Dream Meet: Etseri, Svaneti


So, they told me the next village meeting would start at 1 pm, and I figured I’d be safe about half an hour late: these things never start on time! And I missed the whole thing. What follows, based on what I heard and other musings, is a reconstruction, partly interspersed with how I would see the Best Possible Village Meeting going.

No one, least of all myself, would be late. We would all automatically turn our cell phones off or, at worst, to silent mode. There would be a mike and speakers in case we felt inclined to chatter a bit, so as to drown out our dull roar.

Past grievances would NOT be addressed (unless they had actual bearing on current matters); we would move forward! Although there might not be complete unanimity, we would finally come to an agreement about what is important to see accomplished in the ongoing redevelopment of Etseri and its infrastructure and quality of living, viz:

Cows would henceforth be banned from the main roads through the village when these were iced over, because cars going up, once stopped for the calmly obstructing beasts, might not be able to restart their upward journey. Any damage to said bovines or vehicles would fall solely on the owner of the cattle to repay in full and promptly!

Drunk driving would actually be reported to the local police, instead of us all loudly wailing at the funerals of the “such good people” who killed themselves inebriated behind the wheel. The culprits would be forced to publicly thank the police for saving their lives while only charging the usual fine. In general, jobless young men drinking themselves into middle-aged alcoholism would become a thing of the past.

Unfinished projects would be moved to the front of the To Do list, including water systems renewal, the outdoor school sports arena and the new kindergarten. Next would be things the majority agreed on, including road repairs and improvements, a new tractor/bulldozer, general job creation in the village, more-than-weekend local medical care, local electricity system renovation, and so on. You know, things to entice the Diaspora to return, and the ones who Stuck It Out to dare to hope that we could Make Svaneti Great Again.

Said bulldozer’s driver would be required to move enough snow off the roads in winter for cars to actually pass each other, i.e. 2 lanes wide, not just 1.

Dog owners would be required to prevent their animals from terrorizing Places Not Their Territory, i.e. all public roads and paths. They would also be culpable in any biting events and required to pay all victims’ medical bills and costs arising, such as transport to Mestia or anywhere else necessary. Biting dogs would be dealt with by generally agreed means (not necessarily putting them down, but whatever would work). Dog fighting would also be properly outlawed, the young men finding far more productive and less bloody (for dogs) ways of entertaining themselves.

Finally, the common practice of “public money going private” would be knocked on the head once and for all, public servants realizing that their time of getting away with it is over and it’s time for a) full transparency, or b) a hefty jail term plus repayment with interest, plus a ruined reputation not an enhanced one, whichever they in their general wisdom and cunning would actually prefer for themselves.

We would depart the meeting buoyed up with optimism that things were moving forward, that our village too could become A Town Like Alice, and that a turnaround was being enacted before our very eyes. Finally, a movie would be made of how it all happened, and we would be on the map.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at www.facebook.com/groups/SvanetiRenaissance/

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:


By Tony Hanmer

07 February 2019 17:13