Georgia Year Four: Merry Christmas, Comrade!

My flatmate Morgan has left for a wedding in India and so I was at school extra early preparing myself to give one of her lessons.  When the first teacher showed up for the day, she greeted me with a friendly, “Привет!”  She laughed at herself and said, in Georgian, “Isn’t it strange that we still greet one another in Russian?  ‘Привет’ – how funny!”

I responded with my own, “Good morning, Comrade!” and a joking salute.  Little did I realize that this was merely the beginning of what has become, even at this early hour, quite the festival of Soviet nostalgia!

A few hours later, the Head Teacher brought in an artificial Christmas Tree to brighten up our teachers’ room.  It’s silver and made of tinsel with clanking Christmas ornaments pre-installed on its branches.  With great fanfare she set it up on a desk and plugged it in.  It has but one light: a shapely red star on the top.  “Ral,” she called out, using my “Georgian name”, “Do you know what this is?”  She pointed at the red star.

“ხეა?” (It’s a tree?)

“No!”

“I know,” I said, smiling.  “Это Советская Звезда!” (It’s the Soviet Star!)

“That’s right!”

As she strode out of the classroom, some of the other teachers began chuckling.  “You know why we put that on our Christmas Trees?  Because in Red Square is the giant clocktower that booms out the hour at midnight on New Years.  This is like our tradition now.”  When someone sniffed at the idea of a Soviet tradition becoming Georgian, the teachers turned on her.  “When I was little, we had so many different things.  Schools were great.  There were the October Pioneers, there were clubs, there were good textbooks.  We had all this nationalism.  Now my daughter goes to school and is bored there.  There’s nothing fun or interesting for her and she isn’t passionate about school.”  For the record, her daughter doesn’t go to our school.  If she did, she wouldn’t be bored, that’s for sure.  Not in her health class, anyway.

I stopped paying attention, returning my focus to my work.  Suddenly, I couldn’t help but laugh as two of the teachers launched into a laughing, joyous rendition of the first verse of the Soviet National Anthem.  They’re not die-hards by any means.  They were just enjoying a bit of holiday nostalgia for their childhoods…childrenhood?

And so, Have yourself a Merry little Christmas, Comrade.  Let your heart be Red!

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One thought on “Georgia Year Four: Merry Christmas, Comrade!

  1. I am an American who has lived in both Tbilisi and out in the Georgian countryside. I was struck by how much more Soviet nostalgia I encountered in Tbilisi as opposed to out in the countryside. You didn’t make any mention of forced marches on Easter, collecting scrap metal while singing odes to Lenin. You didn’t mention the total and complete corruption of the Soviet educational and health care systems. You also didn’t mention the use of corpal punishment that bordered on abuse in the Soviet school system. So yeah, merry christmans.

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