Georgia: the purged funeral lead to interreligious “confusion’

Georgia: the purged funeral lead to interreligious “confusion’

On April 21st, the Georgian Adzhar Autonomous Republic is going to hold a funeral ceremony of victims of communist repressions. Recently, remnants of 150 victims were found in four mass graves in the Khelvachaur District of the autonomy. There is no doubt that the deceased were executed by shooting. An estimated date of the mass execution was also found out: 1937-1939 when after an order of the head of the USSR NKVD Nikolai Ezhov and the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Georgian SSR Communist Party Lavrenty Beria, mass repressions, including executions by shooting, overran the republic. Thousands of people were massacred. Adzharia also suffered from the tragedy, where now Muslim Georgians live.

After the dissolution of the USSR, bones and remnants of the purged in the years of terror had many times been buried in Georgia. However, this time organization of the funeral ceremony led to public discussions which were called by the local media not a conflict, but “confusion.” The head of the Muslim Union of Georgia Tariel Nakaidze expressed his bewilderment in the context of the position of both the central authorities and the local Adzhar authorities. But excavation of remnants and their identification were held under management of the Adzhar eparchy of the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC). The funeral ceremony has no place for Muslim clergymen and the funeral is going to take place on the territory which belongs to the GOC eparchy.

Tariel Nakaidze insists that the authorities should change the place of the coming funeral and provide participation of Muslim clerical leaders.

Nakaidze’s message didn’t contain any threat or conflict tone. It was quite diplomatic. However, the developments stirred up Muslim Georgians. A representative of the Adzhar government told Vestnik Kavkaza that they “are closely studying” the situation but no decisions on a place and a format of the funeral ceremony have been made yet. The GOC Patriarchy stated that all commemorative events were held under management of the GOC since 1989 when the process of rehabilitation of the political purged started.

At the same time, the majority of the executed people were Muslims. It is unacceptable to bury them, according to traditions of any other religion. Now leaders of the Muslim community hope that the authorities will manage to settle the interreligious confusion.