Georgia maintained its very strong identity
Georgian President Saakashvili praised the Georgian Orthodox Church and its head, Patriarch Ilia II, for, as he put it, playing an important role in keeping “Georgian identity.”
“Let’s recall 1977, when 33 years ago [on December 25] his holiness [Patriarch Ilia II] became the leader of our Church. It was the time when children of one part of our [Communist] Party nomenklatura were only attending Russian schools and it was the time when saying no to anything that was Georgian was broadly encouraged… It actually was a process of oppressing our identity,” Saakashvili said on December 29 in newly renovated opera house in Kutaisi in presence of the Georgian Patriarch.
“The main reason why Georgia continues development… is that – unlike many other colonized, enslaved former Soviet republics and let’s be honest actually unlike of all others – Georgia maintained its very strong identity, which makes it different from imperial culture and imperial heritage, which gives Georgia capability to get back on its feet, to resist and to show example of alternative development, which means being internally free… and perfect nation.”
Saakashvili said that the Georgian Orthodox Church and particularly its leader Ilia II were “an important part of this identity.”
Saakashvili then compared Ilia II with Ilia Chavchavadze, a 19th century Georgian public figure, who is one of the most respected figures among Georgians, by saying that the Patriarch did the same in 1970s what Chavchavadze did in 19th century, when the latter managed to establish “new Georgian identity” based on multi-century traditions.
He also said that despite his age – Ilia II will turn 78 next week – the Patriarch “is very young”, because, he said, a person’s age is determined by the ability “to keep pace with new life.”
Saakashvili also praised the Patriarch as author of hymns saying that he had been listening “his compositions for years and I did not know for a long time that his holiness was the author of those hymns… I thought they were composed by some world’s best classical or other composers.”