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Gulua: We want to understand what the Russian and Georgian people want08.10.2009 | 16:21
Russia and Georgia: What Do People Want? Such forum is planned to be held in Krasnodar on October 10. It will be held on the initiative of Iveria regional public organization of Krasnodar. GeorgiaTimes is talking to Head of NGO (nongovernmental organization) Mindia Gulua who is giving his view of the Russian-Georgian relationship development.
Some of the readers might say: well, they have got as far as Krasnodar now. How many natives of Georgia are there in your organization and how are they doing in Krasnodar?
The organization itself was established in 1999, so we are going to mark our tenth anniversary in April.
On the whole, there are about 40 thousand Georgians living in Krasnodar. Basically, they are refugees that had to leave their home because of the 1992-1993 military actions.
Approximately a half of them (about 20 thousand) are the citizens of Russia, the rest being the citizens of Georgia.
All of these people turned out to be hostages of the Georgian-Russian relationship. Those having a Georgian citizenship cannot obtain a visa or a residence permit. Diplomatic relationship is suspended. How are they to live and work? They have got neither a shelter, nor a job in Georgia.
In Georgia, we are treated almost as traitors; in Russia, many people think us to be potential betrayers, for no Georgian will ever recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. What are we to do? It means we are to contribute to the settling of the Georgian-Russian relationship, at least at the national diplomacy level.
Was it the reason for a businessman to start settling political issues all of a sudden?
I have never thought about politics and I have no intention to be engaged in it. One of the priority goals of our organization is preserving the Georgian language and culture. The problem requires urgent solving.
In another twenty years we will find ourselves speaking different languages. Many of our children do not speak Georgian already, and our fellow countrymen are accusing us of nobody knows what things because we live here. In Georgia, teenagers do not speak Russian. How will our children understand each other in ten years? And when a Georgian does not understand another Georgian, when a wall of misunderstanding separates them - this is real tragedy.
But the forum agenda includes not only the issues of preserving the language and culture, does it not?
In May, I was elected Chairman of Iveria public organization. I had to face a great number of insolvable problems. For instance, our region is mostly populated by refugees from Abkhazia. Once a year, on Low Sunday, they may cross the border and visit the graves of their relatives buried in Abkhazia. This is very important for those who were brought up in Caucasian traditions.
Before, those who have got Russian citizenship could cross the border on the side of Sochi, while now this is not possible either because they would not be allowed to go back to Georgia. Here, they will be told that they have violated the Occupied Territories Law and they have got no opportunity to pay for a trip through Gali and Zugdidi.
As to border crossing, political battles keep going on around the matter. How can a nongovernmental organization solve this problem?
For that purpose, we are going to hold a forum called Russia and Georgia: What Do People Want? Let the Russians and the Georgians sit down at a table and tell in each other's face what they want from each other and what they expect each other to do. Russian authorities supported us.
We invited guests from Georgia: authorities, public organizations and arts intelligentsia. To mend relationship between the countries, one has to search for something that unites, not something that separates.
Such events were already held by your colleagues but were boycotted by the Georgian government. Do you hope it will change its position?
We are conducting negotiations on the matter; our spokesmen have already started off for Tbilisi.
I strongly believe that besides personal ambitions, there is love for one's country and people. It means one has to hold one's temper and come. Ultimately, one third of the whole ethnos resides in Russia. The Georgians are a small nation; how can we allow one third of it to be cut off? Will the future generation forgive us?
Nevertheless, practically all who have any connections with Russia are accused by the current authorities of being traitors. Are you not afraid of being announced a traitor as well?
No, I am not. I have done nothing that could harm my country. On the contrary, I am ready to do everything I can to change the situation for the better. For instance, it is clear that a one-vector policy has done no good to Georgia. It means the situation needs changing.