Saturday, May 23, 2009

Intermezzo: The Thorns of the Rose Revolution

On 20th April, Easter Monday, I left Romania again for an exciting new trip. Last time I wrote about the impressions of Armenia. This is the second report, as intermezzo before giving my impressions of the trip to Georgia.

My plane landed, after a short flight, in Tblisi. The difference between the international airports of Armenia and Georgia is interesting. The airport in Yerevan is small, has a real round shape, but the messages were not announced in English. I had to concentrate to hear if something about Tblisi was mentioned. The Tblisi airport seemed much grander and more according to international standards, with announcements also in English but with a very strict security! I had to wait a very long time for our luggage. Also there were billboards telling that if your luggage had a yellow sticker, then you should go directly to the customs and security!.

The thorns of the rose revolution in Georgia
It was clear for me that the situation in Georgia was still tense and difficult. Georgia Zviad Gamsakhurdia was toppled in 1991 as a result of the civil war, and Shevardnadze came in power. In 2003 Shevardanze was toppled by Saakashvili during the “Rose Revolution, who has been in power since then. Now six years later the people are not satisfied. The “roses of the revolution” have some sharp thorns that have caused serious bleeding in society. One of our friends from the Christian Democratic Movement of Georgia wrote that the President has repeatedly changed the constitution and equipped himself with ultimate power so that nowadays he controls the Prime Minister, Cabinet of Ministers, the Parliament, courts, the majority of TV, media etc. And that is without mentioning the war with Russia in which he played a big role. Saakashvili toppled Shevarnandze, and now a part of the opposition wants to topple Saakashvili and for more than a month have been demonstrating in the street and blocking access to the main roads. How long can this continue peacefully?

The "felvet dictators"
It seems actually to be a trend that many of these revolutions end with a kind of shift of power where new (although most of the time more charismatic) leaders also start to behave as a kind of “velvet dictators.” Based on their charisma, new leaders are pulling more and more power to themselves and controlling society more and more. It looks very democratic and transparent from the outside (and even the EU could be misled in this way), but the real “playing rules” are not visible at all and these invisible rules actually determine in most cases the democratic rules instead of the reverse as we are used to in more democratic societies. In this way societies can look very democratic but are very different from the inside. Therefore politics can be characterized with many different interests where the “survival of the fittest” is the main rule.

The consequence is that the general population, who understand these games better and better, will no longer have any interest in politics and the most dangerous thing that can happen is apathy, which means: people don’t care any more and participation in parliamentarian elections can decrease to around 25%-30%. Also one of the most important rules is: if you have power, you keep participation in elections low. So, organize it in the holiday period (like in Bulgaria) or in long weekends or on free holidays (like in Romania), motivate your own supporters to come to vote and you will have a long career in politics.

Other examples
You see it also for example in the Ukraine with President Victor Yushenko and in Romania with Traian Basescu. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine led to destabilizing conflicts between the President and the Prime Minister and fights in the Parliament which divide that country into two or even more parts (taking into account also the Russian-oriented part). The promise of “we will live better” also resulted in the Romanian President taking more and more power to himself, acting also as Prime Minister in receiving the IMF delegation for negotiations about loans at his palace with the Prime Minister (who belonged to the same party) but without the Ministers of Economic Affairs, and of Finance, without the President of the Romanian National Bank and without any Socialist coalition partner. Why the delegation first had to visit the Presidential Palace and what the role of the President is in this case (instead of the Prime Minister) is still a question for me. In any case, the popularity of Basescu has significantly decreased but there is no hope any more of alternatives. If nothing changes, probably participation in the presidential elections in the autumn will be the same as or less than last year’s parliamentary elections: lower than 35%.

"Unbelief and Revolution"
Some time ago, I received as a present from a friend of mine, the book “Unbelief and Revolution”by Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer. Groen wrote this book after the disappointments of the French Revolution. His thoughts were the basis of the thought of Abraham Kuyper and of the Dutch “Anti-Revolutionary Party” where the first Christian Democratic foundations were laid. It is impressive how these thoughts are such a reality in some of the Eastern European countries. Many of these countries faced a rapid change in society. After the liberalization of the Communist regime, questions were continuously raised about how democracy has to be built, and on what values society should be built: after years of atheistic regimes, Christianity conquered the atheistic thinking of the “Trinity” of Marx, Engels and Lenin. As stated at the Polish presentation during the last congress of the EPP, only faith and Christian values could break down the walls of the communist regime, so at the moment most of the countries are struggling with the heritage of communism where corruption, fraud and power battles ruled most of the time. This is because of the lack of a healthy societal base where checks and balances should go hand in hand and where civil society is seen as the main independent good for the society.

The Christian Democratic Movement of Georgia, a new party established in 2008 and already after only a few months with 6 seats (out of 150) in the Georgian Parliament, saw this clearly. The president of the party George Targamadze said that the only way Georgia can come out of the crisis is if society is developed based on Christian Democratic values.

"Via DoloRosa"
As we think about "the thorns of the rose revolution” I was also thinking about our King of Kings. He had a crown made of thorns and was humiliated by carrying his cross through the streets of Jerusalem dressed with a purple cloth. The King of Kings did not wear a golden crown, but a crown of thorns. He did not aim for earthly power and did not make society bleed: he was bleeding and gave His blood for us! That is real leadership: to serve others! I wish and pray that these country leaders will learn that!

The way of suffering is also called in the Latin language: Via Dolorosa. Is it a coincidence that in the word "suffering" is also the word "rosa" which is also Latin for "rose?" Is that maybe also the reason that Roman Catholics are praying with the "Rosary"? Shouldn't we look to the real "rose revolution" of Jesus via the Via Dolorasa that through suffering comes real freedom to those who believe in Him?

Back to the basics
I was waiting for my luggage. What was interesting was that my plane arrived around the same time as the plane from Amsterdam and by coincidence I had some hand luggage with some souvenirs from Armenia (with amongst others my gilt pomegranate) in a Dutch plastic bag. When my bags came earlier from the plane from Yerevan, I saw a group of Dutch young people looking hopefully at the baggage belt not knowing that I came from another plane…. I was wondering if they know what freedom is and what democratic values are? Do we know what the basis of Europe is? What the basis of our democracy is and what freedom means? Let's go back to the basics!

(to be continued)


  1. I agree with the assumptions, and we all need to answer to questions from the last paragraph.
    Good comparative analysis as well.

  2. I agree :-)

    As regards the origin of the name Rosary, the word rosarius means a garland or bouquet of roses, and it was not unfrequently used in a figurative sense -- e.g. as the title of a book, to denote an anthology or collection of extracts. An early legend which after travelling all over Europe penetrated even to Abyssinia connected this name with a story of Our Lady, who was seen to take rosebuds from the lips of a young monk when he was reciting Hail Marys and to weave them into a garland which she placed upon her head.

    So, the prayer beads are called a Rosary since it is used mainly to count the number of Hail Mary´s, at some point it used to be called a Pater Noster, because it was used primarily for the purpose of that prayer, rather than saluting Mary, at the time.

    I made some small edits to your text, Leo. FYI, the book you mention is actually titled ´Unbelief and Revolution´ and Groen van Prinsterer has an r at the end ;-)

  3. Dear Leo,

    It a really interesting topic. It shows us the inside of East-European politics, as seen by you. I really liked it. If you post on your blog the stories of your travels, and sometimes such interesting intermezzo's, it will be a really interesting blog! Keep on the good work!