Polaroids of Rabati

Jacopo Miglioranzi does research in the anthropology of religion in the Southern Georgian town of Akhaltsikhe among the local Armenians and Georgians. About the Jews of the town he has earlier written in río Wang. His further essays can be read here.
“and lo
it moves it crumbles it spreads
and lo
it moves it crumbles it spreads
the one declares independence and leaves
the other closes itself in its intimacy
the third proclaims a total detachment”

Tolerance. A new word. Until some times ago, you could see it, written in great letters, on a large panel. Tolerance, this was received by the citizens and visitors who entered Rabati. The oldest neighborhood of the city of Akhaltsikhe. To enter the neighborhood, you have to cross a wide road, then take a narrow road under the bridge of the old and disused railway. Two streets. Two forms of tolerance. To the left, the fortress of Rabati, a symbol of tolerance. Tourists, travelers, backpackers, border-crossers. Young people taking photos and letting themselves be photographed. Brides dressed in white. To the right, Rabati. The neighborhood. Tourists, travelers, backpackers, border-crossers. Young people taking photos and letting themselves be photographed. Brides dressed in white, a few. Men smoke their cigarettes nervously. A yellow marshrutka, without wheels, lies dying on the railway embankment. I climb up to the dying tracks. Armenian men. Georgian men. Turkish men. Armenian taxi drivers. Georgian taxi drivers. Turkish buses. Georgian buses. Cars. Police patrol. More taxis. Shopping bags. Women with children. Armenian boys. Georgian boys. Armenian girls. Georgian girls. Russian tourists. Polish tourists. Couples on motorbikes. Cyclists.

Lost tourists in a lost place. Perhaps me too. Perhaps not. Self-confident people. People with steady work. People without work. White collars, safe in the City. White collars, insecure, here. An Orthodox priest.

A guide in the hand: “Lonely planet”. Information. So much information, so many certainties. Here, so much information, so few certainties. Hidden places. Mistaken hotels and museums. Taxi drivers driving. “Guide?” Taxi drivers guiding. Sixty lari. “Taxi driver, guide!”

“Traveling the wayfarers, traveling the losers,
more adapted to the changes

travels the dust, travels the wind
travels the water of the spring”

A station. Women shouting. Marshrutka. Places to be assigned, places assigned. “რამდენი?” “ლარად”. Tickets. Oral contracts. Business. “No one’s business.” Business on the skin of the tourist. Natives. Aims. Observers. Observed. By whom?
The city. The neighborhood. The neighborhoods. Tracks and stations. Disorder and disorders. Mud and asphalt.

The city. Queen Tamar. A church. “ვისოლი”, “სმარტი”, “გარფი”, “ლუკოილი”. Smell of gasoline. The courthouse. Pedestrians on the pedestrian crosses. Cars, trucks, standing. The police station.
Mud and asphalt. Streets being filled. Orthodox priests. Orthodoxy. New and old orthodoxies. “More than new.” Concrete. New and old concrete. Monument “1941-1945”. Orthodoxy. “C.C.C.P.” War. Wars. “The war is cold.”
Religious conflicts. Churches. New churches, blooming. Old churches, blooming again. New ones in an ancient manner. Ancient ones, ancient again. “The peace is warm.”
Bodies consumed by the sign of the cross. Looks and souls donated to the sanctity of the church.

“Jerusalem, Holy Jerusalem,
my heart yearns to the Anastasis, along the Via Dolorosa,
to a Holy Sepulchre, which never was a sepulchre, but it is holy
through the faith of the faithful, in the grace of the Lord, my God
my Lord, Child Jesus, flesh from the young Virgin Mother
unto Thee I bow, Thee I worship
for Thou kidnapst my heart, O Lord, my God”

Religious pedestrians. Pedestrian religious people. Attention! Holiness. სამება, the Trinity. To donate time, moments, seconds. Prayers. Even when there is no time. Even when one runs to shopping. At the wheel. While walking.

akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1 akhaltsikhe1

Community. Humanity. Identity. Tourists, travelers, traders, sellers, street vendors, shopkeepers, hucksters, drivers, students, workers, players, unemployed, priests, monks, nuns, sisters, Jehova’s Witnesses, Apostolic Believers. Journalists and TV cameras. Cameras. Cars, vans, trucks. More students, teachers. Chinese, Georgians, Armenians, Jews, Russians, Turks. More Georgians. A few Chinese. Many Armenians. Jews. Returning. Meskheti Turks. Diasporas. Departures. Italians, Poles, Christians, returning. Musulmans, returning. Jews, departing.

“crippled clean air and sterile bazaars
taxi drivers, nomadic camel-drivers, listening to the radio
how the weather is going to be
in the beginning was the word
in the beginning was the “Pravda”
word and truth, word and truth”

CCCP – “Radio Kabul”

Boys, children, old men. Sidewalk. Tourist bar. Cigarettes. The same men as before. “რაბათი?” “აქედან”. I’m in the neighborhood. A boy comes out of a shop. He looks at me. They look at me. Travertine houses. Tired houses. Old houses. A Mercedes. Clothes hanging. Scrap, wood and tires. “A huge landslide,” Rabati. Rabati is. Rabati are. Lost. Old women, Armenians. “ԲարևՁեզ ქალბატონო, ექლესია, სად არის?”, “იქააა”, melodiously.

Georgians, Meskheti Turks, Armenians, Jews, Turks, Ottomans, Russians. Once. Paskevich, Pushkin. A taxi passes by me at high speed.

“it’s a side path, a fluid divinity
a convergence of style with the prehistorical primitive
the actuality is the actuality
normal boredom
mortal boredom”

Neighborhood(s). Tolerance? “ԲարևՁեզ, სინაგოგი სადა?” “ნახე, იქ”, “մերսի”.

No more tourists. No more travelers. Synagogues. Mosques. Churches. Once. Now diasporas. Resistances. Returns and departures. A little Jerusalem?

“obsessions settling upon
the shining cities
of past raids
of future spectacles
the solitary journeys
the arrogant paths
all have ended badly
without proclamations
without jubilees
in the small stories
of the thinking heads”

Houses. Dogs. A woman with her daughter. They do not look at me. A stranger. “The actuality is the actuality.”
Along the road. Almost nobody. This is not the city, this is Rabati. The neighborhood. Stories. Frontiers. Identities at stake.
The bell does not ring. The minaret does not sing. Silence.

“The Sufis turn in circles in space
in time
The verticals rise, the monks in seclusion
the low and the high travel without embellishment
they fall off dizzy…
they fall off dizzy…”

I climb upon what is left of the street. The old synagogue. Empty. Soviet past. Empty. A ruined house. Mud. A child at the window. Hens. Another synagogue. A padlock. More houses.

“vanishes the city, fades the traffic
poetry dominates: the moon rises
and goes high
and falls off”

Խաչքար. Crosses. Stars of David. Biblical passages. Evangelical passages. New and old testaments. Koranic passages. Imperialist passages. Socialist passages. Biblical presents. Evangelical presents. New and old testaments. Koranic presents. Imperialist presents. Socialist presents: “l’atmosphère n’est plus la même”.
A hill. No trees. An old shack. A drawing: Mickey Mouse. Tombstones emerging. High grass. Dead names. Armenians.
A little further. A wall. A padlock. Tombstones emerging. Dead names. Jews.

“Sow, sow – even if far from the borders
like the stars, like the waves, sow.
So what if the sparrows ravage your seeds –
God will sow pearls in place of them.”

“They fall off dizzy…
they fall off dizzy…
they fall off dizzy…
they fall off dizzy…”

All quotes in italics, except the penultimate quotation, taken from the poem “Sow” by the Armenian poet Daniel Varujan, are songs of the Italian bands „CCCP – Fedeli alla linea“ and „C.S.I.“. The titles, in the order of quotation, are: CCCP, “Depressione caspica”; C.S.I. “In viaggio”; CCCP, “C.C.C.P.”; CCCP, “Guerra e Pace”; CCCP, “Paxo de Jerusalem”; CCCP, “Radio Kabul”; C.S.I. “Depressione caspica”; CCCP, “Noia”; CCCP, “B.B.B.”; CCCP, “Noia”; C.S.I., “In viaggio”; CCCP, “Campestre”; CCCP, “Inch’allah – ça va”; C.S.I., “In viaggio”.