Ethnic Minorities in Georgia: Problems and Resolutions

In this post you will find information about:

  1. Ethnic composition of Georgia
  2. Attitudes towards ethnic minorities
  3. Problems of ethnic minorities
  4. Governmental and non-governmental policies regarding ethnic minority rights

ALTHOUGH the statistics here include only data analyses of the citizens of Georgia and excludes foreign migrants who work and/or live in Georgia. The nationalities such as Turkish and Chinese represent considerable number there. Different attitudes and policies apply to this issue, so it might be a topic of the other post.

Ethnic composition of Georgia

Georgia is an independent state in the Black Sea region. It borders to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey. It is distinguished for unique location, rich cultural heritage and ethnic diversity – about 120 ethnic groups inhabit its territory.

Here is a map of ethnic composition of Georgia and their settlement areas (source: European Center for Minority Issues, Tbilisi Regional Office).

 

Ethnic map of Georgia

 

Brown color stands for Georgians, yellow – for Armenians, green – Azery population, blue color at the Northern border – for Ossetians, red- for Greeks, orange – for Kurd-Yezids, lime green – Ossetians, etc. As we can see, ethnic minorities mainly inhabit borderlines of the country.

According to census 2002, the following figures demonstrate representation of different ethnic groups (census excludes territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where de facto Georgian authority can’t be spread): Georgians represent majority of the population (83,75%), Azeries (6,51%), Armenians (5,69%), Russians (1,55%), Ossetians (0,87%), Abkhazans (0,08%), Greeks (0,35), Ukrainians (0,16%), Kists (0,16%), Yezids (0,42%), others – 0,45% (source: European Center for Minority Issues, Tbilisi Regional Office. Full statistics regarding ethnic groups, according their settlement area can be found here.

Ethnic minorities live both in capital city (Tbilisi) and regions, mainly at the borderlines. Ethnic Azeries inhabit territories near the border of Azerbaijan (Marneuli district), ethnic Armenianis – at the border of Armenia (Akhakalaki district). Mostly they have monoethnic compact settlements in the regions; although in some cases they appear integrated in a larger community (Mainly in Tbilisi and other urban areas with more miscellaneous ethnic composition). The largest minority groups – Armenians and Azeries have schools, newspapers, theater into their native language. But knowledge of state language (Georgian) is a real problem among them. In the Soviet era they used to communicate into Russian with peers of different ethnic origins. Though, when Georgia gained independence and Russian lost its dominant position as a language of interaction, integration of the minorities in the society became more difficult.

Attitudes toward ethnic minorities in Georgian society

In 2007 Youth Association for Social Sciences researched 4 main TV channels. Qualitative and quantitative methods were used to measure media policy regarding ethnic minority issues. More specifically, to find out attitudes towards Armenian and Azery ethnic minorities, as they represent the largest groups In Georgia. Additionally, project team interviewed journalists and program producers on ethnic minority issues.

“Totally, on all 4 channels about 70 topics was counted during 30 days (90% of that was in the News) that concerned with the questions of Azery and Armenian ethnical minorities, living in Georgia, or Armenia and Azerbaijan. Most of them concerned with two neighborhood countries as International News and not with the questions of ethnical minorities in Georgia (but during the research this information was marked as important for the target group). And if we add to this the fact that the most information concerning with regions densely populated with Armenians and Azeries, were affairs about border or crime, and if we exclude the same information broadcasted by various channels, we will see that on the leading Georgian TV channels interest and attention to the problems of Armenian and Azery population are extremely minimal.”

More detailed analysis, data and criteria you can find in the full version of the report here:

Ethnic_minorties_in_Georgian_infomaiton_sources._YASS_2007_report

Informal relations are different according to regions. In the urban areas ethnic minorities are more integrated in the society, that’s why interethnic relations are more settled and constructive. Friendships, even marriages are very common there. But in the regions, where a certain ethnic group has a separated settlement, and do not know Georgian, communication is complicated. There negative stereotypes can’t be beaten and they can lead to different aggressive actions.

Ethnic minorities’ problems in Georgia

As I indicated in my previous post, the main problem for ethnic minorities in Georgia is a language barrier. Most of them do not speak Georgian – the state language. That’s why they can’t communicate with other citizens, can’t understand information from main TV or radio channels. Thus they are becoming vulnerable group for hostile propaganda.

Language barrier causes other problem – inaccessible education. Ethnic minorities mostly get primary and secondary education on their mother tongues. Their knowledge of Georgian is so basic that they can’t pass exams in the universities. In order to get desired education, they migrate in other countries – Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. Due to this reason, they can’t get jobs in Georgia and unemployment level among ethnic minorities is high. Hard social-economic conditions also promote development of aggression and separatist ideas.

Due to these circumstances, ethnic minorities can’t realize their political rights. Among them you can find people who even do not know how to vote, or even how to express own political platform. Ethnic minorities are excluded from political participation – they have very small representation in the state agencies. Only few of them can be found on the level of local self-government; even fewer – on the higher political positions, in the government or parliament. I think that it’s one of the reasons why ethnic minorities can’t realize their rights. They can’t lobby own interests.

Governmental and Non-governmental policies regarding ethnic minority rights

Ethnic minority problems have different resolutions, depending on the decision-making institution. Governmental policy aims to work out large-scale approaches so that they could satisfy needs of all minorities.

Working Paper of European Center for Minority Issues (Tbilisi Office) identifies current or former institutions that are/were required to work on ethnic minority rights. Here they are:

  1. The State Minister for Reintegration Issues (and the State Minister on Conflict Resolution Issues)
  2. The Advisor to the President on Civil Integration Issues and the Civil Integration and Tolerance Council
  3. The Public Defender and the Council of National Minorities
  4. The Ministry of Education and Science
  5. The Ministry of Culture, Monument Protection and Sport
  6. The State Minister for Diaspora Issues
  7. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  8. The Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation
  9. The Ministry of Interior Affairs
  10. The Office of the State Minister for National Accord Issues
  11. The Department of Inter-Ethnic Relations and Civic Integration at the Administration of the President
  12. Parliamentary committees

The author discusses competences and activities of these agencies. It becomes evident that due to permanent reshuffles in the government, mixed competences and poor coordination significant results were not achieved.

Full version of the paper: ECMI_Institutions in Georgia for Governance of National Minorities

Although, National Concept for Tolerance and Civil Integration defines priorities, objectives and action plans in the period of 2009-2014. Main directions are: rule of law, culture and preservation of identity, social and regional integration, political integration and civil participation, media and access to information, education and state language. The document also defines responsible governmental agencies/persons for achievement of each goal; sets programs such as Georgian as a second language teaching program in non-Georgian language schools , Training for Georgian language teachers from Samtskhe-Javakheti and Kvemo Kartli non-Georgian language schools, Sending national minority representatives abroad to study on Bachelor’s and Master’s programs, news on public channels of TV and into minority languages (Abkhazian, Ossetian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Russian); support of periodicals of ethnic minorities; informational activities to raise awareness on ethnic minority rights; Provide professional retraining of national minorities and encourage their employment, Provide assistance to regional libraries, clubs and art schools, etc.

As we can see, Government of Georgia tries to establish large-scale policy mechanisms in order to provide development of ethnic minorities. Non-governmental sector has more specific target audience. They focus on a very certain geographic area, or age/social group. For example, International Society for Fair elections and democracy (ISFED) develops meetings, round tables in ethnic minority regions, in order to enhance their awareness about electoral process and voting procedure.

SIQA – Georgian Association for Educational Initiatives provides trainings for ethnic minority region in Gardabani (mainly Azeries), as well as film shows, discussions, excursions, environmental activities, etc.

 

Project Activities of SIQA

 

In 2007-2008 Youth Association for Social Sciences made researches and projects on the problems of ethnic minority youth. Inclusive round tables were held in Marneuli, Bolnisi, Akhalkalaki, Phkvenisi (Shida Kartli – South Ossetia), with active participation of the local youth. They discussed existing problems and policies. International training of the same organization “Strengthening of contacts in Europe for protection of ethnic minorities’ rights” aimed to identify common problems and their solutions in 10 countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Turkey, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova, Greece, Georgia, Ukraine.).

Friendship Bridge – Qartlosi worked in South Ossetia region. Project team organized informational sessions, sport tournaments, round tables, intellectual games, charity actions for the local youth and mixed families.

 

Football in Khurvaleti. Project - Youth of Shida Kartli for Peaceful Life

 

Intellectual game. Project - Youth of Shida Kartli for Peaceful Life

 

This is incomplete list of organizations and activities, which aim to promote personal and civil development of ethnic minorities in Georgia. There are even more actors with wider-range programs. Ethnic minority youth seems to be willing to learn state language – Georgian and actively participate in the social and political life of the country. Considering all the above-mentioned developments, it can be inferred that interethnic relations are trended to positive progress.

Questions to the reader: Do you have any experience regarding ethnic minorities? What would be your advice for positive changes? Do you think that programs and activities like these really matter and can bring desired results?

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2 responses to “Ethnic Minorities in Georgia: Problems and Resolutions

  1. soflebis mixedvit ar gaqvs ifno etnikur umciresobebze ?

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