TBILISI, DFWatch–The former head of Georgia’s National Tourism Administration has said that the Georgian Orthodox Church demanded that he cancel a music festival shortly before he was sacked.
Giorgi Sigua was one of those who helped organize the festival, but was fired shortly before it took place from August 20 to August 30.
KaZantip used to be held in Crimea, but was moved to Anaklia on Georgia’s Black Sea coast after the Russian annexation of the peninsula.
Many in Georgia were against it, especially religious radicals and some clerics. The administrative leadership of the Georgian Church, called the Patriarchate, said in a statement that it was against holding KaZantip in Georgia, but in the end their resistance didn’t prevent it from going ahead.
In an interview with Business Kurieri on Sunday, Sigua said that before KaZantip, he was asked to come to the Patriarchate where he met with high ranking representatives of the Church. He was told that the festival must not be held in Georgia.
“That it is Sodom and Gomorrah, it will be a disaster and Georgia will lose Anaklia. That’s why Ukraine lost Crimea, because KaZantip was held there,” he remembered being told at the Patriarchate, adding that he listened to this calmly and explained his own views.
“At first they seemed to understand but then really bad things happened. God forbid, I won’t criticize the whole Church or say something bad, but there are people there who don’t act like clerics should act. They play a really negative role in the development of the country and society.”
Sigua said a few people approached him threatening that they know that one of his deputies is a homosexual and they would go public with this.
“And so what, I told them, adding that now Georgia has an anti-discrimination law,” Sigua recalled having replied, adding that even though he is Orthodox, he thinks the church has its own place, clerics their own place and civil society and government their own. “Chaining these together will result in becoming Iran.”
Sigua continued saying that this action by the Patriarchate didn’t really influence him, but it did have effect on the Minister of Economy Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who asked not to hold KaZantip and organize another festival instead. Kvirikashvili also met with representatives of the Patriarchate, after which he changed his mind, but he was assured by Sigua that it was a shame to postpone KaZantip as 8 million was invested in it.
“You have an investor who spends money here not asking for a single coin from you bringing investments and you plan to take state money and spend it on an alternative festival,” he said.
Sigua also informed that there had been an agreement between the Church and the president of KaZantip about bringing the mineral water Sno to Georgian territory, but this agreement was followed by a confrontation, as the Church had additional requests as they wanted to be exclusive importers of water during the festival and were rejected.
“What do you think, clerics are ordinary businessmen. They have their own companies, do business and don’t pay taxes.”
After the festival ended, Giorgi Kvirikashvili said that KaZantip is a ‘poor quality festival’ which failed in Georgia. He said he doesn’t know if the festival will take place in Georgia in the future, but there were false expectations about it.
“I think we have a lot of opportunities to develop Anaklia and hold a much better festivals there,” he said.
Nikita Marshunok, the “president” of KaZantip, responded in a Facebook update that Kvirikashvili will have to be responsible for what he said, that KaZantip is ‘low quality.’
“What indicators did you take into account, and how did you shape your views about a republic which you never visited?”