Georgia, a country located in Eastern Europe, has experienced political turmoil for centuries. Existing under corrupt Soviet control throughout the 20th century, they claimed independence in 1991, and began to adapt pro-Western foreign policy as they entered the new millennium. Social activists believe Georgia’s drug policies are developing a bleak future for it’s peoples, and now millennial club owners turned activists are at the forefront of it all.
Housed in a former swimming pool under the country’s national football stadium, BASSIANI is the largest club in the country, and consistently ranks as one of Europe’s A-List techno venues. Since it opened in late-2015, it has been part of a scene where raving is more than just partying; it’s a political act. The country’s outrageous drug policies have ruined the lives of party-goers daily, and now, just days after hosting techno legend Nina Kravis, the prolific Georgian techno club was entered by police special forces units. The club, among others in the capital city of Tbilisi, was targeted after a string of drug-related deaths. The deaths allegedly occurred in nightclub settings, but no deaths or life-threatening situations have occurred, according to a Facebook press release.
The club says the raids were part of a smear campaign fueled by Russian government interests, but whatever the case, one thing is clear: Excessive force was used on innocent people. The United States is no stranger to the War on Drugs, but the rules are very different in Georgia. For instance, no laws exist to distinguish between amounts of contraband, and jail sentences are often a minimum of five years.
In such a conservative state, these clubs are a lifeline for people that don’t fit in, and an enemy to the local governments. Numbers vary, but most sources agree that over three-dozen people were arrested on the morning of May 13th, when police special forces wielded guns and entered the city’s most popular techno and house music clubs, BASSIANI and Cafe Gallery, respectively. Among those arrested were Tato Getia and Zviad Gelbakhiani, two of the owners of BASSIANI.
Following the raid, party-goers came together through the hashtag #wedancetogetherwefighttogether, and gathered in thousands outside the Georgian parliament buildings. For hours, they protested and called for the resignation of the prime minister, while being accompanied by sound systems and DJs. Video footage of the gathering shows a festival-like atmosphere with attendees dancing together to driving techno basslines.
More raids are likely coming, and drug law reform is on the horizon, but when? This event declared a war against the ideals and values of the rave community in Georgia, but surely the citizens will not give up so fast. Techno is regaining popularity worldwide, including in the Seattle area. Will the Georgian scene continue to inspire us, or fall back into their Soviet ways?