Difference between revisions of "Georgia"

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Georgia and Armenia share many cultural similarities.  Both are ancient Christian peoples who have their own distinct alphabets.  Although the Georgian Church is an Eastern Orthodox branch and the Armenian Church is an Oriental Orthodox branch, both designate the title "Catholicos" for their patriarchs and they both use the designation "Apostolic" and "Orthodox" in their full titles.  The Bagratid (Բագրատունյաց or ''Bagratuni'' in Armenian; ბაგრატიონთა or ''Bagrationi'' in Georgian) royal family ruled in both countries during the Middle Ages.  Of course, in recent history, both were republics in the [[Soviet Union]].
 
Georgia and Armenia share many cultural similarities.  Both are ancient Christian peoples who have their own distinct alphabets.  Although the Georgian Church is an Eastern Orthodox branch and the Armenian Church is an Oriental Orthodox branch, both designate the title "Catholicos" for their patriarchs and they both use the designation "Apostolic" and "Orthodox" in their full titles.  The Bagratid (Բագրատունյաց or ''Bagratuni'' in Armenian; ბაგრატიონთა or ''Bagrationi'' in Georgian) royal family ruled in both countries during the Middle Ages.  Of course, in recent history, both were republics in the [[Soviet Union]].
  
Despite these close cultural ties, Armenians and Georgians have tended to have a tenuous relationship (at times, they shared close bonds while at other times they have regarded each other as rivals)Their relationship is best summed up by Mary K. Matossian in ''The Handbook of Major Soviet Nationalities'' (pub. 1975, p. 149):
+
Despite these close cultural ties, Armenians and Georgians have tended to have a tenuous relationship.  According to Mary K. Matossian in ''The Handbook of Major Soviet Nationalities'' (pub. 1975, p. 149):
  
 
:''Armenians regard Georgians as rivals, unduly favored by [[Joseph Stalin|Stalin]] and the Soviet authorities.  The history, fine arts, and customs of Georgians and Armenians are remarkably similar, but neither ethnic group will admit this.''
 
:''Armenians regard Georgians as rivals, unduly favored by [[Joseph Stalin|Stalin]] and the Soviet authorities.  The history, fine arts, and customs of Georgians and Armenians are remarkably similar, but neither ethnic group will admit this.''
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Matossian also notes that this judgment is impressionistic and that "there are no reliable studies of the subject."
 
Matossian also notes that this judgment is impressionistic and that "there are no reliable studies of the subject."
  
The last major conflict between Georgia and Armenia occurred in 1918, in the Georgian-Armenian War which resulted in the joint-occupation of the then-disputed [[Lori Marz|Lori district]] which was eventually ceded to Armenia during Sovietization.
+
In 1918, tensions between the two countries led to the Georgian-Armenian War.  This resulted in the joint-occupation of the then-disputed [[Lori Marz|Lori district]] which was eventually ceded to Armenia during Sovietization.
  
Georgia has had difficult relations with Russia dating back to the times of the Russian Empire when in 1811, the autocephalous status of the Georgian Church was abolished by the Russian authorities and subjected to the synodical rule of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Georgian liturgy was also replaced with Russian. The Tsarist government also attempted similar, though less severe tactics against the Armenian church (in 1836 a regulation issued by the Tsar greatly reduced the powers of the Armenian religious leadership, including that of the Catholicos).
+
Georgia has had difficult relations with [[Russia]] dating back to the times of the Russian Empire when in 1811, the autocephalous status of the Georgian Church was abolished by the Russian authorities and subjected to the synodical rule of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Georgian liturgy was also replaced with Russian. The Tsarist government also attempted similar, though less severe tactics against the Armenian church (in 1836 a regulation issued by the Tsar greatly reduced the powers of the Armenian religious leadership, including that of the Catholicos).
  
 +
===Samtskhe-Javakheti===
 +
An important factor when considering relations between Armenia and Georgia is the [[Samtskhe-Javakheti]] region which holds an Armenian majority.  Javakheti's Armenians claim to be treated as second-class citizens since Georgia's independence, especially during the Gamsakhurdia period.  The construction of the [[Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline|Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline]] and the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku railway, both of which directly bypass Armenia, are widely unpopular in the region have only added to its problems.  On top of this, the region is among Georgia's poorest and the withdrawl of a Russian military base in the area, which helps the local economy, may create even more issues.  Ultimately, however most Javakheti Armenians want to remain part of Georgia though some organizations in recent years, such as the United Javakhk Democratic Alliance have been calling for local autonomy.  In the case Georgia's EU aspirations are realized, the rights of the Javakheti Armenians would likely improve due to Tbilisi's obligations to Brussels on minority rights.
 +
 +
===The Adjara factor===
 +
In the autonomous [[Adjara]] region, local strongman Aslan Abashidze was deposed during Georgia's 2003 Rose Revolution.  With Tbilisi's control and the rule of law restored, tourism from Armenia has flourished.  This has created a positive impact on Georgian-Armenian relations.  In 2006, [[Batumi]], the capital of Adjara, was twinned with [[Vanadzor]] in northern Armenia and during the same year Armenia opened a consulate in the city.
 +
 +
====External article====
 +
* [http://www.economist.com/world/europe/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10141062&CFID=4494119&CFTOKEN=45f757e26ae03b37-47B177B4-B27C-BB00-0129AB405513EC01 The Economist: Caucasian Circle]
 +
 +
==Politics==
 
Since independence, Georgia has faced political turmoil, economic instability, and civil war.  The autonomous regions of [[Abkhazia]], [[Adjara]], and [[South Ossetia]] all seceded from the country and only Adjara has since been successfully restored under Georgian control.  The conflict in Abkhazia was especially violent with cases of ethnic cleansing of the area's Georgians by native Abkhazians.  Georgia's continued political turmoil has hurt Armenia in the process which heavily relies on Georgia as a transit country for natural resources due to the blockades imposed by neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan.
 
Since independence, Georgia has faced political turmoil, economic instability, and civil war.  The autonomous regions of [[Abkhazia]], [[Adjara]], and [[South Ossetia]] all seceded from the country and only Adjara has since been successfully restored under Georgian control.  The conflict in Abkhazia was especially violent with cases of ethnic cleansing of the area's Georgians by native Abkhazians.  Georgia's continued political turmoil has hurt Armenia in the process which heavily relies on Georgia as a transit country for natural resources due to the blockades imposed by neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan.
  
Georgia has had three important political leaders since independence: [[Zviad Gamsakhurdia]] (a Georgian nationalist), [[Eduard Shevardnadze]] (who previously served under [[Mikhail Gorbachev]] as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union), and [[Mikheil Saakashvili]] (the current, pro-western president).  Shevardnadze's leadership of Georgia, while supported by the west, was unpopular with most Georgians.  He was eventually forced to resign in the 2003 "Rose Revolution" lead by current President Saakashvili.
+
Georgia has had three important political leaders since independence: [[Zviad Gamsakhurdia]] (a Georgian nationalist), [[Eduard Shevardnadze]] (who previously served under [[Mikhail Gorbachev]] as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union), and [[Mikheil Saakashvili]] (the current, pro-western president).  Shevardnadze's leadership of Georgia, while supported by the west, was unpopular with most Georgians.  He was eventually forced to resign in the 2003 Rose Revolution lead by current President Saakashvili.
 
 
A current source of tension between Armenia and Georgia is the Samtskhe-Javakheti region which holds an Armenian majority, many of whom have claimed to be treated as second-class citizens since Georgia's independence.  The construction of the [[Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline|Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline]] and the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku railway, both of which directly bypass Armenia, are widely unpopular in the region have only added to its problems.  On top of this, the region is among Georgia's poorest and the withdrawl of a Russian military base in the area, which helps the local economy, may create even more problems.  Ultimately, however most Javakheti Armenians want to remain part of Georgia though some organizations in recent years, such as the United Javakhk Democratic Alliance have been calling for local autonomy.  In the case Georgia's EU aspirations are realized, the rights of the Javakheti Armenians would likely improve due to Tbilisi's obligations to Brussels on minority rights.
 
  
 
==Subdivisions==
 
==Subdivisions==
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The regions are subdivided into districts ([[Georgian language|Georgian]]: [[Raioni]], რაიონი), which may or may not have a legal status.
 
The regions are subdivided into districts ([[Georgian language|Georgian]]: [[Raioni]], რაიონი), which may or may not have a legal status.
  
==Timeline==
+
==Articles==
Armenian related events in Georgia
 
*2006
 
**Jan 6 - [[Georgia: Riding the Potato Train]]
 
**Jan 6 - [[Georgia Closes Armenian Schools]]
 
  
==See also==
+
===Discrimination against Armenian Church===
*[[Keeping a home in Georgia and a heart in Armenia]]
+
Dec 9, 2009
*[[Autonomy vs. Identity: Georgian-Armenians Make a Play for Power Amid Diminishing Clout]]
 
*[[Armenian Cooperation Centre of Georgia]] (ACCG)
 
----
 
  
POLICE QUASH ARMENIAN PROTEST IN SOUTHERN GEORGIA. Georgian police
+
ACTION ALERT: Religious equality and freedom of consciousness in the Republic of Georgia <br>
resorted to violence on 5 October to break up a protest demonstration
+
©2009 Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada. All rights reserved.  
by some 300 people in the predominantly Armenian-populated town of
 
Akhalkalaki, Caucasus Press reported. The demonstrators, some of whom
 
converged on Akhalkalaki from outlying villages, were protesting the
 
closure by Tax Police of 10 local stores, which local activists
 
interpreted as retaliation for the formal demand by the regions
 
Armenians last month for autonomous status (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 26
 
September 2005). Several demonstration participants have been
 
hospitalized after being beaten by police. LF (RFE/RL Newsline - 10/06/2005)
 
  
----
+
Dear friends,
Panorama
 
  
15:54 07/10/05
+
The Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada has learned of the collapse of
 +
the Armenian Church of St. Gevork of Mughni in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.
 +
Saint Gevork Church dating to 1356, collapsed as a direct result of a lack
 +
of maintenance by the government of Georgia.
  
TAX HUBBUB IN AKHALKALAKI
+
During Soviet times, churches became the property of the state and the St.
 +
Gevork, Armenian Church was used as a museum during which time its physical
 +
condition was left to deteriorate. Following the dissolution of the Soviet
 +
Union and with the coming independence of the Republic of Georgia, the
 +
Georgian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, together with other
 +
religious minorities, has not received legal status. Consequently all
 +
Armenian churches in Georgia currently carry on under the jurisdiction of
 +
the Georgian Orthodox Church, without legal rights to safeguard their
 +
properties.
  
 +
In 2002, the government of the Republic of Georgia signed a Constitutional
 +
Agreement with Georgian Orthodox Church. The Georgian Orthodox Church
 +
received the highest legal status with full legal rights to operate
 +
effectively as a religious institution. However, the traditional religious
 +
minorities: other Christian groups, Muslims and Jews were left without any
 +
legal protection to maintain their status and exercise their legal rights.
 +
Many experts view these circumstances as a source and basis for religious
 +
discrimination.
  
`The Tax officers from Akhaltsakha checked some ten shops in Akhalkalaki. In
+
The indifference exhibited by the Georgian authorities towards the religious
some shops they found Armenian products without excises and closed them. The
+
minorities, in general, and in particular, the Armenian Orthodox, does not
result was that a group of people have gathered in front of the local
+
correspond in any way with the adherence to the universal human values and
administrative building and organized the act of complain', said today the  
+
respect for the rights of minorities; as established by the repeated
administrative member of `Hzor Haireniq' party Shirak Torosyan commenting
+
statements of the Georgian authorities, on the issue of the preservation of
the situation in Akhalqalaqi took place on October 5. `Then came newly
+
the historical and cultural heritage of minorities.  
formed gendarmerie and fired in the air with guns. Fortunately there are no
 
victims. The head of Samtskhe-Javakheti (Akhalkalaki region) Georgi
 
Khachidze qualified it as a crime, and he has promised to punish the
 
criminals', added Shirak Torosyan.
 
  
Panorama.am was also interested in the nationality of gendarmes, and
+
===Majority Rule or Respect for Diversity?===
concerning this question Mr. Torosyan answered, `They are all Armenians from
+
By Eka Basilaia
Akhalkalaki and neighboring villages'. /Panorama.am/
+
The Messenger, Georgia
 +
Jan 20 2006
  
{{copy}}
+
In interview, Georgian Public Defender debates constitutional status
 +
of the Orthodox Church
  
----
+
Ombudsman
NEW UNREST IN JAVAKHETI PROMPTS WARNING FROM YEREVAN
+
Sozar Subari
By Zaal Anjaparidze
 
  
Eurasia Daily Monitor, DC
+
The ongoing political debate over religious issues has caused the
The Jamestown Foundation
+
Public Defender to speak out in public against the perceived hegemony
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
+
of the Orthodox Church. Leading politicians meanwhile accuse him of
 +
unjustly defending sectarian religions in a country where Orthodox
 +
Christianity is the religious majority's historic faith.
  
Akhalkalaki, the main town in the predominantly Armenian-populated
+
Wednesday's session of the parliamentary committee for human rights
and Armenia-bordered Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia, was the
+
protection turned into a panel for heated debate and clashes when
site of an anti-government protest rally on October 5. The incident
+
Ombudsman Sozar Subari spoke up in defense of the rights of religious
reaffirmed that this turbulent region remains unstable, despite the
+
minorities.
Georgian government's efforts to normalize the situation there.
 
  
The unrest began after tax officials from Tbilisi, conducting a
+
Subari stated that discrimination along religious lines is commonplace
routine inspection of local retailers, closed 10 shops for financial
+
in Georgia and proposed a reconsideration of the 2001 Concordat that
irregularities. The shop owners, mostly ethnic Armenians, and about
+
was made between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the government -
300 supporters, evidently influenced by local provocateurs, gathered
+
a proposal that was met with outrage by many Georgian politicians.
outside the Akhalkalaki district administration building to protest
 
the alleged violation of the Armenians' rights. The protestors's
 
complaints quickly moved from economic issues to political demands
 
such as stopping the closure of Russian military bases and granting
 
political autonomy for the region.
 
  
Local police dispersed the rally using rubber truncheons and firing
+
"According to the Georgian Constitution every person is born equal,"
shots in the air. The clash between the authorities and the protesters
+
Subari said in an interview with The Messenger on Thursday adding,
left several people injured. The police efforts to break up the rally
+
"Of course this does not rule out the possibility that one particular
instead prompted more residents of Akhalkalaki and nearby villages
+
religion might have a special or different status, but this status
to join the protest, making the situation even tenser.
+
should not turn into a privilege."
  
Civic groups based in Samtskhe-Javakheti, as well as some Russian
+
The Georgian Constitution calls for the protection of the freedom
sources, have alleged that the government deliberately planned
+
of speech and condemns the persecution of people on the bases of
the brutal end to the protest in order to intimidate the local
+
their opinion, confession or faith. At the same time there is a
Armenian population following local demands for political autonomy
+
constitutional agreement between the government and the Georgian
in the region. A council of local non-governmental organizations,
+
Orthodox church according to which the Georgian state acknowledges
meeting September 23-24, adopted a resolution calling on the Georgian
+
the historical significance and contributions of Christian Orthodoxy.
government to grant autonomy to the region (see EDM, September 29).
 
  
Javakhk-Info, the local news agency, distributed a bellicose statement
+
"However, this status should not serve as a means to make exceptions
by regional Armenian non-governmental organizations saying that the
+
for only those who posses it. When the difference turns into a
aggressive behavior by the Georgian authorities towards the region's
+
privilege or a form of dominance which puts religious minorities in
ethnic Armenians leaves them "no other choice than the use of force
+
an unfavorable condition, it contradicts the Georgian Constitution
to protect their interests and dignity" (Regnum, October 5).
+
and can be labeled as discrimination," Subari said.
  
However, a source in Georgian law enforcement told Kavkas Press that
+
He said that the status grants the Orthodox clergy and church a
the police shot into the air only after one of the protesters had
+
variety of benefits not offered to other faiths such as the right
taken a shot first (Kavkas Press October 5).
+
bow out of military service; certain tax advantages; the Orthodox
 +
wedding ceremony is given the same legal status as a civil wedding;
 +
and chaplains at government run institutions, such as prisons or the
 +
military, are only Orthodox Christians.
  
Giorgi Khachidze, the presidentially appointed governor of the region,
+
Subari protested against privileges such as the tax break and military
managed to calm the angry crowd through negotiations.
+
exemption stating, "I believe that if we grant these favors to only
 +
one religious faith then we neglect the rights of other religions."
  
Khachidze criticized the police for excessive use of force and
+
Another thing that Subari is concerned about is the issue of Armenian
promised to hold some of them accountable. "In my opinion, they had no
+
churches that he said historically belonged to Armenians residing in
right to fire shots, even in the air," he said (TV-Rustavi-2, October
+
Georgia, but are now in the hands of the state.
6). Meanwhile, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili hailed the police
 
actions, saying, "there is no serious problem" and emphasizing that
 
law-enforcement officials were merely maintaining order in a region
 
that had been poorly controlled in recent years (TV-Imedi, October 6).
 
  
Saakashvili and other Georgian officials have tried to downplay the
+
"The state should by all means return these churches to their
latest events in Akhalkalaki, claming that the radical organizations
+
historical owners," Subari demanded, noting "If the provenance of
advocating autonomy for the region do not enjoy serious popular
+
any of these churches is debatable a commission should be set up to
support.
+
study the historical background and determine its rightful owner."
  
Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili told the Armenian
+
Subari pointed to two cases - Norasheni church in Tbilisi in Leselidze
newspaper Aikakan Jamanak that Tbilisi welcomes autonomy
+
Street and Surbnisani church in Akhaltsiakhe - which he believes call
for Javakheti so long as that means no more than ordinary
+
for immediate attention.
self-governance. Merabishvili said he is not interested in the
 
Javakheti civic groups expressing political ambitions. "We are going
 
to listen to the elected deputies," he said (Regnum, October 6-7).
 
  
A diplomatic warning from Yerevan snapped the Georgian authorities out
+
"I will never be able to feel like a true Christian when the
of their complacency. On October 8, Garnik Isagulian, national security
+
territories and churches that historically belonged to certain
aide to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, warned Tbilisi to show
+
religious groups are taken away illegally," Subari contended.
restraint when dealing with the predominantly Armenian-populated
 
Samtskhe-Javakheti. Of the October 5 clash, Isagulyan commented,
 
"Georgian authorities should be extremely cautious and attentive
 
in their actions, because any minor provocation could turn into a
 
large-scale clash." Isagulian also dismissed rumors about Russian
 
intelligence playing a role in recent events in Samtskhe-Javakheti
 
(Regnum, Civil Georgia, October 8).
 
 
 
However, the Russian media's wide and largely biased coverage of
 
the October 5 unrest in Akhalkalaki, routinely voicing the Kremlin's
 
position, suggests that Russia is not a mere observer.
 
 
 
Georgian media have long speculated that Russia and several radical
 
Armenian groups are behind the provocations in Javakheti. Van Baiburt,
 
an Armenian member of the Georgian parliament, confirmed this in an
 
interview with GazetaSNG.ru. Meanwhile, Levon Mkrtichyan, from the
 
Armenian Dashnaktsutiun party, one of the alleged supporters of the
 
Javakheti radical organizations, insisted that Javakheti Armenians
 
advocate only for cultural autonomy.
 
 
 
The Armenian newspapers are increasingly linking the recent unrest
 
in Samtskhe-Javakheti with the construction of the Kars-Akhalkalaki
 
railway, which bypasses Armenia. They suggest that as Georgia
 
increases its ties with Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenia may be left
 
isolated. Armenian papers also argue that if Georgia's national
 
interests conflict with those of Armenia, Tbilisi "should not be
 
astonished at the eruption of a natural expression of self-preservation
 
and self-defense among the Samtskhe-Javakheti population."
 
 
 
As the problem becomes increasingly complicated, Tbilisi will be
 
forced to act. When he visited Armenia on September 29-30, Georgian
 
Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli stated that Georgia would not implement
 
any programs directed against Armenia. Meanwhile, Nogaideli publicly
 
underlined that regional autonomy in Georgia is only available for
 
Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Ajaria.
 
 
 
Nogaideli's Armenian trip, coming on the heels of the demands
 
for autonomy in Samstkhe-Javakheti, suggests that stability in
 
Samtskhe-Javakheti greatly depends on Yerevan's good will, as
 
Tbilisi has always appealed to the Armenian government to mediate
 
serious disturbances in the region. Saakashvili's government, which
 
inherited the unresolved problems of Samtskhe-Javakheti from former
 
president Eduard Shevardnadze, follows the same pattern. Saakashvili,
 
like Shevardnadze, strives to resolve the region's problems with
 
short-term decisions (see EDM, March 23, May 24, August 3).
 
 
 
Meanwhile, Yerevan is gaining more leverage to manage the situation
 
in Samtskhe-Javakheti and may be clandestinely urging Tbilisi to
 
reconcile itself to this fact.
 
  
 
{{copy}}
 
{{copy}}
----
 
Georgian MPs savage human rights ombudsman over his stance on religion
 
  
 +
===Georgian MPs savage human rights ombudsman over his stance on religion===
 
Imedi TV, Tbilisi
 
Imedi TV, Tbilisi
 
23 Dec 05
 
23 Dec 05
Line 282: Line 232:
 
{{copy}}
 
{{copy}}
  
 +
===Georgian President Visits Armenia===
 +
24.06.2009
 +
Irina Hovannisian
 +
 +
The presidents of Armenia and Georgia reaffirmed their earlier pledges to step up bilateral cooperation in the economic and other fields after holding talks in Yerevan on Wednesday.
 +
 +
President Serzh Sarkisian said he and his visiting Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili, agreed to facilitate the transit of Armenian cargoes through Georgian territory.
  
==Armenian Church confiscations==
+
“This is an extremely important matter for us,” Sarkisian told a joint news conference with Saakashvili. “Especially now that we are about to start selling agricultural produce.
MAJORITY RULE OR RESPECT FOR DIVERSITY?
+
 
By Eka Basilaia
+
“I am sure that we will take more steps in that direction. Within a short period of time I will inform my counterpart on the results achieved by us,” he said. In particular, said Sarkisian, the two governments will press for the reopening of Georgia’s main border crossing with Russia that was widely used by Armenian exporters.
 +
 
 +
The Upper Lars crossing, which served as Armenia’s sole overland conduit to the former Soviet Union and Europe, was controversially closed by Russia in June 2006. Russian officials have since repeatedly assured Yerevan that it will be reopened soon.
 +
 
 +
Saakashvili confirmed that Georgia supports renewed commercial and passenger traffic through Upper Lars despite remaining in a de facto state of war with Russia. “We have always said that we are ready to open the Upper Lars crossing,” he said.
 +
 
 +
It was not clear whether the two leaders discussed Georgian transit fees for freight shipped to and from Armenia through Georgia’s Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti. Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian described them as disproportionately high during a recent visit to Tbilisi.
 +
 
 +
Sarkisian made clear that Yerevan will continue to seek simultaneously good relations with Georgia and Russia, Armenia’s closest political and military ally, despite the lingering Russian-Georgian conflict. “We are deepening our relations with both Russia and Georgia,” he said. “We are doing that openly, without hesitation, without a shroud of secrecy. And if our good relations with both Russia and Georgia can somehow help to normalize Russian-Georgian relations, we will only be happy.”
 +
 
 +
Sarkisian indicated his satisfaction with the current Georgian leadership by giving Saakashvili an Honor Medal, the highest Armenian state award set for foreign dignitaries. A statement by his office cited Saakashvili’s contribution to “strengthening the centuries-old Georgian-Armenian friendship.”
 +
 
 +
What is more, the Armenian leader praised the Saakashvili administration’s stated efforts to ease socioeconomic hardship in Georgia’s restive Javakheti region mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. “We welcome steps taken by the Georgian government to alleviate the socioeconomic situation, improve infrastructure and create jobs in Javakheti,” he said. “We, for out part, are ready to assist in that process.”
 +
 
 +
The remark sharply contrasted with strong criticism of the Tbilisi government’s actions regularly voiced by some political groups in Yerevan as well as Javakheti Armenian activists campaigning for the region’s greater autonomy. Shirak Torosian, one of those critics and an Armenian parliament member affiliated with Sarkisian’s Republican Party, was barred from entering Georgia on Friday as he traveled to Tbilisi to attend a German-sponsored seminar on Javakheti.
 +
 
 +
Torosian, who was born in Javakheti, condemned the ban as an affront to Armenia. The Georgian government has still not given an official explanation.
 +
 
 +
In a related development, several Javakheti Armenian organizations appealed to Sarkisian last week to raise their long-standing demands with Saakashvili. Those include granting the impoverished region a status of autonomy, making Armenian its second official language, and allowing its residents to hold Georgian and Armenian citizenships.
 +
 
 +
They also urged Sarkisian to demand the immediate release of Vahagn Chakhalian, a local Armenian activist who was sentenced last April to 10 years in prison on charges which his supporters say are baseless and politically motivated. Chakhalian was already arrested by the Armenian police and spent two weeks in custody in October 2006 on equally controversial charges.
 +
 
 +
{{rferl}}
 +
===Other articles===
 +
*[[Autonomy vs. Identity: Georgian-Armenians Make a Play for Power Amid Diminishing Clout]] by [[Aris Ghazinyan]]
 +
*[[Georgia Closes Armenian Schools]]
 +
*[[Georgia: Riding the Potato Train]] by [[Olesya Vartanian]]
 +
*[[Keep Georgia (and Armenia) on Your Mind]] by [[David Boyajian]]
 +
*[[Keeping a home in Georgia and a heart in Armenia]] by [[Julia Hakobyan]]
 +
 
 +
==Armenian Genocide==
 +
===Scuffle Erupts In Georgian Parliament Over Armenian Genocide Issue===
 +
By Claire Bigg, Mzia Paresishvili
 +
April 25, 2012
 +
Georgia's tumultuous political scene descended further into disarray this week with a bitter scuffle in parliament.
  
The Messenger, Georgia
+
The dispute erupted on April 24 when Jondi Baghaturia, an opposition lawmaker, brought up the prickly issue of whether to recognize as genocide the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I.
Jan 20 2006
 
  
In interview, Georgian Public Defender debates constitutional status
+
"Citizens of our country, ethnic Armenians, came here yesterday and demanded that Georgia's parliament recognize the Armenian genocide," Baghaturia said.
of the Orthodox Church
 
  
Ombudsman
+
"I told you, when you organized this one-day PR campaign and recognized the Circassian genocide, I told you not to do it! Now, I'd like to know what you will tell these people! After all, they are citizens of our country."
Sozar Subari
 
  
The ongoing political debate over religious issues has caused the
+
Last year, Georgia became the first country to recognize the expulsion of Circassians from the North Caucasus by the Russian Empire in the late 19th century as genocide.
Public Defender to speak out in public against the perceived hegemony
 
of the Orthodox Church. Leading politicians meanwhile accuse him of
 
unjustly defending sectarian religions in a country where Orthodox
 
Christianity is the religious majority's historic faith.
 
  
Wednesday's session of the parliamentary committee for human rights
+
The recognition was personally backed by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
protection turned into a panel for heated debate and clashes when
 
Ombudsman Sozar Subari spoke up in defense of the rights of religious
 
minorities.
 
  
Subari stated that discrimination along religious lines is commonplace
+
'Unruly Class'
in Georgia and proposed a reconsideration of the 2001 Concordat that
 
was made between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the government -
 
a proposal that was met with outrage by many Georgian politicians.
 
  
"According to the Georgian Constitution every person is born equal,"
+
Baghaturia's comments drew the ire of fellow deputy Azer Suleimanov. His family's country of origin, Azerbaijan, is a staunch ally of Turkey, which rejects the term "genocide" for the Armenian mass killings.
Subari said in an interview with The Messenger on Thursday adding,
 
"Of course this does not rule out the possibility that one particular
 
religion might have a special or different status, but this status
 
should not turn into a privilege."
 
  
The Georgian Constitution calls for the protection of the freedom
+
When Baghaturia dismissed his objections with a wave of his hand, Suleimanov angrily reached into his pocket, drew out a tube of Vaseline and flung it at Baghaturia.
of speech and condemns the persecution of people on the bases of
 
their opinion, confession or faith. At the same time there is a
 
constitutional agreement between the government and the Georgian
 
Orthodox church according to which the Georgian state acknowledges
 
the historical significance and contributions of Christian Orthodoxy.
 
  
"However, this status should not serve as a means to make exceptions
+
The pair quickly began scuffling and had to be separated by security. (see video of the scuffle here)
for only those who posses it. When the difference turns into a
 
privilege or a form of dominance which puts religious minorities in
 
an unfavorable condition, it contradicts the Georgian Constitution
 
and can be labeled as discrimination," Subari said.
 
  
He said that the status grants the Orthodox clergy and church a
+
The brawl drew in several other deputies and involved Baghaturia throwing his pen at a lawmaker from the ruling party (who, incidentally, slapped an opposition deputy last year in an argument over the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia).
variety of benefits not offered to other faiths such as the right
 
bow out of military service; certain tax advantages; the Orthodox
 
wedding ceremony is given the same legal status as a civil wedding;
 
and chaplains at government run institutions, such as prisons or the
 
military, are only Orthodox Christians.
 
  
Subari protested against privileges such as the tax break and military
+
Parliament speaker David Bakradze eventually put an end to the dispute by saying that discord in parliament would only serve to benefit Georgia's "only enemy," likely a veiled reference to Russia.
exemption stating, "I believe that if we grant these favors to only
 
one religious faith then we neglect the rights of other religions."
 
  
Another thing that Subari is concerned about is the issue of Armenian
+
Ironically, the brawl was witnessed by a group of schoolchildren who had come for a lesson in civic education.
churches that he said historically belonged to Armenians residing in
 
Georgia, but are now in the hands of the state.
 
  
"The state should by all means return these churches to their
+
"It looks," Bakradze had told the children as deputies prepared for the session, "like our class is noisier than yours!"
historical owners," Subari demanded, noting "If the provenance of
 
any of these churches is debatable a commission should be set up to
 
study the historical background and determine its rightful owner."
 
  
Subari pointed to two cases - Norasheni church in Tbilisi in Leselidze
+
Written by Claire Bigg, based on reporting by Mzia Paresishvili
Street and Surbnisani church in Akhaltsiakhe - which he believes call
 
for immediate attention.
 
  
"I will never be able to feel like a true Christian when the
+
{{rferl}}
territories and churches that historically belonged to certain
 
religious groups are taken away illegally," Subari contended.
 
  
{{copy}}
+
==See also==
 +
*[[Armenian Cooperation Centre of Georgia]] (ACCG)
 +
*[[Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook- Georgia]]
  
 
[[Category:Georgia|*]]
 
[[Category:Georgia|*]]
 +
[[Category:Europe]]

Latest revision as of 03:30, 23 May 2016

Georgia

Georgia (Georgian: საქართველო (Sakartvelo); Armenian: Վրաստան (Vrastan)) is the northern neighbor of Armenia, also bounded by Russia to the north, the Black Sea to the west, Turkey to the southwest, and Azerbaijan to the southeast. Its capital is Tbilisi. Ethnic Georgians form the majority (83.8%) while 5.7% of the population is Armenian, residing primarily in Samtskhe-Javakheti, Adjara, and Abkhazia. Other minorities include Abkhazians, Ossetians, Azerbaijanis (6.5%), and Russians (1.5%)

Relations with the Armenians

Georgia and Armenia share many cultural similarities. Both are ancient Christian peoples who have their own distinct alphabets. Although the Georgian Church is an Eastern Orthodox branch and the Armenian Church is an Oriental Orthodox branch, both designate the title "Catholicos" for their patriarchs and they both use the designation "Apostolic" and "Orthodox" in their full titles. The Bagratid (Բագրատունյաց or Bagratuni in Armenian; ბაგრატიონთა or Bagrationi in Georgian) royal family ruled in both countries during the Middle Ages. Of course, in recent history, both were republics in the Soviet Union.

Despite these close cultural ties, Armenians and Georgians have tended to have a tenuous relationship. According to Mary K. Matossian in The Handbook of Major Soviet Nationalities (pub. 1975, p. 149):

Armenians regard Georgians as rivals, unduly favored by Stalin and the Soviet authorities. The history, fine arts, and customs of Georgians and Armenians are remarkably similar, but neither ethnic group will admit this.

Matossian also notes that this judgment is impressionistic and that "there are no reliable studies of the subject."

In 1918, tensions between the two countries led to the Georgian-Armenian War. This resulted in the joint-occupation of the then-disputed Lori district which was eventually ceded to Armenia during Sovietization.

Georgia has had difficult relations with Russia dating back to the times of the Russian Empire when in 1811, the autocephalous status of the Georgian Church was abolished by the Russian authorities and subjected to the synodical rule of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Georgian liturgy was also replaced with Russian. The Tsarist government also attempted similar, though less severe tactics against the Armenian church (in 1836 a regulation issued by the Tsar greatly reduced the powers of the Armenian religious leadership, including that of the Catholicos).

Samtskhe-Javakheti

An important factor when considering relations between Armenia and Georgia is the Samtskhe-Javakheti region which holds an Armenian majority. Javakheti's Armenians claim to be treated as second-class citizens since Georgia's independence, especially during the Gamsakhurdia period. The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the Kars-Akhalkalaki-Baku railway, both of which directly bypass Armenia, are widely unpopular in the region have only added to its problems. On top of this, the region is among Georgia's poorest and the withdrawl of a Russian military base in the area, which helps the local economy, may create even more issues. Ultimately, however most Javakheti Armenians want to remain part of Georgia though some organizations in recent years, such as the United Javakhk Democratic Alliance have been calling for local autonomy. In the case Georgia's EU aspirations are realized, the rights of the Javakheti Armenians would likely improve due to Tbilisi's obligations to Brussels on minority rights.

The Adjara factor

In the autonomous Adjara region, local strongman Aslan Abashidze was deposed during Georgia's 2003 Rose Revolution. With Tbilisi's control and the rule of law restored, tourism from Armenia has flourished. This has created a positive impact on Georgian-Armenian relations. In 2006, Batumi, the capital of Adjara, was twinned with Vanadzor in northern Armenia and during the same year Armenia opened a consulate in the city.

External article

Politics

Since independence, Georgia has faced political turmoil, economic instability, and civil war. The autonomous regions of Abkhazia, Adjara, and South Ossetia all seceded from the country and only Adjara has since been successfully restored under Georgian control. The conflict in Abkhazia was especially violent with cases of ethnic cleansing of the area's Georgians by native Abkhazians. Georgia's continued political turmoil has hurt Armenia in the process which heavily relies on Georgia as a transit country for natural resources due to the blockades imposed by neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Georgia has had three important political leaders since independence: Zviad Gamsakhurdia (a Georgian nationalist), Eduard Shevardnadze (who previously served under Mikhail Gorbachev as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union), and Mikheil Saakashvili (the current, pro-western president). Shevardnadze's leadership of Georgia, while supported by the west, was unpopular with most Georgians. He was eventually forced to resign in the 2003 Rose Revolution lead by current President Saakashvili.

Subdivisions

Georgia is divided into 10 regions (Georgian: Mkhare, მხარე) and 2 autonomous republics (capitals in parentheses):

Autonomous Republics:

Regions:

The status of the former autonomous administrative division, South Ossetia or Samachablo, is subject of negotiation with the Russian-supported separatist government there. The breakaway republic claims the northern part of Shida Kartli region as its territory, with small parts of neighbouring regions.

The regions are subdivided into districts (Georgian: Raioni, რაიონი), which may or may not have a legal status.

Articles

Discrimination against Armenian Church

Dec 9, 2009

ACTION ALERT: Religious equality and freedom of consciousness in the Republic of Georgia
©2009 Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada. All rights reserved.

Dear friends,

The Diocese of the Armenian Church of Canada has learned of the collapse of the Armenian Church of St. Gevork of Mughni in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. Saint Gevork Church dating to 1356, collapsed as a direct result of a lack of maintenance by the government of Georgia.

During Soviet times, churches became the property of the state and the St. Gevork, Armenian Church was used as a museum during which time its physical condition was left to deteriorate. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union and with the coming independence of the Republic of Georgia, the Georgian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, together with other religious minorities, has not received legal status. Consequently all Armenian churches in Georgia currently carry on under the jurisdiction of the Georgian Orthodox Church, without legal rights to safeguard their properties.

In 2002, the government of the Republic of Georgia signed a Constitutional Agreement with Georgian Orthodox Church. The Georgian Orthodox Church received the highest legal status with full legal rights to operate effectively as a religious institution. However, the traditional religious minorities: other Christian groups, Muslims and Jews were left without any legal protection to maintain their status and exercise their legal rights. Many experts view these circumstances as a source and basis for religious discrimination.

The indifference exhibited by the Georgian authorities towards the religious minorities, in general, and in particular, the Armenian Orthodox, does not correspond in any way with the adherence to the universal human values and respect for the rights of minorities; as established by the repeated statements of the Georgian authorities, on the issue of the preservation of the historical and cultural heritage of minorities.

Majority Rule or Respect for Diversity?

By Eka Basilaia The Messenger, Georgia Jan 20 2006

In interview, Georgian Public Defender debates constitutional status of the Orthodox Church

Ombudsman Sozar Subari

The ongoing political debate over religious issues has caused the Public Defender to speak out in public against the perceived hegemony of the Orthodox Church. Leading politicians meanwhile accuse him of unjustly defending sectarian religions in a country where Orthodox Christianity is the religious majority's historic faith.

Wednesday's session of the parliamentary committee for human rights protection turned into a panel for heated debate and clashes when Ombudsman Sozar Subari spoke up in defense of the rights of religious minorities.

Subari stated that discrimination along religious lines is commonplace in Georgia and proposed a reconsideration of the 2001 Concordat that was made between the Georgian Orthodox Church and the government - a proposal that was met with outrage by many Georgian politicians.

"According to the Georgian Constitution every person is born equal," Subari said in an interview with The Messenger on Thursday adding, "Of course this does not rule out the possibility that one particular religion might have a special or different status, but this status should not turn into a privilege."

The Georgian Constitution calls for the protection of the freedom of speech and condemns the persecution of people on the bases of their opinion, confession or faith. At the same time there is a constitutional agreement between the government and the Georgian Orthodox church according to which the Georgian state acknowledges the historical significance and contributions of Christian Orthodoxy.

"However, this status should not serve as a means to make exceptions for only those who posses it. When the difference turns into a privilege or a form of dominance which puts religious minorities in an unfavorable condition, it contradicts the Georgian Constitution and can be labeled as discrimination," Subari said.

He said that the status grants the Orthodox clergy and church a variety of benefits not offered to other faiths such as the right bow out of military service; certain tax advantages; the Orthodox wedding ceremony is given the same legal status as a civil wedding; and chaplains at government run institutions, such as prisons or the military, are only Orthodox Christians.

Subari protested against privileges such as the tax break and military exemption stating, "I believe that if we grant these favors to only one religious faith then we neglect the rights of other religions."

Another thing that Subari is concerned about is the issue of Armenian churches that he said historically belonged to Armenians residing in Georgia, but are now in the hands of the state.

"The state should by all means return these churches to their historical owners," Subari demanded, noting "If the provenance of any of these churches is debatable a commission should be set up to study the historical background and determine its rightful owner."

Subari pointed to two cases - Norasheni church in Tbilisi in Leselidze Street and Surbnisani church in Akhaltsiakhe - which he believes call for immediate attention.

"I will never be able to feel like a true Christian when the territories and churches that historically belonged to certain religious groups are taken away illegally," Subari contended.


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Georgian MPs savage human rights ombudsman over his stance on religion

Imedi TV, Tbilisi 23 Dec 05

[Presenter] For the first time the [parliamentary] opposition and members of the majority are on the same side of the argument.

Parliament members walked out of the debate chamber today in protest at [human rights ombudsman] Sozar Subari's report.

Nodar Grigalashvili was the first to make a critical statement. He refused to listen to Subari's report, describing it as hideous.

Grigalashvili's remarks were greeted with applause. Roman Kusiani and opposition members followed suit. [Majority leader] Maia Nadiradze thinks, however, that the human rights ombudsman's report does not change anything and does not merit reaction of this sort.

Sozar Subari said that the constitutional agreement between the state and the Georgian Orthodox Church was against the constitution and breached other faiths' rights. At present Subari is addressing a half-empty chamber.

[Kusiani, MP] We should ask the human rights ombudsman to read out the section in his report concerning freedom of religion. I should tell you that 18 pages of the 120-page report are dedicated to this issue.

[Davit Gamqrelidze, New Right MP] We refuse to enter into debate with Mr Subari who is a defender of the Liberty Institute, not a human rights ombudsman. Everyone knows what his position on the Orthodox Church is.

[Nodar Grigalashvili, MP] Is it acceptable to describe the historically justified privileges given to the Orthodox Church as discrimination against other religions?

[Khatuna Gogorishvili, chair of the committee for procedural issues] We will not achieve anything by not asking Mr Subari questions and not debating with him. It is precisely for this reason that I am staying in the chamber.

[Mikheil Machavariani, deputy chair of parliament] The Orthodox Church has a special role in Georgian history. Only the Georgian Orthodox Church should have [a constitutional agreement with the state]. As far as I am aware, representatives of all confessions accepted this when the issue was discussed.

[Nadiradze] The majority's attitude is that the constitutional agreement between the state and the Church has been concluded. We have undertaken an obligation. The human rights ombudsman is not a supreme leader. His report does not change either the situation in the country or our attitude.

[Van Baiburt, MP] I think that it was the right decision because the Armenian Apostolic Church, which has existed here for centuries and has followers, should be -

[Subari, interrupting] The Georgian constitution states that all citizens of Georgia have equal rights. This should be reflected in real life.


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Georgian President Visits Armenia

24.06.2009 Irina Hovannisian

The presidents of Armenia and Georgia reaffirmed their earlier pledges to step up bilateral cooperation in the economic and other fields after holding talks in Yerevan on Wednesday.

President Serzh Sarkisian said he and his visiting Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili, agreed to facilitate the transit of Armenian cargoes through Georgian territory.

“This is an extremely important matter for us,” Sarkisian told a joint news conference with Saakashvili. “Especially now that we are about to start selling agricultural produce.

“I am sure that we will take more steps in that direction. Within a short period of time I will inform my counterpart on the results achieved by us,” he said. In particular, said Sarkisian, the two governments will press for the reopening of Georgia’s main border crossing with Russia that was widely used by Armenian exporters.

The Upper Lars crossing, which served as Armenia’s sole overland conduit to the former Soviet Union and Europe, was controversially closed by Russia in June 2006. Russian officials have since repeatedly assured Yerevan that it will be reopened soon.

Saakashvili confirmed that Georgia supports renewed commercial and passenger traffic through Upper Lars despite remaining in a de facto state of war with Russia. “We have always said that we are ready to open the Upper Lars crossing,” he said.

It was not clear whether the two leaders discussed Georgian transit fees for freight shipped to and from Armenia through Georgia’s Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti. Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian described them as disproportionately high during a recent visit to Tbilisi.

Sarkisian made clear that Yerevan will continue to seek simultaneously good relations with Georgia and Russia, Armenia’s closest political and military ally, despite the lingering Russian-Georgian conflict. “We are deepening our relations with both Russia and Georgia,” he said. “We are doing that openly, without hesitation, without a shroud of secrecy. And if our good relations with both Russia and Georgia can somehow help to normalize Russian-Georgian relations, we will only be happy.”

Sarkisian indicated his satisfaction with the current Georgian leadership by giving Saakashvili an Honor Medal, the highest Armenian state award set for foreign dignitaries. A statement by his office cited Saakashvili’s contribution to “strengthening the centuries-old Georgian-Armenian friendship.”

What is more, the Armenian leader praised the Saakashvili administration’s stated efforts to ease socioeconomic hardship in Georgia’s restive Javakheti region mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. “We welcome steps taken by the Georgian government to alleviate the socioeconomic situation, improve infrastructure and create jobs in Javakheti,” he said. “We, for out part, are ready to assist in that process.”

The remark sharply contrasted with strong criticism of the Tbilisi government’s actions regularly voiced by some political groups in Yerevan as well as Javakheti Armenian activists campaigning for the region’s greater autonomy. Shirak Torosian, one of those critics and an Armenian parliament member affiliated with Sarkisian’s Republican Party, was barred from entering Georgia on Friday as he traveled to Tbilisi to attend a German-sponsored seminar on Javakheti.

Torosian, who was born in Javakheti, condemned the ban as an affront to Armenia. The Georgian government has still not given an official explanation.

In a related development, several Javakheti Armenian organizations appealed to Sarkisian last week to raise their long-standing demands with Saakashvili. Those include granting the impoverished region a status of autonomy, making Armenian its second official language, and allowing its residents to hold Georgian and Armenian citizenships.

They also urged Sarkisian to demand the immediate release of Vahagn Chakhalian, a local Armenian activist who was sentenced last April to 10 years in prison on charges which his supporters say are baseless and politically motivated. Chakhalian was already arrested by the Armenian police and spent two weeks in custody in October 2006 on equally controversial charges.

Other articles

Armenian Genocide

Scuffle Erupts In Georgian Parliament Over Armenian Genocide Issue

By Claire Bigg, Mzia Paresishvili April 25, 2012 Georgia's tumultuous political scene descended further into disarray this week with a bitter scuffle in parliament.

The dispute erupted on April 24 when Jondi Baghaturia, an opposition lawmaker, brought up the prickly issue of whether to recognize as genocide the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I.

"Citizens of our country, ethnic Armenians, came here yesterday and demanded that Georgia's parliament recognize the Armenian genocide," Baghaturia said.

"I told you, when you organized this one-day PR campaign and recognized the Circassian genocide, I told you not to do it! Now, I'd like to know what you will tell these people! After all, they are citizens of our country."

Last year, Georgia became the first country to recognize the expulsion of Circassians from the North Caucasus by the Russian Empire in the late 19th century as genocide.

The recognition was personally backed by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

'Unruly Class'

Baghaturia's comments drew the ire of fellow deputy Azer Suleimanov. His family's country of origin, Azerbaijan, is a staunch ally of Turkey, which rejects the term "genocide" for the Armenian mass killings.

When Baghaturia dismissed his objections with a wave of his hand, Suleimanov angrily reached into his pocket, drew out a tube of Vaseline and flung it at Baghaturia.

The pair quickly began scuffling and had to be separated by security. (see video of the scuffle here)

The brawl drew in several other deputies and involved Baghaturia throwing his pen at a lawmaker from the ruling party (who, incidentally, slapped an opposition deputy last year in an argument over the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia).

Parliament speaker David Bakradze eventually put an end to the dispute by saying that discord in parliament would only serve to benefit Georgia's "only enemy," likely a veiled reference to Russia.

Ironically, the brawl was witnessed by a group of schoolchildren who had come for a lesson in civic education.

"It looks," Bakradze had told the children as deputies prepared for the session, "like our class is noisier than yours!"

Written by Claire Bigg, based on reporting by Mzia Paresishvili

See also