Follow the Dream or Keep the Faith?

Follow the Dream or Keep the Faith?

The Societal Dilemma at the Heart of Georgia’s Response to Covid-19

Michael Cole

6th April 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused shockwaves in Georgia, but it’s nothing to do with rapidly growing death counts or an incapable leadership struggling to cope with the crisis. Instead, it appears to be quite the opposite. After a turbulent 2019 which saw a series of anti-government street protests in Tbilisi, even the most ardent critics of ruling coalition Georgian Dream have admitted that they have barely put a foot wrong in their approach to this latest crisis. In fact, the government’s ‘miraculous’ approach to combat the virus, which involved taking quick and decisive action based on the advice of leading medical experts, has been heralded as a blueprint for success, which other nations would be well-advised to take note of.

Church and State will need to find a swift resolution to the current deadlock if Georgia’s impressive response to the threat of Covid-19 is to continue. Photo Credit: Michael Cole, 2017

But while this enlightened strategy may be helping to restore public faith in the government, the hugely influential Georgian Orthodox Church’s (GOC) refusal to break with certain traditions risks turning the situation into something of a nightmare. In a battle which seems to reflect one of the deepest-rooted social tensions at the heart of Georgian society, the GOC has stubbornly resisted government-imposed safety measures, and refused to cease communion practices which involve worshippers drinking holy wine from shared spoons. Outspoken members of the GOC have even compared restrictions on group gatherings to Communist-era religious oppressions, and decision about whether to proceed with upcoming Easter services have been delayed until the last minute.

While devout believers are unsurprisingly placing trust in their Patriarch to guide them safely through this crisis, liberal-minded Georgians, who have long been critical of the GOC’s privileged status, appear increasingly dismayed at the potential ramifications of the church’s unyielding stance. It will be crucial however for church and state to find a swift resolution to the current deadlock if Georgia’s impressive handling of Covid-19 is to continue. With parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in October, Georgian Dream’s ability to navigate both the current crisis and keep the GOC onside is bound to have a major bearing on their success at the polls.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is capture.png

Michael Cole is an Early Stage Researcher on the FATIGUE Project, based at The University of Tartu, Estonia. Follow him on Twitter here: @NotTheMikeCole

To find out more about the FATIGUE Project, Take a look at our Website Here, or follow us on Twitter: @popeurope

FATIGUE project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement No. 765224

The opinions presented are those of the author and do not represent the views of their institution.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s