remain unrevealed,” Maia Nadiradze, leader of the parliamentary majority, said on February 17.

But disagreement within the ruling party about the law on lustration seems to be a major reason behind the parliamentary majority’s hesitation to pass the document.

Influential lawmaker from the ruling National Movement party Giga Bokeria said before voting that personally he would support an “even tougher” law on lustration, but added the “debates within the ruling majority are not yet over” about the issue.
 
He went on to say that he hopes the draft law will be passed by the current, sitting parliament sometime in the future. The sitting Parliament’s term in office expires in late 2008.

In his speech MP Bokeria made a special emphasis on the fact that there is no disagreement in the Georgian government about the assessment of Georgia’s Soviet past.

“Georgia will never return back to those times, and this is clear,” MP Bokeria said.

“By the way, I want to use this chance and express my personal bewilderment about one very surprising fact… Several days ago, during the promotion of a TV series about Stalin, one of the leading television stations and its chief made a scandalous statement: that this TV series is a breakthrough which has finally destroyed the myth of Stalin being a bloodthirsty tyrant, and which helped to discover that he was the greatest Georgian politician. Of course we can not prohibit anyone from having a dissenting opinion, but I think it was a shameful statement and deserves a very tough evaluation. It is our obligation to assess this very shameful statement,” MP Bokeria said.

On February 12, Rustavi 2 television station launched a screening of the Russian TV series 'Stalin LIVE', which premiered on the Russian NTV network in January. The TV series, directed by Grigory Lyubomirov, shows the last month of the life of Joseph Stalin, who recalls his past and eventually repents.

Rustavi 2 TV did a piece on the series in its prime-time news program Kurieri (Courier) on February 14.

“This film gives us a chance to understand what Stalin was thinking about, whom he hated and whom he loved; [the film gives a chance] to find out whether Stalin was really bad – a notion which has been put in our minds for so many years - but it turns out that he wasn’t,” Koba Davarashvili, the General-Director of Rustavi 2 TV, said in comments broadcasted by the TV company as part of the promotional material for the TV series.

In a response to MP Bokeria’s criticism, Rustavi 2 TV dedicated five minutes of coverage in its prime-time news program on February 16 to the issue, saying that “the generation of those Georgians that idealize Stalin is still alive in Georgia.”

“The name of Stalin will remain for centuries, and [the name of] Bokeria will only remain until the next elections,” an elderly man interviewed by Rustavi 2 said.

Rustavi 2 reporter Davit Nikuradze said in the coverage that he is “far from the idea of defending Stalin, but I will say that a Western campaign has contributed much” to creating an anti-Stalin public opinion. “And it is not surprising, as the West deemed Stalin as a source of all evils,” he added.

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