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Is Javakhetia going to become autonomous?01.03.2010 | 23:27
The Russian expatriate community of the Georgian Armenians is promoting a new initiative. The community proposed to solve the problems of their relatives staying in Georgia by establishing the Javakh autonomous region. GeorgiaTimes tried to find out whether this issue is urgent for the national minority in Georgia and what kind of situation such demands may lead to in the country that has just lost two former autonomies.
The Javakh expatriate community in Russia believes that it is time to take urgent measures to reduce discrimination of the Armenian minority in Georgia. These demands are set forth in a special petition addressed to the Georgian and Armenian authorities, as well as to all the independent international democratic institutes.
Considering the current political situation in Georgia, their most "explosive" demand implies "reviewing and making amendments to the Georgian Constitution concerning the announcement of the Samtskhe-Javakhetia territory as an autonomous region and assigning the name of "Javakhskaya autonomous region" to this territory".
The rest of the petition items can be characterized as less "revolutionary": including the Tsalkskiy municipality into the Javakh region, granting the status of a regional language to Armenian, granting a legal status to the Armenian Apostolic Church in Georgia, returning the secularized Armenian churches, shrines and historical monuments, ceasing the persecutions of the Armenian activists, facilitating the access control at the border with Armenia and the revival of the Armenian toponyms.
As GeorgiaTimes was told by members of the Javakh expatriate community, the petition was associated with the Armenian President Serge Sargsyan's visit to Georgia. He came to Batumi on his colleague Mikhail Saakashvili's personal invitation. "Our petition is aimed at drawing his attention to the problems of the Javakh Armenians, so that he would say a good word for them", - the authors of the appeal explained.
Besides, this document became a kind of appendix to the petition recently accepted by Coordination Council for the Javakh Armenians' Rights Protection. The Russian Armenians added two more items to the demands they placed.
- It is the item concerning the establishment of a territorial entity named Javakh autonomous region. We have already introduced an item about making the Tsalkinskiy municipality part of this region, for it was isolated from Javakhetia, - the community members explained.
- When did it happen?
- In the times of the Soviet power, the division of Georgia was rather relative. The region of Samtskhe belonged to Meskhetia, while the Tsalkinskiy region existed separately; still, all the problems of the high mountain area were solved in aggregate. When the Soviet Union collapsed and Gamsakhurdia came to power, the territorial structure was reconsidered. The Tsalkinskiy region was attached to Kvemo Kartli, a region populated by the Azerbaijani. Thus, they reduced the percentage ratio of the Armenians in Javakhetia. And now the Armenians have to turn to the heads of the local territorial bodies to solve their problems, while the Armenians and the Azerbaijani have got some kind of personal disliking because of the tension caused by the war in Karabakh.
Members of the Javakh community assure that all these demands do not contradict the international rule or the Georgian constitution. "It is a sovereign right of the native people to suggest their forms of the state structure. Just give the people the right to solve their problems on their own, dispose of their donations and budget revenue. This is not a political demand", - GeorgiaTimes' interlocutor underlines.
As to the crossing of the border with Armenia, this problem was especially urgent after the 2008 war. Georgia tightened the crossing rules at Bavra checkpoint. The people of Javakhetia who visit their relatives abroad now have to undergo a thorough check-up. A great number of restrictions have been introduced. For instance, one is not allowed to carry any literature in Armenian because it arouses suspicions lest it should serve the terroristic purposes.
The Georgians believe that the demand of assigning the regional status to the Armenian language has got the touch of separatism. Still, it is the legal right of the native (!) people to speak their own language. The Georgian authorities gradually deprive the people of this right. Moreover, we are facing "Georginization" of the Armenian names and toponyms.
So long as there is no such letter as «я» ("ya", Russian), it is replaced by the "ia" combination. This transformation immediately changes a great number of the Armenian surnames ending in "yan". Besides, according to the rules of the Georgian language, a consonant is always followed by "i". Consequently, such surname as Dzhigarhanyan turns into a Georgian-like surname of Dzhigarkhaniani.
The same can be said about the names of villages and towns. Akhalkalak, which had always sounded in Armenian in the pre-revolutionary documents, was transformed into Akhalkalaki. Naturally, this fact makes the local Armenian population indignant, for it was their ancestors who set up those settlements.