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Fighting ghosts

By Messenger Staff
Wednesday, February 22
Some time ago, a Batumi memorial to Georgian soldiers killed during the Second World War was removed by the government. Three years ago, a similar memorial was destroyed in Kutaisi. This is how the Saakashvili administration fights Georgia's Soviet heritage. But such a fight will not be won with the destruction of memorials rather, with the introduction of more democracy.

Such a battle is one fought against ghosts, one that is largely symbolic (with the exception of the 2008 war with Russia). One such symbolic move was the removal of a Stalin monument in Gori, his birthplace an action that took place not in daytime, but at night.

Destroying war memorials, however, is something different. It contradicts the memory of those soldiers killed fighting fascism. Being soldiers in the Soviet army was not a choice, but a duty.

It is generally Georgians over the age of 45 who do not support this destruction of the country's heritage. While some argue that these monuments create nostalgia for the Soviet period amongst the population, it is remembrances of the Soviet system that are the real source of nostalgia. During that time there was no unemployment, and prices for gas, petrol and electricity were low. There was free medical service, free education, and the elderly could survive on their pension.

It is useless to fight against ghosts, symbols, and nostalgia. It is more important to fight quasi-democracy, corruption, and false promises. Destroying the Soviet mentality should not be conducted by tearing down monuments, but by securing a free and independent media, supporting freedom of expression and assembly, and respecting a diversity of viewpoints. To destroy its Soviet mentality, Georgia must build democratic institutions and respect universal human rights.