International Centre: “For Peaceful Caucasus”
National Minorities in Georgia
Annex I: Statistics and Legislative Provisions on Minority
Issues 9 - 12
Annex II: Minority Groups in Georgia. History and Ethnography 12 - 33
Annex III: Emigration from Georgia. Ethnic Aspect 33 - 35
Annex IV: Information about Centre 35 - 36
PROBLEMS OF NATIONAL MINORITIES
There are various opinions in Georgia as to the necessity for further legislative
expansion in the field of minority rights protection, particularly, in relation to the
acceptance of a special law in this sphere.
One view is, that it is wrong to award this or that group of people, i.e. minorities, any
special rights, since all citizens of Georgia should have absolutely equal rights. It would
not assist in the formation of a common civil identity in the country, and would promote
group egoism. Even leaders of several minority communities share this opinion.
According to them, working out of special legislative acts on minority protection issues
gives rise to an inferiority complex in itself, and the concept of “national minority”,
itself, causes resentment.
It is also considered, that the presence of statements in the Constitution, ensuring
minority rights (Article 38), excludes the necessity for other regulations in the field.
Some experts think that the enforcement of a universal principle of non-discrimination
is sufficient guarantee of minority rights.
The hard economic situation is given as an argument, as to why the country is not able
to undertake positive measures.
The most extreme thinking is that the entitlement of minorities to special rights will
only deepen the process of disintegration in the country. There is no assimilation in
Georgia, but there is a problem with minority integration into social life. More
specifically, there is no danger for the minorities to lose their self-identity and their
native language in the country. At the same time many representatives of the minority
groups do not know the official state language. According to the supporters of this point
of view, an absurd situation arises, when some minority representatives construe a
request for a knowledge of the state language as an attempt of forcible assimilation. The
very notion of assimilation is considered to be negative by minorities. Though the
voluntary assimilation also exists. In advanced countries it is a normal phenomenon and
it accompanies the process of minority integration. Representatives of the national
minorities hardly have any problems in speaking the official state language in those
The point of view, that a tolerant attitude towards minorities traditionally exists from
ancient times in Georgia, is very characteristic. Hence, is it worth forming something,
that has been already worked out within the framework of tradition?
Moreover, is it reasonable to do this, if the community need for special laws regarding
minorities has not been stated?
In our opinion, whether there is a need for laws could be determined by in-depth
monitoring. As to tolerance, it is necessary to make distinctions between myth and
reality. The first, as it is known, has a way of varnishing reality. Certainly, the
importance of good and kindly traditions is beyond doubt, but their resources are
limited. We need to gain the taste for the more universal categories of legislation. It is
especially important in order to regulate such complicated issues, as relations between
Another point is that the development of minorities occurs in the context of the dialectic
process of formation of the civil consciousness. Their rights are regarded as special.
Those are not privileges, but an extra way of protecting the vulnerable groups of
population (women, children, elderly people, minorities, etc.). It occurs in the
interaction and unity with more general rights (human, civil and political rights).
Breakage of this unit can result in the isolation of minority groups, on the one hand, or
in the mistrust of the community towards them, on the other.
The presence of constitutional guarantees for minority rights does not exclude the
necessity for their development in the legislation.
Doubtless, it is necessary to take into account the harsh economic situation in the
country and not promise too much too early.
It is also noteworthy, that the concept, which must precede the lawmaking process in
the field of minority right protection, does not exist as yet.
There is no full agreement as to the definition of the term “national minority”. For a
long time the attitude towards it was unsophisticated. International law usually used the
term “ethnic minority”, meaning, first of all, a cultural unity, the aspiration to maintain
and develop its culture and individuality. According to the well-known expert, A. Eide,
the origin of this can be traced back to ethno-nationalistic understanding. It considers a
minority either as a part of a greater ethnic-nation, which has its statehood, or as an
ethnic-nation, living in a given country, representing numerically a small group, which
has not any form of statehood. The main dogma of the ideology, corresponding to such
understanding, is that the statehood and ethnic-national entity imply each other. This
view, at this most extreme, promotes certain groups of the population to revise
territories, reject common civil principles for the benefit of its own group ambitions.
They weaken loyalty to the country of residence in favour of another state, which is its
The temptation to apply the term “ethnic minority” in our legislative practice instead of
the traditional point “national minority” arises. But the word combination is not
important. The main is what semantics lie in them, whether there is a will not to adhere
ourselves to the above-mentioned ethno-national thinking or not.
By the way, the term “national minority” appears in the title of the Declaration on the
Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
In the Declaration it is underlined that national minorities should respect the territorial
integrity of the state. The main idea of this term is to distinguish the groups of
“nationals” i.e. the citizens of a country, to whom the provided rights are applicable, in
the same way as the rights and responsibilities of individuals without citizenship and
labour migrants are regulated by special legislation.
The problem stated is one common for the whole of international law. An example is
one of the last international conventions, the Framework Convention for the Protection
of National Minorities, adopted by the European Council in 1995. It does not contain
the definition concerned, though long debates regarding the formulation of the main
concept preceded its adoption.
The difficulty of the problems in the given field is that the minorities living in Georgia
significantly differ from one another in terms of number, type of residence (compact or
dispersed) and degree of integration into the social life of the country.
Even internally these groups are not heterogeneous. For example, the Greek Diaspora
consists of two groups: one speaking the Turkish language and the other – Modern
Greek. Azeris living in Kvemo Kartli and Shida Kartli also differ from each other. The
fact that they receive secondary education in different languages (in Georgian inShida
Kartli and in Azerbaijanian in Kvemo Kartli) plays a big role. There is a community
that has contradictions concerning self-identification (Kurds). Almost every minority
has a historical motherland whose connections to it allow it to solve problems
independently, whereas, in Georgia live Assyrian and Kurd minorities, not having any
historical motherland. Owing to that, they find themselves in a less favorable situation,
than other minorities.
The issue of the Georgian population, which composes a minority in places of compact
residences of the minorities in Djavakheti of Kvemo Kartli (the majority in a minority),
is very topical.
Densely inhabited groups are more protected, than those who are not; one reason being
that the state policy on the first group is implemented directly through local
Therefore one ponders over the development of a methodology for a different approach
to the problems. However, any discrimination is connected with a number of delicate
problems. The introduction of those or other criteria, such as, for example, “minority
group vulnerability degree” etc. is fraught with complications.
The conceptual problems reflect the practical ones.
Georgia was proud of the fact that there are hundreds of non-Georgian schools and
institutions for higher education in the country. Newspapers are published, cultural and
educational establishments function in minority languages, as do professional theaters.
The laws on education and culture adopted by Parliament intend to strengthen past
achievements. But the problems still persist, and quite a big number of them.
The chauvinistic rhetoric of Gamsakhurdia’s regime is still in our memory.
It is a fact that the minorities comprise a significant part of the emigrants from Georgia.
For example, about a half of the Greek population of Tsalka district left for its
homeland in the early 90s. Some politicians were about to construe the fact of the
emigration of representatives of ethnic minorities as a consequence of discrimination
towards them. Sociological surveys reveal that the main cause of this process was the
poor economic condition of the country, but not discrimination. However, emigration is
the factor that has put on the verge of extinction the unique communities of Dukhobors
Let us be frank, the number of members in the Parliament of Georgia, representing
national minorities, does not adequately reflect their real share in the population of the
country. Until recent times even the fact that some minorities resided densely did not
provide guarantees for them to be represented in legislative bodies, let alone those who
resided dispersal. The same applies to the representation of minorities in the bodies of
executive and judicial power.
There is a notable number of national schools in Georgia. However they are not
provided with a sufficient number of specialists. The educational process is
complicated also by fact that there are no textbooks and methodology literature, which
have to be imported.
One of the most complex areas, is language policy. A point of view exists, that in the
first place it is necessary to strengthen the infrastructure of the Georgian State language,
and that this has not received due attention in places densely inhabited by minorities.
But it is necessary to admit that this was not because of the wish of the population of
these regions, but because of the inability of the central authorities to strengthen the use
of the Georgian language there. So, while attempting to strengthen the state language,
authorities should take maximum care with regard to the minority language.
There is an opinion, that it is not realistic or profitable for the state to give
representatives of more than 100 minorities living in Georgia, the right to submit
applications to this or that body in their native language. Probably, it is necessary to
introduce a restrictive principle in this regard, retaining this right for those minorities,
which constitute not less than 0.5% of the whole population.
Quite real is the issue of the Russian language for Abkhazia and, partially, for the
Tskhinvali region. Granting special status to it in the constitution of the self-proclaimed
republic of Abkhazia is, perhaps, not only a display of political flattery, but also an
element of voluntary assimilation. At least, the Georgian legislators have orientation in
this field, which is the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
The problem of rehabilitation of the peoples affected by the repression - Meskhetians
and Germans - should be granted priority. Currently a bill is in the process of being
discussed. At the same time, there is no answer to the question - what is the status of
Meskhetians in Georgia? – Are they a sub-ethnicity, an ethnicity or religious and/or
language minority etc.. The question is topical, as it is necessary to determine legally
their status and the rights and responsibilities attached to them.
Hundreds of Azerbaijanians left for neighboring Azerbaijan after the conflict in Kvemo
Kartli in 1989. Most of them now strive to come back to their homes. The same
happened to the thousands of persons of Ossetian ethnic background who lost their
property, having left it after going abroad during the conflict in Shida Kartli.
It is of high topicality to study the problems of women in the regions with a Muslim
It is well known that good manners are scarcely inherent to the majority of officials, so
offenses against the national dignity of the minorities are not rare. Special regulations
must be adopted in regard to these problems.
It is obvious, that ethnic conflicts still persist in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is
correct to see a political background to them, but it is indisputable also that ethnic
hatred gives them a fiercer nature.
It should be noted that there are some politicians and representatives of the mass-media,
inclined to distinguish a loyalty degree of various national groups and regions to the
nation-wide interests. One example is the real or imaginary problem of Djavakheti.
Separatist slogans are applied by representatives of the local NGOs., and claims for
autonomous status are made by them.
The problems above mentioned can be arranged thus.
The first level of them is ethnic, when the issues are related to the provision of the
conditions for the preservation and development of cultures, language of minorities etc.
The second proposes turning the traditional problem of ethnic minority rights
protection into an administrative-territorial one, when the question arises of regional
self-governance in the places of their compact residence. Usually problems of
federalization, status of regional languages are considered on this level.
The third level is a political one, when the status of a minority is covered with
state-political attributes. In Georgia this aspect is associated with the issue of
Within the spectrum, the overlapping of the concepts of “ethnic and national
minorities” is observed. While the transition of a minority from a cultural autonomy
(first ethnic level) to a political one (third political level), it suits more the category of
Special laws do not reinforce the first aspect (conditionally ethnic) in the overwhelming
majority of countries. The clauses, providing minority rights are contained in various
profile laws (on education, language, culture, mass media, etc.). In advanced countries,
where the high standards for guarantees of human rights are achieved, institutions of
citizenship are formed and the necessity for the creation of additional guarantees in the
form of a special law is excluded.
However, certain examples do exist. A law on national and ethnic minorities was
adopted by Hungary in 1993, which is considered as the most comprehensive and far
stretching. There was an attempt to distinguish the concepts of “national” and “ethnic”
minorities while drafting the bill. But it was not successful and in the title of the law
both concepts were retained by a decision of the National Assembly of the country. In
its first article, definition is given to a group of citizens, covered by the rights stipulated
in the law. The law entitles with special rights only those ethnic or national minorities,
who have lived on the territory of the country for more than a century. The number of
such minorities appears to be 13: Serbs, Slovaks, Armenians etc. Immigrants who
arrived later, including those who already have Hungarian citizenship, refugees, labor
migrants, cannot claim for the rights stipulated by the law. Their rights are provided by
other legislative acts.
Certainly, the experience of Hungary is interesting, but the situation in each of them
fundamentally differs from that which we have in Georgia. The number of national
minorities in Hungary is not as big, as it is in Georgia. This circumstance has allowed
the Hungarian legislators to limit the amount of beneficiaries of the rights provided by
the law. Actually, this law should have become an example for those countries, where
the numerous Hungarian Diaspora live.
The mentioned special law was adopted in close connection with the whole context of
the legislation. The creation of such a context in Georgia is under way. There is one
interesting draft of the Law on National Minorities Rights, which was written by G.
Jorjoliani, director of the Research Centre for International Relations at the Academy of
Science of Georgia, together with A. Abashidze, Master of Law. The bill was
examined in the UN and it was also studied by OSCE experts. The project was
positively evaluated, regarding its conformity to international standards in the field of
minority rights protection. At the same time, the foreign experts noted, that this law will
have its real value only within the general context of the whole legislation. Actually the
restrictive statements referred in some cases to non-existent laws.
The authors of the draft tried to embrace all possible issues concerning minority rights;
for example, language issues. It is more purposeful to consider it as the subject of a
separate law. Not accidentally, there is such a concept as “language minority”. Its
difference from the concept of “ethnic” or “national minority” is not conceptual, but
practical. It is because of its specific nature. By the way, the entities of territorial
autonomies in the West (in Italy, Spain) are identified in documents as “linguistic
The laws on education and culture, which contain certain statements guaranteeing
cultural and linguistic rights of the minorities, have been already adopted. A special law
on language issues is to be created. Current legislative process in this sphere should be
refining the subject of the law on national minorities.
On the basis of this draft, it is possible to formulate a Declaration on Minority Rights.
The purpose of the state policy in this field is precisely designated in the draft. It is a
development of existing achievements and grants minorities unlimited opportunities for
initiatives within the framework of their cultural autonomy. Its adoption should be
preceded with a wide polemic.
Georgia is a party to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Our
country undertook its obligations to protect the rights of minorities contained in article
27 of the Covenant. It is topical for Georgia to accede to another HRI, participation in
which will promote the solving of many problems in the sphere of minorities rights.
There is poor progress in this direction. For example, Georgia has only just acceded to
the UN International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination. The cause of this is ridiculous - there has not been no authentic
Georgian translation of this document, though, for a long time everybody was aware of
the benefits Georgia can obtain from participation in this Convention.
There have been three aspects of minority problems mentioned. If the ethnic aspect of
the national policy is more or less worked out in Georgia and is waiting for legislative
reinforcement, the regional one has not been mastered either practically, or
theoretically. Even more complicated is the situation at the political level: we have to
deal with problems of an establishment of the peace. There is no chapter about the
territorial-state structure of the country in the Constitution as yet.
It is not a secret, that the opponents of federalization are afraid of an escalation of
separatism in the regions densely inhabited by minorities. The danger of it is especially
real in the case when the borders of a member of the federation adjoins to the borders of
a historical native land. The sad recent history of the relations with the autonomies
reminds us that the chauvinism of the centre and ethnocracity in the regions are the
monsters to be avoided.
The principle of differentiation and mutual delegation of the powers will serve as a
basis for the constitutional law on state and territorial structure of the country, which,
according to Article 3 of the Constitution, will be adopted after the restoration of
territorial integrity of the country.
The implementation of the peoples’ right on self-determination is also provided by
Article 4 of the Constitution, according to which the Parliament will consist of two
houses - Council of the Republic and Senate. The Senate, in particular, will be
composed of representatives elected in Abkhazia, Adjaria and other territorial units of
Many states of Europe have followed this path, which is none too easy. The main lesson
countries with an advanced democracy have learned a concrete approach to the
problems with preservation of a priority to human rights issues and equality of all
The UN and OSCE support the efforts of Georgia in this direction. In all the resolutions
of the United Nations, concerning the Abkhazian problem, the thesis on territorial
integrity and the granting of a broad autonomy is of crucial importance. The package of
proposals on the resolution of the conflict around South Ossetia was developed by
Now Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe. This fact imposes new obligations
on the State and will contribute to the improvement in minority rights sphere.
Asbjorn Eide. Peaceful and Constructive Resolution of Situations Involving Minorities,
the UN University, 1995
1.According to the data of the 1989 census, 437,211 Armenians (8.1%), 341,720
Russians (6.3%), 307,556 Azerbaijanians (5.7%), 164,055 Ossetians (3%), 100,324
Greeks (1.9 %), 52,443 Ukrainians(0.7%), 33,333 Kurds (0.6%), 24,795 Jews (0.5%)
and members of other ethnic minorities live in Georgia. There are 94 nationalities in the
The major regions of compact living of ethnic and linguistic minorities are the
following: Javakheti, where Armenians are in a majority (over 90 %), Kvemo Kartli,
with a predominantly Azerbaijanian population (varying from 42% to 85% in different
districts of the region), the Tsalka District, populated by Greeks (61%) and former
South Ossetian Autonomous region with Ossetians making up 66% of the population.
Javakheti borders with Armenia, Kvemo Kartli - with Azerbaijan. Former South
Ossetia - with North Ossetia-Alania, a member of the Russian Federation, Akhmeta and
Kvareli districts where Chechen (Kists) and Avarian (Leki) minorities live
neighbouring Dagestan and Cechnia - members of the Russian Federation. The above
mentioned minorities live compactly or they are dispersed.
The other ethnic and linguistic minorities are dispersed and comprise small compact
settlements in some regions. There are minorities living compactly but numerically
making up a small part of the population of various regions (Avarians in the Kvareli
Region, Kurds in Tbilisi, etc.).
All minorities have their historical homeland with their own state system except for
Assirians and in part the Kurds.
Most of the religious believers in Georgia are Orthodox Christians. Some Christians
profess Catholicism, others Gregorianism or Protestantism. Islam is professed both by
Georgians (in the Ajarian autonomy) and members of ethnic minorities (Azerbaijanians
and others). There is a Judaist community in Georgia.
2. Non-discrimination clauses in Georgian legislation
THE CONSTITUTION OF GEORGIA
The state recognizes the special importance of the Georgian Orthodox Church in
Georgian history but simultaneously declares complete freedom of religious belief and
confessions, as well as independence of the church from the state.
Everyone is born free and is equal before the law, regardless of race, skin color,
language, sex, religion, political and other beliefs, national, ethnic and social origin,
property, title of nobility or place of residence.
The state is authorized to establish restrictions on the political activity of citizens of
foreign countries and stateless persons.
1. Foreign citizens and stateless persons living in Georgia have the rights and
obligations equal to the rights and obligations of citizens of Georgia with some
exceptions envisaged by the Constitution and law.
LAW OF THE REPUBLIC OF GEORGIA ON CITIZENSHIP OF GEORGIA
Article 4. Equality of Citizens of Georgia
Citizens of Georgia are equal in law regardless of their origin, social or property status,
race or ethnic origin, sex education language, religion or political beliefs, place of
residence, activity or other circumstances.
Article 8. Legal Capacity of Citizens of Other States and Stateless Persons
Citizens of other states and stateless persons who are on the territory of Georgia are
obliged to respect and observe the laws of Georgia, they shall enjoy rights and freedoms
guaranteed by the norms of international law and legislation of the republic of Georgia
also the right to apply to court and other state bodies to protect their personal property
and other rights.
Citizens of other states who are on the territory of Georgia have the right to appeal for
help and protection to diplomatic representations and consular missions.
There are non-discrimination clauses in other laws too: law on Education (Articles 3;
39,2), in Article 75 of the Georgian Criminal Code, laws on Police and Trade Unions,
3. Special provisions on minority issues.
3.1 Article 38 of the Constitution:
“Citizens of Georgia are equal in social, economic, cultural and political life regardless
of national, ethnic, religious or language origin. According to universally recognized
principles and norms of international law all have the right to develop their culture
freely without any discrimination and interference. They may use their language in
private and public life”.
3.2 Articles 72 and 75 of the Georgian Criminal Code forbids the propaganda of war, of
national, racial and religious hatred.
The law “On Public Unions of Citizens”(14.06.1994) made a contribution to the
strengthening of law guarantees for the minorities. Under this law, the cultural ethnic
societies of Armenians, Azerbaijanians, Russians, Greeks, Jews, Assirians, Ukrainians
and other nationalities were set up and are functioning in Georgia. Such unions of
citizens participate in the public life of the country, are engaged in charity and human
rights protection, cultural and educational work to preserve and develop their traditions.
They maintain relations with their historical homelands, various international
organizations and foundations. The above law provides the status of political
organization for unions set up along ethnic lines. Its provisions were developed in the
new Civil Code, which was adopted in 1997, June (Articles 31-49).
The Law on Culture (12.06.1997) proclaims the rights to equal participation in cultural
activities for all citizens of Georgia, irrespective of their national, ethnic, religious and
linguistic origin. The local authorities are conferred broad powers to carry out the
cultural policy in regions with regard to the ethnic composition of regions (Article 9).
The state binds itself to an obligation to create equal conditions for the cultural
development of all regions (Article 20). This statement is especially important for
regions that are densely inhabited by minorities, etc.
3.3 On June 30, 1992, the government of the country passed Resolution 648 “On the
Restoration of the Nationality of Persons of German Descent Living in Georgia”,
designed for Germans who had to keep their nationality secret because of repression
during the Second World War and post-war period.
On March 14, 1994, the Georgian Ministry of the Interior issued Order 122 (Instruction
44, p.7). Under the Order, a person receiving a passport has the right to choose the
surname and nationality of either one of the parents.
The Head of State’s Order 42 of March 28, 1995 “On Improvement of Social
Conditions of the Dukhobor Community” is designed to improve the conditions of the
Dukhobors. It entrusts a number of ministries to take urgent measures.
4. Provisions on language issues.
Article 8 of the Constitution states that Georgian is the State language of Georgia. In
the Abkhaz Autonomous Republic, the Abkhaz language is also a State language.
Article 85/2 of the Constitution and Article 135 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of
the Country provide the right to a translator or interpreter for a member of an ethnic
On June 27, 1997 the law on Education was adopted. It follows from Article 4 of the
law that the State pursuant to the recommendations of local authorities creates the
necessary conditions for the citizens of Georgia for whom the Georgian language is not
the native language for receiving primary and secondary education in their native
The draft law on the State Language is being worked out now. It has to solve many
problems and must become a basis for language policy in Georgia. There is no special
legislative base for the use of minority languages in official matters ( in contacts with
authorities). Unfortunately the Law on Self-government (1997) did not pay proper
attention to these issues. Serious conflicts caused by language issues have not been
observed. The Russian language is still in use among certain number of minorities who
live dispersed and native languages are used in fact in regions where they live densely.
The correspondence of some regions with the Centre continues to be in Russian. It is of
high topicality to reinforce the position of the Georgian language as a State language.
5. Georgia is a State party of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights. Our country recognizes its obligation to protect the rights of minorities
contained in Article 27 of the Covenant.
Georgia is also a State party of the UN International Convention on the Elimination of
all forms of Racial Discrimination and it just recently acceded European Framework
Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
This is some information about minorities living in Georgia. Unfortunately we have no
fresh statistics. The data from the 1989 census is all that is available. Lack of systematic
scientific research in Georgia is another cause of the difficulties we have encountered.
Data obtained from the monitoring carried out by the Centre is included in the
Native name: Hy.
Religion: Christianity (Gregorian, part of them Catholics).
Population: 437,211 (8.1% of the whole population-1989 census).
Residence: They are settled in nearly all the regions of Georgia. The places of their
compact residence are the following: 22 villages of the Gagra region, 14 - Gudauta, 17
- Gulripshi, 7 - Ochamchire, 11- Sukhumi, 1- Aspindza, 56 - Ahalkalaki, 16 -
Ahaltsikhe, 26 - Ninotsminda, 3 - Bolnisi, 3 - Borjomi, 3 -Tetritskaro, 10 - Marneuli, 14
- Tsalka and 1 - Dedoplis Tskaro regions.
Education: There are 183 Armenian schools in Georgia. A Department of Armenian
Language and Literature exists at the Pedagogical University and Tbilisi State
Mass Media: Newspapers; "Vrastan", “Faros” (in Ahalkalaki) and
Radio: over an hour’s broadcast a day.
Culture: The Armenian Dramatic Theatre named from Petros Adamian operates
in Tbilisi. Children’s folklore ensembles “Haik”, “Tsiatsan” exist under the auspices of
the Armenian Cultural Charity Society. There is an Association of Armenian writers at
the Union of Writers of Georgia and a Union of Armenian Writers of Georgia
Armenians participate in the political and economic life of the State. Three MPs of the
Parliament of Georgia are Armenians.
Societies: The Armenian Cultural Charity Society; the Charity Association “Charles
Aznavur” (Ahaltsikhe); the Society “Veratsenunts” (Batumi), the Society “Sayat
Traditions: The Armenians have maintained their old traditions. These are mainly
practised in marriages and funeral processions. The Armenians practise mixed
Traditional food is served almost regularly; especially at celebrations. Their traditional
food is as follows: groats, food made from wheat seeds, cakes, Armenian cheese - panir,
Armenian “lavash”, kebab, shashlik, kyupta, chanakh and bozbash. Yogurt with rice
and wheat seeds are particularly popular.
Holidays: The Armenians celebrate Christian holy days. The Day of Memory of
Victims of the Holocaust (April, 24) and of Victims of the Earthquake (December, 7)
History of Migration:
The migration of Armenians to Georgia began two millennia ago and the process is still
continuing. The Armenians are settled in almost all the regions of Georgia. Armenia
was the closest ancient southern neighbour of Georgia, which was the first country
facing any external enemy moving towards South Caucasus. Hence, Georgia served as
a most convenient asylum for Armenians fleeing from their country.
In the first and second centuries BC, when Armenia gained particular strength, it
occupied certain lands of neighbouring Iberia and made a significant part of Georgian
territory subject to its jurisdiction. In the first and second centuries AD, during
Georgia’s period of prosperity, political frontiers were re-modified and moved south.
This alteration of political boundaries, which was continued in a later period also, might
have provoked the increase in the number of mixed Georgian-Armenian population on
the frontier zone.
Settlement of Armenians in Georgia was extremely intensive during the period when
Christianity was embraced by Georgians and Armenians.
In the 5th century, Vakhtang Gorgasali invited Armenian craftsmen to participate in the
construction of the capital and granted them various privileges.
At the same time, many Armenians in Kvemo Kartli became involved in agriculture,
animal husbandry, craftsmanship and trade. Together with Georgians, they also
undertook military service and complied with all their civic obligations.
The migration of the Armenians was intensified in 851-852 during the Arab invasions.
It was even expanded after the Armenian state experienced a severe defeat in the 2nd
century due to the aggression of the Byzantine Emperor and the destructive invasions
conducted by the Seldjuk-Turks.
The migration of craftsmen and traders to Tbilisi and to the Kartli region occurred in the
12th and 13th centuries.
The political situation appeared to be catastrophic at the end of the 13th century and in
the 14th century, when nomadic conquerors almost completely occupied territories
suitable for habitation. In addition, at the beginning of the 15th century, conquerors
seized Armenia, which at that time was a part of the Georgian State. During the period,
the aspiration of Armenians towards Georgia, where living conditions were better,
became absolutely natural. From the 15th century the migration of Armenians to
Georgia acquired an extensive and systematic character.
At the end of the 18th century, after the adoption of the 1783 Georgievski Treatment,
Tsarizm prepared the grounds for the annexation of the Kartl-Kakheti kingdom to
create a buttress against possible foes. The strengthening of the position of Armenians
in Kartl-Kakheti was considered by Russia as one of the possible means for
When Agha-Mahmad-Khan besieged the city of Shusha, a substantial number of
Armenians fled from the town and obtained asylum in Georgia and never returned to
their places of origin. The Armenian Meliks, in order to prove their loyalty to the
Russians, arranged for an additional migration of Armenians from Armenia, Iran and
In 1804, as a result of the colonial policy of Tsarizm, General Tsitsianov resettled 2,000
Armenians from the Yerevan Khanate to Avlabari and other suburbs of Tbilisi.
Following this period, thousands of families from Yerevan, Echmiadzin, Karabakh and
Iranian Azerbaijan were intensively resettled. After the Russian-Turkish war, the
General settled 7,298 families from Erzurum to the Ahaltsikhe region, Borchalo and
Tsalka. The migrants established numerous villages. They were granted certain
privileges. State lands were allocated to them for a period of 6 years. They were also
exempt from tax for 8 years. Eleven thousand rubles were made available for them for
road construction and 1,500 rubles for household needs, the construction of houses,
After the victory over Iran and Turkey, according to the treaty, a significant number of
Armenians, along with other peoples, were forcibly moved to the territory of Georgia
(as it was a frontier region of the Russian Empire) without considering religious belief
or political and socio-economic conditions.
At the end of the 19th century, fugitive Armenians inhabited Abkhazia and settled
down on places where the Abkhazians lived, who in turn were expelled to Turkey.
Turkey cashed in on the hostile attitude of Russians vis-à-vis Armenians and arranged a
further genocide. This caused a mass migration to various countries. Thousands of
Armenians fled to Georgia .
After World War II, the migration of Armenians continued towards the Ahalkalaki and
Tsalka regions and the Black Sea coast.
Interview with Mr. Genadi Ivanov, one of the Heads of the International Assyrian
Congress in Georgia
The organization was registered by the Ministry of Justice of Georgia in April, 1992
and is considered to be a representative body of the Assyrian community - a
participant of the World-wide National Congress and the World-wide National
Alliance of Assyrians. Its main purpose is the preservation and development of the
Assyrian language, culture, traditions and maintenance of contacts with their
compatriots abroad. The Assyrian cultural centre "Bet Nakhrain" functions in
Gardabani. The language of speech is new Aramaic. A newspaper, "Aviuta", is
Assyrians are one of the most ancient nations of the world. According to the ancient
Assyrian calendar, "Syrgliad", 1999 is the year 6748. These people entered Georgia in
the 19th century. Their migration took place as a result of persecutions conducted
against them by Turkey and Iran for being Christians. Assyrians practice the early
forms of Christianity (mainly Jacobists, Nestorians etc.), from which modern
Orthodoxy and Catholicism were derived.
The activities of the priest Benjamin Betas-Iangar, representing Eastern Catholicism
(Chaldean) is widely known in Georgia. The revival of the cultural life of Assyrians is
linked to him. He has a great impact on processes related to the maintenance and
development of the Assyrian language and culture. He is also well-known for his
charitable activities. This priest is much respected by in the Vatican.
Currently, approximately 6-7 thousand Assyrians reside in Georgia. According to data
of the 1989 census, the community consisted of 12 thousand persons. Emigration,
basically to the Russian Federation, accounts for the decrease in the number of the
Large Assyrian communities are in USA (in Chicago, in California) as well as in the
north of Iraq, where the state of the ancient Assyrians existed.
The Congress observes the implementation of the obligations of human and citizens
rights protection which the state undertakes to perform. Facts of grave violation of
provisions laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
towards Assyrians have not been reported. There are no discriminative provisions in the
legislation of the country or any decisions made by the government against the
There are no facts of violation of rights of Assyrians determined in the UN International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
It was also noted that compared to other minorities residing in Georgia, Assyrians have
found themselves in the least favourable situation as this people have no historical
homeland where a form of statehood could exist.
Native name: Azerbaijanlilar, Azeriler (azeri turkigar)
Identity: Azerbaijani (Turkey oriented)
Religion: Muslims mostly Shiites but some Sunnites.
Language: Azerbaijani belongs to Ogoz group of Turkic languages.
Population: 307,556 persons (1989 census).
Residence: Tbilisi, Rustavi, Marneuli, Bolnisi, Gardabani, Dmanisi, Sagarejo,
Lagodekhi, Telavi, Tsalka, Mtskheta, Tetritskaro, Kaspi, Kareli, Dedoplis Tskaro
regions (type of residence – compact)
Education: There are 159 Azerbaijani schools in Georgia. There are Azerbaijani
kindergartens in almost every region where Azeris live.
There is a Faculty of Azerbaijani Language and Literature at the Pedagogical State
The Azerbaijani language is taught at the Department of Oriental Studies of Tbilisi
Press: “Gurjistan”, “Samgori” (Georgian – Azerbaijani newspaper), “Akhali Marneuli”
(published in Marneuli a Georgian- Azerbaijani newspaper), “Heirat” (Marneuli),
“Region” (Rustavi), “Chanlibel” (private).
Broadcasting: daily 30-minute news and a music programme.
Occupation: representatives of the community are mainly engaged in agriculture: crop
growing, kitchen gardening, and animal husbandry.
There is an Azerbijanian Cultural Centre in Tbilisi.
They have an intelligentsia: scientists, writers, poets, artists and craftsmen.
Local government: At places of compact residence, Azerbaijanis participate actively in
the activities organized by the local authorities.
They participate in political life, and take an active part in the country’s economic life.
Four MPs are Azerbaijanians.
Charity cultural associations: “Daiagi”, “Birlick”, “Umid”, “Ozan”, “Geirat”.
International society “Sazi” for friendship and cooperation between Georgian and
Traditions: They maintain Muslim customs.
Food is traditional: “Tolma”, Pite-plov”. They do not eat pork. Mutton is mainly eaten.
Holidays: “Kurban Bairam” (1 June), “Ramazan” – fast holiday (2 March), “Novruz
Bairam” – the world awakening holiday (21 March), Ashura.
History of Migration
The nomadic tribes, living in Kvemo Kartli, were known as “Elli” according to
historical sources (Elli is a Turkish word and means tribe, people, country, site,
nomadic tribes of Turks. In Azerbaijani it means “tribe”).
The emergence of Tatar-Turk and other Muslim tribes on the territory of Georgia is
connected to the aggression of the large feudal southern states of the east and to the
permanent invasions of nomads, such as Seldjuks, Mongolians and Turkmen.
From the 2nd century, the nomadic tribes of Elli began to conquer territories of Asia
Minor and the Caucasus. With the purpose of settling in Georgia, many tribes
encroached on its territories: Turk-Seldjuks (2nd-12th centuries), Mongol-Turks
(13th-14th centuries), Charbanians, Djalairis, Turks of Asia Minor, Turkmen,
(14th-15th centuries), Ottomans, Kizilbash, (15th-16th centuries), etc.
As a result of continuous raids, the native population of the banks and gorges of the
rivers Iori, Mtkvari, Khrami, Debeda was replaced with people of nomadic tribes.
Immigrant foreign ethnic power, with its undeveloped economic basis and social
hierarchy, created a danger for the highly developed Georgian feudal economy and
local social-political system. The political outcome of the Elli immigration was even
more painful: it opened the way for future raids of the nomadic tribes and was a reliable
buttress for other conquerors. Therefore, in the late Middle Ages the Elli issue was one
of the most urgent political problems of Georgia. The fight against nomadic tribes was
hard and long lasting.KvemoKartli suffered more from the Ellis, as the tribes
constructed strategic strongholds in the region in order to form their political power
Shah Abas I took an active part in the immigration of Ellis to Georgia. He moved many
nomadic tribes from central and southern Iran to Georgia. As a result, nomads emerged
in Kakheti andKvemoKartli in the first quarter of the 17th century. Shah Abass put an
end to the 200-year fight between Georgia and the Turkmen-Kizilbashs: deported the
local native population of south–east Georgia and permitted no Georgian land
ownership. In order to consolidate his power in these regions a Turkmen-Kizilbash
population was placed there. But the plan of Shah Abas I to change the Christian
kingdom of Georgia into a Kizilbash administrative unit, failed by reason of the
Martkopi rebellion led by Giorge Saakadze.
The second attempt to bring Turkmen tribes into Georgia, during the reign of Shah
Abas II, was thwarted by the Kakheti rebellion of 1659. The policy of Nadir Shah to
activate the Ellis in Kartli and Kakheti, in the 1720s-40s failed too. Due to the heroic
fighting of the Georgian people, even from the second half of the 17th century, the
proportion of nomadic and native population in Kartli and Kakheti changed in favour of
the Georgians. The remaining population of Ellis was gradually localized in the context
of local feudal relations and finally, the Ellis served the interests of the Georgian state.
In the end, their adaptation to more advanced local economic conditions and as a result
of the influence of the local climate and good husbandry conditions, yielded results. By
and by, Tatar farmers had to undertake animal husbandry in close husbandry-economic
and organizational contacts with the local settlements. The local administrative bodies
forced the Ellis to engage in agriculture, as the duties relating to agriculture were
determined in a by-law regarding Ellis.
From the Kizilbash tribes settled throughout Georgia are known: the Javanshiri,
Keshale, Najabadile, Arakhle, Demurchi, Hasanlu, Ahmadlu, Siale, Sarajle etc.
InKvemoKartli they were spread throughout on the territories of Algeti, Ktsii Ravine,
Mtkvari Bank areas, Dmanisi Ravine, Banbakis and Berduji regions. About one
century later after their settlement, they crossed their prescribed boundaries and moved
to the west up to Shulavery. One of these tribes (Nasiblu) even reached the Dmanisi
Though the tribes emigrated from different regions of Iran (central and southern); they
did not have Iranian identity. One part of the Turkic language nomadic tribes joined the
Azerbaijanis, the other part the Turkmen. The tribes immigrating to Georgia from Iran
had more in common with the Azerbaijanis (language, religion, and certain customs
and social hierarchy), than with the Iranians. Therefore, their descendants living in
Georgia now consider themselves to be Azeris.
On a broader scale, different ethnographic groups were historically formed among the
Azeris. Many of them, living in isolated conditions in Iran, have become an
independent ethnicity (Karapapakhs, Shakhsevens, Karadags and Apshars). Some from
the Karapapakhs groups live in Georgia.
Native name: “Doych”
Religion: Christian (Lutherans and a very small number of Catholics). A
Lutheran Church exists.
Language: Mainly Russian, partially Georgian
Population: 1,546, urban 1,274, rural – 172 (1989 census)
Residence Tbilisi, Rustavi (dispersed)
Education: There is a German profile school (# 6). German is taught
as a foreign language in schools of Georgia. There is a
Department of German language and literature at the
State University and also at the Institute of Foreign Languages.
Mass Media: Newspapers: “Kaukasishe Post”, “Kaukasishe Zeitung”
Culture: Child folklore ensemble in Rustavi. Society “Ainung”
periodically organizes exhibitions in Tbilisi of artists of German
Traditions: Old traditions have almost disappeared, although
particularities of the national character is felt in their
traditional food (especially in cakes). A
Lutheran community exists.
Holidays: They mainly practice Christianity and celebrate Christmas, Easter.
Day of Reunion of Germany (3 October) is celebrated.
History of Migration:
The Germans migrated to Georgia in 1817 (on the basis of a Manifesto issued by
Catherine II). Reasons for migration were wars conducted by Napoleon I as well as
This was accompanied by the theory of the followers of “Piliasm” regarding the Second
Advent and the establishment of the thousand year kingdom. According to their belief
they would meet the end of the world in the east at the bottom of Mountain Ararat. In
1817, 7,000 persons moved to Russia. On the way they settled in cities of Russia. In
1817, 31 families arrived in Tbilisi and spent their first winter in the village Martkopi
in the houses of local peasants. In 1818, 8 colonies were established in Tbilisi and
Elizavetopol. The State provided them with land and support. The colonists maintained
close relations with Germany. Tsarism attempted to put obstacles to the assimilation of
the Germans with the local population by settling them separately and prohibiting
The Germans were engaged in agriculture (field-crop cultivation, vine growing and
animal husbandry). Different workshops of leather, soap, candle, drinks, etc. were
In 1941, all Germans, except those having Georgian last names, were forcibly migrated
towards Middle Asia. In 1957, the Germans were repatriated without rehabilitation, but
only a certain number returned. The Germans took back their last names and
Native name: Eliphons (“Romeos”, “Elinos”) - who speak the Greek language. Urum
are those who speak Turkish.
Religion: Christianity (Orthodox).
Language: Eliphons speak Greek; Urums speak a Turkish dialect.
First Greek colonies were established about 3000 years ago in West Georgia, but the
Greeks currently living in Georgia do not represent the descendants of the ancient
world. Migration of Greeks took place in the second half of the 18-th century. The
cause was the development of mining manufacturing. In 1828-29 due to the persecution
against Christianity, the Greeks of Pontus migrated to Georgia. After the
Russian-Turkish war, a special committee was established which expelled Christians
from Turkey and local Muslims to Turkey. Mass migration was renewed after the
Russian-Turkish wars of 1853-56 and 1877-78. The migration of Pontic Greeks
continued until the beginning of the 20-th century. World War I caused a new flow of
Currently, approximately 65 000 Greeks (only just over a half of those who lived in the
country 7 years ago). Nearly all the persons of the 15 000 Greek community were
scattered around Abkhazia by the war. People fled from other regions in general
temporarily - in search of jobs in Greece and Russia.
The largest number of Greeks in Georgia reside in Tbilisi and the Tsalka region, above
20000 persons. From 3000 to 5000 Greeks are settled in Rustavi as well as in the
Tetritskaro, Marneuli and Kobuleti regions. About 2000 Greeks are concentrated in
Batumi and in the Dmanisi, Bolnisi, Borjomi and other regions. The number of Greeks
in the Gori, Gardabani and Dedoplistskaro regions varies from 700 - 1000 persons. A
total of about 500 Greeks live in Ahaltsikhe, Kojori, Khashuri and Ahalkalaki.
Interview with Mr. Quirk Jordanov, Chairman of the Federation of Greek
Communities of Georgia
The Federation of Greek communities consists of 23 communities from all regions of
Georgia. In principle, the Federation represents the interests of all Greek citizens of
Through the initiative of the Federation the following was done:
- The Centre of the Greek Culture including an Art School was established in Tbilisi.
The newspaper "Elinika Diaspora" is regularly published. Furthermore, the Greek
community of Batumi issues the newspaper "Batumi"
- A medical-diagnostic centre has been opened, where patients receive free care,
- The Greek language is taught in schools and places of their compact settlement as well
as in groups existing in the communities
- Greek Sunday Schools have been opened,
- Assistance is provided to invalids, orphans and families living in poverty through
public organizations, charitable societies and churches of Greece and Cyprus.
- Regular contacts are maintained with the Greek Diaspora in various countries of the
world, governmental and public organizations, churches of Georgia and Cyprus, and
the Universal (Ecumenical) Patriarchy in Constantinople.
It should be noted that the Federation, together with federations of Ponteus Greeks of
USA, Canada, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan etc., was one of the first in raising the issue
before the Onassis Fund on the occasion of the President of our country being granted
an international award. It was mentioned that Georgia was the first among former
Soviet republics, where after a long break Greeks received an opportunity to study their
native language. The representatives of our community participated in the
governmental delegation leaving for Greece on this occasion.
Great support, with the cooperation of our authorities, is provided by Greece. Thus, the
Centre of Greek Education has been established. The Institute of Neo-Greece,
Byzantology and Classic Philosophy is now a part of the centre. Simultaneously a
Georgian institute was opened in Athens.
The Tbilisi State University has allocated a quota of 14 places for the Greek diaspora -
to study at the faculty of Greek language and literature.
Unfortunately, the state still has not allocated funds for the development of culture of
our large Diaspora. For nine years we have been attempting to obtain premises for our
Cultural Centre. Almost the same situation exist regarding the premises for the
For the last decade, practically, none of the ethnically Greek citizens of Georgia were
assigned to senior posts either at republic or at regional levels. The same applies even to
the Tsalka region, where Greeks are in the majority. However, 2 Greeks are members of
the Parliament of Georgia.
If we consider the issue more widely, there is a necessity to adopt the Presidential
programme (with participation of Greeks) on maintenance and revival of the Greek
Diaspora of Georgia, which will include complex social, economic, organizational,
educational, cultural and other development programmes.
In Mr. Iordanov’s opinion, the adoption of the law on national minorities is expedient,
as it will provide an opportunity to concentrate on problems in this field.
A possibility of dual citizenship was raised by K.Iordanov.
Interviewee claimed that there are cases of abuse in the process of privatization of plots
of land in some villages of the Tetritskaro district. The Greek peasants are in a
disadvantageous position in comparison with newcomers who bribe the local
There were mentioned some instances of squatters taking over the homes of Greeks
who have temporarily left.
At the same time K. Iordanov considers that facts of grave violation of provisions laid
down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights towards Greeks
arehave not been reported. Furthermore, there are no discriminative provisions in the
legislation of the country and decisions made by the government against the Greek
Mr. K.Iordanov said: “The emigration of Greeks from Georgia continues. A reason for
this is the economic crisis. It should be mentioned that those leaving for their historical
homeland experience sadness when they have to leave their native home Georgia. We
are a part of Georgia and all our plans are directed towards the preservation of the
Greek community here. Our local organizations, youth and women organization,
cultural centre, and mass media have also the same goals”.
Native name: Kartveli Ebraeli (Georgian Jews, Sephardic), European, Russian-tongued
Religion: Judaism. About 10 synagogues exist.
Language: for Georgian Jews – Georgian
for Russian Jews – Russian, Yiddish for a minority
Population: 24,795 (0.5%) -1989 year census. Approximately 10,000s of Jews
emigrated to Israel, USA and Germany.
Residence: There are Jewish communities in Tbilisi, Batumi, Gori, Kutaisi, Oni,
Kareli, Surami and Ahaltsikhe.
Newspapers: “Menorah” (in Georgian), “Shalom” (in Russian).
Culture: Jewish Cultural Centre which was established by the AJJDC, Jewish Museum,
Association of Georgian-Israel Cultural Connections of the Georgian Academy of
Education: Jewish Sunday School; Day School; Open Jewish University established by
AJJDC; Ulpan, established by Sokhnut and the Youth Educational Centre, established
at the Jewish Day School. There are courses of Hebrew at the latter.
Jews actively participate in the country’s political and economic life. Three MPs are of
Traditions: Jews have adhered to their traditions in Georgia - especially in the sphere of
family life, marriage, traditions related to the deceased, etc.
Holidays: Rosh-ha-Sana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simhath Torah, Hanukah, Tu Bishvat,
Purim, Pesakh, Shavuot, 9 Aba, etc. Special food is prepared for these holidays (matsa,
History of Migration
Since ancient times, Jews have lived in Georgia in cities and villages. The first Jewish
migration to Georgia occurred in the 6th century BC, when the King of Babylon,
Nebuchadanezzar conquered Jerusalem. The second wave of migrants came to Georgia
occurred after the Jewish rebellion against the Romans in the first century AD.
Usually Jewish migrants lived in the vicinity of synagogues. The latter were not only
religious but also communal centres of the Jewish Diaspora.
In the Hellenic period, there was a district called “The District of Huria” in Kartli
(Mtskheta and Urbnisi), which had its own “Master of Huria” i.e. of a synagogue.
According to the writings on Georgian historic monuments, the socio-economic
hierarchy and legal standing of Jews did nor differ from that of the Georgians. Jews
have never experienced any national or religious persecution and/or anti-Semitism in
Georgia. Georgian Jews integrated into the Georgian community. At the same time they
preserved their identity and traditions. As revealed from historical documents, besides
the serf - Jews, there were serf-landowners, rich merchants among them. In feudal
Georgia Jews were also engaged in crafts and husbandry, grew fruit trees and vineyards
and cultivated bread.
In the 19th century, groups of Jews migrating from Russia and Europe settled in
Georgia. By and by, Jews spread to different regions of eastern and western Georgia.
Native name: Kisti
Language: Kist dialect of the Chechen-Ingushetian language as well as the Georgian
Population: approximately 5,455 (1989 census)
Residence: Kists compactly reside in the Jokolo village compound of the Akhmeta
region in villages Jokolo 783 men (100%), Birkani 726 (55%), Omalo 889 (46%),
Shua Khalatsani 171 (60%), Zemo Khalatsani 104 (65%), Duisi 2,772 (74%).
Education: receive education in Georgian.
Command of Native Language: almost everybody speaks in the Kist dialect in the
Culture: singing and dancing ensemble.
Occupation: mainly engaged in agriculture (field-crop growing and vine-growing) and
Traditional craftsmanship, cape, hat, leather and wood trimming.
Representatives of Kist community actively participate in local bodies of authority.
Traditions: follow old traditional rules. The influence of Georgian material culture is
felt in Kist everyday life.
History of Migration
At the present day Kist live in the central regions of Kakheti (Akhmeta region). This
territory was almost deserted and ruined because of the constant raids of the Dagestan
feudal lords and other enemies. According to the chronicles, these territories were the
shelter for Chechenian families in hiding for murder and wanting to escape vengeance.
They lived in deep forests for several decades, without registration. Later, with the
consent of the Russian Tsar, refugees and migrants began to settle on both banks of the
River Alazani. The reason for migration, political as well as economical, proceeded
from the high altitude of the region. Besides, migration was also conditioned by
Shamil’s forcible dissemination of the Muslim religion. A certain part of the Chechnian
population (Maista, Malkhisti, Terloi and Khildakharo etc. communities) had to find
other dwelling places. The roads, mountain pass connections as well as the fertile land
of Georgia encouraged immigration.
In the Kakheti region, Kists were settled compactly. One family composed one district.
By and by, other immigrants of the same families joined them.
In the second part of the 19th century, Chechenians from the Maista community settled
in the region with the approval of the Governor of the Tianeti region. They founded two
villages: Duisi and Jokolo. During the times of Count Michael Vorontsov (Viceroy of
the Caucasus) Kists founded three villages: Jokolo, Dui (Pankisi) and Omalo. Some
cases of migration were noted right up to the period of World War II.
Apart from the above-mentioned villages there were other villages: Kortabude, Khoraji
and Chkhatana. These villages are deserted now.
Adaptation of the newcomers to the new place occurred in a very short period. Kists
familiarized themselves with the Georgian language and the traditions of the Georgian
economy. They ideologically merged with the religious cults in Georgia. At the same
time they managed to preserve their own traditions.
Their ethnic name is Kist (Kists.). Georgians call them the Vainakh tribes, and they live
near the Georgian border. Chechens and Ingushes call them “Gurjoekhar Nokhchi”
(Chechens from Georgia) or Gurjiekhar Vainakh – Georgian Vainakhs. Kists have
good relations with Georgians.
Initially the Chechen religion was pagan, and was represented by a multi-god pantheon.
After the spread of Christianity their population was characterized by a syncretic
religion of Christian beliefs and concepts associated with a pagan religion.
Islam spread in the 16-18th centuries after the Tatar-Mongol raids. Their religion was
not strictly kept: they ate pork, observed the fasts and respected the Christian church.
Migrant Vainakhs were baptized in 1866. The Kists of Pankisi are divided in two parts:
Christians and Muslims. Islam was spreading parallel with Christianity. Muezzin from
Karajala attempted to teach the Arabic language, but the Kists refused to learn.
In 1898, some of the Kists from Duisi began to build a mosque without permission, but
the Christian population of the village firmly resisted. Later in 1902, they received
official authorization and constructed the mosque, which is now located in the centre of
At the beginning of the 20th century, the number of Islam preachers grew in Kist
villages. Some of them went to Mecca and upon their return preached Islam.
Some branches of Islam were spread: Nahshbandi, Tarikati (Miuridism), Kadir.
Apart from these sects, the Kists of Pankisi respect the Christian church and pray in the
Churches of Saint George. There are some witnesses that say that Vahabizm is
penetrating into this region.
Native name: Yezidi.
Identity: Kurdish (partially Yezidi).
Religion: Yezidi (pagan religion)
Language: Kurmanji (dialect of Kurdish).
Population: 33,333 (0.6%) in dispersed settlement (1989 census).
Residence: Tbilisi, Rustavi, Telavi and Batumi.
Education: In some of the Tbilisi schools, the optional teaching of the Kurdish
language begins in the 5th grade. Literature in the Kurdish language is available.
Radio: 15-minute Kurdish programme are broadcast once a week.
Culture:1. There are 2 Kurdish folklore ensembles.
2. The Theatre “Kurmanji” exists in Tbilisi, which is the only Kurdish public
theatre in the entire world.
3. Vocal-instrumental band
Kurds are mainly engaged in service and trade. The intelligentsia (writers, artists,
scientists, doctors) is active here. They actively participate in the political and
economic life of the State. One MP of Georgia is a Kurd.
Societies:1. The charity fund “Iakti”. 2. The Union of Yezidis of Georgia, a Society of
Kurdish citizens of Georgia. 3. The International Kurdish Informational Centre and 4
women, youth and religious organizations.
The societies maintain relationship with the Kurdish cultural centres in Bonn,
Dusseldorf and Brussels, as well as with other Kurdish societies operating in Paris,
Istanbul, Diyirbakir, Aleppo and Stockholm.
Traditions: The Kurds have maintained their traditions. The Yezidis believe in God
"Khode" and the Archangel "Melek-Tauz". There are 3 classes in the Kurdish
community in Georgia: Sheikh, Piri and Mridi. The marriage traditions are strictly
followed by the classes. The classes also firmly pursue restrictions with regard to food
and national colours. The Kurds exercise mixed marriages.
Old traditions are strictly followed. It can be considered that old traditions related to the
deceased remain unchanged.
Food: Traditional food is mainly served on holidays. Dairy and corn is traditionally
Holidays: The following holidays are celebrated:
“Rozhe Yezdi” (the Birth of Yezdi) in December;
“Rozhe Khrdnabi” in February;
“Aida Saresale” (the New Year) in March;
“Kocha Saresale” (Easter);
The Memorial Day in June.
History of Migration
The Kurds belong to the number of ancient peoples of the world. The majority of Kurds
currently live in the mountainous country, which has a purely ethnographic name
The first Kurdish settlements in Georgia appeared in the X-XI centuries.
The majority of present day Kurds migrated to Georgia in 1918 due to the
religious-political persecution conducted by the government of Turkey (from the
Siurma and Kars regions). The Kurds, the social composition of which were mainly
represented by peasants, arrived in Georgia occupying abandoned basements in Tbilisi.
Co-villagers settled within the same districts. Some Kurds migrated from Armenia
(where they had settled in 1830-1877 and 1918-1920) to Georgia in the 1930s as well as
after World War II.
In 1944 more than 3,000 Kurds of Samtskhe-Javakheti and above 2,000 Muslim Kurds
of Achara were deported to Central Asia, mainly to Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan.
Currently, the majority of Kurds reside in cities.
Native name: Maarulal (mountain people)
Religion: Muslim (Sunni).
Population: 4,230 (1989 census).
Residence: Compactly reside in the Kvareli region: in Tivi, Chantliskuri, Saruso.
Education: at Russian schools.
Occupation: mainly engaged in agriculture.
Actively participate in bodies of local authorities.
Societies: None, but they participate in the Association of the People of Northern
Caucasus Living in Georgia.
Traditions: The traditional customs are preserved till today among the Leks. They
follow Muslim customs. Elements of the old traditions are preserved in their marriage
ceremonials. Leks do not marry other nationalities. They wed daughters to Leks or
bring brides from Dagestan.
Holidays: attend the celebrations of Alaverdoba and Nekresoba.
History of Migration
Khundzis living in Georgia have migrated from the mountain regions bordering
Dagestan. In early centuries, the basis for Georgian-Dagestan wide cultural and
historical relations was the Christian religion. After accepting the Muslim religion,
Dagestan opposed Georgia. The pro-Georgian orientation of the Leks faded. Leks
raided areas of Kakheti. The process of their immigration to Georgia and taking over
The process of immigration continued in the 18th and 19th centuries. After the rebellion,
following the Russian invasion into the Caucasus, the Russian Government forcibly
settled 4,000 Leks in the Kvareli region of Kakheti. In 1941, 215 families were forced
to immigrate. The immigrant Avarians were regarded as the population of Dagestan
and from 1943 as part of the population of Georgia. When in 1944 the Chechen
population was forcibly migrated to Central Asia, the Leks, dislodged from Kakheti,
were settled in their place. Others joined them later. They requested compact residence
on the grounds of religious belief. Later, some individuals arrived and settled on the
During the past few years, a wish to go back to the motherland awoke in the minds of a
young generation. A formal commission was set up, composed of Georgian as well as
Dagestan representatives of governmental bodies. On the basis of a certain agreement,
120 families were resettled back to Dagestan in the years 1989-90.
Information concerning Poles and the Society “Polonia” in Georgia
(interview with Maria Filina, the head of the Society)
There have been Polish- Georgian contacts for more than 500 years. As early as 1433,
the Georgian King Constantine sent ambassadors to the king of Lithuania (formerly
part of Poland), calling upon them to fight against a common enemy, the Turks. A joint
compaign did not take place but the fact itself is evidence of an attempt to settle
relations between these states and the keen interest of these states towards each other.
Poles appeared in Georgia in great numbers in the 1810s, as a result of being
participants in Napoleonic campaign. Between 1831 and the mid 1860s several
thousands of members of the November Revolt (also known as the Shimon Konarsky
Conspiracy) were deported to Georgia.
A considerable number of the aforementioned were members of the intelligentsia:
politically active youth, students and officers. They were forcefully enrolled in the
Caucasian army. The period of active military action was especially tragic for them.
Poles were fighting unwillingly since they considered fighting against the mountain
dwellers to be unfair and tried to be demobilized as soon as possible.
The exiled Poles tried to settle in Tbilisi - the centre of intellectual and cultural life of
the Caucasus. They found their second homeland in Georgia, and created a kind of
affiliation of Polish literature, “Izgnania”. An unique union of Polish and Georgian
intelligentsia was founded, which led to important steps being taken in the cultural and
scientific life of Georgia. For example, Voitsech Pototski was one of the founders of the
Tbilisi Public Library and Leon Yanishevski was one of the organizers of the first
music school in Tbilisi.
At the turn of the century, a new wave of Poles appeared. They were specialists coming
here to work: engineers, doctors, musicians, etc. Ferdinand Rozdevitch was a major
engineer in the construction works of Surami tunnel, Ludwig Miokosevich founded the
famous Lagodekhi national park, Lucian Truskovski was one of the first professors of
the Tbilisi conservatory.
The second centre of Polish culture of special importance in Georgia was Kutaisi. There
were quite a number of Poles in Batumi.
The Cultural-educational union of Poles in Georgia-“Polonia”- was founded and
registered in 1995.
It is impossible to present exact statistical data concerning the number of Poles in
Georgia, as there is no information on the last census and besides, because of
well-known political reasons many Poles adopted other nationalities in their passports
in the Stalinist epoch. There reside approximately 2 thousands Poles in Georgia. Tbilisi
is still the centre of residence for Poles in Georgia. A considerable number of Poles live
in Kutaisi, Batumi, Rustavi and Ahaltsikhe.
At present the Union “Polonia” numbers about 800, not including young people under
18. The Union includes persons of the third, fourth and sometimes fifth generation of
Poles who are mostly assimilated with the Georgian population.
Native name: “Ruskie”
Religion: Orthodox Christians (religious groups: Baptists, Dukhobors, Molokans)
Population: 341,720 (6.3%) (1989 year census).
Residence: Almost in every region of Georgia. Compact residence in 5 villages of
Sukhumi region (Pskhu Village Administration Unit), Ninotsminda region
(Dukhobors’ Gorelovka Village Council - there were 6 villages but only 2 remain),
Gardabani region (one village Vaziani), Lagodekhi region (Svabodnoe), Lanchkhuti
region (one village Maltakva), Mtskheta region (one village Karsani), Ozurgeti region
(one village Shekvetili), Sagarejo region (one village Krasnogorka), Signaghi region
(one village Ulianovka).
Education: There are about 150 Russian schools. There are also Russian departments in
schools; kindergartens, Russian language and literature departments at high schools,
Russian departments in various universities in Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Batumi, Sukhumi,
Tskhinvali etc. There are several Russian churches.
Mass Media Press: “Svabodnaia Gruzia”, “Rech”, “Vecherni Tbilisi” and
“Zakavkazskie Vedomosti” (Russian army newspaper), “Zaria Vostoka”, “Batumi” etc.
Magazines - “Literaturnaia Gruzia”, the literaly almanac “Mtatsminda”, etc.
Broadcasting: daily programmes that last several hours.
Tele broadcasting: programme “Vestnik” and two Russian Federation channels.
Culture: Three professional theatres, section of Russian writers at the Union of the
Writers of Georgia and Russian Cultural Centre.
Russians comprise the core of the highly skilled workers in heavy industry. They are
engaged in agriculture: mostly in animal husbandry, craftsmanship etc.
Intelligentsia: scientists, writers, poets, artists etc.
There are 3 Russian MPs in the Parliament of Georgia.
Associations: There are about 10 associations of Russians. The biggest is the Russian
Cultural and Educational Association of Georgia, which has 9 branches and 16000
members. Charity Association “Slavonic House”, Association “Nadejda”, Association
“Drujba” in Batumi, Union of Cossacks, Dukhobors Community etc.
Traditions: The Russians, especially those, living compactly and more particularly the
religious groups (sects) among them, preserve their old traditions connected to
weddings and the cult of the deceased. Mixed marriages are quite frequent, but rarely in
religious groups. They eat traditional food mainly on religious holidays (dairy products,
porridges, etc.). Holidays are spent at home and at the Russian Christian churches. The
religious groups spend holidays at their “Prayer House”.
History of Migration
In 1801, Georgia became one of the outlying regions of the Russian Empire. The
colonization process began. The means of governing were entirely paramilitary. The
Russian officers and the heads of the provincial police represented the local
administration. The Tsarist administration was trying impose the Russian language,
culture, and customs instead of those of Georgians as well as changing the ethnic
composition of the population. In 1811, Tsarizm abolished the autocephaly of the
Georgian church and subordinated it to the Russian church. With the purpose of
reducing the authority of the Georgian nobility, the Tsar confiscated lands belonging to
the nobility and church and handed them to the treasury of the Russian Empire.
Russian government officers migrated to Georgia in great numbers to lead a colonial
policy. Russian clerks worked in all administrative or industrial enterprises.
The Caucasus was colonized. The government gave the best lands to the Cossacks and
to the new army settlements so as to form a most reliable buttress.
New military settlements emerged in Georgia. In 1803, General Tsitsianov, the
Commander in Chief of Georgia, sent two battalions to Kakheti and they constructed
the first bastion “Tsarskie kolodtsi” (Queen's Spring).
In 1844, dragoon of the 44th regiment set up a summer base at Queen's Spring, named
“Letnik”. The new military settlement was a unique form of military force, which
combined military service with agriculture and craftsmanship. This was the forcible
establishment of the military-agricultural rank.
The new settlements were composed of retired servicemen and their families.
New Military settlements were set up in Tbilisi, Kodjori, Manglisi, Samgori, Martkopi,
Norio, Satskhenosno, Tetri Tskaro, Tsiteltskaro, Gombori, Lagodekhi, Signaghi, Gori,
Abastumani, Tsalka, Ozurgeti, Batumi, Sukhumi and in the villages of the Gori region
as well as in the regions of Akhalsopeli, Chala, Skra, Ahalkalaki, Ozurgeti, Signaghi,
Kutaisi, Borchalo, Gergeti and Khrami.
In the 1830s the Russian Christian sects were deported to Georgia.
Molokans were settled in the Tbilisi districts (Saburtalo, Chugureti, Avlabari, Navtlugi,
Orkhevi, Rike), and also in the Signaghi region (Ulianovka) and the Sagaredjo region
(Krasnogorka), in the Lagodehi region (Ninigori and Svobodnoe). Dukhobors were
settled in the Javakheti region, where they built 7 villages (Orlovka or Terpenie,
Rodionovka, Bogdanovka, Gorelovka, Spasovka, Troitskoe, Efremovka). The
Staroobriadtsi were settled in the Batumi region (Grigoleti) and Tbilisi.
The intensive migration of Russians took place during the process of industrialization
of Georgia in 20-th century. It was of permanent character.
Some Comments of Professor I. S. Bogomolov, the President-Coordinator of the
Russian Cultural-Educational Society of Georgia
A tendency towards a decreasing number of Russian schools and departments should be
particularly noted. Some political powers attempt to make a decision favourable for
them – as if there is a policy towards closing the schools being implemented in Georgia.
In reality we deal with a coincidence. At the beginning of the 90-s, a significant number
of the Russian-language population left for the Russian Federation. That was caused by
the catastrophic deterioration of living standards in Georgia. A substantial number of
Russian troops were removed from Georgia. These facts in many respects caused a
reduction of the number of pupils in Russian schools.
On the other hand, a strengthening of the position of Georgian as the State language is
reported. It is known that ethnic Georgians composed quite a big part of the contingent
studying in Russian schools. Currently Georgian families prefer to place their children
in Georgian schools. Non-Georgian families act in the same way. In Georgian schools
the percentage of representatives of the non-Georgian population is on the increase.
The raising of the national identity among Armenians and Azerbaijanians has led to the
removing of children studying in Russian schools to Armenian and Azerbaijanian
schools (particularly in places of their compact settlement). This has resulted in the
enlargement of Russian schools at the expense of a reduction in their number. This
process is painful. Most frequently, representatives of the administration of closed
schools lose their positions. However, our Society in cooperation with the government
authorities, successfully and impartially solves the problems raised.
In respect of ensuring the educational process in these schools, we face the same
difficulties as in all schools of the country. The lack of material and technical
equipment is obvious as well as an acute shortage of tutorial and methodological
materials. Teachers suffer from extreme need. However, the reputation of Russian
schools remains high, as regards the quality of education acquired by their students.
Hence there is no discrimination in the field of education.
Our special concern derives from the fate of the Dukhobor and Molokan communities.
These unique cultural and religious communities are on the brink of disappearance in
Georgia. The reason for that is in the famous economic- social crisis as well as the
internal split within the communities. The government is making steps towards saving
them. Unfortunately, it may be too late.
Several distinctive particularities of the Russian Diaspora, which puts it in a less
favorable condition, should also be mentioned. Thus the Russians found themselves to
be less protected during the economic and political crisis. The majority mainly reside in
cities and industrial centres and have no relatives in villages. Due to this, they do not
have extra sources of subsistence. The fact that the Russian population is scattered and,
unlike compactly settled minorities, have less opportunities for enrollment in
representative bodies of the government authorities, is also important. A significant
part of the community, particularly elderly persons, do not speak Georgian and that
makes them feel unprotected and creates obstacles in communicating with government
representatives. They experience the nostalgic feelings concerning the Soviet past.
These hamper the adaptation process of a certain part of the Russian-speaking
population to the new conditions.
The fact that the Russian Federation has not yet determined its policy towards Georgia
is also important. Georgia in turn has certain grounds for disbelief vis-à-vis its northern
neighbour that directly or indirectly affects the attitude towards Russians in Georgia.
The fact that Russians contained a significant number of emigrants during the first half
of the 1990s is not accidental. Although, the fact that the historical homeland – Russia
is close to Georgia and economic situation was more stable there, should not be
Our Society took the initiative to make an input in the conflict resolution in the
Abkhazian and Tskhinvali regions through the efforts of the Russian Diaspora.
Unfortunately, some Russian organizations happened to be involved in separatist
regimes and external forces inspiring these conflicts.
The most important goals of our Society is the formation of a civil society in Georgia,
the adoption of principles of citizenship, strengthening of identity that all of us are
citizens of one country and equally, without any discrimination, have certain rights and
We scrutinize our government with regard to the implementation of obligations
concerning human rights. No grave violation of the provisions of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has been reported. We verify that in the
legislation of the country and in decisions made by its government, there are no
discriminative provisions towards minorities (particularly the Russian minority).
Though legislation in the field of minorities should be augmented.
There are no facts concerning violation of rights of Russians determined in the UN
International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Emigration Processes from Georgia
The drastic changes that recently have taken place in Georgia have resulted in the
deterioration of the living conditions of the population. Emigration has become one of
its coping strategies. Since 1989 approximately 14 % of the population of the country
has left. Georgia has managed to stabilize the economic and political processes, but
most of the population still live in poor conditions.
Unfortunately, the Committee on Social and Economic Information had more or less
reliable information concerning the migration of the population. Due to technical
difficulties, it is impossible to describe the situation with any real accuracy.
The majority of the emigrants went to Russia. According to the Moscow newspaper
"Век", from 1990 to 1994 more then 200,000 people went from Georgia to Russia, but
the newspaper acknowledged, that it was impossible to calculate the exact number of
people who left Georgia.
Statistical data of Visa and Registration Agency give a good picture of the process of
emigration to the West, but it is not quite complete. According to this information, not
more than 1 or 2 thousand people per year have gone to seek permanent residence in
Western countries. Official data of this agency mainly describe the process of the
repatriation of Jews and Greeks, who are more than 70% of all the emigrants. But the
number of Georgians who left the country seems to be greater. Many of those people,
who went abroad to work, to study, as tourists etc. refused to come back and asked for
permanent residence. There are a lot of such cases, but unfortunately, there is no
reliable statistics giving their number.
The tendency of the reverse processes must be mentioned. Cases of compulsory
deportation of Georgian asylum-seekers are known. There are also the facts of
A characteristic feature of this process was that a considerable part of the people
leaving consisted of representatives of ethnic minorities. Some political forces
interpreted the emigration activity of the ethnic minorities as a result of the
discriminative ethnic policy in Georgia.
In 1994, the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development together with
the Committee on Human Rights and Inter-ethnic Relations carried out a sociological
research, which showed a strong motivation for leaving the country, especially among
representatives of ethnic minorities.
The research was repeated in 1996 with the assistance of the Open Society Institute.
The realisation of the same project in 1998 has been possible by virtue of MAG.
The problem of the research was to determine the reasons for emigration from Georgia,
to define the intensity of the readiness of population for emigration, to find out if
discrimination is the reason for the emigration of ethnic minorities in comparison with
the 1994 and 1996 data. An analysis of the intensity of the reverse processes was of
The third research showed a decreasing of emigration intentions of the population
compared with the data of 1994 and 1996 survey. Considerably less people included in
the sample say that they would like to emigrate.
Dynamics of Migratory Intentions of a Sample
1994 1996 1998
The immediate surroundings of the respondents became less oriented on emigration.
There are less persons in the immediate surroundings, who are thinking about departing
on permanently from Georgia.
Dynamics of Migratory Intentions of the Immediate Surroundings of Respondents
1994 1996 1998
All researches revealed, that emigration activity of representatives of the ethnic
minorities was not caused by such reasons as “unfavourable attitude of the authorities
and the population”, “no possibility of realisation of needs for language and culture”,
“no possibilities of realisation of religious feelings”.
In the opinion of the respondents, the decision to emigrate for both Georgians and
non-Georgians was stipulated mainly by such factors as “decreasing of living
standards”, “lack of confidence in the future”, “no possibility of self-realisation”. The
emigration activity of non-Georgians was caused by the existence of the more “well
off” historical native country.
In all subgroups of the sample, a tendency to repatriate was confirmed. Not less than a
quarter of respondents in each said that they had heard about the cases of return of
“International Centre For peaceful Caucasus” was registered in Tbilisi, by Vake district
Court in 19.04/1999 (Resolution #5/9-154)
Identification Code #20639595
32; 8; Paliashvili St., Tbilisi, Georgia
Tel. (995 32) 22 49 47, (995 32) 95 98 44
Centre proceeds from the idea - unresolved problems of minorities in Caucasus is the
main source of tensions and conflicts in the region.
The Centre - is a non-governmental, non-political, non-profit organization. It monitors
the compliance of Georgia to its obligations as a State Party of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (especially its Article 27) and other International
The Centre studies the facts of infringement of the rights of the persons belonging to
national (ethnic) minorities, mobilizes public opinion, carries out educational and
scientific work among the population in Georgia and in the Caucasus region as a whole.
It contacts with local and international NGOs, scientific centres and governmental
bodies which specialize in this sphere.
One of the main spheres of activities of the Centre is a participation in the conflict