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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deportees Overlooked on Misha's Big Day

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This was Misha's day, and he seemed to be loving it. Last week, on the third anniversary of the Rose Revolution that brought him to power, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili got to hang out with chums from friendly former communist countries like Ukraine, Poland and Estonia -- people who can relate to the ugly predicament he currently finds himself in with Georgia's former masters in Moscow. And he got to unveil a new public monument, something he seems to find impossible to resist.

Usually it's fountains. Misha loves fountains. They're part of his agenda of creating a better-looking Georgia -- especially fountains with colored lights that dance in time to music, like the one outside the Tbilisi Philharmonic, which shakes its liquid thing to the sounds of "The Blue Danube" and Blur's rowdy "Song 2."

This time, however, it was a statue: a gaudy gold likeness of St. George slaying the dragon, sculpted by Zurab Tsereteli, who also created the high-kitsch monument to Peter the Great that rises from the Moscow River.

When Saakashvili arrived to inaugurate the statue in Tbilisi's Freedom Square, he didn't pass up the chance to compare the saint-versus-dragon showdown to Georgia's current political situation. The monument was, he said, a depiction of the triumph of good over evil. Just as St. George slew the beast, he said, so Georgia would march on towards a prosperous and democratic future despite "enormous pressure" from -- well, he didn't say from whom, but it wasn't too hard to guess that he was talking about the Kremlin.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko was in town to show his support for a revolution that has outlasted his own. He also joined the family, becoming godfather to Saakashvili's infant son. The baptism was shown live on television, although it was not clear whether there was any intention to make the connection between the innocent boy-child taking one of life's first steps and the father inspiring his young country to make a giant step forward.

It was a public holiday in Georgia. Many of the streets in central Tbilisi were closed to traffic, and people were in a festive mood, waving Georgian flags and consuming even more sunflower seeds than normal. But nobody here was reporting the fate of the latest batch of Georgians to be deported from Russia -- a group of some 20 unfortunates who had made the arduous journey home via Azerbaijan because flights from Moscow to Tbilisi were still suspended.

While glittering St. George stood proudly in Freedom Square the day afterward, the deportees woke up to a life in which gold would be rather more difficult to come by.

Matthew Collin is a journalist in Tbilisi.