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Pozner’s Last Trip to Georgia

Vladimir Pozner

The offended country denied hospitality to Kremlin’s outstanding propagandist

Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner’s 87th birthday turned out to be a failure. On 31 March, he arrived in Tbilisi with a large group of guests, up to 50 people, to spend three days celebrating there. The very next day, he had to leave Georgia which showed Putin’s propagandist he was unwelcome here.

Shortly after Pozner and his friends started celebrations at the Vinotel Boutique Hotel, protesters came and made a terrible noise, whistling and punching in metal objects. For a while, they even managed to cut off the hotel’s power supply. Someone called a special inspection which monitors compliance with the “curfew.” It is forbidden to gather after 9 p.m. during the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia. Pozner and his guests had to pay GEL 2,000 each (approximately $605). A fine of GEL 10,000 (about $3,000) was imposed on the hotel owners.

The protesters, despite the presence of police, did not stop trying to approach the guest from Moscow closer, and then Pozner and the whole group decided to go to the Rooms hotel, where they moved, accompanied by police. But the protesters moved with them. Raw eggs were thrown at the building, and someone wrote “Get out of Georgia!” on the pavement under the windows. As it soon became clear, that was not only a wish but the only way out of the situation. Pozner failed to celebrate his birthday in Tbilisi. And not only in Tbilisi. Protests against the Russian propagandist’s stay in Georgia took place in Batumi. He had to get on a bus, go to the airport and return to Moscow by a charter flight. Finally, the bus was also pelted with eggs.

This behaviour, totally unusual for hospitable Georgians, was explained by an interview given by Pozner to the Imedi channel, in which he rejected the possibility of a common future for Georgian and Abkhaz peoples because, according to his recollections after visiting Abkhazia in Soviet Union times, they always brawled and did not respect each other. He made those scandalous statements back in 2017, but recently Georgia has become touchy about Russia’s manifestations of imperial supremacy. Thus, the prank by Russian State Duma member Sergey Gavrilov provoked a real political crisis in the country. While holding the Interparliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy meeting in the building of the Parliament of Georgia in the summer of 2019, he sat in the chair of the Parliament’s Speaker. Many saw this as a contempt for Georgian statehood.

Pozner has always tried to stay away from the bulk of Russian propagandists. French descent and U.S. citizenship turned him into a figure who is allowed much more than others, even some criticism of the Russian order from a generally liberal standpoint. But he never dares to question the Kremlin’s key positions. Thus, the annexation of Crimea for him is “the result of 20 years of the U.S.-Russia relations… as Russia began to rise from its knees faster than expected,” while Crimea “belongs to Russia historically and ethically.” While rank-and-file Russian propagandists perform their task explicitly, Pozner does the same with apparent subtlety.

The fact that his usefulness is highly valued by the masters is evidenced by the continuous broadcast of his author’s programme on the Channel One Russia since 2008. Neither the Kremlin nor Pozner himself have any doubts about the appropriateness of cooperation. From an “ethical” point of view, he has always belonged to the machine of state propaganda. Actually, since the Soviet times.

Therefore, Georgian protesters regard Vladimir Pozner as not just a man, who has made unacceptable and overtly unfriendly assessments, but a prominent representative of the Russian establishment that unanimously supported the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and whose outright disrespect for neighbours turns into hostilities without undue reflection. But at the same time, the cynical stance of “big brother” requires that the humiliated have a special attitude towards the one who humiliates. Coming to those you have offended and demanding treats and fun is a double humiliation. Ordinary citizens of Georgia have a keen sense of this. Anything but an ordinary citizen of Russia, France and the United States, Vladimir Pozner does not. He needed repeated and loud explanations. No matter whether he understood something or not, he would never return to Georgia.

Leonid Shvets

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