I Am Georgian – Europe Begins Here and Now
The late ex-Prime Minister of Georgia, Zurab Zhvania, at the European Council session back in 1999, proudly said the following: “I am Georgian, therefore I am European.” The very wording by the then-Georgian Parliamentary Speaker mystified many in Georgia and outside as the country’s majority envisioned no alternative to their odious Northern neighbor, Russia.
Now it’s quite largely believed that since the Rose Revolution in 2003, Georgia, surprisingly to the masses, had reinvented and transformed itself from failed state to success story in the South Caucasus region. For a country whose name was frequently associated with the US state or Russia’s backyard, it was more than the making of an extra mile to sign the Association Agreement with the EU in June 2014.
Conversely, the country, on track to its cultural family, Europe, faced a myriad of setbacks and political unrests, experiencing debates and claims whether it was a bottom-up democracy, good governance, an attempt to ‘brainwash’ Georgian people or a real path, a path leading to a better, promising future for the long-captivated nation.
The European ambitions of the homeland of notorious Joseph Stalin was as unaccepted by Putin’s Russia as any kind of success possible for a South Caucasian or Eastern European, country. For this reason, the Russian government in 2008 sent their ‘Orthodox’ bombardiers, tanks and other heavy armor to Georgia to disrupt the country’s painfully built western path. However, Georgia transformed the dire event into an opportunity to further solidify its ambitions and empower more to get into NATO and the EU in a faster manner.
Europe on my mind – beyond the Association Agreement
While it is true that the obligations and standards set by the Association Agreement (AA) must be met, there is a lot the government and the public themselves should do. The AA formalities oftentimes give unsubstantiated reasons for some Russia-leaning parties in Georgia to claim that European states are trying to orchestrate processes in Georgia. In this rhetoric, those anti-westerners from the Soviet intelligentsia circles have engendered a term “Gapidarasteba” which means the West is trying to take the ‘manhood’ or ‘Georgian spirit’ from the ancient-rooting public. In fact, Russia’s information propaganda is clearly nontrivial in this opinion-making process.
Because it is Georgia’s cultural family, as the country is part of the Christian civilization and has fought grave wars and battles to reach the old continent. Europe, because it promises a better and secure future for Georgian children who need to make their own contributions to their country and world progress; because Europe has strongly determined that occupation in the 21st century is one of the most uncivilized actions and the very principles of freedom, equality and unity still matter. And because there are values people live for and have died for. Because…
Why Not Russia?
No statistical analyst is necessary to estimate the damage Russia has caused to Georgia in any period of history throughout two centuries of relations. Even the most biased historians are unable to recall any damage that Georgia has caused to Russia. Is this formula hard to comprehend? The facts that matter in the Georgian-Russian relations are Russia’s annexation of Georgia in the 19th century and subsequent termination of the autonomy of the Georgian Orthodox Church. In addition, the Bolshevik occupation of Georgia in 1921 did not end simply as 20 percent of the territory is under Russia’s current occupation. Innumerable things could be added. And Russia has no respect for independence, freedom or any kind of development.
Where do we go now?
For Georgians, this could be translated as a way to ask themselves: what do we need to make our lives better? Or more European? Or more developed? They could be synonyms for Georgians who really dream of a better country.
As the science of mathematics is exact in its philosophy, for Georgia, incorporating a simple arithmetic for securing a European path could be a good way. In fact, respecting the rule of law, learning more and educating future generations, cherishing science and rewarding the bright-minded could lead to a quite promising sum – the sum that equals to being among the developed nations of Europe or any other continent. And with that, finally, one can freely conclude: I am a Georgian – Europe begins here and now.
ZVIAD ADZINBAIA is an Analyst at Georgia Today, covering security, foreign policy, and the domestic politics of Georgia. He is affiliated with the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS).
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