My post today, alas, will be brief. I will be rising early tomorrow so as to attend the Egyptian Coptic service early tomorrow morning with the hope of gaining greater understanding of the Coptic migration to Georgia.
Today we met at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs where a VERY knowledgable and YOUNG man gave us a brilliant summary and analysis of geopolitics in the Caucasus. Most intriguing to me was his brief on the issues in the autonomous areas in the North Caucasus in Russia--including Chechnya. I was reminded today that Chechnya, unlike Georgia, was never a Soviet Republic. It never had the organizational structure that existed in Georgia before the Bolshevik occupation and so was never made a republic of the USSR. Thus, when the USSR started to collapse and the republics started to secede, Chechnya was not in any position to leave (and nor was Russia willing to allow it). Our lecturer also assured us that while Russia considers the Chechnya conflict as finished, it is clear from the occasional (but horrific) attacks on Russian civilians by Chechans that the conflict is far from over.
I spent some time discussing my research with my professor and she encouraged me to continue looking into Coptic immigration to Georgia. Thus far, I've met with some Egyptians in cafes and heard their stories. Today I met, along with Kristin, a prominent Georgian scholar at Ilya State University who specializes in the Orthodox Church. He has publically criticized the Church for its role in politics and has been attacked by the Church for speaking out. Kristin wants to meet with him specifically to learn more about the influence of the Church in government and the implications of this for Georgia's democratization process, but I tagged along to ask him about the Copts. As it turned out he knows very little about the Egyptian immigrants but did explain why the Georgian Orthodox Church ones not allow Copts to participate in Church services. Apparently the Georgiah Church and the Egyptian Church have some differences in belief relating to the nature of Christ. This difference is the explanation given by the Church to explain why Copts may not attend Orthodox services but, instead, must meet all together once a week on Wednesday mornings in a Catholic Church. It is to that service I intend to go tomorrow.
-Visited the restaurant at which we will eat our closing feast on Saturday (pictures on Facebook reflect the view from the restaurant balcony).
-Tried once again to visit Anchiskhati Church (6th century and home to the famous Georgian polyphonic singing). Found it this time but spent too long sitting at a nearby cafe processing our notes and discussing the issues so that by the time we made it the ten feet across to the church, we found it closed!