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National question: why Tbilisi has got a headache2009-08-21 20:14
Georgia and Azerbaijan are not just neighbors: they are strategic partners as well. Both countries take part in a number of regional projects including the much talked-of Nabukko project. However, relationship between Baku and Tbilisi are marred by the notorious national question. The polyethnic Georgia that has been famous for its tolerance keeps stepping on the same rake of nationalism after obtaining recognition in 1991. Today, Baku is discussing the distressful situation of its Georgian compatriots after the break of Georgia's relationship with Russia, as well as the oppression on the part of the authorities. Are there any possible decisions of the Azerbaijani issue in Georgia?
The specific trait of polyethnic Georgia is that the national minorities live very densely there, considering the fact that they occupy the territories adjoining their historical motherland. Well, it would not be that bad: the Georgian people are tolerant indeed, there is no nationalism among common people and, hopefully, there never will be any. However, the period of establishing independence in Georgia was rather difficult, for the changing political elites kept shouting out nationalistic slogans. Zviad Gamsakhurdia stated that "Georgia is for the Georgians", while the currently ruling United National Movement keeps kicking the representatives of the non-titular nation, at the same time proclaiming equality of all the citizens regardless of their
As a result, the ruling majority is indignant with the separative moods in the regions, blaming Moscow for everything. Although the Azerbaijani inhabiting Kvemo-Kartli never demanded a status of autonomy for themselves, conflicts have been developing here as well. Recently, in Baku, a speech was delivered by Deputy Chairman of the Geyrat (Honor) Azerbaijani people's movement Zumrud Gurbanov about the distressing situation of the Azerbaijani in Georgia, which added no score to the Georgian authorities in the eyes of the Baku community.
"After the August 2008 war, the border between Georgia and Russia was totally closed, and the Azerbaijani were deprived of the market for their products, - Gurbanov is quoted by the Azerbaijani media. - As a result, unemployment grew rapidly in the Azerbaijani regions". According to him, over 60 thousand Azerbaijani left Georgia in search of a job within the last year. Most of them resided in their historic motherland; however, in Azerbaijan, these people are also facing problems related to migration procedures.
Earlier, Chairman of the Geyrat people's movement Alibala Askerov stated that the Azerbaijani in Georgia have serious problems in the sphere of culture and education. Baku decided that the situation might be settled by way of Azerbaijani investments into the regions of Georgia densely inhabited by the Azerbaijani. All these issues will be soon discussed during the visit of Minister of Economic Development of Azerbaijan Shakhin Mustaphaev to Tbilisi.
According to statistics, there are about half a million Azerbaijani in Georgia. In 1990 - 2000, conflicts developed more than once in the territory of Kvemo-Kartli, acquiring ethnic-political coloration. Social, economic and legal issues have always been of primary concern here. In the course of settling the inter-ethnic collisions, the representatives of the Azerbaijani community have stated their claims to the Georgian authorities: staff discrimination in respect of the Azerbaijani, the absence of any career perspectives in Georgia; discrimination in land allocation; closing of Azerbaijani schools; abuse of power by the Georgian border guards and customs officers. In almost ten years, the same problems are on the agenda.