Georgia: the national identity in political programmes and in practice

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Tamara Vardanyan'-
During the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century the social and political developments in Georgia may be characterized as a process of creation of a nation state, which is generally characteristic of the modernization period. The «National Project» initiated by Georgia back in 1918−1921 in its essence was a process of state creation, which had a continuous character and was not interrupted even in the period of Soviet Georgia. And since 1991 this process entered its next, most active stage and is still on the political agenda. It will remain long on the political agenda of the ruling elite, regardless of what are the ideological grounds uniting these forces.
The underlying logic of the above-mentioned social and political processes has conditioned the gradual change of the demographic picture of the country, which can be characterized as the process of monoethnification. And monoethnification of the country to the largest possible extent is a process which results in decreasing number of representatives of other ethnic groups in the country that automatically leads to weakening the potential of their counteraction. The weakened ethnic communities, in their turn, would not be able to challenge the Georgian nationalist programme with any counter-programme.
Back in 1983 E. Gellner, a prominent theorist of the nation and nationalism issues, mentioned that the perfect model of the society is when the boundaries of nation and state coincide [1]. According to him, nationalism is a principle that implies matching these boundaries of political and national units. This model is regarded also as an efficient means to prevent and settle ethnic conflicts.
Expert of «Noravank» Foundation, Ph.D. in History.
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The mono-ethnic composition of a country is also important from the national security viewpoint. Undoubtedly, the largely mono-ethnic nature of demographics in the Republic of Armenia, which is a direct consequence of the loss of historically Armenian territories, today is one of the crucial guarantees for the internal political security. Both the history and today’s reality also come to prove that ethnic or religious minorities often become an opportunity for external powers to interfere with the internal political processes of a country, turn the minorities into a leverage and, thus, in fact, pose threats to the political stability and societal solidarity of a country.
Of course, being aware of these realities, the Georgian national elite aspires to carry out a policy of integration of ethnic and religious minorities, which is often regarded as a policy of forcible assimilation/ due to its radical manifestations. The Georgian nationalist intelligentsia plays a great role in the ideological substantiation of the aforementioned policy. Formulated back in 1860s, the Georgian nationalism is a comprehensive ideological system with rich traditions and historical roots. Deriving strength from the past, today’s nationalist intelligentsia at the same time uses extensively the assimilation mechanisms customary in the modern world.
The policy of integration/assimilation of the minorities in Georgia is a consistent and systemic one. It includes educational and cultural, spiritual and religious domains, the aspects of mutual perception and stereotypes, as well as underlies the national/state ideology and is presented as a «National Project».
Certainly, the key role in this process is given to the administrative system, university centers and academic community, which have to scientifically substantiate the logic of all these processes from the national interests' point of view. Hence, the state administrative system in Georgia serves the national project. Let us mention at once, that this state of things is natural and logical, because the protection of the national interest is one of the main functions of the state, and the administrative system is a major resource for the state.
Theoretically, the process of monoethnification in any country occurs by the following mechanisms:
• Gradual emigration of ethnic minorities which is a mostly latent process and for this reason does not draw attention of the general public and mass media. It may become visible to them only in its extreme manifestations, e.g. large-scale ethnic cleansings, forced deportation, etc.
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• Slow assimilation of ethnic minorities, which is also a latent process and due to this it is not visible to the naked eye. It may trigger a wide response in mass media or be condemned by the progressive masses only in case of its extreme manifestations, e.g. forced religious conversion, imposing foreign language, tough imposition of the customs, mentality and mores of the titular ethnic group.
• Loss of the territories densely populated by ethnic or religious minorities (this process mostly occurs in a result of wars or collapse of the empires).
• Genocide.
The first two mechanisms in their non-extreme manifestations, i.e. the gradual emigration of the minorities and slow assimilation, are characteristic of our neighbour Georgia. Generally, these two mechanisms are the most frequently used ones all over the world. Since these processes take place slowly, they do not appear in the spotlight and the public «wakes up» only when the results become tangible and obvious. The other important peculiarity is that these processes often occur in peacetime and they can be implemented without violence, in a soft and «civilized» way.
Nevertheless, there is another very important peculiarity characteristic of these two mechanisms: the emigration of the ethnic and religious minorities and their assimilation do not encounter serious resistance or resentment in the civilized world. These processes are often considered a natural course of development. Thus, the emigration is often perceived and interpreted as a result of migration processes, and assimilation as an inevitable effect of globalization and integration.
«The National Project» of Georgia
The theorists of nation and nationalism single out two main types of nationalism: ethnic and civic (state). At the same time, according to the renowned nationalism theorist Hans Kohn, there are two main models of nations and nationalism: Western (French) and Eastern (German) [2]. The civic type of the identity and nationalism corresponds to the Western model, and the Eastern model encompasses the ethnic identity and ethnicity based nationalism.
In modern globalizing world the ethnic nationalism is usually criticized and the civic one is considered to be democratic, and hence, more acceptable.
Nevertheless, Georgian nationalism is generally of ethnic nature and, as well-known Georgian researcher G. Nodia rightly states, it is closer to the German model [3, pp. 84−101]. Another researcher of Georgian nationalism, G. Zedania, agreeing
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that Georgian nationalism has an ethnic nature, tries to explain it by the peculiarities of its origin. «The tendency of the Georgian nationalism towards „ethnical character“ is to be explained by its origin — when there was no possibility of equating nation with the state — as was the case for Georgians in Russian Empire — language, ethnicity and religion were taken as the defining moments of identity» writes G. Zadenia [4, p. 80]. Furthermore, the author mentions that this tendency maintains to the present days [4, p. 80].
Georgian ethnic nationalism is based on the principles of the dominance of Georgian language and Georgian Orthodox Church, instilling and accepting interpretations of the Georgian history approved and put into circulation through the educational system, Georgian ethnicity’s priority and development concept in its Fatherland and other factors.
On the other hand, civic nationalism in the theory implies equality of rights for representatives of all ethnic groups living in the country, their involvement in the social and political life of the country, creation of an environment with ethnic and cultural diversity- in other words, creation of a new identity based on citizenship (in academic literature this is called ethnicity-blind policy).
Nevertheless, in practice very often the civic nationalism (or state nationalism) serves mostly not to form a new identity but to impose the identity of the titular ethnic group on the ethnic or religious minorities. The Georgian researcher G. Zedania expresses similar ideas: «The phenomenon, which is being described by the term „civic nationalism“ is nothing else but the loyalty towards the state or patriotism» [4, p. 79].
The postulates of the Georgian «National Project» presented recently by G. No-dia, according to the author, generally reflect the way Georgia has chosen since 1918. The item 4 therein reads: «Georgia is a tolerant country that accepts and recognizes culturally distinct ethnic minorities on its territory but demands from them loyalty to the Georgian national project» [3, p. 94]. And the first point of that very «National Project» says: «The Georgian nation-state is the only acceptable political framework for the development of Georgian nation [3, p. 94]. The contradiction here is obvious. If „The National Project“ implies creation of the nation-state, which in its classical model presumes the dominance of the Georgian ethnos, it is then incomprehensible how it can recognize the cultural diversity of the minorities, and how the place and the role of ethno-religious minorities in the society are defined. In fact, one may suppose that nothing but loyalty to „The National Project“ is required from the minorities.
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If one talks about tolerance, then the role of the minorities in the development and prosperity of the country should be stressed and presented with clear-cut facts. History text-books are one of the most important indicators of the tolerance level in the country. If the society is multi-ethnic, in the modern civilized world the principle of Multiculturalism is used in the school text-books. According to this principle, the school history syllabus must include in official history the key events from the history of the ethnic minorities, a number of facts about the contribution they made in the development and state creation of the country, general information about their culture, etc. Meanwhile, the history text-books in Georgia are strictly ethnocentric and do not reflect the demographic picture of the country1. These text-books tell not so much about the history of Georgia but the history of Georgians, and the minorities are left out of the context.
Why do we attribute such an importance to the history text-books? The point is that the feeling of having a common history and past is a factor for unification of different parts of ethnos and one of the components of ethnic identity. While depriving ethnic minorities of their own history and thrusting upon them the history of another ethnos — in this case Georgians — is nothing else but a mechanism of assimilation, i.e. Georgianization.
In fact, the Georgian reality is that the rhetoric of authorities on tolerance does not match the policies carried out by them.
Thus, the civic nationalism rhetoric is used, while in practice the ethnic nationalism reigns.
So, the assimilation and emigration of ethnic and religious minorities is possible in simultaneous application of both nationalism models (ethnic and civic). In the M. Saakashvili period, Georgia tries to make a maximum use of both ethnic and civic (state) nationalism on its way to form a nation state, and this distinguishes the incumbent leader from his forerunners.
There are many examples of assimilation policy carried out under the pretext of the civic identity creation. For instance, the process of creation of the „Soviet human“ in the Soviet period actually led to gradual Russification rather than to formation of the „new identity“, which was manifested at the level of the Soviet republics mainly in the Russification of the elites and change of the demographic composition of the republics in favour of the Russians. Essentially similar processes take place in
1 For the brief examination of the Georgian history text books see ?. ??? „??? ??? … ??? ???“, „… ??? ???“ ???, ??? 2 (6), 2009?., ???, ?? 69−74, ??? http: //www. noravank. am/am/?page=analitics&-nid=1888 (in Armenian), http: //www. noravank. am/ru/?page=analitics&-nid=1875 (in Russian)?
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Turkey, as well as in other countries to a varying degree, whether these are so-called modern democratic states or those yet to pass the way of modernization.
Both models of nationalism (ethnic and civic), not only because of the history textbooks but also because of many other problems in Georgia, target the same objective, i.e., to form the Georgian nation state through assimilating and squeezing out the ethnic and religious minorities.
The Triad of Georgian Nationalism:
Fatherland, Language, Religion
Had the process of Georgianization of ethnic and religious minorities not possessed strong, comprehensive, systematized ideological grounds, it would not have scored any considerable success. Besides, the aforementioned ideological bases, as a rule, achieve a tangible success only when they are adopted by the state system, because in this case the entire administrative and propaganda machine is put to service for implementing this task.
G. Nodia appropriately notes that «in 1860s I. Tchavtchavadze offered the triad, which later on acquired the status of the formula for creation of the Georgian nation — Fatherland, language, religion (mamuli, ena, sartsmunoeba in Georgian)». I. Tchavtchavadze persistently expressed and developed his ideological views on the pages of «Iveria» newspaper published in Tbilisi.
Meanwhile, by the beginning of the 20th century nationalism had acquired the shape of a political programme. The idea of the nation state creation had been formed. It was expressed through the slogan «Georgia for Georgians» as a programme for creation of the national statehood.
It is known that at the beginning of the 20th century the ethnic composition of the Transcaucasia and the inhabitancy of population varied a lot. The Russian Minister of Public Education, Count I. I. Tolstoy wrote in his memoirs about the situation in Transcaucasia: «There is no territory with homogeneous population. Nobody can say distinctly whether Tiflis is a Georgian city or an Armenian one…, or whether the Armenians would agree to recognize the province of Baku as Tatar land. «1
In our region the processes of territorial centralization gained momentum particularly in late 19th and early 20th century. The political programmes for creation of homogeneous administrative and political units were formed among the ethnic mi-
1 Воспоминания министра народного просвещения графа И. И. Толстого (31 октября 1905 г. — 24 апреля 1906 г.), Серия «Мемуары русской профессуры», кн. 2, 1997, с. 122.
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norities living on the territory of the Russian Empire. They would later become the territorial basis for creation of nation states.
Since May 1, 1903 in Paris «Sakartvelo» (Georgia) political bulletin in two languages (Georgian and French) had been published. The goal of this bulletin was to awaken national and civic consciousness among the Georgians thus preparing grounds for the autonomy of Georgia1. Then, in 1904 the nationalist Georgian Social-Federalist Party of was formed. G. Galoyan mentions that «…the main body of that organization was the aforementioned «Sakartvelo» bulletin — the organ of Georgian national-federalists abroad» [5, ?? 451]. The leader of nationalist organization «Sakartvelo» was A. Georgadze. The organization took the slogan «Georgia for Georgians» as the main exponent of its political goals.
The main programme demand of the Georgian national-federalists was «the creation of the Georgian autonomy within the borders of the Russian bourgeois-feudal state» [6, с. 20]. It means that for creation of a nation state the Georgian nationalism needed ethnically homogeneous territory. The autonomy had to serve as the territorial basis for creation of such an administrative and political unit. Actually, in the Georgian reality the idea of territorial centralization had been put on the political agenda back at the beginning of the 20th century (by the way, similar processes were happening among the Eastern Armenians, though in the Armenian reality the whole attention of the political struggle was focused on Western Armenia, and among the Caucasian Tatars this process became active mostly in 1905−1906 during the Armenian-Tatar clashes1 2).
The territories to form the autonomous Georgia, mentioned by the federalists were not ethnically homogeneous. There were many Armenians, Russians, Tatars, Circassians, mountainous Lezghins and others who would inevitably find themselves in the status of national minority under the autonomy.
The idea of creation of the ethnically homogeneous territory found a wide response in the local press in Tbilisi, too. «Akhali Droeba», newspaper published in Tbilisi, also advocated immediate creation of the homogeneous administrative and political unit. Here is the stance of the newspaper’s editorial stuff on the national issue: «We are the adherents of that very noble nationalism which does not wish to other nations what it would not wish to itself and hence, nobody will dare call us «chauvinists». We are for the full autonomy of the nation, because where
1 ???? ??? ??? ??? ???, ???, ???, 1903, ??? 9, ?? 147−148:
2 See particularly: ?. ???, «??? ??? ??? (1905−1906??. ???-??? ??? ??? ???), 2 ???», «??? ???», ??? 4, ???, 2005, http: // www. oukhtararati. com/amsagrer/Oukth-4. pdf (??? 1-??), «??? ???», ??? 6, ???, 2005, http: // www. oukhtararati. com/amsagrer/Oukth-6. pdf (??? 2-??)?
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100 languages are spoken it is difficult to understand the needs and demands of an individual citizen, thus, the common political life is not possible either» (underlined by T.V.)1.
Georgia’s monoethnification project continued over the Soviet period as well, which is vividly evidenced by the demographic changes in the republic (see below). The modern researcher of the Georgian identity Marie Chkhartishvili, marking out the role of the Armenians in the process of formation of the Georgian identity, mentions: «In the Soviet period as well Georgian-Armenian identities' interrelations were marked with tension. The marginalization of Armenians continued, people with Armenian family names were not able to occupy managing positions in Soviet Georgia. However, when Armenians changed their family names to have Georgian endings, they could reach positions even higher than those of Georgians» [7, p. 124]. Interestingly, the author of these lines attributes it to the Soviet policies, but not to the Georgian National Project.
At the end-period of the Soviet Union’s collapse and in the first years of the post-Soviet Georgia the policy of monoethnification became an unconcealed phenomenon. Back in the years of Perestroika — in 1989, in the issue of «Akhalgazda ko-munist» (Young Communist) newspaper for June R. Mishveladze’s letter was published which clearly reads: «Georgia is on the verge of a real disaster — extinction… We have to increase the proportion of the Georgians at all costs (today it is 65%). Georgia can tolerate no more than 5% of guests. We have to persuade these suspiciously fast-breeding alien nationalities that there are no conditions for them on the soil of David the Builder"1 2.
The radical nationalist Z. Gamsakhurdia, President of Georgia (elected in 1991) adopted that very ideology, and during his rule not only gradual Georgianiza-tion threatened the Armenians of Georgia, but there was also the danger of physical assault. G. Ioseliani’s non-formal paramilitary groups — «Mkhedrioni» (The Horsemen) inspired fear among the peaceful population, including minorities (despite the cases of open confrontation between Z. Gamsakhurdia and J. Ioseliani). In those years even in Tbilisi’s Armenian quarter Havlabar the local Armenians undertook self-organization and self-defense measures in order to avoid possible gang assaults.
The policy of the incumbent president M. Saakashvili also contributes to the creation of the Georgian nation state, though he uses the modern rhetoric. For example, he often mentions that Georgia is a multi-ethnic country and that the prosperity and development of Georgia is possible only under the equality of the representa-
1 See «Кавказ» newspaper, Тбилиси, 1906, но. 52.
2 See: http: //www. otechestvo. org. ua/main/20 071/520. htm
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tives of all the nations living there. One may see many posters expressing such an approach in the streets of Tbilisi. At the same time a year after coming to power — 2004, he announced the year of memory of Z. Gamsakhurdia thus stating the succession of Gamsakhurdia’s model of state creation and his adherence to that model.
G. Nodia also speaks about this succession. Reminding the items of the «National Project» he writes: «Despite all the differences between the first Georgian Republic of 1918−1921 and the post-Soviet period, as well as important differences among the political regimes of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Eduard Shevardnadze and Mikhail Saakashvili, these points constitute invariable guidelines of the Georgian national project» [3, p. 95].
The problem is that the programme of the nation state creation in Georgia does not contradict at all to the plans of the big Western stakeholders in the region who see no threat in the Georgian nationalism and encourage it because it is largely based on anti-Russian sentiments.
For instance, one of the reports of civil society circles submitted to the European Council reads:
The main gaps with regard to the minority policy in Georgia bringing isolation and marginalization of the minority communities are:
• absence of the comprehensive policy approach to the minority issue and consequently absence of adequate legal frameworks ensuring minority participation and civil integration-
• Solid lack of political representation of minorities on national and to some extent on local levels-
• Lack of the appropriate skills and capacities of those representatives of the ethnic minority groups who have been elected to the local self-government bodies necessary for the adequate fulfillment of their powers and representation of the ethnic minorities within local self-government authorities-
• Lack of culture of political participation and extremely low level of legal literacy among representatives of minority groups-
• Informational vacuum in the areas of the compact settlement and lack of attention to the problems of minorities leading to isolation of minority groups from the society-
• Previous one-sided language policies which contributed to the lack of knowledge of the official state language by ethnic minorities and thus to the isolation, employment problems and inadequate law enforcement [8].
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Though the West is well aware of those obstacles, the Western democratic institutions do not exert any pressure on Georgia’s authorities on the issue of improving the situation with the minorities and they will not as long Georgia maintains its anti-Russian orientation in its foreign policy. Under the situation concerned the marginalization and isolation of the minorities continues. Although even in such a situation the Georgian researchers manage to cast the blame on Armenians who because of their (Armenian. — TV) experience of existence in Diaspora makes great obstacles to the integration of ethnic Armenians in a nonArmenian national community [7, p. 125].
At present, many of Georgian researchers consider the Saakashvili period as a period of democratic and civil society building. Comparing the national projects of Gamsakhurdia and Saakashvili the Georgian researcher D. Aprasidze mentions that in the Gamsakhurdia period… a political construction of a Georgian nation started with ethnocentric nationalism… At present, Georgia is on the stage of a state-led nationalism [9, p. 72]. In reality the difference is only in the rhetoric and in practice the result is the same — the gradual monoethnification of the country and creation of a nation state on that ground.
Nevertheless, some differences can be observed as a result of using different rhetoric. For example, the blatant and «hard-core» nationalism of Z. Gamsakhurdia urged mostly emigration of minorities, while today, due to the «soft» policy of Saakashvili with the stressed civic nationalism, the gradual assimilation mostly prevails among the minorities.
The second pillar and weapon of the Georgian nationalism triad is the Georgian language. Many researchers of the nation-building process (O. Bauer, Yu. Bro-mel, Yu. Arutyunov, L. Abrahamyan and others) mention that the language is a key and visible indicator of the identity and plays a great role in ethnogenesis. Modern Western researchers also mention that the form of language orientation is very developed in the national consciousness of Georgians. Any visitor to Georgia is immediately struck by the centrality of the Georgian language, both in everyday functions and in cultural contexts [10, p. 168].
Hence, the Georgian language is a powerful means, which being spread among the ethnic and religious minorities, boosts the transformations of their identity towards Georgianization — a process that targets the final assimilation into the Georgian populace. As ethnographer L. Abrahamyan mentions: «Both the language policy
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of the former Georgian Soviet republic, and that of the newly independent Republic of Georgia, clearly reflects all the political problems Georgia has had and continues to face in regard to its ethnic minorities"[11, p. 72].
The Georgian language as a key component of the Georgian identity was particularly stressed in the 19th century and in the Soviet period. It was even more significant than the religious identity. The reason was that being part of the Russian Empire religion could not play a differentiating role for the Georgian national idea but it could have rather unified Russians and Georgians. That is why the ideas of language and motherland were stressed. Besides, when Georgia became part of Russia, Georgian language had not been used during the liturgies and Georgian Church lost its independence in 1811. Consequently, Georgian became the language of the secular literature and turned into nationalism nourishing source. The Georgian Orthodox Church could not perform the function of a differentiating element in the Soviet period either. Only in our days it acquired a considerable power and is getting stronger every day.
Thus, Georgian language is the most important component of Georgian nationalism, distinguishing Georgians from others. For this reason, when in 1978 Moscow wanted to deprive the Georgian language of its status of official language in the Soviet Georgia (and Armenian in the Soviet Armenia) Georgian national intelligentsia put up a serious resistance to that, owing to which Moscow’s attempt failed.
If we consider developments in Javakhq from the aspect of crucial importance of the Georgian language for the Georgian identity, it will become clear why the status of the Armenian language in Javakhq causes serious antagonism on behalf of the Georgian governmental, social and scientific circles. The fact that the Armenians of Javakhq do not speak Georgian causes deep repugnance. It means that this circumstance is a serious signal to the Georgian elite that the policy directed to assimilation of the Armenians in Javakhq may fail. G. Khaindrava mentioned during one of the interviews: «The problems in Javakhq are connected not with the Armenian language but with the Georgian. And it would be a friendly gesture on behalf of Armenia to think about spreading the Georgian language in Javakhq, because people there already speak Armenian anyway. «1
Generally, the language policy in regard to the minorities is an important area in the interstate relations between the receiving nation and the motherland of the national minority, because in motherland they understand the consequences of losing the mother tongue. One of the obvious examples is the German-Turkish high-
1 Хаиндрава Гоги, «Армяне и грузины — никакие не друзья, да и друзьями никогда не были». http: //news. am/ru/ news/7153. html
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level controversy concerning the demand of Turkey to teach the Turkish language to immigrant Turks living in Germany1. But the Armenians in Javakhq are not immigrants- they live on a part of the territory of their historical motherland, and therefore they have some privileges in exercising their language rights.
It has to be mentioned that through introduction of the Georgian language thousands of Armenians were assimilated in Kakheti. Armenian schools in the Armenian villages step by step were turned into Georgian schools and two-three decades later part of the local Armenians were fully Georgianized.
By the way, the same policy is carried out in the Armenian schools in Tbilisi, where Georgian sections were introduced together with the Armenian classes. During several recent years Armenian schoolchildren gradually move to the Georgian sections where the teaching level of the Georgian language is higher and thus, it is more preferable for Armenians who are the citizens of Georgia. As a result, Armenian sections are losing the prospects of existence.
On the other hand, there is a comprehensive system of unwritten laws. For instance, you can often hear in Georgia, especially among the Armenians living in Tbilisi that «speaking Armenian in the streets is a shame». At the same time, no such social norm exists that «for an Armenian it is even more shameful not to have a command of Armenian language».
The next important pillar of the Georgian nationalism triad is the Georgian Orthodox Church. The religion plays a role of catalyst in the processes of national consolidation in Georgia in the years of independence. Unconcealed processes for creation of «One nation, one religion» model are taking place here. As M. Javakhish-vili mentions: «…since the 90s of the 20th century the notions of «Georgian» and «Orthodox» had been equalized. Entire Georgia must become mono-confessional country and all Georgians should be Orthodox» [12, с. 116]. Till our days other religious minorities in Georgia have no legal status. The Georgian Orthodox Church and its leader enjoy high reputation in Georgia. Thus, when in 2003 it was planned to sign an agreement between Georgia and Vatican, the Georgian Orthodox Church immediately halted the process. Georgian Patriarch stated that «other confessions may make use of this fact in order to establish themselves in Georgia, which may cause new and serious problems for our state. «1 2
That very Javakhishvili mentions that Catholics in Georgia are called
1 See particularly: «Учите турецкий: Турция требует открыть в Германии школы с обучением на турецком языке, http: //lenta. ru/artides/2010/03/30/schulen/
2 http: //www. centrasia. ru/newsA. php? st=1 063 998 660
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T. Vardanyan
«sectarians», «heretics», «aliens». The Orthodox preachers often call Armenians «heretics» and «Satanists» because of the absence of any knowledge about the Miaphysitism of the Armenians [13, ?? 112].
There are many facts of proselytism carried out among the Armenians by the priests of the Georgian Orthodox Church. For example, in Havlabar, the quarter inhabited mostly by the Armenians, a sizeable and luxurious Georgian church Sameba was built during the Saakashvili period. Today the Armenians from Havlabar often visit that church. One of the opinions expressed on the site was that the Georgian side is proselytizing mostly the wealthy and outstanding Armenians.
The acts of proselytism are also carried out in Javakhq. There were no Georgians in the village of Poka in Ninotsminda region. But Georgians bought five houses in the village where Georgian nuns and monks of Poka’s St. Nino Church reside. In one of the interviews the mother superior Elizabeth mentioned that she managed to baptize one whole Armenian family in accordance with the Orthodox rite, because, as she said, they realized that Orthodox faith is more righteous1. Later on, according to the accounts of S. Karapetyan, in 2003 the Georgian church in Poka managed to re-christen in Georgian Orthodox Church many Armenians in Poka, alleging that the local Armenians themselves turned to the Georgian Church to be re-christened because they understood the «advantage of the Orthodox Church» [14, ?? 515].
The Georgian Dioceses of the Armenian Apostolic Church have to take serious measures against proselytism. Recently Church Calendars and brochures were published by the efforts of the Georgians Dioceses of the Armenian Apostolic Church which will allow the Armenians in Georgia celebrating church fetes in accordance with the Calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church. But the Armenians of Georgia do not fully realize all the possible consequences of the assimilation through religion yet, and most of them still stay within the field of the spiritual missionary of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
MonoeOiifcation of Georgia in fgures: Demography1 2-
Let us present the process of the country’s monoethnification in figures by examining the official demographics. These processes are mainly conditioned by the declared state ideology, the ethno-mobilization potential of the titular ethnic group, and also by some logics of the intra-communal developments inside the ethnic or religious minorities.
1 See particularly ??? ???, ???, ??? 161, 21. 06. 2001?., ??? ?. ???:
2 We rely on the official statistics. At the same time it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that often a non-Georgian person may deliberately present himself as Georgian in official questionnaire though in their milieu his real ethnic origins is known and yet for quite a long time depending on the situation he may identify himself according to his ethnic origins. This fact proves that gradual assimilation of the person.
T. Vardanyan
& lt-21st CENTURY», № 1 (7), 2010
The diagram below presents the dynamics of monoethnification of the country.
Diagram 1
The dynamics of demographic composition of Georgia (1926−2002)
1926 1939 1959 1970 1979 1989 2002
Armenians in Georgia
The diagram above clearly depicts the process of Georgianization of the society and country, i.e. the continual growth of the number of Georgians on the one hand, and the gradual decline in number of the ethnic and religious minorities on the other hand. Thus, if in 1926 according to the official census Georgians constituted 59. 9% of the population of the republic, in 2002 the proportion of the Georgians grew up to 83. 3%. And just the opposite, if in 1926 Armenians constituted 17. 6% of the population of Georgia, in 2002 the number of Armenians decreased down to 5. 7%. It can be observed that Georgianization is accompanied by the process of de-Armenization (see below Table 2and Diagram 3presenting this process).
The number of the Armenians in Georgia declined because of both gradual assimilation and slow emigration. Thus, according to the 2002 census part of the Armenians living in Georgia (with total number of 248,929) does not consider Armenian their mother tongue — 5,692 people consider Georgian to be their mother tongue and 7,525 — Russian1 2. In fact both of these groups are being estranged from the Armeniancy openly either through assimilation (Georgian speakers) or through emigration (Russian speakers). These groups, in fact, neither resist assimilation any more nor make any effort to preserve their Armenian identity and consciously estrange themselves from their national roots3.
1 Let us mention that the 2002 demographics is presented without Abkhazia and South Ossetia http: //www. geostat. ge
2 www. ecmi. de/emap/download/Samtskhe_Statistics. pdf
3 To compare, the number of those who consider Georgian or Russian they mother tongue among Azerbaijanis is much smaller (385 and 934 people correspondingly). Ibid:
Table 2
The number of the Georgians and Armenians in Tbilisi in 1803−2002 (in %}
1803 1817 1864 1876 1897 1926 1939 1959 1970 1979 2002
Armenians 74% 75,6% 47,4% 41% 29,5% 34,1% 26,4% 21,5% 16,9% 14,5% 7,6%
Georgians 22,6% 18,9% 24,9% 24,1% 26,3% 38,1% 44% 48,4% 57,5% 62,1% 84,2%
The number of the Georgians and Armenians in Tbilisi in 1803−2002 (in %/
Diagram 3
н Armenians ¦ Georgians
1803 1817 1864 1876 1897 1926 1939 1959 1970 1979 2002
1 See: http-//www. ethno? kavkaz. narod. m/rngeorgia. html
2 Ibid.
& lt-21st CENTURY», № 1 (7), 2010 T. Vardanyan
T. Vardanyan
& lt-21st CENTURY», № 1 (7), 2010
In addition to the groups of the Armenians who are downright estranged, there are many Armenians who despite considering Armenian their mother tongue, widely use Russian and Georgian as a language of communication even while communicating with their fellow Armenians. Though the process of assimilation of these groups may take place more slowly, nevertheless, in a course of time it will become inevitable if appropriate measures are not taken.
It is remarkable that among the emigrating ethnic minorities Armenians take the first place in numbers. Accordingly, after the independence total 550,000 thousand ethnic Georgians emigrated from the country, which constitutes 39. 7% of all the emigrants from Georgia1. At the same time and the Armenians take the biggest share in this number. Over the same period 60. 3% of ethnic and religious minorities left the country.
Thus, when the 1990s emigration process is discussed the Georgian party mentions that Georgians emigrated too, which was caused by the difficult social and economic situation and war in the country. However, the point is that the rate of emigration among minorities was much higher and, probably, the causes cannot be attributed to the two aforementioned factors alone. The nationalist sentiments and ethno centric environment also played an additional and significant role in boosting emigration of the minorities.
Besides, it should be mentioned that owing to migration of the ethnic minorities not only a quantitative decline took place in the aforementioned communities, but also a qualitative one. It is known that it was socially active masses who emigrated and this caused a qualitative regression in whole Georgia (these same processes took place in the Armenia and other post-Soviet republics). However, in case of Armenians the social niche occupied by this socially active part has not been filled because in the ethno-centric environment the social growth of a person faced many obstacles. Thus, the community was left without elite.
On the other hand, in case of Georgians the old elite was substituted by a new one — again ethnic Georgians. Actually, this transformation might have been a slump in quality for the Georgians too, but in case of Georgians the national outlook and composition have not only been preserved but also reinforced at the expense of minorities. Therefore, the viewpoints of some experts that emigration equally affected all ethnic and religious minorities, and its main causes were mainly of social and economic character are not objective1 2.
1 www. ecmi. de/emap/download/Samtskhe_Statistics. pdf
2 Such opinions are often sounded by the political figures and they are also rather popular among some experts. See, e.g. M. Komakhia, Georgia’s ethnic history and the present migration processes, Central Asia and Caucasus, 2008, 1/16, http: //www. ca-c. org/online/2008/journal_eng/cac-01/16. shtml
«21st CENTURY», № 1 (7), 2010
T. Vardanyan
Other ethnic or religious minorities
It has to be mentioned that the ethnic Georgians' growth in the number is not a result of the high birth rates and the natural growth, but mostly a result of assimilation of other ethnic groups, fast Georgianization of sub-ethnic groups (Mingrelians, Svans, Imeretians, Gurians, etc.).
For example, in the results of the census carried out back in early 20th century in the Russian Empire [15, с. 108−124] and in other sources, we can run into such term as «the Kartvelian peoples, including Georgians». B. Ishkhanyan in his valuable studies uses 2 terms: «Georgians in a broad sense» and «Georgians in a narrow sense». «Georgians in a broad sense» means that this group includes not only the Georgians proper, but also Svans, Imeretians, Mingrelians. Later those groups were considered by Georgians as sub-ethnic groups of the Georgian ethnos and were incorporated in that ethnos. The statistics show that in case of including those sub-ethnic groups the proportion of the Georgians compared to the rest of the population in Caucasus grows by nearly 50%. For example, B. Ishkhanyan’s work presents the number of the «Georgians in a narrow sense» in comparison to the whole population of Caucasus- it constitutes 9. 29%, and in case of «Georgians in a broad sense» the number comes to 14. 87% [16, ?? 148].
The usage of two different terms means by itself that at the beginning of the 20th century there was a differentiated attitude towards Mingrelians, Svans, Imeretians — they were sometimes identified as Georgians, and sometimes were not. All of this comes to prove the existence of ethnic identity among them different from the Georgian one back at the dawn of the 20th century. Today the Georgian self-perception in these groups is a commonplace phenomenon. For instance, among Mingrelians the Georgian ethnic nationalism may be manifested even more vividly than among Georgians. Perhaps, the reason for this is the involvement of Mingrelians in the ruling elite of Georgia and the fact that the Georgians do not differentiate the Mingrelians and regard them a sub-ethnic group, and their spoken language, which does not have writing and is used solely in day-to-day life, is considered a dialect of the Georgian language.
In fact, the same trend of demographic decline can be observed in regard to all ethnic or religious minorities in Georgia (see Diagram 1).
Though in the Soviet period Abkhazians and Ossetians had a status of autonomy, these two ethnic groups still did not avoid the demographic decline. Thus, in 1926 the number of Abkhazians in Georgia was 2. 8%, whereas in 1989, i.e. before the Georgian-Abkhazian war, it was down to 1. 8%, and the number of the Ossetians in the same period decreased from 5. 3% to 3. 0%.
T. Vardanyan
& lt-21st CENTURY», № 1 (7), 2010
The Georgian researcher D. Aprasidze mentions that the ethnic nationalism spread in the Soviet Georgia did not include only two regions — Abkhazia and South Ossetia1 [9, p. 72]. Expanding this idea and reformulating the task, it can be stated that Georgians did not manage to accomplish the process of Georgianization of the Abkhazians and Ossetians most likely due to that reason. Consequently, such a policy in the territory of Georgia caused Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian interethnic conflicts after the collapse of the USSR. Hence, despite the processes of Georgianization occurring all over the territory of Georgia, Abkhazians and Ossetians managed to preserve their ethnic self-perception. D. Aprasidze correctly mentions that these two ethnic groups were able to oppose the Georgian nationalist project by their own national counter-projects [9, p. 72]. Undoubtedly, this fact is indicative of the high level of ethnic self-perception among Abkhazians and Ossetians.
S. Cornell, professor of John Hopkins University, Doctor of the National Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan contends that in the post-Soviet territory, particularly in the South Caucasus, the existence of the autonomies such as South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region, was one of the crucial factors that fheled the ethnic conflicts [17, pp. 245−276]. In reality, the existence of the autonomies could not cause or stimulate conflicts by itself, but quite the opposite, such autonomies allowed ethnic minorities to more or less preserve their national identity. The cause of the ethnic conflicts was not the existence of autonomies but their forcible annexation to the Georgian and Azerbaijani Soviet Republics, and the philosophy underlying the national policies of authorities in these republics, which was far from the principles they declared.
In the Soviet period Russians were the exception — their number started growing rapidly after the Sovietization of Georgia (from 1. 2% to 10. 1% in 1959), and it slumped as rapidly as it grew in the post-Soviet period, decreasing to 1. 5% in 2002 (see Diagram 1). These changes also are certainly explained by the prevailing political ideology, and the modern Georgian historiography qualified them as a manifestation of Russian imperial policy [18, с. 195].
In case of Azerbaijanis, their high birth rates should be taken into consideration while examining the demographics. But even with a glance at that, in 19 262 002 the number of the Azerbaijanis, in fact, remained the same (6.4 and 6. 5% respectively). Taking into account the high birth rate, the durable immunity and less inclination to assimilation among Azerbaijanis, that indicator may only point to their emigration, mainly to the Azerbaijani SSR, and since 1991 — to Azerbaijan and Turkey.
1 http: //identitystudies. ac. ge/1/
«21st CENTURY», № 1 (7), 2010
T. Vardanyan
So, since 1989 the pace of Georgianization and monoethnification of the country has been growing constantly, and the numbers of the minorities have been decreasing (see Diagram 1)
The peculiarities of demographic changes
The gradual emigration and slow assimilation — two main processes conditioning the Georgianization of the demographic picture of the country — as a rule occur simultaneously. Though the goals of both processes are completely the same, their paces may differ, e.g. by administrative areas, ethnic minorities or historical period.
If in the Soviet period the policy of the gradual assimilation of ethnic minorities was the more active one, in post-Soviet period — in 1990s — the pace of the emigration of the minorities intensified (Greeks mostly left for Greece, Jews — for Israel or Russia, Azerbaijanis — for Azerbaijan and Turkey, and Armenians, unfortunately, mostly left for third countries, though part of them came and settled in Armenia1, etc.)
The processes of assimilation and emigration among Armenians differ in their intensity depending on the administrative areas. For instance, if today the gradual assimilation is characteristic of the Armenian community in Tbilisi, among the Armenians in Javakhq this tendency is less stressed but instead, the main cause of depopulation of Armenians in Javakhq can be attributed to the emigration.
In case of the Russians one can see a rather interesting picture depending on Soviet and post-Soviet historical periods. If in the Soviet period a considerable inflow of Russians could be observed, from the very first day of independence the highest rate of emigration in Georgia was registered among Russians. According to the independent researchers, 200,000 out of 264,000 Russians living in Georgia, i.e. 76%, emigrated (according to the 1989 census, without data on Abkhazia and Ossetia)1 2.
To summarize, over the 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century Georgia has been implementing a National Project and one of its main goals was the creation of the nation state. Since this task has not been accomplished yet, it will remain on the agenda of Georgia’s vision on state creation. The recent statement by president
1 It is remarkable that the inflow of the Armenians from Georgia to Armenia was much more notable in the first and proceeding years after the creation of the Soviet Armenia than after the collapse of the USSR.
2 How emigration affects Georgia, Publication: Prism Volume: 4 Issue: 13, 1998, by Zaal Anjaparidze, www. jamestown. org
T. Vardanyan
& lt-21st CENTURY», № 1 (7), 2010
Saakashvili that they are ready to provide apartments for ethnic Georgians who decided to return to their motherland at costs twice as low as the market prices are1 and will simplify the procedure of acquiring dual citizenship will contribute to the process of Georgianization.
After the August war Georgia has gradually begun paying more attention to territories remaining under its control after the war, and neutralization of the problems related to the minorities.
Judging by the above-mentioned figures the only ethnic minority in Georgia which has not had a demographic decline and even has grown by 0. 1%, is the Azerbaijani community. At the same time if for many years Armenians held the first place among the ethnic and religious minorities in Georgia, today it belongs to Azerbaijanis.
The strengthening of the Azerbaijani community is mostly boosted by penetration of the Turkish capital into the Georgian market which provides the Azerbaijani community a new impulse for feeling safe. Azerbaijani and Turkish companies mostly employ local Azerbaijanis. Because of the penetration of the Turkish and Azerbaijani capital, there is almost no emigration observed in Kvemo Kartli region inhabited by Azerbaijanis, unlike Javakhq, where the rate of emigration among Armenians is quite high, which contributes to the final de-Armenization of Javakhq.
Thus, the continual growth of the Turkish-Azerbaijani penetration into the economic life of the country and traditionally high rate of the natural growth of Azerbaijani population may be considered the main obstacles on the way of Georgia’s monoethnification.
May, 2010
Reference Sources and Literature
1. Gellner E, Nations and Nationalism, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983.
2. Kohn H, The Idea of Nationalism. A Study in Its Origins and Background, New York, 1961.
3. Nodia G, «Components of the Georgian National Idea: an Outline», — in Identity Studies, ed. G. Zedania, Tbilisi, Ilia Chavchavadze State University, N1.
4. Zedania G, «National Form and the Question of Identity», — in Identity Studies, ed. G. Zedania, Tbilisi, Ilia Chavchavadze State University, N1.
5. ??? ?, ???? ??? ???, ???, 1978:
1 http: //www. georgiatimes. info/analysis/31 344- 1. html
«21st CENTURY», № 1 (7), 2010
T. Vardanyan
6. Муджири А. Н, Политические партии и национальный вопрос в Закавказье в период подготовки и проведения Октябрьской революции, Тбилиси, 1970.
7. Chkhartishvili M, «On Georgian Identity and Culture», Nine International Presentations, Tbilisi, 2009.
8. «Civil population’s conditions Georgia, including South Ossetia, during the conflict between Russian Federation and Georgia», Produced with assistance of the Public Movement «Multinational Georgia», European Parliament. Brussels, 2 September 2008.
9. Aprasidze D, Formation of a State and a Nation in Modern Georgia: an Unfinished Project? — in Identity Studies, ed. G. Zedania, Tbilisi, Ilia Chavchavadze State University, N. 1, 2009.
10. Languge myths and the discourse of nation-biulding in Georgia, — In: Nation-biulding in the post-Soviet bordelands: the politics of national identities/ Smith G… [et al. ], Cambridge University Press, 1998.
11. Abrahamian L, Armenian Identity in a changing world, Mazda press, 2006.
12. Джавахишвили М, Что значит быть католиком в Грузии в XX веке, Идентичность, власть и город в работах молодых ученых Южного Кавказа, сб. ст., ред. Лежава Н., Тб., Фонд имени Г. Белля, 2005.
13. ??? ?, ??? ??] … ??? ???, ??? ???, 21-?? ???, ??? ??? ???-??? ???, ??? 4, 2006:
14. ??? ?, ???, ??? ?, ???, ?? ???, 2006:
15. Распределение населения Закавказского края по вероисповеданиям и родному языку по данным переписи 1897-го года. Кавказский Календарь на 1907 год, Тифлис, 1906.
16. ??? ?'-., ??? ??? ??? ???, ??? ???, ???, 1914:
17. Cornell S, Autonomy as a source of conflict: Caucasian Conflicts in Theoretical Perspective, World Politics 54 (January 2002).
18. Освещение общей истории России и народов постсоветских стран в школьных учебниках истории новых независимых государств, Москва, 2009.

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