When Georgia Invited 10,000 English Teachers Over and Carnage Ensued
January 23, 2018 9:39 AM   Subscribe

When Mikheil Saakashvili – Georgia’s pro-Europe, anti-Russia president, who viewed Andy Garcia as the ideal figure to play him in a movie (Previously before his ...current escapades) – announced in August of 2010 that every schoolchild in Georgia would become “an English speaker” in the next four years, as part of an “educational revolution”, quite a few eyebrows were raised. Having brought in a series of widespread reforms in the wake of the 2003 Rose Revolution, which contributed to his approval rating of 67% at the time, ‘Misha Magaria‘ would not be deterred from his next big venture.
posted by Blasdelb (6 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
An old friend of mine was one of the english teachers brought over by TLG. He wound up starting a blog about Georgian culture for his fellow educators, and early on wrote about some particular parts of Georgian culture pertaining to sex, dating and marriage that wound up getting him a fair level of notoriety.

He's since settled down in Georgia, gotten married and started a family there.

It's very interesting to me to see how this whole thing looks in retrospect, in the article linked in the OP.
posted by bluemilker at 9:55 AM on January 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

When I went to Georgia this last summer, I went from having never heard of Alexis Reich to having this program and the rumors that she had joined it explained to me independently multiple times.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:29 AM on January 23, 2018

Who's Alexis Reich?
posted by orrnyereg at 11:02 AM on January 23, 2018

From the main linked article, since Blasdelb's link doesn't mention the name Alexis Reich: "Rumours arose that Alexis Reich, a transwoman formerly known as John Mark Karr, a serial child molester who rose to notoriety after falsely pleading guilty to the murder of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, was one of the early participants of the program, although these were never fully proved."
posted by JiBB at 11:08 AM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

I also once read a fascinating blog by an American who came over around the same time - he was a computer scientist who knew Saakashvili personally from his time at Columbia, and who he tapped as (IIRC) Minister of Technology when he was trying to cobble a government together after the revolution. It’s a really interesting look at the experience of coming in to work in a country attempting to both shake off a quasi-totalitarian dictatorship and modernize its government, and the ways that being an outsider made it both easier and harder for him. Unfortunately I can’t remember his name or the URL, or find the blog now.

One story that sticks with me is about his organizing a conference for government tech officials from Georgia and neighboring countries, and the difficulty in nailing down any firm commitments from his Turkmen counterparts because the people who held his office there kept getting purged.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:34 AM on January 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Lol. Oh Misha being Misha.

The latest buzz in the region is that Misha's youngest son (age 11) is trying to grow his YouTube Minecraft following by peppering in videos of his father. The kid's English is pretty decent. His parents do speak English to each other at home tho (Misha's wife is Dutch but makes a big show of her Georgian language fluency) and the family more or less lives in the US now, with the older child attending college on the East Coast.

I will say though that, in Tbilisi at least, English is now used widely. My native Russian speaking husband uses English when we are there, particular with younger people. Georgia dropped Russian as a second language quickly in a way that hasn't happened in the neighboring countries, for obvious reasons.

But yeah, this program was a total mess.
posted by k8t at 4:53 PM on January 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

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