Our public and political space has been gradually desolated from moral principles and rational vision. All noble and intelligent individuals have been choked up about that for quite long time, especially the decent youth. They can hear words of morality nowhere. Scope of godlessness is amazing and its major expression is pseudo religiousness. Hypocrisy has become sort of cement for our society. People fear for nothing. It turns out that we can play this way in our life-time: stand at church service casting down our eyes; or clap our hands in favor of war and kill people, or continuously tell lies, in public or alone, and never plead guilty.

We consider ourselves as a nation who respects history. In reality we are anti-historical since we failed to write our recent history despite the fact that plenty of time has passed. There is no serious introspection regarding anything, no analysis of our chaotic life current since 1988. No opportunity was found for that. Never. Public as well as political censorship have been always banning the truth. If one keeps on swallowing not thoroughly chewed food, one’s stomach will burst one day. In exactly the same way we have swallowed the stages and events of our history of paramount importance. And for this reason we keep on going round the same circle. None of three our presidents managed to leave office without breaking the country by war. And we do not understand that God forbids us not only a bad war, but any war at all. Right this is a hell – senseless and fruitless similarity. Thus we found ourselves to be exposed to catastrophe and even now we are willingly asserting that everybody is in fault except us, eeverybody should help us and… we will keep on going round the magic circle, where no one can tell victory from defeat.” – Naira Gelashvili.

The latest developments in Georgia made part of the society unite around the Caucasian House. These people wish to present their vision regarding the way out of this acute crisis and major priorities of the state. They have been stating their opinions during the whole week at the round table. Psychologist Nana Chachua, journalist Dodo Shonava, philosopher Lela Gaprindashvili, writer and chairperson of the Caucasian House Naira Gelashvili and others participated in the discussion. This time we offer an interview with Naira Gelashvili.

– The civil funeral of the journalists from Tbilisi Ghiga Chikhladze and Alexander Klimchuk who had perished in Tskhinvali was held in the Caucasian House. Why the Caucasian House?

– The Caucasian House is a peace organization, which has been constructing bridges burnt by other people for 18 years now, maintaining and strengthening scientific, creative and human contacts with the South and North Caucasus. Ghiga Chikhladze and his brother Irakli were correspondents of our Russian paper of “Kavkazski Aktsent.” This paper has been unique in terms of its being a paper of the Caucasian nations. We had been sending it to Sukhumi and Tskhinvali where people read it with interest and even contributed to it. Ghiga would have been a politician of peace so non-aggressive, friendly, pure soul and lovely person he was. And on that day the Russians, Ossetians, Georgians, Abkhaz, Armenians were together mourning for Ghiga Chikhladze and Alexander Klimchuk. Micro Caucasus was mourning over the loss, that good and respected Caucasus, which wants peace, because only peace provides opportunity to display its many-sided talent and enjoy the beauty of life. We said then: if we are to make this death meaningful we have to build “Caucasian Houses” everywhere. We should not abandon this idea only because the destructive forces are victorious at the moment.

– Everybody who is well aware of the Caucasian House’s many-sided activity, share the opinion that today it is the only organization whose cultural, educational and peace activity retains for Georgia
the function of the Caucasus cultural centre. But does the idea of Caucasian unity have any prospects at all? Does this idea exist at all? Does there exist any willingness of the society to accept this vision?
– My dear, if it does not exist, so much worse for the society. Right for this reason we are doomed to such disasters. Generally speaking, point of the truth is somewhat different. The right and kind idea contains strength in itself, because I believe that it comes from the depth of universe. And the multitude of followers of any idea is not an indicator of its truth. On the contrary, a minor part of the society, or just one individual not infrequently is a bearer of correct, kind and fair ideas, while evil, false and destructive in essence idea, such as the idea of war or oppression can sometimes unite the masses. The idea of Caucasian unity is so natural that we can hardly prove its importance because it is self-evident. To put it in a simple way, it means the best relationship with the next-door neighbour. As the popular experience teaches us, good neighbour is better than a relative. If this idea were supported by life, our organization would have been useless. We are backing up and introducing this idea which is shared by very many people.

– Does it signify that a “Caucasian House” is an art of friendly neighbourhood?

– Quite so! My neighbourhood is my closest space. As soon as I leave my home I step in my neighbourhood and I wish to be welcomed with cordial smile and greetings rather than traps and bullets at every step. I want to hope that I will not be left alone in trouble because my neighbour is near and can help me sooner than anyone else. Therefore, due to good neighbourhood my home widens and I feel at home everywhere. We have one life, may be not very long one, and isn’t it crazy to spend it in an enclosed and narrowed space, surrounded by hostile environment like we have now, because of destructive mentality?! One enemy to our right, another – to our left , the third – to our opposite and a friend overseas, who has no ways of removing this hostile surroundings, because this problem can be solved only by us through our reason, morality and goodwill. And there is a saying, you know it, – While Peter was coming Paul was skinned, as it has happened to us.

– And what political and scientific explanation can be found for all these?

– In modern scientific language it can be put as a principle of regional development. It is considered that the so-called sustainable development can be only regional, i.e. when based on the common agreement and concept the countries of the region, for example all three republics of the South Caucasus draw up such a plan of development which is useful for all of them. The common market is established and lively trade is carried on, environmental situation of the whole territory is thoroughly studied, environmental monitoring is set up and joint efforts are taken to prevent environmental crisis, criminality, drug dealing, aids and et cetera since these are the problems resolution of which no single country can resolve without cooperation with the neighbours. Besides, it will be necessary to develop programs of cultural exchange, scientific cooperation and so on. Only in such a way the neighbouring countries may achieve stable development, prosperity and security. If one country gets rich and another impoverished, such strong misbalance emerges that the rich country will never rejoice at its well-being since no good can be expected from a starving and embittered neighbour.

– You receive assistance from the famous European funds. Do the Europeans understand the “Caucasian House” idea?

– Yes they do. The Europeans understand our ideas better than the Caucasians because they have traversed the path of war and confrontation and know that regional development has no alternative. The World War II accelerated the origination and strengthening of the European unity. It is one of the most striking examples of how strong is the vital energy of Europe, whatever they say about the aging of Europe.

– And you hope, that the fierce Caucasian wars will accelerate true cooperation and solidarity of the South Caucasia?

– To say the truth, I don’t attach importance to my hopes very much. My colleagues and I have been doing our best to promote friendship of the Caucasian nations through many-sided cultural and educational programs, and to bring up children and the youth with this perception. One has to do what one can and work at high level. If the Caucasian nations have not entirely lost the instinct of self-preservation, they should by all means understand soon that they are exposed to much more grave dangers than territorial problems. It means that they have to move to the real time at last and see the present day world. And the present day world is in the phase of environmental catastrophes. As one European scientist says, today we are discussing the Apocalypse in terms of science and it will unroll as a chain of environmental catastrophes.

– Do you mean the global warming?

– Not only that. However, the global warming would suffice. It is advancing faster than expected and before any preventive measures are devised. The Caucasian mountains ice cover is melting before our very eyes. The hurricanes, warm and cold, floods, earthquakes, erosions of earth will become more frequent. Food stuffs and water deficit will show up, oil resources will be exhausted and it is not a matter of the distant future. Scientists of advanced develop countries are struggling to resolve these problems.

They are getting prepared, while we, the Caucasians who live in a zone of active earthquakes, destroy ourselves and our beautiful nature. Natural selection will take place and the reason is that we have lagged behind the time and got stuck in our backwardness.

– And what about our present crisis, how would you evaluate it?

– What are we faced now is not a crisis it is a catastrophe. And this catastrophe is a result of protracted crisis of our intellect, morality and nervous system. In other words, it unfortunately complies with the laws of nature. We have been sliding in this direction for quite a long time. Our politicians start describing situation mainly by focusing on economic losses and even dare to beguile us into false vivacity promising to promptly restore everything. But can they revive so many adults and children! Can they find glue or cement to stick up so many broken souls, especially those of children? Their hurt self-esteem? Their destroyed hopes? Those kids have been made believe by so many spectacular military parades and performances that they also had strong homeland no one could infringe upon, and the army could defend them. What shall we do with those deeply depressed and disappointed children? Those who are left in Tskhinvali region deprived of parental care? With so many homeless? With so many orphans? Orphanhood never ends, does it? Isn’t it a trauma till the end of life? And people who have adequate understanding of human suffering and anguish will never start or engage in such wars, which the Georgians start on join in recurrent way. No one will take risks in such a wild way as it has been done by the Georgian party. I consider it to be such a crime that hardly can find words when discussing it. And first of all I can not forgive myself. I have a feeling that I had to do something but failed to understand what.

– There is a consideration that this war has gained some dividends for Georgia.

– It is disgusting and unhealthy to say that such a huge sacrifice can be justified. I was talking with one representative of healthcare system, a young lady, who without batting an eyelid was telling the following: if this war did not go beyond Tskhinvali, it would be senseless and ineffectual. That’s fine we have managed to expand it and agitate the whole world. Now they have to wake up. And we will join NATO more promptly. Can you hear that? A representative of the healthcare system! A woman! A mother! What can we say about others! Even such thought must not cross one’s mind, to say nothing about articulating it. But it is a madness caused by the long-term moral exhaustion. They have overstepped the dead bodies of children and pregnant women and now the politicians, oligarchs along with their servant intellectuals, singers and journalists are heading for NATO clicking their heels! Such people believe that Putin and Bush are ruling over the universe. And alongside of those gentlemen, God seems minor to them. In reality the universe is governed by justice, which is like a lightning of sin and grace. One has to examine a little bit closely to understand that. And it is never too late to admit one’s sin or error. At least, it is the only thing that produces result and may be catharsis.

– How would you evaluate the actions of Russia?

– Oh, you’d rather have not asked that! Two hundred years we have been asserting the same about Russia. Interminable round of truisms makes me slow. This country has been named long time ago. It has not committed the tenth of what it did in Chechnya, where forty thousand children and three hundred thousand adults were killed, where all sorts of arms had been used including the chemical weapons. The whole living space was destroyed and Georgia had been indifferently, sometimes even cynically, looking at that. Let’s remember that the present and as well as the previous government have arrested helpless Chechen men and passed to Russia. It was a nightmare. Should one allow the slaughter of one’s women and children and then pull apart one’s hands indignantly and say: I had been telling you that it was so terrible, why didn’t you believe?!
After the annihilation of Chechnya I personally have not visited Russia as a token of protest and will never ever visit it. Especially now, despite the fact that I have many friends and many things to do there, many interesting invitations from there. But I am a private person and I can venture that. If I were a ruler, I would have to live with that, even if my hurt were bleeding. And I would be bound to establish the best relations with Russia so that to protect my nation. As Russia is our next-door neighbour and it is invariable. Nothing is so significant, determinate and directly pointing at destiny as geographical location. Being a small nation we should be based on maximal shrewdness and wisdom when establishing relationship with Russia. I was not justifying the Chechens as well. If one allows the slaughter of one’s children and women than what is the homeland, what is one fighting for!

Relationship with Russia is a real philosophy. One who does not understand that philosophy must not rule over the people. Example of Azerbaijan, which strives for the West like us, shows that confrontation with Russia is not necessary at all. I guess not a single western politician, diplomat or expert was left who had not warned us not to ever allow conflict with Russia as the West could not help us. About two years ago an English expert Jonathan Cohen wrote in our press: Russia will fight for Abkhazia and South Ossetia till final victory and NATO will never get involved in that war. As I read in a German paper last year:” the wounds received by Georgia from Russia can not be cured by NATO.” What else should they do? Our people in towns and villages have felt that by natural wisdom and intuition. But their correct fear has been suppressed in all ways. The slightest doubt concerning Georgia’s joining NATO has been declared high treason. All other opinions have been forced out from the political discourse as well as peaceful appeals. And the falsehood is a source of every misfortune, isn’t it?

– Do you think that this war and its results could have been avoided?

– My God, as I said: if one’s priority is human life, dignity, spiritual and physical health, happiness and if one is reasonable and has intellectual abilities, one will never get involved in war under the present circumstances, despite whatever provocation. Weapon is an ersatz of intellect. Modern world provides opportunity to resolve problems, including the problems of conflict regions, with knowledge, mentality, moral intuition and shrewdness. To accomplish this purpose it is necessary to work every day, for a long time, accurately and wisely. True slogan of peaceful politics is the saying: “Go a roundabout way and return home safe and sound.”

– Don’t you share the opinion that peaceful policy had not yield results and the situation reached a deadlock?

– If you ask me no peaceful policy had been pursued in Georgia at all. The peaceful policy envisages involvement of almost entire society, government, opposition, non-government sector, students, even
children. And it is not something interrupted and fragmentary, as it used to be here, but rather an uninterrupted process. And the first stage is reconciliation of nations, restoration of trust and ties between them. Then follows everything else, in series. But if non-government and peaceful organizations urge the Abkhaz and Ossetians to reconciliation and peace while the government gets prepared for war and is armed to the teeth, it is just like beating the air. No one will believe you and everything will end the way it has ended. Generally speaking, the art of reconciliation has become the greatest art in our century. It is a true art and only the individuals with special talent can succeed in that field. We do have such people in Georgia. The famous intellectual and alpinist Zaliko Kikodze who died on Ushba peak had been right such man. The Ossetians and Abkhaz attended his funeral and mourned over his death like the Georgians did. Such people were Niko and Zurab Chavchavadze, whose death was mourned across the whole Caucasus, even the most radical Ossetian organizations offered their condolences and sent telegrams, because it is the Caucasus and there does exist even the ethics of enmity. Such man was Vakhushti Kotetishvili. We were together at peaceful mission in North Caucasus in 1990 and people kept telling him they wished he were in the government of Georgia. And such man is Paata Zakareishvili, God let him live long, who is an acknowledged expert and conflictologist, recognized and trusted both by the Georgians and the Abkhaz, whose opinion is interesting for foreign politicians, but the government has declared him a traitor. Irakli Alasania had been working very well in the field of relationship with Abkhazia, but he was promptly removed. In general, the more knightly is a nature of an individual the more such individual strives to re-establish peace and succeeds. Such individuals should be sought and their talent and knowledge should be utilized. However now, after this war, the last chance is lost. “Peace be unto you” – is a greeting of Jesus Christ. And he says: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” If this disaster proves to be unavailing and no new wave of common sense and humanism appear in Georgia, nothing will help us for certain.

Natia Akhalaia