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How Kedeli neighborhood is vanishing around the Bodbe Monastery

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On April 27, in the morning, he found walnut and fruit trees chopped down in his ancestral plot in Kedeli neighborhood. He demanded the workers, who continued chopping of the fruit-trees, to stop it. The Nun of the Bodbe Monastery, who was supervising the ongoing works, called police and demanded them “take him away from here.” The police warned Tamaz Gorelishvili they would arrest him unless he leaves the territory which belongs to the Patriarchate. The fruit-garden, which belonged to the three generations of the Gorelishvilis family, no longer exists.

Tamaz Gorelishvili was born in 1958 and grew up in Kedeli. Now, he lives in Signagi together with his family but has never abandoned the estate in Kedeli. Until 2012, his mother lived in the ancestral house.

“Grandpa used to have a vineyard here but the grapes hardly matured because it is mountainous place. Then he planted walnuts, apple and pear trees; the father also continued planting. We were six in the family. Neither grandpa nor father worked anywhere. Only my mother was working in the hospital. We harvested so much walnut and fruit… potatoes, beans, onion that it was enough to keep the family,” Tamaz Gorelishvili recalled that last time he sowed vegetables in the plot in 2017 and then received the harvest. Last year, he collected more than 500 kilos of walnut. He has had health problems for four years already and could not cultivate the plot; however, they took care of the fruit-garden.

This year, he was late to start spring works on the land. Because of emergency situation transport movement was banned since April 17. After the restriction was lifted on April 27, he went to his estate but the land was empty of fruit-trees.

“I had 15 walnut trees here, it is not few… we had a lot fruit trees, apples… we had planted the trees with our hands. Where should I go now? Shall I hung up myself? I have never seen such an impudence!”

In 2012, when he learned that the Bodbe Monastery was trying to misappropriate the plots of the locals, he prepared documents and applied to the Signagi municipality service of the National Agency of the Public Registry (NAPR): “That time manager of the office Tamaz Burduladze told me that based on the President’s decree N22 of 2009 (at that time Nino Burjadze was implementing the duties of the president, 18.01.2008), 68 hectares of land nearby the Monastery was assigned to the Patriarchate and the Agency was not able to interfere in it. He suggested me to stop the process,” anyway he lodged the documents for registration.

According to the data of the Property Registry, 1005 sq. meter land (cadaster code was registered as Tamaz Gorelishvili’s property in September 2012. In the same period, second – 724 sq. meter land (cadaster code 56.14. 43. 136) was also registered as his property together with the house on it.

During 6 years, both plots belonged to Tamaz Gorelishvili.

On April 23, 2018, Nun Nana Makharoblidze at the Bodbe Monastery applied the Public Registration Agency (under the status of the representative of the Georgian Orthodox Church) and requested registration of 77 658 sq. meters of land as the property of the Patriarchate in Kedeli neighborhood. She presented three notary acts on donation, which were confirmed by Notary Giorgi Lomashvili on December 13, 2007. The Public Registration Agency satisfied the application of the representative of the Patriarchate.

The ancestral land of Tamaz Gorelishvili’s family, where they had fruit garden, was assigned to the Patriarchate.

Three applications of Tamaz Gorelishvili were registered in the Public Registration Agency on November 30, 2018. Two of them (N 167181141 and 167181155) show that Tamaz Gorelishvili personally applied to the National Agency of Public Registry (NAPR) and requested to terminate his ownership over the two plots he had registered in 2012. Both applications were satisfied. The NAPR clarified: “In 2012, the ownership rights on the immovable property with cadaster codes and were registered without valid documents.”

According to the third application, Tamaz Gorelishvili requested registration of the property rights on the estate with house and yard – 1918 sq. meters. The NAPR concluded that the land claimed by Gorelishvili located on the land of the Orthodox Church.

“I was insane if I myself asked to annul my property rights. I do not remember what I signed. The Monastery was already arguing me claiming that the plots did not belong to me. I went to the Public Registry to find out the situation. There I was asked to write an application and they requested a new sketch of the land.”

Tamaz Gorelishvili once again hired specialists to draw the sketch of his estate and on December 14, 2018 he lodged the new situational sketch to the NAPR (on 1897 sq. meter land) and requested registration of the property rights.

On April 21, 2020, he was refused to have the land registered. The decision of the NAPR reads that they had applied to the commission on the acknowledgement of the property rights on land in the Signagi municipality city hall, which had not satisfied the application of Gorelishvili claiming that lawful ownership of Gorelishvili on the land was not confirmed. Now, they do not register the ancestral house as his property either, he was born and grew up, where his parents and grandparents lived. The Gorelishvilis have lived in that house for at least one century – their house is located 100 meters away from the Bodbe Monastery.

“They made me measure the land several times. I wasted money on that. Anyway, I cannot register my house after all these procedures. They create barriers for me. Abbess Teodora confessed that she is interested in the land of Kedeli neighborhood. What is happening? Why is she interested in?

Do not they have enough property? They own a lot of land in Tsiteltskaro, Shiraki and in Alazani valley. The forest also belongs to them. If they want to plant anything, let them plough that hill. There are many places to cultivate. Why should they misappropriate our properties? But they want to evict everybody from this neighborhood!”

According to the documents of the NAPR, Mikheil Dalakishvili purchased most of the land in Kedeli from the state via auction in 2007. Dalakishvili paid 13 660 GEL for 59.67 hectares of land. The Kakheti regional department of the State Property Registration and Privatization Agency conducted the auction. The information was published in the newspaper “Mesakutre” [owner], which is not distributed in the regions, particularly in the villages.

Mikheil Dalakishvili was the trustee of the Bodbe Monastery. Nun Nana Makharoblidze also confirmed it. Several years ago, Mikheil Dalakishvili became a clergy and now he serves in the King Tamar’s Church in Signagi.

Karlo Gorelishvili learned that the Patriarchate got hold of his two ancestral plots in Kedeli several days ago. Karlo was also born and grew up in Kedeli. His family member had a car-accident in 2010 and they needed money. Therefore, they sold their small house and a yard to the Monastery but kept their ancestral land. “There were walnut and apple trees there. We used to collect the walnut, fruit and various plants there. My parents planted those trees. Nobody informed me about it. We live in Signagi. I arrived in Kedeli five days ago and gathered nettle. The nun saw me and said I could gather the nettle but the land belonged to the Patriarchate. Both plots were fenced. We used to sow and grow vegetables on them. One plot belonged to me and the second to my brother. The Nun said we cannot touch the walnut and fruit trees because it was already their property. I asked how it happened that our property now belonged to them. She said they had purchased it in 2007. We did not know anything about the auction.”

We told Nana Makharoblidze that they should have known that locals were cultivating their plots in Kedeli, where they had perennial fruit trees and harvested them. We inquired why the Monastery (Patriarchate) purchased such plots via auction in secret from locals?

“The state conducts the auction, where competitors compete each other and wins who pays more. So, the competitor is not interested to invite his/her rivals to participate in the auction.”

Did we know that the population received harvest from these plots and it was their income? We know that it was not true. The Monastery life restored here in 1993. The locals have never received harvest here since that time. They just gathered plants, and walnuts here.

They used the state land unlawfully and if we go further in history, they used the former land of the Monastery, which belonged to it before the Revolution (1917 October Socialist Revolution).

Since 2007, for 13 years, we did not fence the land. Now we decided to surround it because of the current situation. We, and not only we - entire world expects that soon there will be global crisis on food. So we decided to cultivate all land which belongs to the Georgian Patriarchate.”

Dozens hectares of the land around the Bodbe Monastery in Kedeli neighborhood belongs to the Patriarchate. Even more hectares of the forest were assigned to them for multi-year use. Only several houses are left in the neighborhood which do not belong to the Monastery. Doctor Goderdzi Gordeziani is the owner of one of those houses.

“I have lived here for 35 years. We had very good relationship with the Monastery until Abbes Teodora Makhviladze arrived here. She decided to get hold of the entire neighborhood and started the process. Many families lived here: Tamar Khokhonishvili, Ilia and Rima Gogolashvili - they were mother and son. Ilia was put in prison for one or two days for alleged public disorder here and when he returned his house was already pulled down to the ground; Tandilashvilis, Jaliashvilis also lived here. They evicted the entire population. There no buildings now – they destroyed everything. Only several families have houses here but they live in Signagi or in Tbilisi.

The NAPR does not register the ancestral estates on locals without the permission of the Abbes. Why do they heed her permission, do not we have the law? Is the Abbes a governor, a law-maker, or a senior?”

10 years ago, Goderdzi Gordeziani property rights on 5 hectare land nearby his house, which he had purchased from the State Property Service, were terminated. “It was not enough for the Abbess. She sent several applications to various state institutions with the request to study how lawfully our family owned the estate. They could not seize our house and yard.

She is in charge of the church. Their duties are to be in the church, to light a candle and pray day and night. But instead, they are running businesses and mafia here. How can it happen?”

Since 2008, Goderdzi Gordeziani tried to construct a small café in his yard on the road to the Monastery. Their yard is at least half kilometer away from the Church.

“I wanted to build a small café in the yard. When I brought a tractor, the village governor, the chief police officer and the head of the supervision service of the municipality city hall arrived here. They said the Abbess Teodora had called them and complained that the tractor’s noise bothered the monastery’s solitude.

Just imagine that, when I am digging something in my yard Saint Nino is bothered, but when they have 25-years-long ongoing constructions here, in the frame of which they built a café-restaurant, water reservoir and now they are building two shops and two-level parking, St. Nino is not bothered with it.”

“In their letter to Goderdzi Gordeziani the Signagi municipal administration noted that the Bodbe St. George Church, where St. Nino is buried, has status of national culture monument. In similar situation, the Law of Georgia on “Culture Heritage” determines the safe zone for the monument, which is 500 meters around it. We cannot give you permission to construct a café as the plot is located within the protected zone.”

“They have created such unbearable conditions for me and my family. They do not allow us anything. They have built a paradise here for themselves but our life has become an inferno,” the Gordezianis also decided to sell their house in Kedeli and have already put up an advertising banner on the gate.

Goderdzi Gordeziani’s wife Ana Khunashvili recalled that about 2 months ago, member of the Monastery security service, shot from the gun nearby her: “They are trying to scare us. I was going to feed the dog and somebody shot in my direction, near my feet. I called my husband, we chased him and he turned up to the security officer of the Monastery. I asked why he did it but he refused. Then the nun called me and said that the officer had really shot but it was not lethal gun.

Although the Monastery used to have slaves centuries ago, they cannot slaves nowadays too. How can they make the people living around the Monastery slaves again?”

In 2010, Information Center of Kakheti studied the case of Ilia Gogolashvili. He told his story in details, how he was arrested on March 25 and September 5, 2007 based on the testimonies of the monastery representatives. Nuns Nana Makharoblidze and Nana Tchanturia complained that Gogolashvili was scolding in front of the church and caused public disorder. Ilia was placed in the pre-detention isolator during two days. Afterwards, the court fined him with 100 GEL and released him. Having arrived in Kedeli, his house was completely destroyed. “I had stated in the court that they arrested me to get rid of me and destroy my house but nobody believed me then.”

Nun Nana Makharoblidze clarified that Monastery purchased the house, where Ilia Gogolashvili lived together with his mother. Instead, the Monastery purchased a house for them in Signagi. The Nun underlined that the families living around the Monastery were offered higher prices for the properties than they cost in reality. “For example, in 2005 we paid 1 500 USD to Rusudan and Temo Tchabashvilis for 31 square meters land and then they purchased three-room flat in Signagi. That flat belonged to the former prosecutor. We exchanged the house of Lili and Valiko Kerelashvilis into a three-room flat in 2014. This flat is located opposite the house of the former mayor of Signagi Kote Khmaladze.

There were only huts here. Now you see how beautiful environment we have here. We raised funds to purchase everything here and make the neighborhood beautiful.

The monastery is a huge institution. A lot of people live here, who need food and other support. The land here needs particular care. Our first duty is to take care of the surrounding territory where we will meet Georgian people together with tourists. They must be delighted with the culture they will see here.”

Nana Makharoblidze states that locals are disseminating offensive information, claiming that they cannot register the ancestral plots without the permission of the Monastery Abbess.

"How can you imagine that I influence anybody? Shall I call and threaten any state institution? All kind deeds whether it is done in the Monastery or in the society, always face obstacles but we should continue.”

Gela Mtivlishvili

Editor at, a lawyer by education. Gela works on topics related to human rights, ethnic minorities, conflict zones and terrorism. E-mail: [email protected]