Friday, November 16, 2007

Georgia on My Mind

One of the oldest Orthodox nations on the planet is the little Republic of Georgia. (Nothing secessionist going on here--I'm taking about the former Soviet Republic in Western Asia, sandwiched between Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. As far as I know, the State of Georgia is still in the Union and not terribly Orthodox either.) Last spring, when I visited St. Tikhon's, we got to talking about religious revival in Eastern Europe since the fall of Communism; one of the seminary students mentioned that Georgia has some of the most impressive levels of actual participation (vs. those who now say they believe but almost never go to church or anything), which piqued my curiosity. I haven't found much online about Georgian Orthodoxy--it has only a very small presence here in the U. S., and there doesn't seem to be much available in English about the Church in Georgia. (Any suggestions?) I did happen across a film with some minor Georgian Orthodox characters not long after that, which I mentioned here. More significantly, the English edition of Pravoslavie has been posting lives of Georgian saints from a recent book published by St. Herman's. Today I read about the 100,000 martyrs of Tbilisi, who are commemorated Oct 31, which might make them a good candidate for some kind of Halloween-alternative celebration, except that the liturgical day runs evening to evening. (Not to mention the difference between calendars.)

I've also been following the political situation in Georgia, which had its own "color revolution" a few years back, resulting in better relations with the West but greater tensions with its neighbor Russia. Now our "friendly" Georgian government seems to be cracking down on opposition protesters with an uncomfortable level of strictness. After an outbreak of police brutality, the street demonstrations were called off; a state of emergency was declared, which looks soon to be lifted. There will be an early election to sort things out--hopefully. For me, the interesting part of the story was the desire of opposition leaders that any talks with the government be mediated by the Orthodox Patriarch. That story made it into the mainstream media as well--seen here, in the NYT. (Sorry--you may have to sign up for a free login to view the article.)

And speaking of shifting Eastern elections, how about this possibility for Putin to serve a third term? Maybe the next best thing to crowning a new tsar . . . :-)

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