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Documents Sacrificed to Stalin’s Statue

November 1, 2010
Journalistic investigation
Saba Tsitsikashvili, Gori

What were legal basis for the removal of Stalin’s statue in Gori? Why did the government decide to dismantle the statue at night which was set up while Stalin was still alive? Did the people request it and what are official documents to prove it? We started to collect information about the removal of the statue next day after it was dismantled; the procedures took more than two months.

The dismantlement started at 1:00 am on June 25, 2010. It took the workers of the Azerbaijan Company “Accord” almost three hours to remove it. The Gori population learned about the fact only from the morning news program. Several ten people gathered near the statue. At 6:00 pm the Gori municipal board had meeting. Reportedly, the board members had to discuss the issue about the statue at that meeting; however nobody mentioned the statue at all. When we checked information with the chairman of the board Zviad Khmaladze he said the issue of the statue was agreed at the meeting of June 16, 2010; that was ten days before.

Collecting Information While Documents Are Drawn Up

On the same night, we sent letter to the Gori municipal board and requested all information about the dismantling of the statue. Since the chancellery of the board did not work at 7:00 pm on June 25, 2010, the board members, who had just left the meeting, told us they would register our letter on June 28 – three days after removal of the statue.

Indeed, the person responsible for issuing the public information at the municipal board registered our letter on June 28; consequently, we had to receive the reply on July 8 – after 10 working days; that is, we received the information two weeks after the statue was dismantled.  On July 8, 2010 the Gori municipal board sent us the instruction # 29 of the chairman; protocol of the board meeting and of course signatures of the citizens who “requested” dismantling of the statue.

According to the provided information, the Gori municipal board claims that signatures of 1 671 people was submitted to the board on May 21, 2010. The addressee of the collective petition is chairman of the Gori municipal board Zviad Khmaladze and Gori district governor Davit Khmiadashvili; one copy of the petition was registered at the chancellery of the district administration and the second one – at the administration of the municipal board. Both letters had their registration numbers.

Collective Letter – “Kol 21”

The petition of the Gori citizens submitted to the Gori municipal board was granted number “Kol 21”. The petition is signed by 1 671 people. Among them 1 100 people are IDPs from Didi and Patara Liakhvi Gorges. They mostly reside in the settlements in Karaleti, Verkhvebi and Berbuki.

The other 200 people live in the villages of Gori district who are mostly coordinators of the ruling party National Movement; some of them are teachers too. As for other 450 people, they are residents of Gori: employees of the Shida Kartli regional administration, Gori district administration, municipal board, nursery schools, teachers of public schools, and personnel of various culture institutions. We concluded that several signatures reiterates – for example director of the Gori nursery school # 5 Ketevan Gelashvili has signed the petition two times. Head of the Gori Chubinishvili Culture House Mamuka Mamukashvili has also left two signatures on the document.

We interviewed several IDPs. Zalina Pavliashvili said people came to her house for signature one week after the statue was removed. “When they came here, they said I had to sign the document whether I liked idea of removing the statue to the yard of the museum?” recalled Zalina Pavliashvili. Mtvarisa Bestaeva said people applied to her 3-4 days after the statue was removed. We interviewed IDPs living in the Karaleti settlement (in the cottages # 189, 198, 175, 166, 151, 127, etc). The IDPs said they did not read the text of the petition but signed it when the statue was already removed. “They asked us whether we liked replacement of the statue,” said IDPs. The fact, that the collective letter was drawn up after the statue was already removed, is proved by documents.

As for Ketevan Gelashvili, who signed the petition two times, she replied: “Why should I report you about my behavior?! I will report only to the person who asked me to sign it because he is competent in this issue.” However, the director of the nursery school # 5 did not tell us who the “competent” person is. Ketevan Gelashvili is mother of Giorgi Papuashvili – head of the district culture department. Her two signatures on the document differ from each other.

We have document with official number “Kol 21” which was submitted to the municipal board on May 21, 2010 as the local authority claims. According to the municipal board, in May of 2010 eleven collective letters were sent to the municipal board. We have another collective letter with the same registration number “Kol 21.” In fact, there are two collective letters with one number at the Gori municipal board. One letter belongs to the residents of Davit Aghmashenebeli Ave. # 19 in Gori who request to repair drainage system in their district.

Residents of the Agmashenebeli street request to repair dranage channel in their district. The applicants are Kapanadze, Sikharulidze, Abaiadze, Simonishvili, Makharashvili, Kikabidze, Paniashvili, Tinikashvili, Tsikaridze, Tseruashvili and Klimiashvili. Tengiz Kapanadze and other neighbors – Simonishvili, Paniashvili and others told us that after their petition the board chairman Zviad Khmaladze personally visited their street and promised them to eradicate the problem within a month. However, when we visited the street (on October 4, 2010) the problem was not resolved yet. Zviad Khmaladze explained to us that he had not promised the population to resolve the problem of the drainage system within a month. “I promised them to resolve the problem as soon as we obtain corresponding funds. This promise had nothing to do with the pre-election campaign,” stated Zviad Khmaladze.

We requested the municipal board to provide us with the information about the number of petitions (collective, individual) regarding the reconstruction of the drainage systems. As a result, we learned that since September 1, 2009 till September 1 of 2010 only one petition on reconstruction of the drainage system was submitted to the municipal board. Gori municipal board has not satisfied even this petition. Nobody replied to the petition either. We hold the final document of the 2010 district budget which clearly states: “rehabilitation and exploitation of irrigation channels and dams” – 736 700 GEL was allocated for it. Residents of Aghmashenebeli Ave. 25 confirm that water from Kvernaki slope and surrounding territories flow into their yards and houses. “It brings all kind rubbish. It even carries preservatives. Such a small channel cannot contain so much water and it directly flows into houses,” the authors of the real petition “Kol 21” stated.

Gori municipal board sent the copy of this petition early in August of 2010. We requested them to send the scanned variant of the collective petition by e-mail in order to publish it on internet but the municipal board refused to send us the document. They explained to us that they could not send us the scanned version of the document because it was handwritten and they did not have its electronic version.

According to the Criminal Code of Georgia, fabrication of documents is punished under the law and interested people can appeal to the prosecutor’s office regarding the fabrication and the authors of the petition really intend to use this right.

According to official information, collective letter “Kol 21” of the residents of Aghmashenebeli Avenue was submitted to the municipal board on May 18. If we do not pay attention to the collective letter about removal of the Stalin’s statue, after the petition of the residents of Aghmashenebeli Avenue, the next letter was submitted to the municipal board on May 27 which was registered as “Kol 22”. Consequently, there was only one chance to grant similar registration number to the second letter – between May 18 and May 27 the collective letter of the people wishing the dismantling of the Stalin’s statue was added to the registration journal with the already existing registration number (pity for them).

One more interesting detail which proves that the collective letter of the people wishing dismantling of the Stalin’s statue was submitted to the municipal board after it was already dismantled. We received the copies of the collective letter twice. Initially we received it on July 8 2010 and second at the beginning of September of 2010. The first one was not resoluted by the chairman of the municipal board. It is only sealed up by the corresponding number of the chancellery. The second one was already resoluted by Zviad Khmaladze. It clarifies that addressee of the instruction is Z. Daghelashvili. It is clear that Zviad Khmaladze resoluted the petition after July 8, 2010 after we had already received its copy and the statue had been removed 15 days before.

The municipal board states that the collective letter assigned to Zurab Daghelashvili was discussed at the board meeting on June 16, 2010. This municipal board was staffed as a result of the self-governmental elections in 2006. If we believe the official documentation, the meeting of June 16 was the final meeting of this board. However, according to our information this meeting was not held at all.

The meeting protocol states that draft instruction on the replacement of the Stalin’s statue was submitted by the chairman of the commission of healthcare, education, sport, culture and social issues Zurab Daghelashvili. 17 members out of 24-member-municipal board attended the meeting and among them was Davit Razmadze from the Alliance for Georgia (opposition party). He alleges that he attended the session but did not vote for the draft instruction. We asked him why he had not made the June 16session details public before the statue was removed (June 25) and he replied he did not expect the local authority “to dare it”. In his interview to the local TV-Company “Trialeti” Razmadze said that Zviad Khmaladze had asked them to keep the session details in secret.

At the session of June 16 the board members did not express their opinion about the dismantling of the Stalin’s statue except Davit Razmadze. “He said it would be better if the issue was discussed publicly.” However, the author of these words left the session without discussing the issue with anybody – either with journalists or with his party-members. Head of the Gori based civil organization Shalva Tlashadze said that Davit Razmadze acted more irresponsibly than the governmental officials. “Davit Razmadze had a huge chance to become a leader of the public movement if he had exposed the details of the June 16 session to the public but unfortunately he did not do that,” said Shalva Tlashadze.

We applied to the Gori district court and requested to allow us to get recording of phone calls from GeoCell and MagtiCom to find out the location of the member of the Gori municipal board at 12:00 pm on June 16, 2010 during the session. Judge Nikoloz Marsagishvili did not allow us to get the information because it was commercial and personal information. However, in fact, the corporative phone numbers of the board members are funded by the state budget and we had full right to learn where board members were during the session.

As for the instruction # 29 on replacement the Stalin’s statue, it was signed by Zviad Khmaladze. It is individual legal act and is called: “Instruction on replacement of the Stalin’s Statue, located in Stalini Ave. # 1 in Gori.”

When issuing the instruction, Gori municipal board had to act in accordance to the “regulation of the Gori municipal board” which was enacted by the municipal board on November 9, 2006.

The regulation clarifies the procedures which shall be taken by the municipal board when adopting the legal act. The regulation was abolished on July 28, 2010 when the new board adopted a new regulation.

Lack of Knowledge of the Legislation, or the More Haste, the Less Speed…

According to the regulation working for June 16, 2010
a)    district governor,
b)    fraction of the municipal board
c)    commission of the municipal board
d)    member of the municipal board
had authority to submit draft legal act to the municipal board.
According to the protocol of the June 16 session, the draft instruction was submitted by the chairman of the commission for healthcare, education, sport, culture and social issues. Any commission of the municipal board could easily submit the draft instruction without signatures of the population and initiate the replacement of the statue. We will below clarify why the municipal board needed the signatures of 1 761 citizens.

According to the article 75 of that time regulation, the draft instruction had to be sent to the chairman of the municipal board a week before the session. However, it did not happen. According to the protocol, Daghelashvili introduced the draft instruction at the session. Afterwards, the chairman had to assign the draft project to the legal committee which had to prepare a conclusion on its compliance with the Georgian legislation. Only after that the board session could discuss the replacement of the statue. Besides the conclusion of the legal committee, the commission of human rights also had to prepare conclusion but it did not happen either. The instruction about the replacement of the statue was adopted through the violation of the article 75 of that time regulation.

Now let us discuss the regulation enacted on July 28, 2010, whose articles became ground for the decision of the municipal board on June 16, 2010. According to the new regulation,
a)    chairman of the municipal board
b)    member of the municipal board
c)    1% of all voters through petition (only on normative act)
can initiate (submit) legal act at the municipal board.

Reportedly, 1 671 signatures were submitted as a petition to the municipal board but according to the abovementioned regulation initiating of the petition is necessary only in case of adopting of the normative act. In this case, the municipal board had to enact “resolution” and not “instruction.” When enacting resolution, this normative act should have been registered at the registry of normative acts of the council of justice. While the “instruction” does not need any registration. So, the municipal board chose easier form and made its decision instruction. But the point is that signatures of 1% of voters were requested by the legislation only after July 28, 2010 because it is requested by new regulation. On June 16, as we have seen above, old regulation was in force.

The norms of the old regulation were not complied either. The legal committee of the municipal board did not make any conclusion whether the draft-project complied with the Georgian legislation.

We video-recorded the registration journal of Nika Adikashvili – lawyer of the municipal board – which demonstrate that Adikashvili had not prepared and sent any letter to the municipal board in May-June of 2010. As well, the human rights commission did not hold any session and did not discuss whether the draft instruction of Zviad Khmaladze complied with the Georgian legislation

Collective Letter “Kol 365”

Copy of the collective letter with the signatures of 1 671 residents of Gori was submitted to the Gori municipal board. It was dated by May 21, 2010. The registration number was “Kol 365” because the office of the district administration uses different numerations. Khmiadashvili put head of the economic and infrastructure commission Givi Khuroshvili and his specialists in charge of the collective letter. We tried to find out whether the district administration also had given the number of old letter to this letter. To our surprise, the registration journal of collective letters does not exist in the administration at all. The situation is the same in the municipal board. “There are only letters (not collective petitions) in the registration journal. Collective petitions are not letters. They are petitions. When you submit letter but it is titled as “petition” we record it only on control letter but do not register in the journal,” said the employees of the chancellery.

We requested to show control letter and they are so called envelopes which are not bounded or put in order. So, they can be easily replaced. Furthermore, the control letter states that letter “Kol 365” submitted on July 7, 2010 was already implemented. We tried to find out what “implemented” meant. In fact, Stalin’s statue does not stand in the yard of the museum yet.

Why did the district governor Davit Khmiadashvili send the collective petition to the infrastructure department when the letter was to be sent to the municipal board?! We have already discussed how the municipal board discussed it.

The head of the economic and infrastructure commission Givi Khuroshvili does not work at the municipal board. Givi Khuroshvili ordered Zurab Jalaghania to implement the petition. Zurab Jalaghania recalled that he prepared only draft instruction how the statue could be set up in the yard of the museum. “My draft instruction was discussed at the district administration. They held meeting where representatives of the society also attended the discussion. I do not have information about other details,’ said Zurab Jalaghania. We could not find the protocol on the session at the district administration. Jalaghania sent us to the chancellery again where we could find out what the “implementation” of the petition meant. It is fact that the statue is not placed in the yard of the museum yet but the district administration claims they have implemented the request of the population.

So, this is the story how Stalin’s statue was dismantled “legally”. In fact, the petition of the residents of Aghmashenebli Ave. 25 was sacrificed to this initiative. In fact, the municipal board tries to destroy the original petition of the residents of Aghmashenebli Avenue. The board refused us to send the scanned copy of the document. We have only Xerox copy of the document which we received a bit earlier than people started collection of documents about the removal of the statue.

Gori resident Gogi Dalakishvili said that during the repressions in 1930s, foreign specialists, who visited the Soviet Union and attended trials of the repressed people, were surprised by “impartiality” and “validity” of the fabricated cases. In current democracy, we tried to show to the society what arguments and impartiality can be observed in the documents related with the dismantling of Ioseb Jughashvili’s monument.

The article was funded by the EU Mission in Georgia in the framework of the project implemented by the Studio Monitor

1.    Collective Letter of Residents of Aghmashenebeli Avenue in Gori.
2.    Collective Letter of People who Supported Removal of Stalin