South Caucasus Peace Initiative

Introducing Russians to Georgian Culture

Yekaterinburg, Russia - UPF-Urals helped organize programs at the Ural Center with the Rustaveli Society of Georgia to introduce Russians to the distinctive culture of Georgia, a neighboring nation in the South Caucasus.

A typical Georgian feast

A program on December 17 introduced Russians to the wonderful traditions of a Georgian feast. The organizers created an improvised festive table featuring the national cuisine: Georgian wine, shoti bread, cheese, greens, and fruit. The guests enjoyed tasting everything, breaking apart bread with their hands and offering it each other, and pouring wine from a pottery pitcher, all to the strains of Georgian polyphonic vocal music.

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The fragments of a film about Niko Pirosmani and his album of early 20th century paintings of festive scenes helped convey in depth the atmosphere of this national tradition.

And of course there were toasts. Traditionally, the first toast is to peace; it was made by Niko Alexandrovich Kobaidze, chair of the Rustaveli Society. The guests then participated in a contest of creating toasts and demonstrating knowledge of Georgian cuisine.

Also, participants learned about the diversity of national costumes, dances, and songs in the different regions of the nation. A young Georgian girl demonstrated some of the dance steps of a traditional Georgian women’s dance.

In the second part of the meeting, Roman Stepanov from the Rustaveli Society gave a short lesson in the Georgian language, so that the guests could write a couple of phrases in Georgian in their “letter of peace” to be given to someone in Georgia. Participants of all ages were inspired by the noble creative language and the opportunity to use it to build a “little bridge of friendship.” Many of them decorated their letters with drawings and good wishes of peace and happiness in the coming year. The letters were folded into the form of a dove and put into the "Tree of Nations" mailbox. In January the letters will be delivered to Georgia by Ambassadors for Peace. [Direct travel and mail delivery between the two nations has been suspended since the Georgia-Russia War of 2008.]

At the end of the evening, the guests received small gifts – discs with recipes of meals from different nations, and New Year's gifts. A special prize was a ticket to a performance of the drama “Hanuma,” which was raffled off in a lottery.

The most important result was that through these films, books, food, games, songs, passionate dances, national costumes, and direct communication with Georgians, the Russian participants really fell in love with Georgia. They expressed a desire to visit this land some day and enjoy its magical atmosphere.

The legends of Georgia

The first such “immersion” into the culture of Georgia took place on November 19 jointly organized by the Rustaveli Society and the Universal Peace Federation. Guests looked at the exhibit about “The Legends of Georgia,” which featured books about Georgia, Georgian literature, domestic articles, native costumes, photos, albums, and biographies of famous painters, producers, and actors.

The highlight of the evening was an enchanting film about Georgia that portrayed not only the natural scenery and architecture of this South Caucasus nation but also some distinctive aspects of the national character. In the spacious but cozy hall of the Ural Center Cafe, guests watched several short comedies by Revaz Gabriadze and Iracly Kvirikadze.

After the films, guests shared their impressions over tea and refreshments, engaging in lively discussion with representatives of the Georgian Diaspora. The Chair of the Rustaveli Society, Kabaidze Niko Alexandrovich, talked about the society's activities, emphasizing the importance of dialogue and interaction in building mutual understanding and unity between people of different nationalities.

At the end of the evening, one of the guests was pleasantly surprised; as a result of the lottery, the winner received a prize donated by the Rustaveli Society – a ticket to a performance by a famous Georgian musician in one of the best music halls of Yekaterinburg.

Captive in the Caucasus

Another meeting in the Georgian cycle of events took place on December 10 in the format of a quest game that introduced Georgian national traditions based on the plot of the famous film, “Captive in the Caucasus.”

Two teams represented the two kunaks (friends) who were protagonists in the film, Comrade Saakhov and Shurik, as they sought to win the hand and heart of the beautiful Nina. To gain rams (points), each team had to answer questions, compete in their adroitness and eloquence at delivering toasts, and prove their competence as connoisseurs of the national cuisine. The team that gained the most rams would win the competition.

In search of tips, the teams sometimes had to roam long distances inside the spacious Ural Cultural Center. In the process of the game, Shurik’s team fell behind, but suddenly they advanced two points ahead of Saakhov's team and snatched Nina right from under their nose. Saakhov’s team members could not believe their eyes, and Nina’s "uncle" was compelled to check several times the number of rams gained by each team to verify the winner. As in the beautiful finale of “Captive in the Caucasus,” the love of the openhearted Shurik ultimately triumphed over the cold calculation of comrade Saakhov. But the Saakhov team had no time to grieve over their defeat; they were heartily invited by the other team to share with them in the celebration and meal of khachapuri, a leavened bread that is a staple food of Georgia; it can be shaped in various ways and filled with cheese or other ingredients and topped with an egg.

These events have been effective ways to inspire the people of Russia about the spirit of such a legendary nation as Georgia.

Note: Shota Rustaveli was a Georgian poet of the 12th century and author of "The Knight in the Panther's Skin," the Georgian national epic poem.

For more information about UPF-Eurasia's South Caucasus Peace Initiative and the "Urals - Georgia: We'll Be Friends" project, click here.

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