The Cross and the Rainbow

Rights debate shapes tomorrow’s Georgia

The story of Tbilisi Pride 2019 brought divergent elements of Georgia’s stormy politics together into a sharp and violent focus. For a while already, the “formal” politics – dominated by the ruling Georgian Dream, locked in a visceral combat with its perceived arch-enemy, the United National Movement – have obscured parallel, but much more real “body politics” of Georgia’s society.

The viciously partisan political identities that clash on Georgia’s lit-up scene are but grotesque masks, which – distort – sometimes amplifying, sometimes concealing – the real political fault-lines in Georgian society.

Attitude towards non-normative sexual behaviors – and, let’s face it, towards sexuality in general – as a social phenomenon, the debate over the degree of normative control that society and the state may exercise upon it, is a fundamental problem for Georgia, which has to build its national identity while constructing its state institutions.

The matter of faith and religious minorities was similarly divisive in mid-1990s, when religious fanatics associated with defrocked priest Basil Mkalavishvili and his parish terrorized “non-mainstream” religious groups – especially Jehovah’s Witnesses – as well as rights activists who spoke in their support. That was a combat mostly won – on points – by civil society, and then decisively (some say too decisively) crushed by the Rose Revolution administration, which arrested Mkalavishvili.

The Tbilisi Pride 2019 debate is no less central to Georgia’s democratic politics. Perhaps to a short-term disadvantage of the queer community, gay rights has become a metaphor through which the Georgian society tackles the problem of individual rights vs. social conventions, the majority rule vs. minority protection. All matters that are central to democratic statehood and society.

Too many things have happened, and we feel it is crucial to reflect upon them, commit to writing the chain of events, which may become pivotal for Georgia’s coming political life.

Outrage against Russia, reaction against police violence, discussion on the rights and European values, the very physical contestation for the public space between different strata of the Georgian body politic, all reflect on today’s Georgia and shape tomorrow’s one.

Yellow buses placed to separate competing rallies. Photo: Eana Korbezashvili/

Similarly iconic are the yellow buses – the metaphor of institutional impotence that the government places to separate the irreconcilable rallies.

Those buses burned in the flames of civil war in 1991. Never again.

You can read our newspaper’s detailed tale of Tbilisi Pride 2019 and its various facets in an article below: