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Committees convene to rid Georgia of Soviet regalia

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, October 29
On October 27, the members of the Committee on Legal Issues, Committee on Defence and Security and the Committee on Human Rights and Civil Integration discussed the legislative initiative known as the Freedom Charter submitted by MP Gia Tortladze, the leader of the Powerful Georgia. The draft law concerns the establishment of the state commission composed of representatives from each parliamentary faction with the right to enforce bans in each individual case. The Commission will become responsible for gathering information about the existence of symbols, monuments, statues, inscriptions, names of streets or squares, which may reflect or contain elements of communist or fascist ideology and propaganda.

The Freedom Charter is aimed at preventing espionage and increasing the self-defense capacities of Georgia. It considers monitoring the financial transactions of the former USSR Special Forces, high-rank officials of the Communist Party and Komsomol, protection of the strategic objects, the special monitoring of the so-called conventional border, monitoring of the cargo imported to Georgia and restriction on public displays of Soviet and Nazi symbols.

Tortladze’s initiative had been approved of by the Committees at the first hearing with a majority of votes. MP Pavle Kublashvili from the ruling party and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Legal Affairs, said that the committee supports “the principles and spirit” of the draft law while MP Gia Arsenishvili, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights, described the draft law as “important,” though added that the draft needed more time for further improvements before its discussion at the second sitting.

Parliamentary opposition does not approve of the initiative as they consider the Soviet and Nazi symbols as an important part of Georgian history. According to MPs from Christian-Democratic Movement (CDM) Levan Vepkhvadze, the ban on the soviet symbolic requires certain specification as a number of such symbols are so high on the Parliament building that their removal may carry a risk of damage. Comparing the Communist Party and the United National Movement (UNM), Vepkhvadze warned the Government of Georgia that future generations would change the name to the Rose Revolution Square with this very approach.

The leader of the Georgian Troupe Jondi Bagaturia said: “The Soviet symbols haven’t done anything wrong to people, the main fault was of the Communist authorities,” encouraging his colleagues to discuss more serious initiatives and avoid a conflict in society.

Talking about the example of Eastern and Central Europe as well as the Baltic states who adopted the same law in 1990s, analyst Nika Chitadze welcomed the initiative. “The former Soviet Union authorities should by all means be identified and kept away from influential positions in the Georgian reality. This won’t be an easy process because most information about these people is kept in Russian archives,” Chitadze told The Messenger.

Stressing that the Georgian Ministries with the flags of the modern international partner organizations still remain nontransparent in their internal activities, Chitadze spoke of the importance of removing the Soviet remains from our minds and memories. “The removal of the symbols won’t change the approach towards the Soviet or Nazi ideology which is still felt in our country. I think democracy should become an obligatory subject at Georgian schools along with the history of Georgia which was once part of the Soviet regime. Realizing the negative aspects of that period will become an important basis for changing false ideologies,” Chitadze said, stressing that future generations should definitely remain in touch with the past but realize the challenges of a genuinely democratic society.