The birth of nations has historically come in regional clusters. An empire falls, an ideology accelerates, or an economic success allows some to marvel in philosophy. Prior to, during and after WWI, all of the factors were taking place in Central and Eastern Europe and as war dragged on, the question of nations built on languages and national identities found support. Sadly, these amazingly difficult and liberating times have always laid in the shadows of the atrocities committed during the follow-up war, WWII. It took until the fall of the Soviet Union for much of the world to realize that there are great civilizations, countries and ancient empires hidden behind the great walls and iron curtains erected under the flag of the Soviet Union.
The first Democratic Republic of Georgia was founded during these tumultuous times exactly 103 years ago, in May of 1918. Georgia came forth like many independent nations during this time.
From May 5th to the 30th, a piece of Georgia will be on display at an exhibition “Georgia National Costumes” dedicated to the first Democratic Republic of Georgia. The Prague Sklenak Gallery, off the “Kulatak” in Prague 6, will host the outdoor exhibition.
The exhibition is presenting copies of the sketches of national costumes created by the famous Georgian artist Lado Gudiashvili and the original handmade national dresses from different parts of the country. The sketches were created in the years 1918-1921, during the first independence of Georgia, very short but dramatically important period in the country’s cultural development. Georgia, situated on the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has absorbed the diversity of different cultures and evolved its unique style. Sheltering, not rejecting foreign styles, has allowed the art to be enriched and expand itself. Georgia has always been about the polyphony of styles and ethnic-identities, reflected in national costumes at its best.
So what is the touch of Czechoslovakia? Recently, during your correspondent’s discussion with the Ambassador of Georgia to the Czech Republic, H. E. Ms. Mariam Rakviashvili (pictured below) revealed an article from a Czech newspaper of the time (pictured above) reporting that the Democratic Republic of Georgia’s constitution, adopted exactly 100 years ago on May 26th, was partly based on articles from the Czechoslovak Constitution. Were the nations possibly working together to further the cause for national support? With the exception of this newspaper clipping, there is no additional evidence of cooperation between the two young states at the beginning of the last century.
Modern Georgia, with the pro-western orientation and a strong dedication to the Euroatlantic integration, has not managed to shake off the Russian attraction to their land. Today, a full 20% of the Georgia is occupied by the Russian army. Georgia has a very pro-business climate and scores high on anti-corruption indexes and, despite the thorn in its side, has kept business investment attraction. The Czech Republic is one of the leading investors among the EU countries. Though the region is politically volatile, it is an absolute gem in terms of tourism.
Although it may be difficult to travel to Georgia in the current circumstances, the beautiful culture and history will be on display all month for us to enjoy. There are several Georgian restaurants in Prague to grab some take-away from on your way home. As with many things over the past year, one needs to turn on an imagination and make a Georgian fest at home, hoping the second Republic of Georgia has a long and enduring future!