A Robin Hood dies at 100

Let’s not romanticize Giorgi Jalagania’s life. After all, he robbed many people and went to jail nine times. Moreover, he could have chosen a different path. Giorgi came from a wealthy, prestigious family. But, for whatever reasons, he chose to become a gangster. And not a hum-drum gangster, but one of the richer, more powerful ones in Georgia. Even the other gangsters were scared of him. In fact, no one would rob or harm people in Giorgi’s neighborhood. Except one, young, inexperienced thief, who unknowingly broke into Giorgi’s home and stole some possessions, including a photograph of Giorgi with his siblings. When this young thief showed the photos to others, everyone said, “Oh my god; what have you done! You’ve robbed Giorgi!” The young man was so scared, he returned everything he had taken. Then he visited Giorgi in jail; admitted his “error,” and asked for forgiveness.

On the good side, Giorgi followed the gangster code of honor. He robbed the rich, and he gave much of what he stole to the poor. He never extorted money from people who struggled to earn a living. In addition, Giorgi was a “fixer.” If someone had a problem, and the government either couldn’t or wouldn’t help, Giorgi would often find a solution. When Giorgi grew old, became ill, and “retired,” the people he had helped showed their appreciation. They couldn’t give money directly to the ailing man because Giorgi had too much pride to accept such gifts, but people would sneak into his home and leave some cash beneath his pillow. So one could say that Giorgi was a Robin Hood appreciated by his neighbors. This photo shows Giorgi, front row and center, along with his four younger brothers. We will video the wake and funeral, as well as several stories about Giorgi—the Georgian Robin Hood.

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About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

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