The strikes strike again – IDP protests: Desperate act in times of apathy – Drug prices: small gesture = big leap? – The story of one… two… three poets and the ministry

Those familiar with discussions of social issues in Georgia know that they are usually as volatile and fleeting as the snow that recently fell early in the morning in Tbilisi: if you are lucky enough, you may catch a glimpse of the white-covered beauty. surroundings because it will only take a few minutes for everything to miraculously turn gray again. So the newly appointed Minister of Health (and many other things) may be quite surprised to have to deal with unusually intense social discontent early in his new career. Here’s Nini with the usual updates from Georgia.

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CAREGIVERS IN NEED OF CARE Up to 400 social workers, employed by the ministry-run Social Services Agency, announced a strike on Friday of a rare scale, demanding higher wages and better working conditions. It was thanks to this strike – which began on Monday – that many learned of their poverty wages. For some, they have remained frozen since 2007, despite the continuing rise in the cost of living. It is a sad irony that social workers, responsible for examining and providing social assistance to others, say that they themselves need similar help. The strike is to continue despite the employer’s decision to increase wages by 40-60% from February: workers complain that the decision was not agreed with them and that it is lower than the offer made to them in November – and, crucially, still below what they need to survive. Read details here.

DESPERATE ACTS Displaced people from the occupied Georgian territories often protest to demand a dignified residence as they remain settled in the often dangerous and dingy collective housing where they found shelter after the armed conflicts of the 1990s. But the recent one, in Tbilisi, has attracted draw attention to a tragic incident when a man in his 50s, one of the internally displaced, jumped to his death from one of these shelters on 16 January. Neighbors say it was his attempt to get the attention of the authorities. The protests erupted as residents felt the urgency to act after the building they were housed in became patently unsafe, and they felt that none of the offers made by the Department of Health, responsible for their rights, did not provide them with adequate accommodation.

Health Minister Zurab Azarashvili was quick to say the “accident” had nothing to do with protests and came under fire – because before he jumped the man allegedly said the exact opposite. “Unfortunately, the voice of the displaced is only heard after tragediesresidents said in a collective statement the next day. They also spoke of a “narrative” to present the suicide as an accident and circulated allegations to attribute the incident to mental health issues, substance abuse or conflict. “Minister, the people of this country are dying a real and cruel death. The people of this country are being killed by indifference, desperation and despairsaid the protesters, recalling that their issues had never become a priority of social policy over the past three decades. Following here.

Read also : in a long-promised move, Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili announced on January 17 that companies would be allowed to import, without further national authorization, all pharmaceuticals approved by Turkey. The authorities thus hope to combat the problem of inflated drug prices, one of the main social problems of the country. But how much it will help and why the government has taken so long to take this step remains to be seen. Read it article.

BETWEEN THE LINES Many in Georgia have become familiar with the poems of Elene Dariani, an early 20th-century poet known for her rarely overt and powerful depiction of female passion and sexuality. His true identity has remained a mystery and a subject of discussion: Dariani’s poems were often attributed to his soul mate, the symbolist poet Paolo Iashvili – it has been sought that he used a woman pen name pursue alternative projects. But archival research showed that these verses belonged to Elene Bakradze – a real woman and free-spirited contemporary of Iashvili. Some believe that it was the controversy of the subjects that forced Elene Bakradze to hide her true identity. Others speculate that Iashvili, in love with Bakradze, would edit her poetry, turning the verses into a co-creation. And there is also a suggestion to attribute the female pseudonym to Iashvili’s attempts to conceal his homoerotic takes.

But while Georgian intellectuals remain at odds over which voice has actually been silenced, the Ministry of Culture has entered into another controversy, issuing a statement that was…well, not so poetic. Here is the story : the Literature Museum, which published a book containing personal writings, recollections, diaries and letters of “Elene Bakradze – Dariani”, wrongly attributed to Bakradze two poems by Ana Kalandadze – probably the poetess most famous Georgian. Lasha Bakradze, director of the museum, apologized for the error on January 2, saying that although he was aware of it earlier, he had not informed the general public about it until now because it would interfere with New Year’s Eve festivities. He also mentioned some “bad guys” who would like to push the talks in the wrong direction.

the culmination came on January 17, when the Ministry of Culture – now headed by former justice minister Tea Tsulukiani, famous for his hatchet – issued a statement in stern terms, citing “many quite concerned citizens” who approached the ministry about the error and called for “a necessary response”. .” The statement, although showing empathy towards the publisher of the book “who sincerely regrets the error, which even caused her to fall ill”, was less kind towards Mr. Bakradze who, according to the ministry, “is sick with Covid” (not a valid excuse, of course) and with whom the ministry intends to “seriously discuss the issue”. The statement also says the ministry has asked to recall copies that have already been forwarded to third parties. So now Minister Tsulukiani faces a counterattack from people in publishing – and not only – who have sensed a whiff of Soviet-era censorship and totalitarianism. But no worries: she’s been there before.

That’s the full cover for today. Join us every Tuesday and Friday for ironic coverage of Georgian political life.