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Globalization and Nationalism

Natalie Sabanadze

Chapter 4. Globalization and Georgian Nationalism

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1Georgia is one of those post-communist countries that lived through the dramatic upsurge of nationalism after the collapse of the Soviet Union and developed into what can be described as a hotbed of internal conflict, ethnic strife, and state failure. It made an abundant contribution to the so-called “seething cauldron” image of post-communist Eastern Europe having lived through turbulent transition, nationalist upheaval, civil war, and ethnonational confrontation. In other words, Georgian nationalism appeared as an exemplary representative of the so-called radical new nationalisms of the global era that seem to have resurfaced with surprising power under the influences of globalization. This chapter uses the case of Georgian nationalism for empirical investigation of the relationship between globalization and post-communist nationalism. In doing so, it addresses four main questions: What type(s) of nationalism developed in Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union? What changes did it experience in the course of its post-communist transition? What were the main sources of post-communist Georgian nationalism and what impact did globalization have on its strength, character, and development?

2The chapter begins with the brief overview of historic roots of Georgian nationalism that go back to the 19th and early 20th century. It then moves on to the discussion of the Soviet legacy, arguing that contemporary Georgian nationalism can be seen as a product of the Soviet nationality policies which, on the one hand, folklorized national identities, and on the other hand, institutionalized them in state structures. This policy had resulted in what I describe as the rise of folk nationalism in Soviet Georgia with significant consequences for its post-communist transition. After exploring the nature of contemporary Georgian nationalism and its main influences, the chapter moves on to the discussion of the three main phases in the development of post-communist nationalism in Georgia. For each phase respectively, it explores the relationship and the interplay between forces of nationalism and globalization. By offering a case study of contemporary Georgian nationalism, the chapter demonstrates how the relationship between globalization and nationalism unfolds in a reality of a post-communist state and what conclusions it can offer for a more general understanding of contemporary nationalism and its links with globalization.

4.1 The Beginnings: Georgian Nationalism in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries

  • 1 See Miroslav Hroch (1985) Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, New York: Cambridge (...)
  • 2 Ronald Grigor Suny (1994) Making of the Georgian Nation, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, p. (...)

3According to Miroslav Hroch, nationalist movements go through three main stages of development: Phase A, in which a small number of intellectuals and activists begin the cultural work, recover the history and embark on the studies of language and popular national culture; Phase B, when larger groups of “patriots” emerge and spread the idea of the nation through schools, press, and gatherings; and Phase C, when broad popular mobilization takes place.1 In his study on Georgian nation, Ronald Grigor Suny uses Hroch’s model to trace the formation of Georgian nationalism from the initial revival of the Georgian language and national history in the late 19th century through the active journalistic work of the 1860s and 70s to the rise of political nationalism by the turn of the 20th century.2 Application of Hroch’s model to the study of Georgian nationalism suggests that development of nationalism in Georgia went through the first two phases but never quite reached the third phase. In the last phase of popular mobilization, nationalism in Georgia practically lost out to Marxist socialism only to recover in a highly modified Soviet form.

4The beginning of Georgian nationalism can be traced to the mid 19th century. By then Georgia was incorporated into the Russian Empire, which abolished the sovereignty of the Georgian kingdoms but in return unified them under common rule as a Russian province, restoring a long awaited peace and relative stability. By the mid 19th century, Georgia began to recover from the devastating Ottoman and Persian invasions. Roads were built, communications slowly improved, printing was restored and active life returned to multicultural urban centers such as Tiflis, now Tbilisi. Most importantly, however, the first generation of the Georgian intelligentsia was formed and appeared on the public scene. Its members went to undertake higher education in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities and returned home with the dream of Georgia’s national revival. Due to their Russian experience, this generation came to be known as the tergdaleulni which literally means “those who had drunk from the waters of Terek,” the river near the Russian border.

5The first to inspire and initiate the national revival were the romanticist poets and writers of aristocratic background who introduced patriotic and nostalgic themes in the Georgian literature and played an important role in inspiring the younger generations of the Georgian intelligentsia. Some of these famous poets and noblemen participated in a bold but poorly prepared conspiracy against the Tsarist rule in 1832. Influenced by the Russian Decembrists and Polish exiles in the Caucasus, they became enchanted by the ideals of self-determination, constitution and republicanism. Their rebellion, however, was easily crushed and most of the participants were exiled. After 1832, the Georgian nobility largely reconciled itself with Russian rule and was busy making careers in the services of the Tsar. Their concerns with the subjugated state of Georgia were mainly expressed in poetry lamenting and glorifying the past lost.

  • 3 See Johann G. Herder (1969) J.G. Herder on Social and Politics Culture: A Selection of Texts, Camb (...)

6It was mainly with the appearance of the tergdaleulni that a concerted effort was made by Georgian intellectuals to awaken national consciousness and forge a national identity that would cut across regional and class divisions bitterly dividing the Georgian society of the time. The famous leader of the tergdaleulni was Ilia Chavchavadze from a prominent family in Kakheti in eastern Georgia. He is often referred to as “the founding father” of the modern Georgian nation and was canonized in 1987. He was educated first in Tiflis and then in the juridical faculty of St. Petersburg University. Upon return to Georgia, Chavchavadze became one of the leading literary figures producing a rich body of poetry, prose, and journalistic work. Chavchavadze and his close followers were credited with reforming the Georgian literary language, bringing it from the archaic high Georgian into what was called dabali or low Georgian—the simpler language spoken by the common people. Chavchavadze established and presided over the Society for the Spread of Literacy, which aimed at promoting the study of the literary Georgian language among broad circles of the population. In a Herderian vision of a nation,3 the tergdaleulni saw language as an important bearer of a nation’s soul and invested much work and effort in promoting the use of Georgian which had been increasingly driven out of school curricula and replaced by Russian. The tergdaleulni also embarked upon active journalistic work and introduced the works of leading Western writers and philosophers to the broad Georgian public. The main newspaper that came to be associated with Chavchavadze and his followers was Iveria. It was published from 1877 until 1906, expressing the views of the first generation of the tergdaleulni and engaging in fascinating polemics with opponents from later generations of the Georgian intelligentsia.

  • 4 See Ilia Chavchavadze (1953) Sruli Krebuli, vol. 3, Tbilisi: Metsnierebata Akademiis Gamomtsemloba
  • 5 Stephen Jones (2005) Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy 1883–1917(...)
  • 6 Ibid., p. 37.

7Chavchavadze lamented the fact that the Georgian nation had become “an endangered category.” There existed Georgian princes, gents, nobles, merchants, and peasants, he argued, but they all remained disconnected with no sense of belonging to one whole, to the common nation. He propagated the vision of a unified Georgia, elevated above class and provincial divisions. “The national,” he believed, should be elevated above “the social” and the most important goal was to overcome divisive Georgian individualism and restore common national consciousness.4 It is important to note that Chavchavadze and his followers did not seek independence from Russia but rather advocated the cultural and linguistic revival of the Georgian nation as well as its social and economic advancement within the reformed Russian Empire. According to Stephen Jones, Chavchavadze supported greater cultural freedom, defended the Georgian language and promoted Georgian schools and the church but rallied against capitalist relations, rejected revolt against Tsarist Russia, and was extremely skeptical of the class struggle.5 In 1901, his newspaper Iveria declared that the “Georgian people admits its full unity and loyalty to Russia and our imperial ruler.”6

8Despite relative conservativism of Chavchavadze and other first generation tergdaleulni, they were successful in laying down intellectual foundations for the rise of Georgian nationalism and preparing ground for the spread of national sentiments among the wider public.

9By the end of the 19th century, this process had reached Phase B of Hroch’s typology, characterized by the emergence of a younger and more radical generation of the Georgian intelligentsia. Its most prominent members, such as Niko Nikoladze, Giorgi Tsereteli, and Sergei Meskhi, were educated at European Universities, and upon return to Georgia, formed a group that came to be known as Meore Dasi or Second Generation. They published widely in the press associated with Meore Dasi, which included newspapers such as Krebuli (The Collection: 1871–1873), Droeba (The Times: 1866–1885) and Kvali (The Furrow: 1893–1904). In contrast to the tergdaleulni they did not emphasize cultural and linguistic factors as decisive for Georgian national identity and survival, but were more concerned with economic growth, trade and political reforms. Niko Nikoladze and Giorgi Tsereteli were more radical critics of Tsarism than Chavchavadze. They advocated self-government for Georgians, while stressing the importance of cooperation with the progressive Russian intelligentsia. They were reform-oriented and liberal, simultaneously opposing any forms of national chauvinism and promoting the idea of interethnic peace and cooperation in the greater Transcaucasia.

  • 7 Ibid.

10By the 1880s, the political spectrum in Georgia began to widen even further. As Suny observed, three major political tendencies had appeared that would dominate Georgia’s social and political life until the end of the century. On the right was gentry nationalism led by Ilia Chavchavadze; in the center was reformist liberalism led by Niko Nikoladze and Giorgi Tsereteli; and on the left was the emerging revolutionary movement influenced by Marxism.7 By the 1890s, the young Georgian socialists started to gain prominence and came to be seen as worthy heirs of Georgia’s now well-established intellectual tradition. Giorgi Tsereteli called them Mesame Dasi, or Third Generation, locating them within the continuing tradition of the Georgian intelligentsia. In 1898, three years before his death, Tsereteli handed over the newspaper Kvali (The Furrow) to the social democrats and it became the first Marxist legal daily (1898–1903) to be published in the Russian Empire.

  • 8 Iakob Gogebashvili (1840–1912) was one of the early Georgian nationalists, founder of the Society (...)
  • 9 See Iveria, 1905 Issues 7, 8, 9, 17.
  • 10 Zurab Davitashvili (2001) Qartuli Natsionalizmi, Manuscript.

11Despite generational and conceptual differences among the early nationalists, it is possible to single out several common features that characterized 19th century Georgian nationalism. First, it was a moderate and emancipatory nationalism. The political demands of almost all Georgian nationalists at the time were limited to autonomy and self-rule within the reformed Russian Empire. While pushing for a greater degree of self-rule, nationalists stressed that their movement was neither parochial nor separatist. On the contrary, as one prominent Georgian writer and public figure Iakob Gogebashvili argued, autonomy was the exact opposite of separatism: it is centralism that breeds separatism by suffocating people and their free will, while autonomy creates a genuine political union.8 Self-rule and the right to schooling in the Georgian language were the main demands of the Georgian nationalists. These demands were justified on the grounds of equal rights for all nations of the Russian Empire.9 The early nationalists, therefore, never promoted Georgia’s separation from Russia. They believed in moderate actions and were wary of provoking costly retaliation from the imperial centre.10

  • 11 Jones, Socialism in Georgian Colors, pp. 2–3.

12The reluctance to break away from Russia was largely motivated by pragmatism rather than by conformism on the part of the Georgian intelligentsia at the time. Incorporation into the Russian empire allowed Georgians to survive physically, offering protection from Ottoman Turkey and Safavid Persia. Russia was also seen as a Christian and hence, European power, which brought to the country not only peace but also development and a degree of Europeanization. Georgia was too weak and insecure to be left alone, exposed to hostile neighbors. Georgians therefore chose to ally with Imperial Russia and seek change for Georgia with Russia rather than against it. According to Jones, “it was clear to the Georgian intelligentsia that Georgia’s fate was inexorably linked to that of Russia. Russia was Georgia’s ‘prison guard,’ but it was also the key to Georgia’s liberation.”11

  • 12 On the resettlement of foreigners and the rising resentments among the Georgians, see Uratadze Rem (...)
  • 13 Iveria, 1905 Issue 38, p. 1.

13Second, given Georgia’s multiethnic character, which was even more pronounced in the 19th century than it is today, early Georgian nationalism tended to be inclusive and less particularistic. Naturally, a degree of popular resentment existed towards the Armenian and Russian domination of Georgia’s urban centers and towards the resettlement of foreigners, mostly Russians and Armenians, but also Germans and Greeks,12 on the land previously owned by Georgians, but nationalists in general advocated non-confrontational approaches to these problems. The social democrats tried to ignore these issues as long as possible in order to avoid ethnic confrontations. More radical nationalists, however, characterized the situation as unjust and advocated greater parity between Georgians and non-Georgians. At the same time, they repeatedly emphasized that emancipation and fairness for Georgians was not meant to happen at the expense of others but was to take full account of others’ interests. Even the most nationalistic Iveria when writing in defense of self-rule pointed out: “National self-governance by no means implies discrimination and enslavement of other peoples… Self-government based on democratic foundations treats all citizens equally and does not differentiate among religions and nationalities.”13 Many Georgian nationalists advocated the introduction of reforms in the Caucasus as a whole and often considered all-Caucasian solutions. Nikoladze, for example, envisaged the creation of a free federation of the Caucasian nations with decentralized local self-government based on a form of ethnically proportional representation. Similarly social democrats promoted the idea of a Caucasian federation and tried to make such political unity work, albeit unsuccessfully, after the dissolution of the Russian Empire. In that respect, the early Georgian nationalists were not narrowly particularistic and often mobilized their powers for wider Caucasian causes.

  • 14 For more on regional identities and differences in the Caucasus, see Charles King (2008) The Ghost (...)

14Third, Georgian nationalism was defensive and integrative. It aimed at preserving the “Georgian self” (qartuli vinaoba) and defending Georgian culture against threats of Russification. At the same time, it tried to promote a sense of common loyalty and solidarity among Georgians and to integrate them into a unified national unit. Before incorporation into the Russian Empire, Georgia as a political entity had ceased to exist and was divided into numerous kingdoms and principalities. Such political divisions combined with the highly divisive mountainous landscape and poorly connected regions encouraged the rise of parochial and regional loyalties in Georgia and inhibited the creation of a common national identity. Georgian nationalists viewed regional loyalties as archaic signs of backwardness that thwarted development and posed a threat to national survival.14

15Apart from regional divisions, Georgian society was fragmented into an intricate hierarchy of class and ranks. Chavchavadze and his supporters idealized and propagated the view of Georgia’s unity that would go beyond class and Georgians of all ranks would unite in common solidarity and camaraderie. They directed great efforts towards strengthening national identity and spreading the idea of “commonness” among Georgians, at the expense of their individualism, class solidarities, and provincial, parochial loyalties. More left wing members of the Georgian intelligentsia opposed the idea of inter-class peace arguing that it would simply reinforce the existing unjust order. They stressed the need for change, the emancipation of subjugated classes that would unify Georgia, not around traditional hierarchies, but rather the ideals of free and liberated individuals. In both cases, however, the issue of national unity was one of the major concerns of Georgian nationalism.

  • 15 See Ilia Chavchavadze Katsia Adamiani? (Is Man Human?), Bednieri Eri (Happy Nation), Ra Gitkhrat, (...)

16Fourth, early nationalism in Georgia was critical rather than self-congratulatory. It rarely engaged in eulogies of the Georgian nation nor praised its uniqueness. Instead of dwelling on Georgia’s lost glory and past achievements, it appeared more concerned with its present poverty and isolation from the rest of the world. The nationalist press often dedicated pages to lamenting for the poor performance of Georgians in education, economic underdevelopment, and social backwardness. Nationalist scholars and writers were also highly critical of what they described as moral atrophy and degradation of Georgian society. This was the fundamental difference between Georgian romantics and early nationalists. The former romanticized the past and embellished the image of Georgia, while the latter introduced social criticism and pointed to the moral and material poverty of Georgian society.15

  • 16 The most striking examples of such harsh criticism were found in the writings of Nikoloz Mitsishvi (...)
  • 17 Davitashvili, Qartuli Natsionalizmi.

17Throughout the 20th century, disappointed members of the Georgian intelligentsia kept alive this tradition of harsh criticism that began tergdaleulni.16 As one Georgian scholar pointed out, this bitter criticism was directed at awakening Georgian national consciousness and carried hopes for improvement.17 In that sense, it was future-oriented rather than past-glorifying nationalism.

  • 18 Gogebashvili, Rcheuli Nacerebi, p. 76.

18Fifth, Georgian nationalism was a forward-looking project modeling itself on its European rather than its Russian counterparts. Iakob Gogebashvili described how in some countries patriotism was combined with the desire to go back, restore old traditions, and reject new ideas and movements. He contrasted Georgian nationalists with Slavo philes who were busy dreaming about Russia’s pre-Peter the Great past and looked at everything European with disdain. Such a brand of patriotism, Gogebashvili wrote, “is nowhere to be found in our country… Nobody dreams about restoration of the old Georgia, which belongs to the past and cannot be returned. It is the new Georgia that is the subject of our dreams and aspirations. Georgia should look ahead towards Europe and not back towards Asia. It is from the West that we should learn education, scholarship and import the best of social structures.”18

19The sixth—and perhaps most consistent—characteristic of the Georgian nationalism was its Western, namely European, orientation and concomitant ambivalence towards Russia. Georgians considered themselves to be part of the Christian European civilization forcefully isolated from the rest of Europe by aggressive Muslim neighbors. Union with Russia held for many Georgians the promise of ‘returning’ to Europe. They saw European civilization as progressive and highly developed. Generations of Georgian students went to Russia’s leading universities to discover Western intellectual trends and to be inspired by the liberation movements of Italy and Greece. They returned home infused with ideas of nationalism, liberalism, and later socialism. At the same time, they believed that Georgia’s liberation could only be obtained within and through Russia’s own liberation. In the eyes of many Georgians it was only after the Bolshevik Revolution that the link between Russia and Europe was broken.

  • 19 Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 140.

20Religion was another important factor legitimizing Georgia’s union with Russia. Not only was Russia a Christian and therefore European power for Georgians, but it was also Orthodox Christian. Orthodoxy was as important as—if not more important than—ethnicity in the self-identification of Georgians. A special concept of sjuli (meaning ethnoreligious identity) existed which merged ethnicity and religion into one form of identity. The common question in medieval and 19th century Georgia was to ask what your sjuli (ra sjulisa khar?) is. If the answer was Georgian, it meant Orthodox by definition. Catholic Georgians were curiously called French, while Muslim Georgians were called Tatars. Orthodoxy therefore, was a powerful justification for Georgia’s union with Russia. It brought to war-torn Georgia peace, the achievements of European civilization, and protection from aggressive Muslim powers by an Orthodox empire. At the same time, however, Russia was an enemy. It violated every treaty signed with Georgians, abolished the sovereignty of the Georgian kingdoms and reduced them to the status of Russian provinces. It purged the Georgian language and conducted aggressive Russification policies. Even the use of the word Georgia was reportedly censored.19 In that sense, Russia indirectly played an important role in awakening Georgian national consciousness, first by educating the Georgian intelligentsia and exposing them to Western ideas of nationhood, autonomy and self-rule, and second by strengthening the power and resistance of the Georgian national movement as a reaction to its repressive, assimilatory policies.

  • 20 See the results of sociological surveys on Georgia’s partnership with Russia, in Alexander Rondeli (...)

21This ambivalence towards Russia and its impact on Georgia has been a recurrent theme in Georgian history. Even to the present day, the Georgian population continues to be divided in its attitude towards Russia and in its assessment of the Russian role and influence. Some insist on the importance of cultural and religious ties with their northern neighbor and call for an ever-closer cooperation with Russia. Others consider Russia as a major impediment to Georgia’s drive towards the West and seek ways to neutralize its influence and reduce as far as is possible its sway over Georgia.20 At no other time, however, was this ambiguity in relation to Russia, the world at large, and the Georgian nation in particular so pronounced as around the turn of the 20th century when Georgian Marxists, later known as Social Democrats, emerged as the major political force destined to lead the country out of the Russian Empire into the short-lived first Georgian Republic.

  • 21 King, The Ghost of Freedom, p. 163.

22Georgian Marxists were very active in the Russian underground movement. They remained loyal members of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP) until 1905, when the party split in Bolshevik and Menshevik factions. Georgian Social Democrats found themselves on the Menshevik side adhering to relatively liberal and decentralized tactics of the European, particularly Austrian, social democrats. After the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, which destroyed the Russian empire, Georgian Mensheviks retreated back to the Caucasus and on May 26, 1918 declared an independent Georgia. As Charles King noted, “Georgian independence was not clothed in the language of historical destiny and national self-determination.”21 Noe Zhordania, the leader of the Georgian Social Democrats and the first president of independent Georgia, described independence in terms of tragic necessity prompted by the unfolding historic and political reality.

  • 22 See Levan Sanikidze (1989) Mesame Dasis Sakartvelo, Tbilisi: Merani.
  • 23 See Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation as well as Jones, Socialism in Georgian Colors.
  • 24 Professor Suny also argued that Phase C in Georgia “did not see the unalloyed triumph of the natio (...)

23Due to this ambivalence towards Georgia’s independence from Russia and to their Marxist and arguably cosmopolitan convictions, the role of Social Democrats in the contemporary Georgian historiography is highly contested. Some accuse them of being unpatriotic and antinational, ready to sacrifice their national pride and identity, land, and language to the alien ideals of cosmopolitanism and international socialism.22 Others see them as Marxist leaders of a very nationalist struggle and view them as part of early 20th century Georgian nationalism.23 I would argue that Georgian Social Democrats were unique in their non-nationalist approach to national liberation. They led a highly successful national movement while maintaining a degree of hostility towards nationalism and avoiding the use of nationalist rhetoric and ideology. Given the unrivalled success of their movement, it is possible to argue that the appearance and rise of social democracy hijacked nationalism in Georgia and prevented its transition from Hroch’s Phase B to Phase C. Just when the conditions were ripe for nationalism to reach the ultimate phase of its development, it became restrained and modified by the emergence of the well-organized and widely appealing alternative of social democracy.24 Nevertheless, to suggest—as many later Georgian nationalists did—that because Social Democrats were Marxists they were anti-national Russophiles, is both wrong and simplistic.

  • 25 See Noe Zhordania (1990) Rcheuli Nacerebi, Tbilisi: Sakartvelo, where he wrote: “Georgian social d (...)
  • 26 Kvali, 1903, No. 22.
  • 27 One of the most intensely debated issues in early 20th century Georgia was the preeminence of the (...)

24It is true that initially Social Democrats were both skeptical and critical of nationalism and perceived it as a rival ideological and political force. They argued that nationalists, under the pretext of defending the rights of the nation, were in reality defending their narrow class interests and privileges.25 It was only the working class, according to the Social Democrats, that could lead the democratic movement of national and social liberation, since the working class—understood very loosely in Georgia and comprising the majority of population including peasants and the petty bourgeoisie—was the only class whose interests coincided with those of the nation at large.26 Social Democrats, therefore, believed that national emancipation was only possible through the emancipation of the working class and consistently opposed attempts of the Georgian nationalists to put the national above the social, arguing that liberation as emancipation cannot be achieved through nationalism.27

  • 28 Erica Benner (1995) Really Existing Nationalisms, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 155.

25In this respect, Georgian Social Democrats were close followers of Marx and his approach to the movements of national independence. According to Erica Benner, Marx drew a normative distinction between “narrowly nationalist” and authentically “national” movements. For Marx and Engels, independence from foreign rule was not a value in itself, its value derived rather from the more fundamental goals which it served, and which included the just organization of society, a change of class relations and the democratization of political institutions. Marx, in other words, believed “that the achievements of ‘political emancipation’ within the modern state should be measured against a wider standard of ‘human’ emancipation.”28 Georgian social democracy, therefore, due to its preoccupation not only with political issues such as independence and autonomy, but also with social and economic reforms aimed at overthrowing the backward and coercive social relations, represented an exemplary “national movement” in the best of Marxist traditions.

  • 29 The Transcaucasian Federal Republic was proclaimed on April 22, 1918 and existed until Georgia pro (...)
  • 30 Ertoba, 1918, No. 49.

26Social democrats avoided nationalists’ narrow preoccupation with independence and expressed their desire to be part of a wider cause of “human” and not only Georgian emancipation. Since they believed they had shared a common cause with their Russian counterparts, the Bolshevik Revolution was for them a tragedy and the declaration of Georgia’s independence an unavoidable but undesired step. There was a short-lived attempt to maintain unity within the Southern Caucasus and create an independent Transcaucasian Federal Republic.29 Social Democrats defended the Transcaucasian Federation against opposition from nationalists on the grounds that in the globally interdependent world already small Transcaucasia if further disintegrated, would fail to survive. Echoing contemporary debates and responding to nationalists’ demands to declare Georgia’s independence, Ertoba wrote: “Today big states are integrating, forming economic and financial unions in accordance with the demands of contemporary social relations and capitalist division of labor. So what will be the fate of Transcaucasia, if an already small unit further disintegrates into even smaller regions? It is no doubt that such fragmentation will bring about great disaster to the Caucasus and undermine its economic development and political freedom.”30

  • 31 See Bor’ba, 1918, No. 153, 154, 155, and 156 also cited in Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. (...)
  • 32 Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 207.

27Conceding to rising domestic and international pressure, Social Democrats declared Georgia’s independence and announced democratic nation building to be one of their top priorities. Under the influence of the Austrian socialist Karl Kautsky, Zhordania argued that the first steps for the victorious proletariat would be the introduction of democratic institutions; this would be the realization of party’s minimum program and only afterwards, can the gradual transition begin towards the maximum, socialist program.31 Social Democrats soon realized that as leaders of the entire Georgian state, their priorities had to center on Georgia, its interests and citizens. This marked the reorientation of Georgian social democracy from an internationalist to a more nationalist outlook. According to Suny, as the Mensheviks began to identify with the cause of national independence and sovereignty, more internationalist aspects of their socialism began to disappear. “All social groups within the nation soon came around to favor independence, and the social democrats, who had begun their history as the self-proclaimed representative of the working class, saw themselves as the voice of the Georgian nation as a whole.”32

28It can be argued that the Social Democrats personified the continuation of the traditions formed by earlier generations of the Georgian intelligentsia in their struggle towards Georgia’s liberation and self-determination. They shared with the tergdaleulni a moderate and reformist approach to the political struggle, a critical outlook on Georgia’s backwardness and national disunity, ambivalence towards Russia expressed in a mix of gratefulness, admiration, and resentment, and finally the drive towards Europe. At the same time, they introduced new elements to Georgia’s national movement that set them apart from traditional nationalists.

  • 33 See Richard Pipes (1997) Formation of the Soviet Union, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press (...)

29The main differentiating feature of the Social Democrats was their broader understanding of “self-determination,” which went beyond a specifically national component and included social reform, economic development, and political democracy. In their understanding, the social and national reform were inseparable and only together could they contribute to the “human” emancipation of every individual. To lead a popular and successful national movement without nationalism was a unique feature of Georgian social democracy. Its “nationalization” occurred only after independence and partly under international pressure. However, given the Social Democrats’ intellectual commitment to international socialism and inclusive democracy, as well as Georgia’s tradition of cultural and moderate nationalism, one might expect that the Social Democrats would have promoted moderate, civic nationalism in an independent and multinational Georgia. Their attempts, however, were quickly curbed by the Russian invasion. On February 25, 1921 the Red Army entered Tbilisi, and after series of clashes and irregular fighting, annexed Georgia, installing the Bolshevik government. The Mensheviks fled the country and in 1922 Georgia became one of the Soviet Socialist Republics.33

4.2 The Soviet Legacy and Folklorization of Georgian Nationalism

30The process of national consolidation was far from complete when the Bolshevik takeover took place, making Georgia open and vulnerable to the influences of Soviet nationality policies. Even though for many contemporary Georgian nationalists the seventy-year communist rule was a historic anomaly that they would prefer to forget, it was precisely the Soviet experience that largely shaped the character of Georgian nationalism as it emerged during and after the Soviet collapse. Before 1921, nationalism in Georgia was mainly a cultural and democratic political force, oriented towards reform and moderate political work. Most importantly, nationalism in Georgia at the time was one out of several political ideologies competing for votes and popular support and thus never achieving or claiming monopoly over Georgia’s political scene. The type of nationalism that returned to Georgia after the 70 years of the Soviet rule was quite different; it was a radical, badly organized movement with a mix of political and cultural elements, which from the very beginning displayed undemocratic tendencies and hostility towards ethnic minorities. It was also the force that quickly monopolized Georgia’s politics and came to dominate its public life.

31At first sight, post-communist Georgian nationalism appears as a typical representative of the so-called new nationalisms of the global era that are different from the integrative, moderate and emancipatory nationalisms of the previous epochs. I would agree and seek to demonstrate in this section that post-communist Georgian nationalism was indeed different from its 19th and early 20th century predecessors. The difference, however, stemmed not so much from its fragmenting, antistatist, and radical tendencies developed in response to globalization and its influences but rather from its folklorized nature determined largely by the Soviet system and its approach to the question of nationalities. Three aspects of Soviet policy can be singled out in this respect: first, the rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union that transformed Georgia from a predominantly agrarian into an industrial and urban society; second, the organization of the Soviet state according to the principle of nationality and a consequent institutionalization of nationhood and ethnicity in its political structures; and third, folklorization of national identity as part of the Soviet nationalities policy.

  • 34 The data is cited in Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 296.
  • 35 Rogers Brubaker (1996) Nationalism Reframed, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 38.

32In the early 20th century, Georgia was only just beginning to embark on capitalist development and a modest industrialization. In 1913, Georgia’s industrial production only amounted to 13 percent of its total value of production. By 1940, under Stalin’s ruthless drive to modernize the Soviet economy, Georgia’s industrial output had increased by 670 percent compared to 1928, marking a tremendous growth well above the USSR’s average. Between 1940 and 1958 Georgia’s industrial output grew by 240 percent, and from 1958 to 1965 by 157 percent. By 1970, industry, construction, transport, and communications accounted for 53 percent of Georgia’s national income and the urban population grew to over 2 million.34 At the same time, the Georgian nation became a consolidated and cohesive Soviet institution as a result of the Soviet Union’s peculiar approach to “the national question.” According to Rogers Brubaker, the Soviet regime could have abolished national republics altogether and deprived national cultures of any territorial and political recognition; it could have ruthlessly Russified the Soviet educational system and uprooted national elites forcing different nationalities to merge into a common, Russian dominated “Soviet nation.” Even though the Soviet regime did repress any open manifestations of local nationalisms, it did not pursue a deliberate policy of “nation-destroying.” In the words of Brubaker, “the repression of nationalism went hand in hand with the consolidation of nationhood and nationality.”35 Consequently, the Georgian nation was institutionalized in the form of a titular nationality in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (GSSR) and was allowed to develop its own national communist elite and national cultural intelligentsia.

33The establishment of an urban, industrial society, however, was a complex process, which remained incomplete and was ridden with contradictions and anomalies characteristic to the Soviet experiment in general. Georgia quickly developed into a mobile, growth-oriented society with high levels of standardized, universal education. At the same time, it managed to preserve a considerable degree of pre-industrial social relations expressed in a heavy reliance on family ties and kinship, dislike of anonymity, respect for traditions, and general conservatism. Georgia, in other words, emerged as a peculiar combination of modern industrial and premodern agrarian society that played an important role determining the nature of its nationalism and the transition from communist authoritarianism to fragile democracy. One can better illustrate the above point by applying Ernest Gellner’s model of industrial society as developed in his work Nations and Nationalism to Georgia.

  • 36 See Ernest Gellner (1983) Nations and Nationalism, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, pp. 29–30.

34According to Gellner, industrial society is mobile, egalitarian, growth producing, and educated. One of the fundamental features differentiating an industrial society from an agrarian one is that the former is anonymous and is based on a standardized, school transmitted system of education or, in Gellner’s terminology, exo-socialization, while the latter is based on a one-to-one method of socialization and is centered on the complex structures of families, local groups, and kin units.36

  • 37 Ibid., p. 35.

35Consequently, employability, dignity, and the respect of the individual in industrial society are measured by his or her education and not by descent or rank. Individuals become disconnected members of a wide, anonymous community of culture without any important links to a kin group. Anonymity in this respect is crucial; in the words of Gellner, people “must be able to communicate by means of written, impersonal, context-free, to-whom-it-may-concern type messages.”37

36Georgian society modernized rapidly under the Soviet regime. The proportion of the population living in rural areas decreased substantially, urbanization expanded, education became standardized and universal, and a degree of cultural homogenization was achieved. At the same time, Georgia adapted its local traditions to the imposed modernization in a remarkable way and thus diluted the social consequences of its industrial transformation. For example, while the level of literacy in Georgia was high and the share of the population with higher education was the highest among the Soviet nationalities, the role of family and kin groups in the process of socialization also remained exceptionally high. To use Gellner’s terminology, the folk-transmitted culture in Georgia was as important as the school-transmitted one, and exo-socialization was heavily supplemented by the traditional, family, and kin-based forms of socialization. As a result, the traditional Caucasian reliance on family, personal connections, and an elaborate system of nepotism was never undermined. On the contrary, a person’s employability, dignity, and respect depended as much on his or her personal connections, family ties, and on the position held by the family in the society as on his or her education. It represented a peculiar version of rank and class divisions in a supposedly class-free communist society.

  • 38 Ibid., p. 37.

37In Gellner’s industrial society, “the bureaucracy can recruit from the population at large, without the need to fear the arrival of dozens of cousins as unwanted attachments of every single new entrant.”38 In the Georgian society, the question of dozens of cousins was not really an issue, given the traditionally low birth rates among Georgians, however, the chances that a new entrant would have been somebody else’s cousin were very high. In addition, the persistence of personal ties and connections prevented Georgian society, albeit urban and industrialized, from becoming entirely anonymous and impersonal. Contextfree, to-whom-it-may-concern types of messages would mainly be written nominally; in reality, however, the writer would make every effort available to minimize the anonymity of the recipient and add a “personal touch” to the message. Anonymity certainly existed given the sheer size of the Georgian society but it was seen as something to be easily overcome should the need arise.

  • 39 Ibid., p. 38.

38Once the transition to an industrial society has occurred and accompanying literate, education-sustained high culture has been established, the link between state and culture, according to Gellner, becomes in evitable. “That is what nationalism is about, and why we live in an age of nationalism,” he wrote.39 Nationalism came to play an important role in Georgia as well. However, it was a specific kind of nationalism that reflected Georgia’s mix of modern and premodern elements as well as the existing incongruence between national culture and the Soviet state. The Soviet state that brought to Georgia economic development and created an urban, industrial society with greater economic and educational opportunities also preserved and revitalized local traditions and institutionalized national differences. As a result, Georgians were not assimilated into Russian-dominated Soviet high culture but, rather, were engaged in the production of a parallel, national culture within the permitted limits. These limits, however, were quite restrictive and national cultures were allowed to develop only in a repackaged form. Local traditions, ethnic motives and rituals formed an exotic supplement to the Soviet high culture. One of the characteristics of the Soviet system, therefore, was not only the institutionalization of nationhood but also the folklorization of national cultures and identities.

  • 40 Suny, The Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 300.
  • 41 King, The Ghost of Freedom, p. 208.

39Through its cultural policy of “national in form, socialist in content,” the Soviet regime not only permitted but also actively promoted national folklorized cultures. Folk music and dance became part of officially supported art; national costumes were paraded at every festive occasion and ethnic stereotypes became an integral part of Soviet pop culture and humor. According to Suny, “ethnicity was actively fostered by the state even to the extent of forcing ethnic motives on modern architects, painters, and sculptors.”40 In addition, official Soviet historiography presented a primordial view of ethnicity, encouraging historians from national republics to discover their ancient roots and debate endlessly matters of their ethnogenesis. This fed into linear uncontested historical narratives promoted through schools and universities, which spoke about ancient roots and unique folk cultures, difficult pasts and the glorious present brought by the communist rule. As Charles King noted, every textbook published in the Soviet South Caucasus had virtually identical narratives that differed merely in the use of the proper nouns. According to King, “the Caucasus thus moved into the late 1980s with versions of history that privileged the nation, underscored its connection to a particular piece of real estate, and fundamentally excluded other ways of interpreting historical truth.”41

40Preservation of agrarian social relations based on family ties and kinship, institutionalization of ethnicity and its concomitant folklorization, repressive and authoritarian political culture were all major factors that influenced and determined the nature of Georgian nationalism as it developed during and after the communist rule. It can be described as Georgia’s folk nationalism, which was particularly well-adapted to the Soviet system and its demands. It had neither structure nor political agenda. It manifested in daily social relations and contributed to the establishment of an ethnically biased society. It was so omnipresent that would not even get noticed and recognized as nationalism by the majority of Georgians. It became part of the local folklore, which was not surprising given the lack of leadership, founding fathers or intellectual foundations that were essential preconditions for the rise of political nationalism elsewhere.

41In order to better describe Georgia’s folk nationalism under the Soviet regime it is possible to identify several additional characteristics. Firstly, it was an expression of content and self-satisfaction. Unlike 19th century Georgian nationalism, which had a clear emancipatory political agenda based on discontent with Georgia’s situation and oriented towards change and reform, Soviet era nationalism was not driven by any goal or project but was mostly an expression of Georgia’s accommodation within the Soviet system and acceptance of the status quo. By allowing cultural manifestations of identity, the Soviet regime successfully limited national self-assertion of Georgians to folklore and feasts.

42Second, linked to the above was the self-congratulatory character of Georgia’s Soviet nationalism, which also set it apart from the highly critical nationalism of the previous era. It appeared to be modeled on Soviet propaganda that prominently featured praise and glorification of all Soviet achievements. Self-praise and lack of criticism was typical of Soviet Georgian intelligentsia, which enjoyed glorifying local customs, traditions, poetry, wine, and music, cultivating a sense of superiority among Georgians over other nations and ethnic groups. It also perpetuated an unquestionable belief in virtues of the specifically Georgian way of living, doing business, and having fun.

43The third feature was the tendency of Georgian nationalism towards mystification and exaggeration. One would often hear stories about Georgia being one of the richest places on earth with an abundance of “imaginary” natural and human resources. This myth was perpetuated by Georgia’s relatively advantageous position within the Soviet economy. Due to its warm climate and geographic location, Georgia supplied the rest of the Soviet Union with highly prized agricultural produce such as tea, citruses, fruit, wine, and mineral waters. In addition, Georgia’s coastal resorts had acquired the reputation of a Soviet Riviera, providing a steady flow of rubles from numerous Russian tourists. Nationalism in Georgia thrived on this “artificial heaven,” never considering how difficult and costly it would be for the country to enter competitive, “real” markets of the world.

  • 42 In the beginning of 20th century, it was common to debate about the origin of nations. Some argued (...)
  • 43 Magda Opalski (2001) “Can Will Kymlicka be Exported to Russia?” in Can Liberal Nationalism be Expo (...)
  • 44 One of the most influential works written on ethnicity and the stages of its developments in the S (...)

44Fourth, folk nationalism in Georgia was characterized by a strong belief in primordialism. In this respect, it once again differed from early Georgian nationalism42 and followed closely the Soviet approach to ethnicity and nationhood. Soviet sociology treated the ethnic nation as an organic given, as the most natural of human associations, resembling the extended family. This view was, and still is, firmly established in the popular Georgian understanding of nationhood, and has almost never been seriously challenged nor subjected to the alternative interpretations dominant in the West. As Magda Opalski pointed out, “primordialism, which has been in decline in the West for some time, continues to dominate post-Soviet social and political sciences, and is deeply ingrained in the political culture.”43 It is surprising that Soviet scholarship did not capitalize on the existence of instrumentalist and constructivist approaches to nation formation and apply them to propagate the idea of a new Soviet People (sovestki narod). Instead, the dominant view in the Soviet Union remained strikingly organic, with some socio-biological overtones44 and was endorsed, without questioning, by popular Georgian nationalism.

45One of the indicators of the nature and strength of nationalism at any given moment is the perception and attitude towards national minorities. One of the constitutive myths of Georgia’s folk nationalism was the belief in the uniquely open, hospitable, and tolerant national character of Georgians manifested, inter alia, in relation with non-Georgian minorities residing in the republic. An official national discourse cultivated the image of multi-confessional and multiethnic Georgia, putting it in the context of Georgian hospitality and openness. As a result the concept of tolerance became confused with hospitality and resulted in a highly intolerant society in which the majority believed that minorities were their perennial guests and thus should be treated as such, in the best traditions of Georgian hospitality. This theme of “minorities as guests” would be dangerously exploited by radical nationalists after the Soviet collapse and inflict significant damage to the integrity and social cohesion of the newly independent Georgian state.

46The type of folk nationalism that has developed during the Soviet era did not serve well Georgia’s transition to independent statehood. It did create a strong sense of identity, merged itself with the popular culture and helped Georgians maintain their national self and resist Russification. It performed its defensive function under the Soviet regime but when it came to building an independent state, Georgia’s folk nationalism proved to be woefully inadequate. The next section looks at how Georgian nationalism experienced dramatic politicization in the late 1980s and became a major challenge to Georgia’s transition and democratization.

4.3 Georgia’s Post-Communist Nationalism: The Three Phases

47The relaxation of the Soviet authoritarianism under Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms known as glasnost and perestroika created a permissive environment in national republics for the rise of dissident movements with nationalist platforms and political objectives. In Georgia this resulted in the quick politicization of folk nationalism aided by the appearance of nationalist political entrepreneurs. This section traces the changes and transformations experienced by the Georgian nationalism after the collapse of communism to the present day. In doing so it identifies three main phases in the development of contemporary Georgian nationalism. The first one is the phase of the truly dramatic upsurge of nationalism, which lasted roughly from 1988 until 1992 and which I would describe as the phase of national fundamentalism. The second one is the phase of a relative decline of political nationalism in Georgia, which lasted from 1992–1999 and which can be described as the period of national apathy. The third and ongoing phase is the one that marks the return and diversification of Georgian nationalism, during which two competing and radically different variants of nationalism appeared. One is militant ethnoreligious nationalism with strong anti-globalist and anti-Western overtones and the other is liberal, pro-Western and globalizing nationalism with a renewed state-building agenda.

4.3.1 Phase A: National Fundamentalism

  • 45 For the detailed discussion of Georgia’s national independence movement see Jonathan Aves (1992) “ (...)

48The year of 1988 can be taken as a starting point for the discussion of radicalization of contemporary Georgian nationalism and the rise of a national liberation movement. Three years had passed since the beginning of perestroika and its effects had begun to reach the initially cautious and suspicious republics. In Russia, Soviet reforms created the space for the reactivation of dissident and intellectual groups and opening of public debate on a wide range of issues, including human rights and democracy. In Georgia, as well as in the Baltic Republics, similar developments were taking place with one difference the debates centered on issues of national identity, language, and national revival and slowly acquired secessionist overtones. Georgia’s folk nationalism, which functioned as a popular/cultural and non-political force, transformed itself into a movement with an organizational structure of parties, societies and underground associations. Beginning in 1987, the first informal nationalist groupings began to emerge and in the course of a few years proliferated dramatically.45 Among the most prominent leaders of the emerging nationalist movement were former dissidents such as Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Merab Kostava, Ghia Chanturia, and Irakli Tsereteli. In November of 1988, the first large-scale demonstrations and hunger strikes took place in Tbilisi in protest at the proposed changes in the Soviet Constitution that envisaged the removal of the republics’ nominal right to secede from the Soviet Union. Central authorities in Moscow conceded and the constitutional changes were dropped. Encouraged by the success of the November events, nationalist parties began to organize similar demonstrations and protest actions almost every day and under any pretext. As a result, public spaces became quickly politicized with parks, streets, concert and cinema halls turned into forums for public discussions, meetings, and protests. From the very beginning it became clear that the emerging nationalist movement possessed an exceptional ability to rally support and monopolize both public discourse and public space.

  • 46 These internal divisions soon took an organizational form: Gamsakhurdia and Kostava established th (...)
  • 47 Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 323.

49By the end of the 1980s, Georgia’s political scene became dotted with a growing number of political associations and parties, each with more or less the same nationalist agenda. In spite of this, the national movement was far from united. It was rent by internal divisions, tactical disagreements, and personality clashes.46 The most visible divide was between moderates, those who supported a gradual way toward independence based on negotiations and compromises with the Kremlin, and radicals who supported uncompromising win or lose tactics and rejected any possibility of bargaining and settlement. Initially, the moderate voices predominated. However, the events of April 9, 1989—when the Soviet military brutally attacked a peaceful demonstration killing 19 and poisoning hundreds with toxic gas—upset the balance within the movement and contributed to its sudden and dramatic radicalization. The military crackdown turned out to be fatally counterproductive. Instead of containing the nationalist upheaval, it completely delegitimized the communist elite who were blamed for the tragedy, outraged the public and rallied the masses in support of the radical nationalists. As Suny pointed out, “the Georgian national movement was immediately transformed by April 9 into a radical movement against the Communist regime responsible for the Tbilisi massacre.”47

  • 48 See Ghia Nodia (1996) “Political Turmoil in Georgia and the Ethnic Policies of Zviad Gamsakhurdia” (...)
  • 49 14 political entities participated in the elections, Gamsakhurdia’s group Mrgvali Magida-Tavisupal (...)
  • 50 Having witnessed an overwhelming popularity of the oppositional nationalist parties, the communist (...)

50After April 1989 any moderate talk in Georgia became politically bankrupt. Radical nationalists, who proudly called themselves “irreconcilables,”48 came to dominate the political scene and managed to impose their totalizing and uncompromising discourse in the run up to the first multiparty elections of October 28, 1990.49 The result of the elections, in which even the communist party participated with a nationalist platform,50 was the landslide victory of Gamsakhurdia’s Round Table-Free Georgia. Gamsakhurdia was elected the chairman of the Supreme Soviet, forming the first non-communist government with the clear intention of leading Georgia towards full independence.

51In March 1991, Gamsakhurdia organized a referendum on the restoration of Georgia’s independence in which over 90 percent of participants voted in favor of it. Following the referendum, the newly elected Georgian government made a formal declaration of independence on April 9, 1991 in honor of those who died a year ago in the peaceful demonstration. On May 26 of the same year, a vast majority of Georgia’s voters—86.5 percent—chose Gamsakhurdia as the first popularly elected president of their country.

  • 51 King, The Ghost of Freedom, p. 165.

52With the 1990 elections, the nationalist regime in Georgia replaced the communist one. It came with the promise of breaking with the communist past, establishing a democratic state and returning Georgia to the path it was forced to abandon in 1921. In reality, however, the transition turned out to be less smooth than expected. When speaking of the first Georgian republic in 1918, Charles King wrote that there was “a sense that the new state was embarking on a grand experiment of self-governance, with little idea how to rule itself, how to deal with its neighbors, or to make the best case for recognition on the world stage.”51 These words seem particularly well suited for describing Georgia and its leadership in 1991. Having experienced international isolation of the Soviet Union, both material, cultural and ideational, and being raised on traditions of Soviet authoritarianism and folk nationalism post-communist Georgian nationalists were ill-prepared to lead Georgia into independence, democracy and prosperity they dreamed of.

53Georgian nationalists at a time had clear state-building ambitions but very little idea of how to achieve their goals. They naively searched for various models of state organization ranging from theo-democracy to constitutional monarchy that in their view would bring Georgia closer to the West and further away from Russia. They envisaged Georgia joining North Atlantic structures in a quick and easy way and becoming a globalized market economy without dwelling much on issues of economic development, reform, and restructuring. They did not foresee consequences of aggressive nationalizing policies and discourses in a multinational society like Georgia and ended up alienating minorities—inflicting damage on interethnic relations that is difficult to undo to this very day. One of their first moves was to curtail the rights of national minorities and, as in the case of South Ossetia, abolish its autonomous status. These ill-advised policies were meant to uphold Georgia’s territorial integrity but ended up having an exact opposite effect.

  • 52 For more on Gamsakhurdia’s attitude towards national minorities, see Robert English (2008) “Georgi (...)

54Alarmed by the rising tide of militant nationalism, national minorities began to oppose Georgia’s bid for independence, fearing its consequences for themselves and their rights. The most radical of Georgian nationalists described them as “ungrateful guests” or as the fifth column exploited by the Kremlin to curb Georgia’s will for freedom.52 Nationalist mobilization started to take place also among national minorities, resulting in the outbreak of two ethnopolitical conflicts in the autonomous regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia respectively. The tensions increased also in the Armenian and Azeri populated territories of southern Georgia, which led to small-scale clashes and skirmishes. The causes of ethnopolitical conflicts are always numerous and cannot be attributed to a single factor. However, the mismanagement of ethnic relations by the nationalist government was certainly one of the factors, contributing to the eruption of conflicts that by no means were inevitable.

  • 53 Orthodox Christianity was hailed as inseparable aspect of the Georgina national identity. Gamsakhu (...)
  • 54 For example, see newspaper Droni, August 16, 1991 in which Temur Pipia argued that “one of the big (...)
  • 55 See Akhalgazrda Iverieli, July 14, 1990.
  • 56 Merab Mamardashvili cited in Kipiani, Erovnuli Khasiati da Ganvitareba, p. 89.
  • 57 Michnik, Adam (1991) “Nationalism,” Social Research, 58:4.

55The nationalist regime also failed to win international recognition and endorsement for independent Georgia. Its governing style at home quickly revealed authoritarian tendencies, demonstrating greater affinity with the communist regime nationalists they loathed than with Western democracies they admired. Analysis of the Georgian media of 1990 and 1991 shows how totalizing nationalist discourse was and how much it resembled in style and in ideological dominance its communist predecessor. Communist internationalism seemed to be simply replaced by national chauvinism; the imposed atheism of the communist party by the mandatory religiosity of the nationalists;53 the communist obsession with class was replaced by the nationalists’ sole preoccupation with the ideas of nation and national interest and a total disregard, if not a disdain for social issues.54 Those who opposed or dared to question the goals and tactics of the “national movement” were dismissed, in the best of communist traditions, as traitors and agents of the Kremlin. It is no time for “moral pluralism” argued one of the publications.55 For the time being, democratic and social concerns had to be sacrificed for the higher goal of securing Georgia’s independence and protecting state sovereignty. Individuals were encouraged to suppress their personal ambitions and subordinate them to the “higher” demands of the national and the collective. As the Georgian philosopher Merab Mamardashvili commented on the victory of nationalists: “in Georgia, Bolshevism won in its purest form,”56 echoing Adam Michnik’s characterization of nationalism as the last stage of communism.57

  • 58 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, p. 46.

56The question that puzzled many observers was how to explain such a sudden upsurge of radical nationalism in the post-communist space. One explanation points to the legacy of the Soviet system, which according to Brubaker expressly defined its constituent republics by and for the titular nation. These nations were institutionalized as national polities and were given a sense of ownership of their territory without the right to rule it.58 A type of quasi-nationalism—or as I described in the case of Georgia a folklorized form of nationalism—began to develop parallel to the official communist ideology. This meant that nationalism, albeit to a varying degree in different republics, was already there by the time the Soviet Union embarked on liberalization and thus swiftly stepped in to fill the ideological vacuum created by the retreating communism.

57In the case of Georgia, the existence of folk nationalism in Soviet times was decisive in facilitating the nationalist mobilization after the collapse and allowing nationalist political entrepreneurs to gain support and popularity quickly. I would also argue that pre-existing traditions of nationalism not only determined political success of nationalists immediately after the breakup of the Soviet Union but also shaped the nature and character of Georgia’s post-communist nationalism. Even though the nationalist movement in Georgia developed certain structures with its leaders, parties, and associations, it remained extremely divided, poorly organized and incoherent both ideologically and politically. Its ethnocentric outlook, illiberal tendencies, authoritarian foundations, and naive perception of the world represented a continuation of the Soviet style folk nationalism that could not have served as a solid foundation for building independent statehood.

58Another important factor that determined nationalist success was a complete lack of non-nationalist ideological and political alternatives to the increasingly bankrupt communist regime. Unlike Georgia of the early 20th century—where nationalism had to compete with other, powerful political forces and ideological currents—nationalism emerged largely unchallenged in post-communist Georgia. This can be explained partly by the pre-existing folk nationalism and partly by the positioning of nationalism as a single, most genuine anti-communist force. Nationalism came to be identified with anti-communism and left no room for the development of non-nationalist, liberal, and democratic alternatives to communism. Even though authoritarian tendencies of the nationalist leaders soon became apparent, their discourse was framed in terms of justice, human rights, democracy, and Westernization.

  • 59 Stephen Jones (1997) “Georgia: The Trauma of Statehood,” in New States, New Politics, Ian Bremmer (...)
  • 60 The Transcaucasian Railway project was one of the first triggers of national discontent in 1986–87 (...)
  • 61 Even though according to the 1989 census results non-Georgians comprised only 30 percent of the to (...)
  • 62 It became common to portray national minorities as a potential “fifth column” to be exploited by t (...)
  • 63 For example in September of 1990, the nationalist political grouping Round-Table held a special me (...)

59In addition, the nationalist discourse often exaggerated the threats and dangers allegedly facing the Georgian nation, tapping into the fears, anxieties, and insecurities of the Georgian public stimulated by the history of foreign invasions, weak demographic representation in border territories, and the threat of Russification.59 First, in the late 1980s, threats to Georgia’s unique environment and cultural heritage were articulated;60 later, the demographic threat came to dominate the discourse;61 and finally, threats emanating from national minorities, non-Georgians and Georgians with opposite views topped the threat hierarchy.62 In each and every case, the reasons for the problem lay outside Georgia. The general conspiracy theory with the Kremlin at its center was tirelessly employed by Georgian nationalists as an explanation for all social, economic, cultural, and political troubles.63

  • 64 Nodia, “Political Turmoil in Georgia,” p. 4.

60Georgian political heritage dominated first by the legacy of warfare and struggle in the Middle Ages and then by conformity to communist authoritarianism also contributed to the success of a simultaneously radical and authoritarian national movement. As Ghia Nodia observed: “decades of communist rule had destroyed the elements of civil society and civic consciousness that had emerged before the forcible Soviet occupation of 1921, and had left the intellectual elite, and the general public, with mostly medieval ideals of political behavior. The heroic ‘irreconcilable’ stance has a much stronger appeal than the search for concrete political means of achieving specific ends.”64

61The above discussion points mostly to the internal dynamics and Soviet legacy in explaining the rise of post-communist Georgian nationalism. However, the main concern of this work is an alternative exogenous explanation, which links the rise of post-communist nationalism to the effects of globalization. According to the globalization hypothesis, nationalism intensifies as a reaction to the perceived threat emanating from globalization to national identity and culture. Nationalism, therefore, acts in defense of the threatened “national” components of identity, self, culture, politics, and economy. Georgian nationalism was also, to a great extent, a response to the well-elaborated list of threats. The source of these threats, however, was most often located in the communist regime, with Moscow at its center.

62Globalization as such, never figured in Georgian nationalist discourse of the early 1990s. It did, however, often feature the concept of the “West,” loosely defined. It was argued that restoration of independence would “return” Georgia to the democratic West where it arguably belonged. If in the 19th century Russia was perceived as the connecting link between Georgia and the West, especially Europe, in the 20th century Russia came to be seen as the main obstacle separating Georgia from Europe. Escaping Russia’s influence and embracing that of the West had become a constant feature of Georgia’s post-independence aspirations. The West, therefore, was not seen as a threat; on the contrary, it was seen as a solution. Even though the concept of globalization did not exist among Georgian nationalists, their position can, in retrospect, be interpreted as globalist, due to their desperate drive to attract Western support and their implicit preference to “globalize” Georgia in order to avoid its Russification.

63Georgian nationalism, therefore, could not have reacted against the threat of globalization simply because it did not perceive it as threatening. Moreover, I would argue that one of the determining factors in the radicalization of Georgian nationalism was not the impact of globalization but rather the complete lack of it. Both the material and ideational influences of globalization were entirely absent in Georgia around the time of the Soviet collapse. Georgian nationalists at the time showed very little understanding of the global political and economic process, which was one of the reasons why they were so ill-equipped for securing Georgia’s independence and territorial integrity.

  • 65 See Natalie Sabanadze (2001), “International Involvement in the South Caucasus,” ECMI Working Pape (...)

64Physically Georgia had never been as isolated from the rest of the world as during the first and the most militant phase of its contemporary nationalism. Foreign countries were wary of recognizing Georgia’s independence and international organizations were slow and cautious in showing any interest, let alone support, for the newly independent Georgian state, ruled by a precarious nationalist government. In addition, the persistent Soviet legacy contributed to the perception of the emerging new states as Russian satellites that belonged to the Russian sphere of influence and required no external interference in their internal troubles.65 The only notable exceptions were the Baltic Republics, which received significant international, especially European, support from the first days of their independence. Georgia’s hopes for immediate endorsement by the friendly and protective West, however, proved to be misguided. Nevertheless, fascination with the “West” and an ultimate desire to join it, continued to form an integral part of the Georgian nationalist movement not only in the first but also in the subsequent phases of its post-communist development.

4.3.2 Phase B: National Apathy

65By late 1991, discontent with the nationalist regime—which failed to deliver on all its promises and left the country facing secessionism, economic collapse, and poorly developed state institutions—began to rise. Street protests in the capital culminated in armed clashes when part of the Georgian military joined the protesters, effectively staging a junta. Gamsakhurdia, after putting up a brief resistance, decided to flee, leaving a country torn apart by civil war, with escalating ethnic conflicts and a trail of rebellious armed supporters in western Georgia. The military council, which assumed power after Gamsakhurdia’s departure, invited the former Georgian Communist Party Chief and former Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Shevardnadze to be Georgia’s new leader.

  • 66 Strobe Talbott (1997) “A Farewell to Flashman: American Policy in the Caucasus and Central Asia,” (...)

66Within a few years, Shevardnadze began to deliver on his promise. The international community recognized Georgia’s independence and accepted its membership of the UN and other international organizations. Foreign diplomatic missions and embassies, international organizations, and financial institutions began to open offices in Georgia and to engage in Georgia’s local political and economic affairs. Most importantly, foreign aid started to pour into the country helping it to survive the economic collapse and devastation of the early 1990s. The first foreign investments were made and the Georgian economy began to show signs of recovery achieving 11 percent growth rates in 1996 and 1997. With the exploitation of Caspian oil, the attention of multinational companies and major world powers turned to the region, bringing it the promise of development and stability. Strobe Talbott pointed out, “it matters profoundly to the United States what will happen in an area that sits on as much as two hundred billion barrels of oil.”66 This marked the beginning of Georgia’s slow involvement in the global processes.

  • 67 King, The Ghost of Freedom, p. 229.

67On the domestic front, Shevardnadze spent the first few years quelling rebellions of pro-Gamsakhurdia forces as well as disbanding the paramilitary structures that helped bring him to power. He was the Soviet bureaucrat who did not suffer from romantic nationalistic ambitions and was more concerned with the consolidation of the state and his power within it. He managed to achieve relative stability and boost economic development in parts of Georgia under control of the central government. In Abkhazia and South Ossetia, he signed Russian brokered ceasefire agreements, which ceased hostilities but resulted in de facto secession of the two provinces. Shevardnadze helped set up the Citizens Union, a ruling party which served as his power base and which attracted a mix of old Communist friends and young, reform minded professionals. By 1998, Shevardnadze achieved relative stability, gained international recognition and put in place a semi-democratic system of governance. Georgia was democratic in form but less in content; despite a formal division of powers, existence of oppositional parties and a relatively free media, it was effectively impossible to challenge Shevardnadze. It can be argued that Shevardnadze and his ruling party not only built the state, but also captured it.67

68Consolidation and relative stabilization of the Georgian state coincided with the evident decline of political nationalism and the loss of its previously unchallenged popular appeal. One of the reasons was the widespread disillusionment with the nationalist government, which was seen as responsible for the state’s failure, de facto loss of territories, and the international isolation that Georgia was facing. The humiliating defeat in Abkhazia was a blow to the national pride of Georgians, who became more skeptical of grand nationalist narratives. In addition, nationalists lost their single most potent, unifying objective, which was national liberation. Independence was achieved and recognized, depriving nationalists of one big cause to rally masses of supporters. They now had to deal with mundane issues of day-to-day politics and as failures of the nationalist government demonstrated, they proved to be ill-prepared for such tasks.

  • 68 Sozar Subeliani (2000) “The Failure of Georgia’s National Idea,” Institute for War and Peace Repor (...)
  • 69 Ibid., p. 1.
  • 70 Ibid.

69By the mid 1990s, the mood in Georgia was characterized by bitterness and disappointment. Previous romanticized self-adoration was replaced by frequent “self-bashing” and national fundamentalism of the previous years gave way to national apathy. As one of the Internet publications aptly noted, Georgian nationalism, once the leading political force at the time of independence, fizzled out in the face of harsh realities.68 In the wake of the 1999 parliamentary elections, the Georgian daily Shvidi Dghe commented on the disappearance of nationalism from the Georgian political scene. The article wrote that “the elections have illustrated the failure of the nationalist idea. Both the movement and its leaders have lost their influence. All parties actively engaged in the nationalist movement between 1988 and 1992 have since vanished from the political scene.”69 The decline in the ability of Georgian nationalism to mobilize support was demonstrated by the elections results. In the first multiparty elections held in October 1990 the nationalists won an overwhelming majority of 55 percent with the communists following with a mere 25 percent of votes. In the second parliamentary elections of 1995, nationalist coalitions managed to secure only 30 percent of votes. By the third elections, most parties dropped their nationalist agendas and those who did not, failed to make it to the parliament. In other words, by the end of the 1990s, the support of nationalists had plummeted to below the 4 percent parliamentary threshold.70

70In the short period between 1990 and 1991, the Georgian state went through the stages of failure and relative consolidation. Georgian political nationalism experienced both a dramatic rise and significant decline. In this context it is once again pertinent to assess the impact of globalization both on the strength of Georgian nationalism and the viability of the newly independent Georgian state. According to the globalization hypothesis, globalization weakens states and by doing so strengthens nationalism that thrives on feelings of uncertainty and insecurity associated with the retreating state. The Georgian case supports such reasoning but only partly. At times of difficulty such as the collapse of both the Soviet Union and subsequent failure of independent Georgian state, people relied heavily on their kin and family for physical survival. This has reinforced among Georgians already existing folk nationalism which has always thrived on close and traditional social relations characteristic to contemporary Georgia and which provided a fertile ground for the rise and popularity of nationalist political entrepreneurs.

71The Georgian state, however, was weak and insecure not because of globalization. As already mentioned, in the early 90s the impact of globalization manifested through the presence of either international organizations or foreign companies was very limited and increased only after Shevardnadze came to power and embarked on the process of state consolidation. In the period between 1993 and 98, one can observe a reverse correlation between globalization and the strength of nationalism from the one suggested by the globalization hypothesis. With increasing globalization, the Georgian state strengthened and nationalism as a political force declined.

  • 71 Rondeli, “The Forces of Fragmentation in the South Caucasus,” p. 72.

72Abroad, Shevardnadze used his reputation as a democrat and a reformer to attract considerable international support for Georgia. Flows of foreign aid increased to the country and a growing number of international institutions, both governmental and non-governmental, began to appear in Tbilisi. New communication technologies were imported, foreign travel increased, and global cultural and consumer products began to flood the local market. The IMF and the World Bank became directly involved in making important decisions on issues such as currency liberalization, tax reform, and general economic restructuring. In order to cement political and economic interest of global actors in the region, the Georgian government began to “sell” Georgia as an important transit route for commodities, especially oil and gas. The Baku– Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline was one such project backed by British and U.S. governments as part of their strategy to diversify energy routes leading from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia to Europe. The Georgian government as well as the public sought the growing globalization of Georgia as a guarantee rather than a threat to its statehood and economic and political viability. As a Georgian observer pointed out, “forces of globalization, we expect, would contribute to stability in the region. The states in the Caucasus need to feel a greater impact of globalization in order to spur their economic development, help them integrate into the world market and, by resolving existing conflicts, strengthen their statehood.”71

73Even though there is no agreement in the globalization literature on the exact impact of globalization on the state, it is commonly argued that globalization represents a powerful threat to the state, undermining its traditional functions, restricting its powers and contributing to what is seen as “the retreat of the state.” The Georgian case suggests that influences of globalization may be more diverse than it is often recognized and their consequences more varied depending on local contexts and circumstances. When a state is already weak, struggling with survival in a difficult regional environment, as was the case in Georgia, international isolation is likely to leave that state less prosperous, less developed, and more vulnerable to hostile outside interference. Globalization, therefore, instead of undermining the already fragile and insecure Georgian state, has sustained it both politically and economically.

74Increasing globalization also makes states more exposed to global economic fluctuations. Georgia first experienced consequences of a global financial crisis in 1998 when emerging economies, including Russia, were badly hit. The economic crisis, however, above all revealed domestic problems linked with the mismanagement of resources, bad governance, and large-scale corruption. If in the early years of Shevardnadze’s governance people saw the benefits of living in a more or less functional state, by the late 1990s stagnation became the norm and frustration began to grow with the increasingly corrupt and unaccountable ruling elite. Baltic republics that were also once part of the Soviet Union made tremendous progress and were on the way of joining the EU and the NATO. Georgia, on the other hand, seemed bogged down in its never-ending transition that enriched a small and corrupt ruling elite and left the majority of the population below the poverty line.

  • 72 King, the Ghost of Freedom, p. 230. See also Stephen Jones (2002) “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow…Ge (...)

75Georgia repeatedly ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, stealing or squandering foreign aid and discrediting international assistance in the eyes of the public. Enormous resources were put in a country of less than five million people and no improvement in the quality of life was seen. In the eleven years of Shevardnadze’s rule the U.S. government spent almost a billion dollars, making Georgia per capita one of the largest recipients of its aid.72 The World Bank had projects worth over $100 million and other donors, including the EU, were no less generous. Despite all this, Georgia never managed to overcome a serious energy crisis, suffering from power cuts and gas shortages each winter. The tax revenues were at an abysmal level with public services severely underfunded, a health care system destroyed, and the quality of education plummeting. The government was effectively bankrupt while its individual members were amassing wealth, building villas, and investing in private businesses.

76Shevardnadze’s tenure, therefore, showed mixed results. On the one hand, he brought to Georgia a degree of stability and international recognition; on the other hand he consolidated clan interests, allowed the unrestricted enrichment of his family members, and the flourishing of the black economy. In stark contrast to his predecessor, he did not exploit nationalistic tendencies and steered away from nationalist propaganda. At the same time, however, he made no particular effort to confront the nationalist legacy and build civic Georgian identity, integrating national minorities and improving interethnic relations. His regime was neither particularly authoritarian nor repressive, however, elections were marred with irregularities and a general process of democratization stalled. He managed to maintain relatively normal, working relations with Russia while simultaneously boasting about Georgia’s “Western orientation” and international support.

77Disappointment with the ruling elite began to manifest itself in two main ways. Young reform-minded professionals who stood by Shevardnadze upon his return began to abandon him and slowly form the basis for a powerful opposition movement that would eventually topple his regime in the so-called Rose Revolution. Among other segments of the Georgian society, the disillusionment began to manifest itself in a rising skepticism and discontent with Western involvement in Georgia, which came to be associated with a corrupt and ineffective regime. Small political parties with pro-Russian and anti-Western agenda began to emerge, voicing nostalgic views about Georgia’s better life in the union with Russia and reviving nationalistic discourse with marked anti-globalist overtones. For the first time, globalization began to figure prominently in public and political debates with frequent references to its arguably devastating consequences for Georgian culture and identity. The next section turns to a more detailed discussion of how political nationalism returned to Georgia in the period before and after the Rose Revolution.

4.3.3 Phase C: Competing Variants of Nationalism

78During the last few years of Shevardnadze’s governance, nationalism reemerged in Georgia with a peculiar, ethnoreligious character. As already mentioned, appropriation of the pro-Western discourse by the ruling elite under Shevardnadze created a degree of backlash, giving rise to nationalist tendencies with clearly anti-Western and more specifically anti-globalization focus. In addition, emerging nationalist discourse began to center on religion and more specifically on the Georgian Orthodox Church. Orthodox Christianity was portrayed as the fundamental pillar of the Georgian identity, which needed special attention and protection in the context of globalization. Global conspiracy theories began to gain prominence with unidentified forces of globalization allegedly threatening national identity, religion, and the church.

  • 73 See OSCE Digest “Commission Staff Meet with Georgian Officials while Religious Persecution Persist (...)
  • 74 Alexander Chachia (2002) Ram Dagvghupa, Ra Gadagvarchens, Tbilisi, p. 189.

79One of the manifestations of globalization in Georgia as well as elsewhere was the appearance of foreign religious sects, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. They soon became portrayed as agents of a global, anti-Orthodox conspiracy and fell victim to verbal and sometimes physical attacks. The witch-hunting of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other non-Orthodox sects started in 1999 by one defrocked Orthodox priest. Over the following three years, the frequency and intensity of attacks increased significantly, triggering heated public debates about foreign cultural and religious influences and the role of Orthodox religion in the preservation of Georgian national identity. Nationalist figures, including parliamentarian Guram Sharadze, took center stage in these debates, organizing rallies in front of the U.S. Embassy and other headquarters of international agencies that had been critical of Georgia’s treatment of its religious minorities. Sharadze accused the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, Richard Miles, and other members of the international community of anti-Georgian actions and claimed that it was Georgians’ lawful duty to defend themselves from the “dangers” alien religious groups posed to the Georgian nation and its traditions.73 Other, more marginal political figures such as Alexander Chachia joined the debates, arguing that “religion is one of the most important factors of national consolidation and for this reason, globalists aim at destroying traditional religions. It is particularly evident in their fight against Orthodox religion, because the Orthodox Church is deeply national, while orthodox nations, as a rule, are very traditional, not easily susceptible to foreign influences, and are determined to preserve their unique identity and culture.”74

  • 75 Cited in Subeliani, “Saqartveloshi Religiuri Konpliktebisa da Religiuri Agresiulobis Zogierti Mize (...)

80Since the state became associated with globalization, the church began to emerge as an alternative center of power capable of balancing out corrupting, anti-national influences of globalizing state and its ruling elite. During one discussion of the proposed Law on Religion at Tbilisi State University, one Georgian parliamentarian from the Labor Party stated: “When large integrative processes threaten to overwhelm small nations, a special attention should be paid to our mother-church as the manifestation of our national particularity. The state should be accountable to the church; should be protective of the church and allow it to become the second best endowed organization after the state.”75

81The center of attention therefore moved from the national state to the national church, which was the new feature for Georgian nationalism traditionally preoccupied with the restoration and then preservation of statehood. The second new feature of the emerging nationalist discourse was the shift from Russia to globalization as a major source of threat to the Georgian nation. Consequently, many political groupings that were professing ethnoreligious ideas (Unity, Labor Party, etc.) also displayed a markedly pro-Russian political orientation, reviving Russia’s image of a traditional orthodox ally. The West has traditionally formed an integral part of the Georgian nationalist thinking, being portrayed as Georgia’s unavoidable destiny, as a promised land and as a source of inspiration. In that sense, anti-Western and anti-globalist characteristics of emerging ethnoreligious nationalism was a relatively new phenomenon.

  • 76 Chachia, Ram Dagvghupa. p. 185.

82The target of criticism and attack were not only the ruling elite but also those young reformists who, although standing in opposition to the government, represented an embodiment of Western influence in Georgia in the eyes of nationalists. Alexander Chachia and others openly accused them of being a “fifth column,” promoting interests of global actors and selling out their country. “People like our reformists,” he argued, “exist everywhere, in every country and their ascendance to power is an integral part of the globalization project. (…) They come to power with the help of unlawful, foreign forces and engage in the denationalization of the population, devastation of the state and its national economy, and transformation of the country into a colony.”76

83These reformers, however, enjoyed far greater popularity, political clout, and public support than ethnoreligious political entrepreneurs whose influence began to decline in proportion to the growing influence of the reformist opposition. Opposition groups, often headed by former Shevardnadze loyalists such as former Justice Minister Mikheil Saakashvili, challenged the incumbent in the 2003 parliamentary elections. Observer reports and exit polls soon revealed that election results were being manipulated in favor of Shevardnadze’s Citizens Union. This triggered large-scale street protests that eventually toppled the government in a peaceful confrontation known as the Rose Revolution in honor of protesters dispensing roses to police and armed guards. No shots were fired and Shevardnadze resigned, securing for himself peaceful retirement in Tbilisi.

84The Rose Revolution was modeled on peaceful demonstrations that brought down the Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. For some it represented a decisive victory for freedom and democracy in the increasingly authoritarian former Soviet Union, a victory that would inspire Ukraine’s Orange Revolution and Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution. For others, it was simply an unlawful change of a regime that would mark the return of a nationalist government in Tbilisi and the beginning of a new nadir in relations with Russia. Probably it was little bit of both.

  • 77 See David Kakabadze, “Five Years After the Rose Revolution: A Functioning State,” Radio Free Europ (...)

85In the elections following the Rose Revolution Mikheil Saakashvili was swept to power in a landslide victory, securing almost 90 percent of votes. His National Movement also won a clear majority in the parliament, receiving a popular mandate for the promised change. The new leadership, consisting of young, Western-educated professionals (the average age of the Georgian government was about 34 years) embarked on an ambitious project of transforming Georgia from an impoverished, corrupt, failing state into a modern, functioning and globalized state. The economy was liberalized, with large-scale selling of state owned assets to private, mainly foreign investors. A flat tax rate was introduced both to attract investments and stimulate tax collection. Economic restructuring soon yielded results, bringing to Georgia the record levels of foreign direct investments and a growth rate averaging 10 percent annually. One of the most corrupt institutions of the country—the road police—was abolished and replaced by the new police force, which to the amazement of the Georgian public was not taking bribes.77 Education reform was carried out, replacing extremely corrupt practice of entrance exams with standardized testing. The energy crisis was resolved and the country’s debilitated infrastructure began to be rebuilt. It is possible to say that in five years Georgia became a functional state.

86In pursuing his state-building ambitions, Saakashvili did not shy away from evoking nationalism the way his predecessor did. On the contrary, one of the first things he did in the government was to revamp national symbols. Georgia changed the flag, adopted a new anthem and reintroduced a largely abandoned practice of national celebrations with open display of national symbols. During his inauguration, Saakashvili made the point of visiting the tomb of the great medieval Georgian king who unified the country and is known as David the Builder. The symbolism of all this was not lost on Georgian observers, who quickly noted that the 36-year-old Saakashvili wanted to go down in history as Georgia’s great ruler and reformer. Most controversially, he tried to rehabilitate Gamsakhurdia and by doing so promoted national reconciliation and positioned himself as a president for not only the winners but also the losers (i.e. Gamsakhurdia’s supporters) of Georgia’s brief civil war.

  • 78 Mikheil Saakashvili (2007) Address to the conference “Dialogue between Globalization and Civilizat (...)

87Despite all this, Saakashvili’s nationalism cannot be seen as a mere revival of the Gamsakhurdia-style, militant ethnonationalism. It displayed markedly different characteristics, propagating a predominantly civic and inclusive conception of the Georgian nation and identity. He was the first leader of post-communist Georgia that openly appealed to Georgia’s alienated national minorities, promising them a state for all its citizens and not only for its ethnic majority, and in a symbolic gesture, even spoke in minority languages on several occasions. He often emphasized his determination to protect rights of national minorities and combat engrained stereotypes and discriminatory practices. In his passionate style, Saakashvili proclaimed, “for those who hate Azeris, I am an Azeri and for those who dislike Armenians, I am an Armenian. Not long ago, I discovered that I am an Ossetian and I am ready to be one, I am ready to be a Jew and at the same time, remain one hundred percent Georgian.”78

  • 79 See Brian Whitmore, “The War at Home—Unity, Nationalism and Brava-do in Georgia,” available at htt (...)

88Not only did the discourse towards national minorities change, but also policies adopted by the state changed accordingly. In 2005, Georgia ratified the Council of Europe’s Framework Convention on National Minorities and began an extensive period of cooperation with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities in both securing minority rights and promoting their integration into the mainstream Georgian society. More material resources have been allocated for the economic development of minority-populated areas and for the improvement of infrastructure, particularly the road infrastructure better connecting these areas to the capital and other parts of the country. In other words, Saakashvili has worked hard to transform Georgia’s ethnocentric and folkloristic tradition of nationalism into a more liberal, multiethnic, and civic-based patriotism.79 The result has been the acceptance and recognition of minority rights as legitimate at least at the government level and the emergence of official discourse emphasizing common citizenship as opposed to ethnic identity as the basis for the Georgian state. At the societal level, however, results have been more mixed since five years are not enough to dismantle the tradition of ethnic nationalism that runs deep in Georgian society since the Soviet era.

89Another feature of Saakashvili’s nationalism is its clearly pronounced pro-Western and pro-globalization character. In contrast to the ethnoreligious nationalism which emerged in Georgia around the same time as did Saakashvili and which emphasized the need to protect Georgia from influences of globalization, Saakashvili propagated the need for the greatest possible engagement with globalization. Even though the notion of the West has traditionally been part of Georgian nationalist thinking, Saakashvili revived Georgia’s Western ideal and brought it to a whole new level. For the first time, global multinationals other than oil companies began entering the Georgian market, with global hotel chains shaping the landscape of not only the capital but also of coastline towns and accommodating growing number of tourists. Saakashvili tried to secure recognition of Georgia’s Western aspirations through accession to NATO and the EU. Five years ago, any talk about Georgia’s NATO accession would have been laughable, but in 2007 a NATO summit declared support for Georgia’s eventual membership in the alliance. Saakashvili’s nationalism, in sum, was one of the strongest globalizing forces Georgia ever knew.

  • 80 Ghia Nodia, “Georgian President’s Record Mixed When Judged Against Ambitious Goals,” available at (...)

90Despite definite achievements, Saakashvili’s record remains mixed and his political future uncertain. His governance style, which can be summed up as the “I know better” approach, soon began to attract criticism. He concentrated too much power in the hands of the president and by doing so, undermined the democratic decision-making process. He has curtailed freedom of the media and began to dominate all branches of governance including the judiciary. According to Ghia Nodia, Saakashvili’s major mistake was to conclude that with the Rose Revolution Georgia’s democratization has already been achieved and as a result, consolidation of democratic institutions was no longer seen as a priority.80 After brutally dispersing a protest rally calling for his resignation in November of 2007, Saakashvili was forced to declare early presidential elections as a test case for his popularity. He managed to ride the storm, winning with only 53 percent of votes and losing Tbilisi to the opposition candidate. The biggest test, however, to his presidency and to the Georgian state in general came in August 2008, when a brief war between Russia and Georgia erupted over Georgia’s breakaway province of South Ossetia.

  • 81 Svante Cornell and Frederick Starr (eds.) (2009) The Guns of August: Russia’s War in Georgia, New (...)

91The immediate trigger of the war was Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia in response to the increasing shelling of Georgian villages by South Ossetian militias. The Georgian authorities were provoked into an arguably ill-conceived attempt to restore Tbilisi’s control over the province. The underlying cause, however, has been the dramatic deterioration of Russia–Georgia relations since Saakashvili came to power with his Westernizing and globalizing agenda. Saakashvili’s Georgia became one of the biggest irritants for Russia in the near abroad, challenging Russia’s traditionally considered sphere of influence. Russia therefore was well prepared to quickly respond to Georgia’s offensive in South Ossetia, pouring its tanks, troops, and aircraft into the country and embarking on a punitive operation called “enforcement of peace.” Russian forces swiftly occupied both South Ossetia and Abkhazia and moved deeper into Georgian territory, blockading the vital port of Poti, occupying Georgian towns such as Gori, destroying infrastructure and blocking the main east–west highway. The Georgian military—trained and equipped with U.S. assistance and being the pride of Saakashvili’s reign—was quickly defeated and humiliated.81

92Under heavy international pressure, a ceasefire was signed and Russia slowly began to withdraw from the occupied zones with the exception of the breakaway provinces and their immediate surroundings. Russia probably expected Saakashvili’s government to fall but, in the face of a foreign invasion, Georgians rallied around the president in an almost theatrical display of national unity and defiance. However, as soon as Russian tanks retreated, Saakashvili had to face difficult questions from both domestic opposition and outside powers. A number of senior political figures who once were his close allies began to distance themselves from the government and join the swelling ranks of opposition. At the moment of writing this book, both Saakashvili’s legacy and his political future remains uncertain.

  • 82 “A Scripted War,” The Economist, Aug. 16–22, 2008.

93In the August war, Georgia received a bitter lesson in the realpolitik, learning that globalization is no protection from power politics. The fact that Russia did not invade the whole of Georgia, inflicting even greater damage, but instead pulled back its forces after achieving some immediate objectives, was the result, at least partly, of international pressure. Georgia has never seen so many foreign dignitaries visiting the country as in the first month following the war. As one of the publications aptly noted, the lobby of Tbilisi’s main hotel resembled a United Nations conference.82 Nevertheless, the Georgian government should have known that in risking a major confrontation with a powerful regional player such as Russia, no tangible Western support was to be expected. Not only was Georgia effectively dismembered by Russia in violation of basic principles of international law, but also its population was ethnically cleansed from the entirety of South Ossetia and parts of Abkhazia. Russia got away with it all, signaling its wish to reclaim its sphere of special interests and have these interests recognized and respected by others. Georgia on the other hand, had to pay a high price for pursuing interests that clashed with those of a powerful neighbor and for once again getting trapped into the nationalist paradigm. The fact that globalization was an integral, if not the defining part, of the Georgian nationalist project did not help and arguably worsened the predicament in which modern Georgia found itself, pitting Georgia against resurgent and increasingly nationalist Russia.

4.4 Conclusion

94The Georgian case is one example of how post-communist nationalism has evolved over time, what transformations it has experienced, and how it has engaged with forces of globalization. Based on this chapter, several conclusions can be drawn regarding the relationship between globalization and contemporary nationalism. First, the strength of nationalism as a political force fluctuates and this fluctuation does not necessarily correlate with the strength of globalization. Post-communist Georgian nationalism went through phases of dramatic upsurge, relative decline, revival, and transformation. When nationalism in Georgia was at its most militant—i.e. in the early 1990s—the impact of globalization was marginal. The phase of national fundamentalism coincided with Georgia’s isolation from global influences, both physical and ideational. With increasing globalization, political nationalism in Georgia experienced both relative decline and relative liberalization.

95Second, the nature and character of nationalism changes and evolves. In Georgia, these changes did occur in correlation with globalization. It is common to see Georgian nationalism, and post-communist nationalism in general, described in terms of its characteristics from the early 1990s. The change, however, has been dramatic and it is important to detect and recognize it in order to better assess the nature and power of nationalism in the region. If one compares Gamsakhurdia’s nationalism with that of Saakashvili’s nationalism, one may conclude that on the whole the change has been for the better. Post-communist nationalism in Georgia started out as one of the biggest challenges to the democratization of the country, legitimizing mistreatment of minorities, abolishing autonomies, purging alternative ideologies, and promoting exclusive, ethnocentric views of nationhood. Most of these views have by now been discredited and the nationalist discourse has developed more inclusive, civic, and multiethnic overtones. The transformation of Georgian nationalism, which I should add is not complete, has occurred alongside and in connection with the growing influences of globalization.

96Third, causes for the rise and decline of nationalism in Georgia have been largely endogenous. The causes for its transformation, however, have been both endogenous and exogenous, and can be linked with globalization. The dramatic rise of nationalism immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union has taken many observers by surprise; however, its seeds were already planted by the Soviet institutionalization of the principle of nationality and the development of regime-sanctioned quasi-nationalism. The restructuring and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet state created permissive conditions for the politicization and revival of pre-existing forms of nationalism, which in the case of Georgia was described as folk nationalism. It did not take long to reveal devastating consequences of radical Georgian nationalism for the integrity and viability of the independent Georgian state. The disappointment with the nationalist regime contributed to the significant decline of nationalism as a political force. The causes of both rise and decline of political nationalism in Georgia, therefore, were largely domestic and had little connection with globalization and its influences.

97The transformation of Georgian nationalism and the emergence of two competing varieties—such as ethnoreligious, populist nationalism and more moderate, liberal nationalism—can be linked to globalization and its effects on the Georgian society. Anti-globalist, ethnoreligious nationalism that emerged in Georgia at the end of the 1990s closely resembles the new nationalisms of globalization theorists. It has developed as a defensive reaction and a response to the threat of globalization for the Georgian culture and identity. It has a clear ethnoreligious focus and appears as both parochial and intolerant of others. It has no forward-looking, emancipatory, or state-building agenda. Instead it is focused on the critique of the existing system and thrives on the accumulation of popular grievances and resentments.

98Nevertheless, some features distinguish Georgian ethnoreligious nationalism from the new nationalisms as described in the globalization literature. First of all, even though it appears to respond to Georgia’s globalization, the underlying causes of its appearance and popular support, however limited, were clearly linked with domestic problems such as corruption of the ruling elite, poverty, and mismanagement of resources. Since the discredited regime monopolized pro-Western and pro-globalization discourse, the West also became the target of popular resentment. Secondly, ethnoreligious nationalism in Georgia was not purely culturally devoid of political ambitions. It was propagated not only by social groups, individuals, and priests but also by political parties with a clear pro-Russian political orientation. In defending Georgian identity, even ethnoreligionists were not advocating Georgia’s isolation and non-engagement with others, their preference lay in continuing partnership with Russia as opposed to the West. Finally, ethnoreligious nationalism in Georgia, albeit very vocal and visible, was not only a marginal but also a temporary phenomenon. Ethnoreligious nationalism quickly lost out to the emerging nationalism of Saakashvili and his National Movement. Its political popularity as well as visibility declined in almost a direct proportion to the rise of the National Movement.

99Saakashvili’s nationalism, as already discussed, was very different not only from its contemporary ethnoreligious nationalism but also from the Georgian nationalism of Soviet and post-Soviet periods. The traditional emphasis on ethnicity and Orthodox religion as main markers of the Georgian nationhood gave way to the focus on the civic understanding of a nation, with an emphasis on cultural and religious tolerance. The reasons for relative liberalization of Georgian nationalism are several and include: disappointment with the nationalist regime of the early 1990s; state failure; national mobilization of minority groups and assertion of their rights; and recognition and relative stabilization of Georgia’s independence. One of the main sources, however, of the ongoing transformation of Georgian nationalism is linked to globalization and its influences. Growing international involvement and exposition of the Georgian society and its leaders to international norms, rights, and rules of international society contributed to the liberalization and deradicalization of Georgian nationalism. Saakashvili and his followers are themselves products of globalization. They benefited from the opening of borders after the end of communism—traveling, living, and studying abroad for long periods of time. With growing globalization, an increasing number of Georgians became socialized in different norms and exposed to different cultures and practices. As a result, their nationalism may not have weakened but at least it has become more modern.

100One characteristic that Saakashvili’s nationalism shared with its predecessors was the “Western ideal” and the belief that Georgia belongs to the Western cultural and political space. As this chapter demonstrated, the West can be seen as one of the national myths of Georgia, forming an important part of national discourse both in the 19th and 20th centuries. Even the most militant of Georgian nationalists never believed in isolation for the purpose of cultural preservation, instead they advocated engagement with the West as a way towards protection and survival of the Georgian nation and identity. However, in contrast to Gamsakhurdia and his followers, Saakashvili knew better how to achieve this goal, not least through the use of international PR companies and foreign advisers. His government, which can be described as nationalist, has become one of the most consistent globalizing forces, advocating for and aiding Georgia’s incorporation into global processes. It can be concluded that the relationship between forces of globalization and nationalism in Georgia has predominantly been that of alliance rather than clash and opposition.


1 See Miroslav Hroch (1985) Social Preconditions of National Revival in Europe, New York: Cambridge University Press.

2 Ronald Grigor Suny (1994) Making of the Georgian Nation, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, p. 123.

3 See Johann G. Herder (1969) J.G. Herder on Social and Politics Culture: A Selection of Texts, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

4 See Ilia Chavchavadze (1953) Sruli Krebuli, vol. 3, Tbilisi: Metsnierebata Akademiis Gamomtsemloba.

5 Stephen Jones (2005) Socialism in Georgian Colors: The European Road to Social Democracy 1883–1917, Cambridge Mass.: Harvard University Press, p. 37.

6 Ibid., p. 37.

7 Ibid.

8 Iakob Gogebashvili (1840–1912) was one of the early Georgian nationalists, founder of the Society for the Spread of Literacy Among the Georgians, active campaigner for education, and an author of a widely used textbook in the elementary Georgian grammar Deda Ena (Mother Tongue). For the arguments on autonomy and separatism, see Iakob Gogebashvili (1984) Rcheuli Natserebi, Tbilisi: Merani, vol. 3, p. 43.

9 See Iveria, 1905 Issues 7, 8, 9, 17.

10 Zurab Davitashvili (2001) Qartuli Natsionalizmi, Manuscript.

11 Jones, Socialism in Georgian Colors, pp. 2–3.

12 On the resettlement of foreigners and the rising resentments among the Georgians, see Uratadze Reminiscences of a Georgian Social Democrat, p. 24.

13 Iveria, 1905 Issue 38, p. 1.

14 For more on regional identities and differences in the Caucasus, see Charles King (2008) The Ghost of Freedom: A History of the Caucasus, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

15 See Ilia Chavchavadze Katsia Adamiani? (Is Man Human?), Bednieri Eri (Happy Nation), Ra Gitkhrat, Rit Gagakharot? (What can I say to make you happy) in Chavchavadze, Sruli Krebuli.

16 The most striking examples of such harsh criticism were found in the writings of Nikoloz Mitsishvili, Serghi Danelia, and Konstantine Kapaneli after the Bolshevik takeover in Georgia. Also discussed in Davitashvili, Qartuli Natsionalizmi, Manuscript.

17 Davitashvili, Qartuli Natsionalizmi.

18 Gogebashvili, Rcheuli Nacerebi, p. 76.

19 Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 140.

20 See the results of sociological surveys on Georgia’s partnership with Russia, in Alexander Rondeli (2003) Patara Sakhelmcipo Saertashoriso Sistemashi, Tbilisi: Metsniereba, p. 297.

21 King, The Ghost of Freedom, p. 163.

22 See Levan Sanikidze (1989) Mesame Dasis Sakartvelo, Tbilisi: Merani.

23 See Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation as well as Jones, Socialism in Georgian Colors.

24 Professor Suny also argued that Phase C in Georgia “did not see the unalloyed triumph of the nationalists but the emergence of liberal and Marxist alternatives.” See Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 141.

25 See Noe Zhordania (1990) Rcheuli Nacerebi, Tbilisi: Sakartvelo, where he wrote: “Georgian social democracy and the working class movement always had and continues to have one main enemy—Georgian nationalists. For them, defense of national rights is only a pretext, a shield to defend their class rights and interests…They all repeat the same thing ‘we work for the sake of the Georgian nation.’ In reality, however, for some of them ‘the Georgian nation’ means only the Georgian nobility, for others the Georgian bourgeoisie and for the rest—the peaceful union of all estates in support of capitalism.” p. 33.

26 Kvali, 1903, No. 22.

27 One of the most intensely debated issues in early 20th century Georgia was the preeminence of the national struggle over the class struggle. Social democrats argued against the subordination of individual and class interests to national ones, believing that emancipation in its every dimension should be carried out simultaneously. One of the most influential and prolific opponents of this view was Archil Jorjadze (1872–1911), a famous Georgian journalist and public figure educated in St. Petersburg, London, and Paris. He was a member of the Social Federalist Party and propagator of moderate nationalism. He actively criticized Social Democrats for their emphasis on class conflict and their enchantment with cosmopolitan as opposed to national ideals. He elaborated his own “theory of common action,” which stressed the importance of cross class national unity on the way towards national liberation. Jorjadze believed internationalism could only be achieved through nationalism. See Archil Jorjadze (1990) Samshoblo da Mamulishviloba, Tbilisi: Tbilisi University Press; also see Eduard Kodua (2001) Sotsiologiuri da Sotsialur-Pilosopiuri Naazrevi XX SaukunisPirveli Nakhevris Sakartveloshi, Tbilisi: Tbilisi University Press, pp. 25–29.

28 Erica Benner (1995) Really Existing Nationalisms, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 155.

29 The Transcaucasian Federal Republic was proclaimed on April 22, 1918 and existed until Georgia proclaimed its independence on May 26 of that year.

30 Ertoba, 1918, No. 49.

31 See Bor’ba, 1918, No. 153, 154, 155, and 156 also cited in Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 195.

32 Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 207.

33 See Richard Pipes (1997) Formation of the Soviet Union, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, p. 276.

34 The data is cited in Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 296.

35 Rogers Brubaker (1996) Nationalism Reframed, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 38.

36 See Ernest Gellner (1983) Nations and Nationalism, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, pp. 29–30.

37 Ibid., p. 35.

38 Ibid., p. 37.

39 Ibid., p. 38.

40 Suny, The Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 300.

41 King, The Ghost of Freedom, p. 208.

42 In the beginning of 20th century, it was common to debate about the origin of nations. Some argued that nations developed with states (including king doms) and can be found in medieval times as well (See Archil Jorjadze, Samshoblo da Mamulishviloba). The more common view, however, was that nations and nationalisms were recent constructs and came into existence after the French Revolution. (See Noe Zhordania Rcheuli Nacerebi, also newspaper Sakartvelo, 1918, no. 150). Later day nationalists, however, such as Gamsakhurdia, thought it was a mere insult to the Georgian nation to say that it was a 19th century construct (see Zviad Gamsakhurdia (1991) Tserilebi, Eseebi, Tbilisi: Khelovneba).

43 Magda Opalski (2001) “Can Will Kymlicka be Exported to Russia?” in Can Liberal Nationalism be Exported, Will Kymlicka and Magda Opalski (eds.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 312.

44 One of the most influential works written on ethnicity and the stages of its developments in the Soviet Union was by Lev Gumilev—the son of famous Russian poets Anna Akhmatova and Nikolai Gumilev. It was very original and a more literary rather than scholarly study, which gained even greater popularity after the Soviet collapse. It argued that different ethnicities (etnosi) depending on the landscape of their habitat, energy resources, and internal character or “passionism” (strastnost’) go through various stages of development and eventually die out. See Lev Gumilev (1990) Etnogenez y Biosfera Zemli, Leningrad: Gidrometeoizdat.

45 For the detailed discussion of Georgia’s national independence movement see Jonathan Aves (1992) “The Rise and Fall of the Georgian Nationalist Movement, 1987–1991” in Geoffrey Hosking, Jonathan Aves and Peter Duncan (eds.) The Road to Post-Communism, New York: St. Martin’s Press; also Svante Cornell (2001) Small Nations and Great Powers, London: Curzon.

46 These internal divisions soon took an organizational form: Gamsakhurdia and Kostava established the society of St. Ilia the Righteous; Irakli Tsereteli, the junior member of the society, formed the National Independence Party; and Ghia Chanturia founded the National Democratic Party. See Aves, “The Rise and Fall of the Georgian National Movement,” p. 159.

47 Suny, Making of the Georgian Nation, p. 323.

48 See Ghia Nodia (1996) “Political Turmoil in Georgia and the Ethnic Policies of Zviad Gamsakhurdia” in Contested Borders in the Caucasus, Bruno Coppieters (ed.), Brussels: VUB Press, also available at publi/ContBorders/eng/ch0201.htm.

49 14 political entities participated in the elections, Gamsakhurdia’s group Mrgvali Magida-Tavisupali Sakartvelo (Round Table-Free Georgia) received 55 percent of votes and the communists 25 percent. For the list of participants in the 1990 elections see Akhalgazrda Iverieli, October 28, 1990.

50 Having witnessed an overwhelming popularity of the oppositional nationalist parties, the communist decided to endorse the nationalist agenda and announced that “the communist party will participate in the upcoming elections as a qualitatively different national political entity determined to make ever greater contribution to the Georgian national movement.” From the Press Release of the Georgian Communist Party’s Program of National Development, see Akhalgazrda Iverieli, February 27, 1990.

51 King, The Ghost of Freedom, p. 165.

52 For more on Gamsakhurdia’s attitude towards national minorities, see Robert English (2008) “Georgia: The Ignored History,” The New York Review of Books, 55:17.

53 Orthodox Christianity was hailed as inseparable aspect of the Georgina national identity. Gamsakhurdia and many others frequently alluded to the importance of religiosity for a Georgian. One of the members of the national movement, Irakli Batiashvili, announced: “I believe it is my duty as a Georgian to be Christian.” See newspaper Literaturuli Sakartvelo, January 4, 1991.

54 For example, see newspaper Droni, August 16, 1991 in which Temur Pipia argued that “one of the biggest achievements of the national movement in Georgia was to elevate national above all and especially above the social concerns.”

55 See Akhalgazrda Iverieli, July 14, 1990.

56 Merab Mamardashvili cited in Kipiani, Erovnuli Khasiati da Ganvitareba, p. 89.

57 Michnik, Adam (1991) “Nationalism,” Social Research, 58:4.

58 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, p. 46.

59 Stephen Jones (1997) “Georgia: The Trauma of Statehood,” in New States, New Politics, Ian Bremmer and Ray Taras (eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 511.

60 The Transcaucasian Railway project was one of the first triggers of national discontent in 1986–87. It was argued that the railway would damage the environment, threaten historical monuments, and undermine the traditional lifestyle of the Georgian highlanders. Demonstrators also protested at linking Georgia more closely to Russia and potentially encouraging the immigration of non-Georgians. For more on the railway debate see Jonathan Aves (1991) Paths to National Independence in Georgia, 1987–1990, London: School of Slavonic and East European Studies; also Stephen Jones (1989) “The Caucasian Mountain Railway Project: A Victory for Glasnost,” Central Asian Survey, Vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 47–59. After the railway project was abandoned, discontent was triggered by Russian military exercises damaging the architectural monument Davit Gareja. Student demonstrations followed and even though the military base was not removed, the damaging training exercises decreased significantly.

61 Even though according to the 1989 census results non-Georgians comprised only 30 percent of the total population, press reports from 1988–91 depicted the demographic situation in Georgia as catastrophic, based on low birth rates among Georgians and high birth rates among minorities. A conference of the National Independence Movement held in March of 1990 issued a special resolution on Georgia’s demographic situation. The resolution argued that a demographic takeover by non-Georgian population formed part of Moscow’s anti-Georgian plot. See Akhalgazrda Komunisti, March 17, 1990. The Supreme Soviet issued decrees encouraging Georgian mothers to have more children. See Akhalgazrda Komunisti, March 20, 1990.

62 It became common to portray national minorities as a potential “fifth column” to be exploited by the Kremlin against Georgia and its interests. Non-Georgians, it was argued, took over the best of Georgia’s lands and Georgians felt unjustly discriminated against on their own territory. See for example the speech of Zviad Gamsakhurdia at the Supreme Soviet session on March 17, 1990; also see Stephen Jones “Georgia: the Trauma of Statehood.”

63 For example in September of 1990, the nationalist political grouping Round-Table held a special meeting to address the import of contaminated products to Georgia from Russia, Ukraine, and Byelorussia after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The meeting demanded immediate cessation of trade relations with these republics or imposition of strict import controls, in order to stop the Kremlin’s biological war against the Georgian nation. See “Eri Janmrteli Rom Ikos” in Akhalgazrda Iverieli, September 6, 1990.

64 Nodia, “Political Turmoil in Georgia,” p. 4.

65 See Natalie Sabanadze (2001), “International Involvement in the South Caucasus,” ECMI Working Papers available at

66 Strobe Talbott (1997) “A Farewell to Flashman: American Policy in the Caucasus and Central Asia,” Address made on July 21, 1997. Available at p. 2.

67 King, The Ghost of Freedom, p. 229.

68 Sozar Subeliani (2000) “The Failure of Georgia’s National Idea,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Caucasus Service, No. 16, available at

69 Ibid., p. 1.

70 Ibid.

71 Rondeli, “The Forces of Fragmentation in the South Caucasus,” p. 72.

72 King, the Ghost of Freedom, p. 230. See also Stephen Jones (2002) “Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Tomorrow…Georgia’s Endless Transition.” CCAsP News letter, Issue 2, avaiable at

73 See OSCE Digest “Commission Staff Meet with Georgian Officials while Religious Persecution Persists,” available at digest-id=42.

74 Alexander Chachia (2002) Ram Dagvghupa, Ra Gadagvarchens, Tbilisi, p. 189.

75 Cited in Subeliani, “Saqartveloshi Religiuri Konpliktebisa da Religiuri Agresiulobis Zogierti Mizezis Shesaxeb,” p. 28.

76 Chachia, Ram Dagvghupa. p. 185.

77 See David Kakabadze, “Five Years After the Rose Revolution: A Functioning State,” Radio Free Europe Commentary, Nov. 23, 2008, available at

78 Mikheil Saakashvili (2007) Address to the conference “Dialogue between Globalization and Civilizations,”

79 See Brian Whitmore, “The War at Home—Unity, Nationalism and Brava-do in Georgia,” available at August 11, 2008.

80 Ghia Nodia, “Georgian President’s Record Mixed When Judged Against Ambitious Goals,” available at January 24, 2009.

81 Svante Cornell and Frederick Starr (eds.) (2009) The Guns of August: Russia’s War in Georgia, New York: M. E. Sharpe.

82 “A Scripted War,” The Economist, Aug. 16–22, 2008.

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