Georgia for Georgians

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Georgia for Georgians was a political slogan and ethno-nationalist doctrine mistakenly attributed to Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the first President of the Republic of Georgia, and his supporters.[1][2][3]

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,[4][5] creating an environment whereby the ethnic minority groups in Georgia are made to feel privileged that they are allowed to live on Georgian territory,[6][7][8] and is in part responsible for conflicts which permeate Georgia today.[9]

Gamsakhurdia himself said he had never "proclaimed" the slogan and referred to it as "a cynic invention of Moscow's propaganda machine".[10] 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...!"[11][12]

Gamsakhurdia era[edit]

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.[4][13] 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.[4] 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".[14] 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.[15]

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:[16][17][18][19]

  1. Mixed marriages would be discouraged,
  2. Citizenship restricted to people who could prove residence prior to Russia's annexation of Georgia in 1801,
  3. Property rights would be limited to people who voted for national independence in a referendum in April,
  4. "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".[20] The more than 1.5 million ethnic minorities who lived in Georgia were considered to be the major threat to the Georgian people, which also resulted in anti-Islamic propaganda being published in the media.[20] 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!" [21]

Gamsakhurdia claimed the slogan was directed against the Soviet domination of Georgia.[22]

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.[22]

Effect on Ossetians[edit]

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",[23] and in 1991 told foreign reporters that Georgia's Ossetians were unwanted "guests" who should "go back" to North Ossetia.[16] He claimed, "in Georgia, there are Ossetians, but no Ossetia".[24]

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,[20] 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").[20][25]

Effect on Abkhazians[edit]

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 portrayed by Gamsakhurdia of an enemy united Georgian society in the midst of internal political struggle.[8] 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.[20]

Effect on other nationalities[edit]

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 not been rebuilt.[26]

Azeris, numbering 300,000+, received no representation in the Georgian parliament, and many were forced to move from the land on which they had lived for centuries.[20]

Doctrine in the post-Gamsakhurdia era[edit]

In October 2004 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".[6] 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."[27] 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.[28][29]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Nodia, Ghia, Political Turmoil in Georgia and the Ethnic Policies of Zviad Gamsakhurdia, in: Bruno Coppieters (ed., 1996), Contested Borders in the Caucasus. Vrije Universiteit Brussel Press, ISBN 90-5487-117-2
  2. ^ Chervonnaya, Svetlana. "The Problem of the Repatriation of the Meskhet-Turks". Minority Electronic Resources. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  3. ^ Eckel, Mike (24 August 2008). "War frays a patchwork of Georgians, Ossetians". Khetagurovo: Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-09-13. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b c Kaufman, Stuart J. (2001). "Georgia and the Fears of Majorities". Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic Politics of Ethnic War. Ithaca, New York; London: Cornell University Press. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-0-8014-8736-1. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  5. ^ Iltis, Tony (23 August 2008). "Nationalism, revolution and war in the Caucasus". Green Left Weekly. Archived from the original on September 28, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  6. ^ a b Matveeva, Anna (October 2004). Minorities in the South Caucasus. Sub-regional Seminar - Minority Rights: Cultural Diversity and Development in Central Asia. Bishkek: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. pp. 2–16. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  7. ^ Dzugayev, Lev (15 March 2007). "Georgia in NATO? This will be a different story". Moscow: RIA Novosti. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  8. ^ a b Kvarchelia, Liana (June 2001). "Georgia-Abkhazia Conflict: View from Abkhazia" (PDF). Demokratizatsiya. Retrieved 2009-03-10. [dead link]
  9. ^ Sriram, Chandra Lekha; Wermester, Karin; International Peace Academy (2003). "Javakheti, Georgia: Why Conflict Prevention?". From Promise to Practice. Matveeva, Anna. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-58826-112-0. OCLC 50868195. Retrieved 2008-09-14. 
  10. ^ Gamsakhurdia, Zviad (1993), "The Nomenklatura Revanche in Georgia". Soviet Analyst, vol. 21, # 9-10: 6. (Snippet view from Google Books)
  11. ^ Modern hatreds. By Stuart J. Kaufman
  12. ^ Georgia: The Ignored History. By Robert English
  13. ^ Диссидентство с разными лицами или почему Саакашвили не Дубчек? (in Russian). Hayinfo. 22 August 2008. Archived from the original on September 28, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  14. ^ Gamsakhurdia (1993), ibid (Snappet view from Google Books)
  15. ^ Rimple, Paul (2 April 2007). "Georgia buries a president, but not the past". EurasiaNet. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  16. ^ a b Brooke, James (2 October 1991). "As Centralized Rule Wanes, Ethnic Tension Rises Anew in Soviet Georgia". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  17. ^ Barry, Ellen (6 September 2008). "Soviet Union's Fall Unraveled Enclave in Georgia". Tskhinvali: New York Times. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  18. ^ Hughes, James; Sasse, Gwendolyn (2001-11-01). "Multinationality, Regional Institutions, State-Building, and the Failed Transition in Georgia". Ethnicity and Territory in the Former Soviet Union. Duffy Toft, Monica (1st ed.). Routledge. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-7146-5226-9. Retrieved 2008-09-14. 
  19. ^ Goltz, Thomas (2006). "The Silver Fox". Georgia Diary: A Chronicle of War and Political Chaos in the Post-Soviet Caucasus. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 48–55. ISBN 978-0-7656-1710-1. OCLC 63187439. Retrieved 2008-10-01. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f Bourdeaux, Michael (1995). "Religion and Politics in the Caucasus". The Politics of Religion in Russia and the New States of Eurasia. Kurbanov, Rafik Osman-Ogly; Kurbanov, Erjan Rafik-Ogly. Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe. pp. 236–237. ISBN 1-56324-357-1. OCLC 31330558. 
  21. ^ Aris Kazinyan, "Own game" of Mikhail Saakashvili" Regnum, 09-09-2006
  22. ^ a b Dawisha, Karen & Parrot, Bruce (1997), Conflict, Cleavage, and Change in Central Asia and the Caucasus, pp. 170–171. Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521597315.
  23. ^ Markedonov, Sergey (29 August 2008). "Don't write Russia off yet!". Prague Watchdog. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  24. ^ How the South Ossetians Became 'Separatists'. NYT
  25. ^ Abayev, Vasso (20 May 1991). "Tragedy of South Ossetia. Excess of genocide". Moscow: South Ossetian part of the Joint Control Commission on the Georgian-Ossetian Conflict Resolution. Retrieved 2008-09-15. 
  26. ^ Chervonnaya, Svetlana (November 1998). "The Problem of the Repatriation of the Meskhet-Turks". Federal Union of European Nationalities. Retrieved 2009-03-10.  Archived at WebCite
  27. ^ Saakashvili, Mikheil (20 August 2005). "Eurasia: It Takes a Cultural Revolution". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  28. ^ Giorgadze, Igor (3 October 2006). "Georgia should be the Switzerland of the Caucasus". Taipei Times. Retrieved 2008-09-13. 
  29. ^ Migranyan, Andranik. "Georgia Propelling Its Disintegration" (PDF). Russia in Global Affairs. Moscow: Globus Publishing House. 4 (October–December 2004): 125. Retrieved 2008-09-14. [dead link]