The annual literary contest ‘Litera,’ organized by the Writers’ House, faced a big challenge this year after the Minister of Culture Tea Tsulukiani nominated her representative, an advisor to the Minister, Ioseb Chumburidze, to the jury of the competition.
Notably, publicist Ioseb Chumburidze is known to the public for his anti-Western views and especially loyal attitude towards the founder and former chairman of the ruling party, Bidzina Ivanishvili.
Following this move, on July 29, the authors began to withdraw their works from the competition as a form of protest due to the intervention of the Ministry in the literary activities.
The list of writers who quit ‘Litera’ is growing every hour. The representatives of the Writers’ House note that such a case had never occurred in the history of the award.
The annual competition was initially boycotted by Toresa Mossy and Mate Saralishvili over Minister Tsulukiani’s tough policies and strict approach towards the arts sector in general and the opposition-minded media. After it became known that the Ministry has appointed its representative to the jury, other writers and even some jury members participating in the contest also followed their example.
At this time, more than 15 authors withdrew their works from the competition, including Nino Samkurashvili, Rati Mujiri, Eka Kevanishvili, Toresa Mossy, Jaba Zarkua, Mate Saralishvili, Irakli Kakabadze, Davit Kashiashvili, Bela Chekurishvili, Elene Kvirkvelia, Zviad Kvaratskhelia, Natia Giorgadze, Irina Tabagua, Andro Dadiani, Giorgi Shonia, designer Natalia Avaliani and Teona Chanishvili.
The decision of the Ministry is being protested by the members of the Supervisory Board of the Writers’ House.
“The members of the Supervisory Board of the Writers’ House consider this year’s change unacceptable because we believe that the member of the jury should not be accountable to the Ministry of Culture and Sports of Georgia.
“The Writers’ House Supervisory Board does not have any legal leverage to change this, but we protest and wish that each member of the jury continue to be selected independently so that they can continue to work freely and without any pressure,” reads the statement signed by the members of the Supervisory Board of the Writers’ House.
Pencenter, which unites Georgian writers, also responded to the recent developments around ‘Litera’ with a statement, saying that “such an arrogant interference of the Minister in the literary processes is offensive.”
“We call on Tea Tsulukiani to immediately summon a member of the ‘Litera’ jury appointed by her, to stop trying to impose censorship in a field completely unknown to her, and stop dreaming of turning writers into party members. We, Georgian writers, translators, literary critics, critics, publishers, despite our different political views, are united and will be united on this issue. We will not allow party control over Georgian literature!” reads the statement released by Pencenter.
The Minister of Culture, in turn, has not yet commented on this issue personally.
However, the Ministry considers the criticism unfounded and says that they don’t interfere in the competition. The agency also emphasizes that GEL 50,000 has been transferred to the Writers ‘House for the competition, which will be managed by them independently.
The prize fund of the literary prize is 30 000 GEL.
By Ana Dumbadze