Readers of Tabula may remember the fascinating story of Vladimir's fishing trip, during which, according to eyewitnesses, he caught a speaking golden fish. The fish (following the conventions of fairytales) proceeded to offer to fulfill Vladimir's wishes in return for being set free. Reportedly Vladimir made this deal last autumn. Last spring I recounted the first part of the deal. I promised back then that I would try my best to explore other elements of the deal and recount the rest of Vladimir's wishes. I am now delivering on that promise. I cannot claim that the list of wishes is complete – as readers will see, several details of the agreement still remain vague, however it seems to be easier now to judge whether the golden fish fulfilled Vladimir's wishes.
Let me first recall Vladimir's initial six wishes and then move on to the other ones. As you might remember, every wish started with the same phrase: "I wish there were such a new government in Georgia that would...
... denigrate Georgia's success story;
... impede, or better stop altogether, the construction of the Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars railway link;
... release our spies from prison, not as pardoned criminals but as honorable "political prisoners;"
... change the Law on Occupation and unconditionally agree to the reopening of the Abkhazia railway;
... confess that Georgia provided save heaven and training to international terrorists to be send to Russia;
... admit that Georgia, not us, started the war in August 2008."
Now let's move on to the other wishes Vladimir asked the golden fish to grant:
Vladimir's seventh wish: I wish there were such a government in Georgia that would cut economic growth to zero. If that's not possible than I'd rather see economic growth in Georgia lower than that in Russia – is it fair that they had almost eight percent growth last year whereas we had only two percent? Scaring away investors with various colorful ideas, like banning the sale of land plots to foreigners, wouldn't harm at all. A couple populist initiatives, for example, "universal health insurance coverage" or "subsidizing the plowing of land," would also be of help – then they would end up with the budget deficit, which in turn would force them to either borrow cash from abroad or sequester the budget. And that's exactly where I step in ready to assist. I would gladly give them a couple of billion as a long term, low interest rate loan and, more importantly, would do that in a completely unselfish way – merely in exchange for their national energy distribution system or railways.
Vladimir's eighth wish: I wish there were such a government in Georgia that would undermine Saakashvili's civil integration project. A truly precious gift would be if the new government infringes upon the rights of its Muslim citizens – what a wealth of topics that would offer my diplomats to discuss with their Turkish, Arab and other Muslim colleagues. On the other hand, a perfect method to complicate relations with America and Europe would be an assault on homosexuals: I can clearly see the cover photos of leading Western newspapers and magazines vividly depicting sweating Georgian priests and machos attacking sexual minorities.
Vladimir's ninth wish: I wish there were such a government in Georgia that would speak loudly about the possibility of joining the Eurasian Union. What a U-turn that would be! Such a statement would enhance the position of skeptics of Georgia's European integration in Brussels, weaken the position of their Eastern European friends and would be a cold shower for those within the Commonwealth of Independent States longing for freedom.
Vladimir's tenth wish: I wish there were such a government in Georgia that would thwart the signing of the Association Agreement with Europe, or at least demote it to the level of initialing. If that happens, I would still have at least 12 months to prevent the agreement from reaching the point of signing. And, God forbid, if I fail then the Georgians would still have a long way to go to ratification. The best option is if the Europeans make the signing of the agreement conditional upon the termination of the selective justice practice. Here is where you, my golden fish, must show your skills! Don't make the new government's obsession with the "restoration of justice" subside, but if it does abate, have scores of "political prisoners" released from prisons to close ranks against that. I, for my part, would certainly lend a hand through my stooges in Georgia and the "centuries-old cultural ties and shared values of orthodoxy." Then we shall see what kind of European-liberal country they have built.
Vladimir's eleventh wish: I wish there were such a government in Georgia that would restore traditional social symbols. Start by returning Stalin's statue to its legitimate place. Should the world not see how Georgians celebrate this great son of theirs? If on top of that they also erect monuments to "mob bosses, tortured by Saakashvili regime," that would send a proper message on the values this society cherishes to both younger generations of Georgians as well to the international community. The president's palace must be closed down. It would be better for them to open a soup kitchen for the homeless in its place as a symbol of genuine, not artificial, care for the poor. The relocation of state agencies from the capital city to regional cities must also be reversed! How can the state audit service be in Gori, the parliament be in Kutaisi and the Constitutional Court and the International Technological University be in Batumi? Had that been a good idea, would not the Tsar (I would modestly omit invoking myself here) have done that earlier than Misha? To cut a story short, everything must be returned to Tbilisi! It is easier for a single person to run things when they are all in one place. Just ask me if you do not believe that!
Vladimir's twelfth wish: I wish there were such a government in Georgia that would stop annoying me with the hysteria about the "non-observance" of the six-point ceasefire agreement of 2008 by Russia, the so-called "occupation" and rubbish like that. I wish for a Georgia that participates in the Sochi Olympics and treats my Olympic torch bearer, a pilot who bombed Georgian villages in 2008, with Olympic serenity; a Georgia that does not get infuriated about the official accreditation of Abkhazian and South Ossetian journalists for the Olympics; a Georgia that does not "get provoked" when the "state border of the Republic of South Ossetia" moves further into Georgia proper and does not start shedding tears about the problems the inhabitants of several small and insignificant villages face there. Why are territory and statehood so important in the first place? What is important is our shared faith, is it not so? Would one state not be sufficient for both of us, Russians and Georgians? Why on earth do we need two states? Did we not have one state for almost two centuries – since 1801 with just two short intermissions? We put an end to the first break in 1921 upon the request of the Georgian red workers and peasants. So, let us now put an end to this second break that started in 1991 and then we can get down to work.
Eyewitnesses to this extraordinary event failed to agree on whether these were all of Vladimir's wishes or if he had asked the golden fish for something else. One declared that he had heard Vladimir say "hang him by both balls, not just one" – though he was not sure whom he was talking about; a second said that he heard Vladimir uttering names that sounded like Bokeradze, Bendukia; whilst others swore that Vladimir had added nothing more to these twelve wishes.
This is all that we have been able to learn. As I previously wrote, it is now up to you, dear readers, to judge whether or not the golden fish fulfilled Vladimir's wishes.