Soviet Past Research Laboratory (SovLab) with the support of National Endowment for Democracy will implement a project to promote understanding and discussion of Georgia’s Soviet legacy and the realities of totalitarian societies.
SovLab will create a publicly available digital archive of materials related to citizens’ experience of Soviet Georgia. Current archives from this period cover the actions of party elites and officials, but there is little available to tell the stories of how individual people and families experienced and interacted with the Soviet authority structure. SovLab will collect materials from Georgian citizens using coordinators in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi. SovLab staff will visit each region at least three times during the course of the project. During the first site visits, SovLab will organize public presentations to introduce the project and solicit submissions of materials. The project will also be advertised through the organization’s website (www.sovlab.ge), social media, and local media. Each regional coordinator will then arrange visits to review private materials, select relevant items, scan them and enter them into the database. These materials will include private correspondence and photographs, as well as official documents. SovLab expects at least 4,000 materials to be added during the course of this program.
Based on this collection, SovLab staff will select ten particularly remarkable personal stories and create video oral histories. Each video will be ten minutes long and will provide a compelling personal context for the archival materials. The organization expects that these videos in particular will make the project interesting and accessible to Georgian citizens who would perhaps otherwise not be attracted to a historical archive. The videos will be widely distributed through online and traditional media.
In order to make these materials secure and available to the public, SovLab staff will design and structure the database and create a searchable catalogue of materials. The organization will develop a web-based platform on their website, www.sovlab.ge, through which all of the materials will be available. The organization will secure the database on several back-up hard drives and digital storage devices. By establishing a high-quality database using a large volume of initial sources, SovLab hopes to create an archive system that can be easily expanded upon in the future. Once launched, the database will be continually available to researchers in Georgia and throughout the world.
In conjunction with NED grantee the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), SovLab will also provide legal consultations for victims of Soviet repression. Under Georgian law passed in 1997, victims of Soviet repression and their first-generation heirs are eligible for compensation from the state. However, the law was not implemented until 2010, when GYLA won a case at the European Court of Human Rights securing compensation for two brothers who lost both parents to the Red Terror. This case set a precedent for other similar cases. This program will provide for two part-time lawyers to begin submitting similar cases to the Georgian courts. Legal consultations will be offered broadly at all of GYLA’s seven regional offices, and GYLA lawyers will accompany SovLab staff on their trips the regions to present the precedent and offer their services. The organization expects that consultations will be offered to at least 500 people under this program, and 20 cases will be prepared for submission before domestic courts. By promoting the implementation of this law, SovLab and GYLA hope not only to promote adherence to rule of law in Georgia and secure compensation for victims, but to encourage public debate on state and citizen culpability in the Soviet totalitarian regime.