Georgia for Georgians
||This article lends undue weight to certain ideas, incidents, or controversies. (April 2009)|
For ethnic Georgians, the doctrine represented their independence from the Soviet Union, whilst for non-Georgian citizens of Georgia it represents the diminishing of their political and cultural rights within the Georgian state, creating an environment whereby the ethnic minority groups in Georgia are made to feel privileged that they are allowed to live on Georgian territory, and is in part responsible for conflicts which permeate Georgia today.
Gamsakhurdia himself said he had never "proclaimed" the slogan and referred to it as "a cynic invention of Moscow's propaganda machine". One of Gamsakhurdia citations, concerning the demographic situation of Georgia's Kakheti region, was "[subversive minorities] should be chopped up, they should be burned out with a red-hot iron from the Georgian nation.... We will deal with all the traitors, hold all of them to proper account, and drive [out] all the evil enemies and non-Georgians...!"
Whilst both Gia Chanturia and Merab Kostava have been credited with its authorship, the slogan first appeared in April 1989 when political rallies were held in Tbilisi in the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic against Soviet rule. Along with other slogans such as "The Soviet Union is the Prison of Nations" and "Long Live a Free, Democratic Georgia", "Georgia for Georgians" was the most famous, and worked to attract large crowds to the nationalist demonstrations. In 1993, Zviad Gamsakhurdia denied ever having "proclaimed" the slogan and dismissed it as an "invention of the Moscow's propaganda machine", at the same time accusing the Western mass media of repeating "in full the elaborate lies of Soviet propaganda". Zviad's son, Konstantine Gamsakhurdia, also maintained that his father never actually said the slogan, and claimed the South Ossetia issue was not about nationality but politics.
On 26 May 1991, Gamsakhurdia was elected first President of Georgia with a landslide victory of 86%. Gamsakhurdia's electoral platform proposed measures to "protect" the Georgian state and ethnos:
- Mixed marriages would be discouraged,
- Citizenship restricted to people who could prove residence prior to Russia's annexation of Georgia in 1801,
- Property rights would be limited to people who voted for national independence in a referendum in April,
- "Georgia for Christian Georgians" was promoted, despite the official separation of church and state.
Gamsakhurdia based his ethnic policy on distinguishing between those in Georgia he labeled "indigenous" and "settlers", or "temporary guests", which led Soviet dissident and academic Andrey Sakharov to call Georgia the "little empire". The more than 1.5 million ethnic minorities who lived in Georgia were to considered to be the major threat to the Georgian people, which also resulted in anti-Islamic propaganda being published in the media. In 1989 Gamsakhurdia proclaimed "Today, we are facing a serious problem. Tatars, Armenians and Ossetians have risen to their feet. We must save from foreigners Kakhetia – our holy land!" 
Gamsakhurdia claimed the slogan was directed against the Soviet domination of Georgia.
Once in power, much of the extreme nationalist agenda was put aside, and he frequently sought to reassure minorities that existing political-administrative system would not be changed without the consent of the respective groups and that the cultural rights of all ethnic groups would be respected. In July 1991, the Parliament of Georgia adopted a law granting citizenship to almost all residents of Georgia.
Effect on Ossetians
At a political rally in 1989 in the village of Eredvi, Gamsakhurdia described the Ossetian people as "trash that has to be swept out through a tunnel", and in 1991 told foreign reporters that Georgia's Ossetians were unwanted "guests" who should "go back" to North Ossetia. He claimed, "in Georgia, there are Ossetians, but no Ossetia".
This policy resulted in the decision of the South Ossetian parliament in 1989 to declare its intent to unite with North Ossetia as part of the Russian Federation, resulting in the revocation of South Ossetia's autonomy and the merger of the region by the Georgian authorities to Shida Kartli (literally "Interior Georgia").
Effect on Abkhazians
In Georgia, the slogan Abkhazia is Georgia was also used, although Georgia for Georgians was the more popular. Protesters at mass rallies in 1989 demanded the abolition of autonomy for Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Gamsakhurdia told West Georgians in an address that he planned to assimilate or oust Abkhazians from their land. Liana Kvarchelia claims his policies found little criticism in the Georgian community, rather the image painted by Gamsakhurdia of an enemy united Georgian society in the midst of internal political struggle. The policy was one catalyst which led to Chairman of the Abkhaz Supreme Soviet Vladislav Ardzinba to declare "Abkhazia is for Abkhazians", which in turn provoked the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Abkhazia.
Effect on other nationalities
The Meskhetian Turks who during the Great Patriotic War were deported by Joseph Stalin to Central Asia, were unable to return to Georgia under the "Georgia for Georgians" policy. Svetlana Mikhailovna Chervonnaya in a report for the Federal Union of European Nationalities stated that although there was a small repatriation of Meskhetian Turks to the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in the 1970s and 1980s under Eduard Shevardnadze, Georgia for Georgians had led de facto to a second deportation from Georgia, and cited the example of a Meskhet settlement in the Zulukidse region which was destroyed in 1990, and has still not been rebuilt.
Doctrine in the post-Gamsakhurdia era
In October 2004 the political scientist Anna Matveeva wrote that nationalism in Georgia "continues to project a climate of 'Georgia for Georgians' where minorities are expected to feel privileged that they are allowed to reside on the territory of the Georgian state", and that although Georgia has substantial ethnic diversity, its "political culture is characterized by an exclusive ethnic nationalism so profound that minorities are not accepted as fully-fledged citizens of the country". In 2005 Mikheil Saakashvili, the then-President of Georgia, stated that Georgia for Georgians is a "poisonous nationalistic slogan" and he would implement a new policy which "declares Georgia the motherland of all its citizens." However, Georgian politician-in-exile Igor Giorgadze and Professor of Political Science at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations Andranik Migranyan alleged that the doctrine continued to be used by the political establishment in Georgia under Saakashvili.
- Placard reading: "Georgia for Georgians"
- Zviad Gamsakhurdia saying: "The Abkhaz nation doesn't exist"
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