When a Georgian Town Thinks It’s a Metropolis
Meet Akhmeta, a small and gritty Georgian town which thinks it has a subway and a seaport, even though it has only about 7,000 residents and is nowhere near the sea.
The town, snuggled into the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains in the wine-making region of Kakheti, made national news after its council last week agreed on the procedures for naming its metro stations, airports, harbors and aerial tramway. The December 5 decision may prove slightly problematic to enact as Akhmeta has none of the above.
But the people’s representatives have spoken. Much to the bewilderment of the rest of Georgia, the decree went on to get published in the Legislative Herald of Georgia, the official register for new laws and regulations.
Akhmeta Town Council Chairperson Gela Jugashvili told the local television station Gurjaani that the resolution was a “technical error,” but Georgia’s news and social media, much entertained, interpreted it more as a technological challenge that the tiny town had decided to take on.
“Akhmeta, you totally forgot about the spaceport. Correct that egregious oversight immediately! The world is watching,” ran the online commentary. “Which metro line do I take over to Chechnya?” others joked.
Tamada Tales could not reach the Akhmeta council to find out why the resolution was on their agenda to begin with.
If anything, the Akhmeta municipality’s population has been decreasing, according to official data. Tourism may be on the rise in Georgia in general, but, in Kakheti, much of it passes Akhmeta by for other sights.
Even if the town’s officials still foresee a metropolitan future for Akhmeta, the pace at which public transportation has developed in Georgia should not reassure them.
So far, only Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, has a metro system. And its “newest,” oft-renamed University station has been under construction since 1985.
Like other rural Georgian towns, Akhmeta’s best bet for public transportation is a rusty Ukrainian-made bus.
Still, if Akhmeta ever does acquire a metro, under the resolution it can at least name the stations after distinguished individuals like local Olympic gold-medalist Zurab Zviaduri, a judoka.
Akhmeta council members, who unanimously passed the resolution, admitted, though, that they had not even read it. The document appeared to be a copy-paste of a June 1, 2015 resolution drafted for Tbilisi, media reported.
“To be frank, it has never crossed my mind to read that resolution,” one council member, Ramaz Bakashvili, conceded to Iberia TV. He observed, as a note to himself, that it is always a good idea to read bills and resolutions before signing them into law.
Still, some Akhmeta residents gave a thumbs-up to their town-government’s big ideas. “It is the 21st century. Everything is possible,” one local resident commented.
The Kakheti Information Center, a regional news outlet, agrees, pointing out that for the 21,900 laris (roughly about $8,112) that the 30-member council gets in annual salaries, it should skim through the documents it is passing.
While giving the metro-naming decree a pass, the council members did take pains on the same day to read and debate fervently another draft resolution – this time, concerning the size of the bonuses they should receive for New Year’s.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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