11 November 2019, 13:55

Week in the Caucasus: review of main events on November 4-10, 2019

Celebrations of National Unity Day and anniversary of the October Revolution in Southern Russia; mass protests in Georgia and Armenia; start of trial on major fire in Rostov-on-Don; rally of former "Electrozink" worker in Vladikavkaz, – read about these and other events in the Caucasus during the week of November 4-10, 2019, in a review prepared by the "Caucasian Knot".

Celebrating National Unity Day and anniversary of October Revolution in Southern Russia

On November 4, southern cities of Russia, as other regions of the country, held events on the National Unity Day, celebrated since 2005. Amid the events organized by the authorities on this day, many residents of Southern Russia, as the "Caucasian Knot" has found out, voiced out a lack of understanding of the meaning of the holiday. Some of them nostalgically recalled the celebration of November 7; and residents of Ingushetia considered it more appropriate to recall the victims of the Ossetian-Ingush conflict. State servants and students in Grozny complained about being forced to participate in the festive rally.

On November 7, in several cities of Southern Russia, Communists marked the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. This day, widely celebrated in the USSR, remained a holiday only for people of left-wing convictions, but the ideas of the revolution remain an occasion for discussions, the local residents interviewed earlier by the "Caucasian Knot" noted. This year, Sochi Communists held a two-hour rally, which, according to organizers' estimates, was attended by more than a hundred people. About 50 people gathered at a communist rally in Nalchik; they criticized the economic situation in Russia and called for a return to socialism. About 30 people took part in a march and rally on the occasion of November 7 in the city of Shakhty. They voiced out the problems of unemployment, public health and poor roads. In Volgograd, Communists' picket, demonstration and rally gathered more than 850 people, who announced problems with employment, labour safety and the provision of social guarantees for workers, including the right to the eight-hour working day and vacation.

Mass protests in Georgia and Armenia

On November 8, in Tbilisi, near the "Amirani" Cinema, protesters opposed law enforcers on the screening of a film about homosexual love. This day was the premiere of the film "And then we danced", which tells about love of two performers of the Georgian folk dance ensemble. The film, first shown in May, has aroused audience's interest and critics' positive feedback. After the premiere, more than 20 countries bought the right to screen the film. However, in Georgia, the Patriarchy and nationalists opposed the screening of the film in the country, as they treated it as propaganda of homosexuality. Opponents of LGBT people first stood with banners in front of the special fighters' cordon, periodically entering into verbal skirmishes with film spectators and chanting: "Georgia!" and "Shame on you!" Then they tried to break into the cinema, throwing bottles and other items. In Batumi, also on November 8, people dissatisfied with the screening of the film "And then we danced" also staged riots at a local cinema. At the end of the protests, the police reported 28 detainees in Tbilisi and Batumi. Among the detainees was a suspect of attacking the activist, Anna Subeliani, who was hit on the head with some blunt object, when she tried to get into the cinema for watching the film. After the incident with Anna Subeliani at the Tbilisi cinema, activists accused policemen of unwilling to protect civilians during the riots.

Last week, mass protests were also held in Yerevan. However, unlike Tbilisi, they were peaceful. On November 4, the youth wing of the ARF "Dashnaktsutyun" Party demanded resignation of Araik Arutyunyan from the post of the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Armenia, by expressing dissatisfaction with the recently initiated Ministry's projects. On November 6, hundreds of students in Yerevan, also dissatisfied with the above Minister, went on a strike. On November 7, more than 250 students and supporters of the "Dashnaktsutyun" held a rally outside the government building. The action grew into an endless sitting picket. The night at the government building was spent by 30 activists. The action continued on the following days. Protesters accuse Araik Arutyunyan of neglecting national values. Their displeasure was caused by the Ministry of Education's funding of an experimental performance "The Excitement and the Bell" and the documentary film "Chalk" about Mele Daluzyan (Melina Daluzyan), a transgender weightlifter, two-time European champion, bronze medallist of the World Championship. The reason for the students' strike was the initiative of the Ministry to make the study of the history of Armenia, the Armenian language and literature optional at non-humanitarian departments. It should be noted here that the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, met protesters and told the activists he disagreed with them.

Start of trial on major fire in Rostov-on-Don

On November 8, at the Proletarsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don, the state prosecutor completed the announcement of the indictment in the case on a major fire in the regional capital. Let us remind you that on August 21-22, 2017, a residential district burned down in the centre of Rostov-on-Don; 125 private houses and 39 apartments in eight apartment blocks were destroyed and damaged; more than 700 people were recognized as victims. One person died, seven were hospitalized. Marina Belyaeva, the former deputy head of the Proletarsky District of Rostov-on-Don; Pavel Trunov, the head of the Vostochny RES, the Rostov-on-Don City Electric Networks branch of the "Donenergo", and Igor Bezemmelny, a senior foreman of the production site of this company, appeared in the prisoners' dock. According to the prosecution, the fire was caused by a short circuit in the wires of the high-voltage power line, which was operated with violations.

All the three defendants refused to plead guilty. They are sure that the fire was caused by arson. Earlier, the Ministry for Emergencies (MfE) called an external source to be a likely cause of the fire. Residents of the burnt-down houses suggested that the fire was set up by "black realtors", who had planned to build a residential complex in the area. It is noteworthy that two years after the fire, many victims still have no housing, as the authorities refused to subsidize them.

Rally of former "Electrozink" workers in Vladikavkaz

On November 9, a rally of former employees of the "Electrozink" Factory, which was stopped this year, was held in Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia-Alania. The authorities failed with their promise to employ factory workers, and as a result entire families were left without subsistence means, the rally participants have stated. They demanded to find jobs for them or to restart the factory. A working group was set up in the republic's government to solve the problems of jobless factory workers. Officials invited bankers to their sitting held on November 8, and asked them to restructure the debts of former "Electrozink" workers, who have problems with repaying loans due to job loss. It is also worth noting that the factory closure was preceded by mass protests of Vladikavkaz townspeople, who had stated that emissions from "Electrozink" adversely affected people's health.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on November 11, 2019 at 09:20 am MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

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