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Georgian Theatre is Under Pressure in Azerbaijan

July 28, 2005

Georgian Theatre is Under Pressure in Azerbaijan

Georgian Theatre in Azerbaijan (in the village of Alebeglo in the region of Kaxi), which was granted the state status by the order of the President of Azerbaijan in June 2005 does not function. The actors prevented from rehearsal due to the fact that the administration of the Cultural House and the art officer do not allow them to enter the building. Both sides, the Georgian and Azerbaijani governments, ignored the situation to the point that the theatre staff had to organise a protest and decided not to let Opelia Andriashvili, the President of the Cultural House, into the premises and locked the entrance door. Actors along with the local community are starting the peaceful manifestations in order to attract the attention of the respective bodies and end with ignoring their problem all the time. Despite the reality, Ilgar Japarov, the head of the Culture Department of the Azerbaijan Embassy in Georgia, was trying to hide the problem and denied the information about it. Human Rights Information and Documentation Center studied the mentioned issue in the district itself. The information got from the first source and the real picture of the situation speaks absolutely different than Mr. Japarov states.

Before it received the title of the Georgian “State Theatre,” the building in question was operating with the financial support of Georgia under the name of the Azerbaijani Peoples’ Theatre. In the beginning, a group of amateur actors came together in 1980 to establish the Theatre and then afterwards, in 1985, they received the statues of the Peoples’ Theatre.

From its establishment until 2000, under the direction of Mr Anzor Dolenjashvili, the art officer, the theatre staged a new play every season and would travel throughout the district and within other regions of Georgia to perform the play.

The Theatre, however, ceased to function after it received the State statues. According to the arrangement, the Cultural House and the Theatre share the same building without any separations but Andriashvili, the director of the Cultural House, will not allow the theatre staff to enter the building. When visiting Kaxi, we interviewed members of actors group who do not conceal their dissatisfaction. “They want to appoint Opelia Andreiashvili, as director of theatre but we want it to be a member of our actors staff, Lali Shioshvili, Her professional education and experience makes her the right choice to be the director,” said one of the members.  “The walls of theatre were full of posters but they now have been turned upside down or torn apart.  Neither Naili Cokolashvili nor Opelia Andriashvili lets us go inside the building. They will not let us perform a play. The list of actors is the same but the documentation is different and human resources have been unnecessarily enlarged.”

When the Georgian Catholic Patriarch visited Kaxi, theatre staff was not allowed to rehearse any of their play in order to perform for the visit inspite of the request of the visiting delegation for a performance.

Further, the Georgian actors have been waiting for two weeks alreadya for the Minister of Culture of Azerbaijan, Mr Polar Bul-Bul orl, who has not replied to any of their letters of request for assistance. The theatre staff even blocked the entrance of the building so that the Andriashvili herself would not be able to go inside. They also met head officer of the Cultural House and the regional chairman together with his deputy but the only answer they received was that Andriashvili cannot be fired until after three months. When asked for the reason, the officials were unable to explain.

Georgian actors strive to keep the Georgian spirit alive and flourishing in Azerbaijan and will not give up their protests but demand from both Azerbaijan and Georgia that due  government attention is focused on their problem. The theatre staff has sent letters to both Presidents, Mr Ilham Aliev of Azerbaijan and Mr Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia and to the Offices of the Public Defenders in both countries.

Eka Datunashvili