Ever since young people began organizing illegal rave parties in the 1990s, it has been debated whether “raving” has an actual political potential or rather, function as a hedonistic machine of desire. In Georgia, the small post-Soviet republic in the Caucasian mountains, there is no doubt. Here people don’t dance just for fun. In Georgia, raving is also a political act.
These days we recall the two year anniversary of the rave revolution which took place in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi. On the night of May 12, two of the city’s (and Europe’s) most popular and reputable techno clubs were raided and shut down in a brutal armed police action to crack down on what authorities referred to as illegal drug sales. Just hours later, thousands of rave enthusiasts spontaneously took to the streets in what was to be a three-day demonstration against the government’s illegitimate attempts to crack down on the liberal ideas, values and lifestyles that the clubs represent. The “ravers” who find their freedom in the dark clubs on weekends, poured into the city centre, built a techno scene in front of parliament and danced to the slogan “We dance together, we fight together”.
There were many different reasons why the ravers participated in the rave revolution. For some, it was simply a protest against the violation of their right to dance. For others, it was about protecting human rights, democratic values and the principle of individual freedom. In Georgia, where the Orthodox Church uses its moral authority to lead a heterosexist crusade against the queer community, the clubs serve as one of the few places where one can – safely and openly – express non-heteronormative sexual and gender identities. The techno clubs are a key mobilizer for LGBTQ-activism in their demand for human rights and sexual citizenship. The clubs also have an important position in the fight for a more humane drug policy. After the rave revolution, we have seen a gradual softening of a zero-tolerance policy that previously would send young people for years into prison for possession of tiny doses of drugs.
In essence, the rave revolution is maybe first and foremost a struggle for the right to rule over your own body?
Dance Or Die is a short film about the rave revolution and the political significance of dance in Georgia. It is also a tribute to the Georgian people ́s uncompromising willingness to create social and political change. Let it inspire to more raving and increased political awareness.
The movie is directed and edited by Naja Orashvili, and is written by Giorgi Kikonishvili.
We also recommend this track which was made by the Georgian artists Luka Metreveli “L8” And Irakli Berikashvili “Berika” as a direct response to the raids and the following events.
Big thanks to Mariam Nikuradze for the images used in this article.
If you found this article interesting, you should check out Monument writer Stefania Trinchero’s Article ‘Can We Really Save Our Scene?’
Inger is a Tbilisi-based guest writer and social worker who is currently studying religious studies. She comes from Norway and has a great passion rave culture.