So Wise So Young


Sandro Girgvliani

by Irakli Zurab Kakabadze

It is already 20 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union. We were the generation who was filled with hope in 1989, who expected great transformation of the world after the demise of the totalitarian state. We expected so much. This generation rebelled against domination and violence in the name of a State. We idealized liberal democracy and Western lifestyle and wanted to become ‘free citizens of the world’. And then the year 1992 came with its war in Abkhazia and violence in our streets. This was the year when Gaga Nakhutsrishvili wrote his famous poem ‘No Pal’ and Gio Mgeladze made one of the best short films that I have seen that is called the same name. This was the film about our generation and particularly, the tragedy of our generation. It was so prophetic, telling us the story of the contemporary world with its entire tragedy. What is more important, it was telling us the story of how things would feel in 20 years. It had this incredible power of prediction of the fact that instead of freedom we have surrendered ourselves to violence – constant violence. The poem No Pal was written in memory of Gio Ioseliani who fell the victim of senseless violence in 1992 and the film No Pal has starred the incredible young Georgian actor Levan Abashidze who has also passed away in the war in Abkhazia in 1992.

‘No, my friend, it is a lot worse here now, dream and talent are scattered here, and the dream is disappearing, like Messiah, and the calm comes just with the wine and tobacco…There’s only a torture, and with the speed of seconds I dedicate one of those seconds to your memory.. No, my friend, please, don’t come back here, you’ll lose your talent to dream, dream is now rotten, corrupted, mugged, beautiful boy will even lose his tears.’

This is just a small excerpt from this transformational poem by Gaga Nakhutsrishvili. Many wondered in 1992 why was he seeing this new bright future in these tones. But now, 20 years after these words of Nakhtso (that’s how he is referred by his friends and admirers alike) proved to be more than true. The whole generation is feeling that the hopes of 1989 and the end of Cold War were turned into something very different. Now many of the former Soviet citizens from my generations would subscribe to the phrase: “it is lot worse here now”. It is something Shakespearean in Nakhtso’s poetic expression and I will try to explain how.

The life and death of a young Georgian banker Sandro Girgvliani is a good illustration of those stolen and murdered dreams. As the former Soviet Georgia entered the stage of post-Soviet transformation many young people aspired to start working in the private sector and become successful in the brave, new world. Sandro was one of those bright young men. At the age of 28 he was heading the international relations department at the United Georgian Bank. On January 27, 2006 he went into Sharden-Bar in Tbilisi to see his former girlfriend, who was at the party with several high-ranking officials from the Interior Ministry. The wife of Interior Minister, Tako Salakaia was herself at the party. With her were Vasil Sanodze, head of General Inspector’s Office, Data Akhalaia, The Head of Constitutional Security Department and Guram Donadze, the PR chief of Interior Ministry. Apparently, they did not like new guests. They made some calls meanwhile. After Sandro Girgvliani and his friend, Levan Bukhaidze left the Sharden-Bar they were kidnapped by the employees of Georgian police in civilian clothes. They were taken to Okrokana, a place outside Tbilisi, humiliated and tortured. Sandro Girgvliani was found dead the next day. This case became one of the most famous cases in postmodern Georgian history. Many civil rights organizations as well as opposition political parties, foreign embassies or international organizations were demanding an impartial investigation, since the available evidence very clearly suggested that high ranking officials were involved in this murder. But the trial was far from impartial. Some of the perpetrators of this crime were sentenced to several years in prison under highly favorable conditions. Moreover these perpetrators were released on in 2009. The people who gave the orders were never even indicted. Data Akhalaia, the notorious head of Georgian Security Services together with his brother Bachana, remains one of the most influential people at the helm of power in Georgia. The Interior Minister’s wife, Tako Salakaia was also never charged and her family right now is one of the most privileged in Georgia.

Since 2006, tragedy has followed Sandro Girgvliani’s family. The following year, in August of 2007 his mother, Irina Enukidze died of cancer. She was followed by his grandparents very soon. His father, Guram Girgvliani was the only one who was able to pursue the case at the European Court of Human Rights in April of 2011. Not surprisingly the court reached the conclusion that the investigation was far from objective and impartial.

“The Court deplores that… the authorities turned a blind eye to the applicants’ credible allegation of complicity between some of the persons from the Interior Minister’s wife’s group in the café and the direct perpetrators of the crime. Such a selective approach by the domestic authorities is unacceptable for the Court because, in order for an investigation to be effective, its conclusions must always be based on thorough, objective and impartial analysis of all relevant elements. Failing to follow an obvious line of inquiry undermines the investigation’s ability to establish the circumstances of the case and the person responsible,” the ECHR said in its judgment.

“The Court is struck by how the different branches of State power… acted in concert in preventing justice from being done in this gruesome homicide case,” the Court said.

So the story continues, the court in contemporary “liberal and democratic’ Georgia is not in any way better than its Soviet predecessor – in fact people now are more scared of the government in Georgia than they were in 1980s, during the Soviet ‘Perestroika’. Sandro Girgvliani’s case is not the only one. Cases of Amiran Robakidze, Zurab Vazagashvili, and many others are also highly visible. But the perpetrators are not just left alone, but in many cases given bonuses and promoted.

“When you think about police employees in civilian clothes kidnapping ordinary citizens, torturing and killing them the only comparison that comes to the mind is notorious ‘death squads’ in Latin America. In fact, current Georgian leadership is closely following the authoritarian model of former Peruvian President Fujimori and other electoral autocracies.” – says A.S. Elliot, one of the experts on Georgia and the representative of Georgian Jewish community in the US.

Indeed, the dream of this generation about the democracy and rule of law is being tortured by these acts of violence committed by the police men in civilian clothes, who are later promoted for their ‘service’ to the state.

And indeed, the words of Gaga Nakustrishvili’s poem sound prophetic.

“No, my friend, you can’t even smile, since I know that even smile is suffocated by these grudges..”

In some cases poetry becomes the only escape, when courts, parliaments, governments and presidents are suffocating our dreams. “Arts is an avenue where Georgian people run for escape” – A.S. Elliot says. Few experts cautiously express hope that retrial in Sandro Girgvliani case will produce a more fair result. But the majority of Georgians don’t feel the same way.

Sandro Girgvliani died young and was never given a chance to fulfil his dreams.

It was such a familiar picture from Shakespeare’s Richard III. Just before murdering Prince Edward and his younger brother, these are the cruel words that would also have applied to Sandro and many other young people, killed by ‘death squads’:

“So wise so young, they say do never live long.”

Piece originally posted at Arcade | Creative Commons License