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Union Holds Protest as Georgian National Museum Sacks Employees

By Khatia Bzhalava
Friday, May 27, 2022
The Science, Education and Culture Workers’ Union announced on May 24 that the Simon Janashia Museum of Georgia ‘unlawfully’ sacked 40 “high-level professionals” over the past month amid an ongoing reorganization. The union was formed earlier this month, following a series of sackings from cultural bodies over the recent months since the appointment of Culture Minister Tea Tsulukiani in March 2021.

According to the union’s statement, among the dismissed employees are Nikoloz Tsikaridze, Chairman of the Union of Science, Education and Culture Workers of Georgia, as well as the other members of the Union. As the statement reports, the list of sacked employees includes scientists who have participated in projects that have led to Georgia ‘becoming globally known as the homeland of the first Europeans and the ancient civilization of wine’.

As the statement reads, the dismissals were ‘unlawful’ and the process of reorganization lacked transparency. The union demands that the museum management reconsiders the decisions and vows to “fight until the end for protecting employee rights”.

In an interview with Publika on May 24, the chairman of the union noted that the dismissals were a form of punishment for the employees who “dared” to establish the union and speak up about existing problems in the museum system.

“This is a persecution of a different opinion… Before Tea Tsulukiani was appointed Culture Minister, there was no political pressure on us… there was no conflict in the museum.

Whatever political views a person might have, you should not terminate their project and because they do not agree with you, you should not punish them,” Tsikaridze said.

The employees dismissed from the National Museum held a protest in Tbilisi on Wednesday, where Tsikaridze told Mautskebeli news outlet that their access to museum fonds had been "restricted" and their projects "suspended" before the sackings. Tsikaridze stressed that they have ‘exhausted all internal resources’ trying to resolve the matter as they had sent letters to newly appointed authorities of the network and offered talks with them, however, as Tsikaridze noted, the authorities ‘did not wish to communicate’.

Maia Pataridze, a Senior Curator at the GNM told Mautskebeli that the document for her dismissal did not include specific reasoning, only mentioning the decision on the sacking had been made by the commission for establishing the competence of employees. Pataridze assessed the meeting with the commission as a ‘questioning’. According to her, the commission had not spoken to her about her competence and instead focused on her critical social media messages about Tsulukiani’s culture policy.

Among the dismissed employees is Iulon Gagoshidze, a historian and archeologist who has worked at the Museum for about 60 years. He was also the State Minister for Diaspora Issues during the previous, United National Movement administration in 2008-2009.

Ekaterine Kiknadze, a former manager at the Museum of Fine Arts said in her social media comments that she and her colleagues had been removed on political grounds. According to her, Nika Akhalbedashvili, a former lawyer of the Ministry of Justice formerly headed by Tsulukiani, recently appointed to the position of the Fine Arts Museum Director, had confronted her colleagues with their social media posts that showed criticism of the Minister and Akhalbedashvili himself.