For Europe, against Russia: People protest in Tbilisi in March 2023 against the planned “Foreign Agents Law”
Image: AFP

How civil society activists in a small town in Georgia want to save democracy – and don't know how much longer they can hold out.

“People believe that they can’t change anything anyway,” says Irma Gordeladze. That doesn't apply to her, that becomes clear the moment she starts talking. With a loud voice, sweeping gestures and a piercing laugh, like a force of nature, she fills the room in the “House of Progress” in Ozurgeti, where a dozen activists and a few local journalists have gathered to explain to visitors from the West what is happening what's going on with them right now.

Ozurgeti is a town of around fourteen thousand inhabitants in western Georgia, idyllically located amidst steep hills over which winding roads wind. The people in the scattered villages around it grow nuts, berries and tea. “Everything here is in the hands of the Georgian Dream,” says one of the activists. “The local councils, the administration, the schools, the police, the public prosecutor and the courts. And in the villages they are already starting their election campaign, using all these means.”

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