Following our meeting with Robert Sturua at the Rustaveli National Theatre in Tbilisi on September 29, the executive committee of the International Association of Theatre Critics, makes the following statement:
As lovers of the theatre and supporters of freedom of expression, we have been deeply disturbed by the removal of Sturua from his post by the Georgian government. Like so many people around the world, we feared that the government had used certain statements attributed to Sturua as a pretext to punish a critical voice from within the artistic community.
Needless to say, however, as internationalists, we were also concerned about the xenophobic remarks that had been attributed to Sturua. At our meeting with him yesterday, Sturua was very honest about what he said in May of this year, and about his motivations. He expressed regret for the particular phrasing that he used and was at pains to distance himself from anti-Armenian or any other xenophobic beliefs; indeed, he put strong emphasis upon the important contribution that Armenians have made to Georgian culture over many centuries.
We welcome these statements by Sturua, which we believe are entirely genuine. Indeed, as is widely accepted, prior to this episode, there has been nothing in Sturua’s theatrical work or in his public life that might suggest any xenophobia on his part.
Having met with the director, it is obvious to us that this matter could have been resolved between the Georgian government and Sturua without the director of Georgia’s National Theatre being removed from his position.
Robert Sturua is a theatre director of high international standing. We hope that, even at this late stage, the Georgian government will recognize its error in removing him from the Rustaveli Theatre, and, in the spirit of freedom of expression and artistic excellence, invite him to take the position of artistic director once again.