Difference between revisions of "Georgia"

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[[Georgia]] is divided into 10 regions ([[Georgian language|Georgian]]: [[Mkhare]], მხარე) and 2 [[autonomous republic]]s (capitals in parentheses):
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[[Image:Regions of Georgia.png|thumb|300px]]
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Autonomous Republics:
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*[[Abkhazia]] 1 ([[Sokhumi]])
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*[[Ajaria]] 4 ([[Batumi]])
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*[[Guria]] 3 ([[Ozurgeti]])
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*[[Imereti]] 6 ([[Kutaisi]])
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*[[Kakheti]] 11 ([[Telavi]])
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*[[Kvemo Kartli]] 10 ([[Rustavi]])
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*[[Mtskheta-Mtianeti]] 9 ([[Mtskheta]])
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*[[Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti]] 5 ([[Ambrolauri]])
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*[[Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti]] 2 ([[Zugdidi]])
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*[[Samtskhe-Javakheti]] 7 ([[Akhaltsikhe]])
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*[[Shida Kartli]] 8 ([[Gori]])
*[[Tbilisi]] 12 ([[Tbilisi]])
The status of the former autonomous administrative division, [[South Ossetia]] or [[Samachablo]], is subject of negotiation with the [[Russia]]n-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 language|Georgian]]: [[Raioni]], რაიონი), which may or may not have a legal status:
Abasha (district), Adigeni, Akhalgora, [[Akhaltsikhe]], Akhmeta, Ambrolauri, Aspindza, Baghdati, Bolnisi, [[Borjomi]], Chkhorotsq'u, Chokhatauri, Dedoplistsq'aro, Dmanisi, Dusheti, Gardabani, Gurjaani, Java, Kareli, Kaspi, Kharagauli, Khashuri, Khobi, Khoni, Lagodekhi, Lanchkhuti, Lentekhi, Marneuli, Martvili, Mestia, Mtskheta, Ninotsminda, Oni, Ozurgeti, Q'azbegi, Q'vareli, Sachkhere, Sagarejo, Samtredia, Senaki, Sighnagi,Telavi, Terjola, Tetritsq'aro, Tianeti, Tsageri, Tsalenjikha, Tsalka, Vani, Zestaponi, Zugdidi
Armenian related events in Georgia
**Jan 6 - [[Georgia: Riding the Potato Train]]
**Jan 6 - [[Georgia Closes Armenian Schools]]
==See also==
*[[Keeping a home in Georgia and a heart in Armenia]]
*[[Autonomy vs. Identity: Georgian-Armenians Make a Play for Power Amid Diminishing Clout]]
*[[Armenian Cooperation Centre of Georgia]] (ACCG)
resorted to violence on 5 October to break up a protest demonstration
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)
15:54 07/10/05
`The Tax officers from Akhaltsakha checked some ten shops in Akhalkalaki. In
some shops they found Armenian products without excises and closed them. The
result was that a group of people have gathered in front of the local
administrative building and organized the act of complain', said today the
administrative member of `Hzor Haireniq' party Shirak Torosyan commenting
the situation in Akhalqalaqi took place on October 5. `Then came newly
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
concerning this question Mr. Torosyan answered, `They are all Armenians from
Akhalkalaki and neighboring villages'. /Panorama.am/
By Zaal Anjaparidze
Eurasia Daily Monitor, DC
The Jamestown Foundation
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Akhalkalaki, the main town in the predominantly Armenian-populated
and Armenia-bordered Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia, was the
site of an anti-government protest rally on October 5. The incident
reaffirmed that this turbulent region remains unstable, despite the
Georgian government's efforts to normalize the situation there.
The unrest began after tax officials from Tbilisi, conducting a
routine inspection of local retailers, closed 10 shops for financial
irregularities. The shop owners, mostly ethnic Armenians, and about
300 supporters, evidently influenced by local provocateurs, gathered
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
shots in the air. The clash between the authorities and the protesters
left several people injured. The police efforts to break up the rally
instead prompted more residents of Akhalkalaki and nearby villages
to join the protest, making the situation even tenser.
Civic groups based in Samtskhe-Javakheti, as well as some Russian
sources, have alleged that the government deliberately planned
the brutal end to the protest in order to intimidate the local
Armenian population following local demands for political autonomy
in the region. A council of local non-governmental organizations,
meeting September 23-24, adopted a resolution calling on the Georgian
government to grant autonomy to the region (see EDM, September 29).
Javakhk-Info, the local news agency, distributed a bellicose statement
by regional Armenian non-governmental organizations saying that the
aggressive behavior by the Georgian authorities towards the region's
ethnic Armenians leaves them "no other choice than the use of force
to protect their interests and dignity" (Regnum, October 5).
However, a source in Georgian law enforcement told Kavkas Press that
the police shot into the air only after one of the protesters had
taken a shot first (Kavkas Press October 5).
Giorgi Khachidze, the presidentially appointed governor of the region,
managed to calm the angry crowd through negotiations.
Khachidze criticized the police for excessive use of force and
promised to hold some of them accountable. "In my opinion, they had no
right to fire shots, even in the air," he said (TV-Rustavi-2, October
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
latest events in Akhalkalaki, claming that the radical organizations
advocating autonomy for the region do not enjoy serious popular
Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili told the Armenian
newspaper Aikakan Jamanak that Tbilisi welcomes autonomy
for Javakheti so long as that means no more than ordinary
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
of their complacency. On October 8, Garnik Isagulian, national security
aide to Armenian President Robert Kocharian, warned Tbilisi to show
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.
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.
==Armenian Church confiscations==
By Eka Basilaia
The Messenger, Georgia
Jan 20 2006
In interview, Georgian Public Defender debates constitutional status
of the Orthodox Church
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
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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