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Azerbaijan Theatre – the Problem to Be or Never to Be Solved

Azerbaijan Theatre – the Problem to Be or Never to Be Solved

Georgian Ministry of Culture Ignores Problems at the Azerbaijan Theatre

Georgian Ministry of Culture has refused to react to the illegal machinations occuring at the Azerbaijan theater. The actors have appealed for help to the Ministry, but all in vain. Azerbaijan actors speak openly about the violations, pressure and even blackmail on the part of theater leaders and the Georgian Ministry of Culture’s unwillingness to act.

The Theatre of Azerbaijan was founded in Georgia as a result of an agreement made several years ago between the presidents of Azerbaijan and Georgia. Ten Azerbaijani students were admitted to the Shota Rustaveli State Institute of Theatre and Arts and were prepared for the theater. Anzor Dolenjashvili, who was originally chosen as the theater’s art director, was, by decision of the Cultural Department of Tbilisi Mayor’s Office, unexpectedly switched with Irakli Azikuri. Actors say Azikuri, who is unknown within Georgia’s cultural world, is completely lacking in professionalism. The actors further suspect that the theater management is engaging in illegal financial activities. Specifically, individuals registered as employees of the theater appear to be “ghost” employees—no one knows anything about them. Of the 52 actors registered, only 15 of them are known to the theater staff. The actors of this theatre are inexperienced performers who don’t even speak Azerbaijani. The actors high dissatisfaction with their art director has resulted in some illegal dismissals and others refusing to work. The Ministry of Culture of Georgia knows all of this, and Human Rights Information and Documentation Center has sent them a letter specifically requesting that a special commission be established to study the situation.

In 2004, the students applied to the Ministry demanding Irakli Azikuri’s dismissal. Two actors were subsequently dismissed from the Theater – Namig Gajiev and Namik Muraev--who consider their dismissal was conducted illegally and are calling for the financial police to inspect the theater’s financial records.

The art director exercises various forms of coersion on the actors who remain in the theatre. Azikuri demanded from actor Viugar Mashov to write a letter confirming that he did not sign a statement demanding the art director’s dismissal. If Mashov refused, he would loose his job.

Azerbaijan Diaspora applied to the ministry of Culture to solve the mentioned problem. The statement was delivered to Deputy Minister Kvariani but after a long wait in vain, Azerbaijanis demanded to take the case away from Kvariani and deliver it to someone else. It is noteworthy that this letter was also delivered to Tamar Kvariani.  As a result, the case has been frozen in Ms. Kvariani’s hands.

The Human Rights Information and Documentation Center appealed to Ilgar Japarov, the head of the Culture Department of the Embassy of Azerbaijan to investigate the problem further. Mr. Ilgar Japarob stated that the existing leadership of the theater is completely unprofessional. “The director has confrontations with actors and that’s why no performances are prepared at the theater,” stated Japarov. He demands a concrete decision from the Ministry of Culture. According to him, he spoke with the Minister of Culture on this problem as well as with theater management, dismissed actors, and members of the Azerbaijan intelligentsia. Despite efforts of the NGOs and Azerbaijan Diaspora, the leadership of the theater continues to ignore their appeals. Mr. Ilgar considers that this problem is that of the Georgian Ministry of Culture.
But despite the efforts of the Human Rights Information and Documentation Center, the Georgia’s Ministry of Culture still refuses to address the problems. The Center demands from the Ministry act promptly and appropriately to investigate the charges against the Azerbaijan Theater.

Keti Kuratashvili

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