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Illegal “Machinations” in Azerbaijan Theatre

30.03.2005
Illegal “Machinations” in Azerbaijan Theatre



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.  But instead of specially prepared Azerbaijani actors, the actors of this theatre are inexperienced performers who don’t even speak the Azerbaijani language. The staff of the theatre is especially dissatisfied by the lack of professionalism of their art director, and because of this they refuse to work in the theatre. They also complain that some of them are dismissed without any reasons. Ostensibly, the objective of the establishment of the Azerbaijani Theatre in Georgia was to introduce Azerbaijani culture, arts and traditions to Georgian people, and to give Azerbaijanis living in Georgia an opportunity to take part in this.


According to the agreement signed by the presidents of Georgia and Azerbaijan in 1998-2002, ten Azerbaijani students would be admitted to Shota Rustaveli State Institute of Theatre and Arts to prepare them for the foundation of the Azerbaijani theatre and the restoration of Azerbaijani culture. In 2002 the Azerbaijani students graduated from the Institute and in 2004 they were to start working in the Azerbaijani Theatre, which was established during this period.

As of yet, only four of the above-mentioned ten students have been officially admitted to the theatre as actors. During the establishment of the theatre one of the Azerbaijanis went abroad, and some of the other actors refused to start work in the theatre due to the art director’s unprofessional behavior, and because he was not qualified for the position he was holding.

Anzor Dolenjashvili, the man who was originally supposed to be the art director of the theatre, was well known among the Azerbaijani diaspora.  But the Cultural Department of Tbilisi Mayor’s Office unexpectedly appointed Irakli Azikuri as the artistic supervisor of the theatre, whose background is in painting (he graduated from the Academy of Artists [Painters]).  According to the actors involved in the theatre project, he does not have respective qualifications for holding the position. It should also be noted that the management of the theatre was appointed without any consultation with the Georgian theatre society or with the Azerbaijani intelligentsia of Georgia.

The situation was stirred up after the representatives of the Azerbaijani Diaspora addressed the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Defense of Heritage in December 2004, demanding that Irakli Azikuri be replaced by Anzor Dolenjashvili due to the discontent of the actors. Azikuri’s unprofessional behavior had caused frequent conflict and disagreement in the theatre. As a result of the confrontation the director of the theatre, A. Gasanov, illegally dismissed two actors, Namig Gajiev and Namika Musaev.

“For us it is important to gather professionals in this theatre and it does not matter who these people are,” stated Gajiev and Musaev.  “We said this several times to the management of the theatre and this, in our minds, is the reason for our dismissal.”

There is also suspicion that the management of the theatre is conducting some illegal financial operations. Specifically, there are people who are officially registered as employees of the theatre, but nobody knows anything about them. According to the Azerbaijani actors they have several times asked to see the register of employees in order to clarify the constitution of the staff, but they have always been refused. “Despite the fact that we regularly went to the theatre, we knew only fifteen people who work there. However, we have information that officially, the theatre employs 52 people,” said Gajiev and Musaev.  They are calling for the financial police to inspect the theatre’s financial records.

The dismissed Azerbaijani actors intend to defend their rights and return to their work through court. They have brought their complaint to court, where Human Rights Information and Documentation Center will be defending their interests.

Nino Bestavashvili

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