Change Georgia needs14.07.2010 | 19:09
It's been almost two years since the August events in 2008. In July GeorgiaTimes correspondent went to Tbilisi that has witnessed a lot of change and shock recently to see what is going on there now. Like a Russian literature classic many who are not indifferent to the future of Georgia always loved and inviting with its beauties, the sun and freedom of thinking, ask this question now. "Georgia must learn to learn from its mistakes well", - our interlocutor, head of Institute of Nationalism and Conflicts Research, politologist Paata Zakareishvili says.
- Recent local election in Tbilisi brought a convincing victory to the dominant party. What is the opposition planning to do, does it have resources?
- On one hand the election demonstrated the success of the authorities, revealing their weakness on the other hand. Only 25% of electorate voted for them. Part of the votes was "acquired" with ill practices. The other 25% were given in favor of the opposition. Because of poor coordination inside the opposition these 25% were "spread" among different parties. And the most interesting thing here is that 50% remained at home. It's time to realize that the only way out is to deal with people - not organize revolutions or coups.
- The parliamentary election is scheduled for 2012. Does it mean that until then relations with Russia won't change?
- Russian leaders more than once reiterated their refusal to deal with Saakashvili's government. If the position remains unaltered, the situation won't change. Some time ago Saakashvili said he is ready to start talks without preconditions. Though it's hard to believe the Georgian president he once again showed that the readiness of Georgian authorities is higher. In my view, Russian authorities find it convenient to stick to this position. Not dealing with Saakashvili Russia strengthens his power. Those who call for Saakashvili's resignation automatically are considered as Russia's supporters since Russia wants the same. That is why Georgia longs for the West, for Europe. They help Georgia get rid of our problems while Russia benefits from our weaknesses.
- How effective can the new strategy by Georgian authorities toward Abkhazia and South Ossetia be?
- It can't be effective. It is too late. The idea of the strategy and its provisions are quite acceptable - more integration, economic cooperation etc. It should have been written instead of the events in Kodory gorge in 2006 and instead of "Dimitry Sanakoyev project" when the authorities started putting pressure on Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It was the time when Irakli Alasania and Georgi Khaindrava were estranged from conflict settlement. And thanks to the security officials - Vano Merabishvili and Irakli Okruashvili - the conflict was escalated.
To me year 2008 starts in 2006 when the Georgian authorities laid a delayed action mine by themselves.
After the collapse of the USSR the West and Europe declared their intention to influence South Caucasus. Did they help to return Georgia's provinces?
- In 2006 in Brussels a donor conference took place. EUR 13 mln were allocated. Russia set aside a large sum too. Georgia protested stating that it would transfer a grant on South Ossetia's development. But instead of joint projects that could have made the situation better, the money was spent on "Sanakoyev project", an escalation component of the conflict increased.
Russia contributed to the flare-up of tension instead of forcing Georgia to comply with the commitments together with international organizations. Europe turned a blind eye on many things hoping there would be no war. Then US president George Bush was influencing Saakashvili too impudently which eventually led to the well-known events. Bush left, and Georgia is still here with two breakaway territories.
- You are one of the few Georgians who went to South Ossetia after the August events. What is the situation there?
- On one hand South Ossetia's residents believe that Russia is their only guarantor of security. On the other hand they are not happy with the quality and progress of construction works.
- What is the attitude to Georgians?
- I think now Ossetia is not ready to welcome Georgians back. Many think that most Georgians approved of Georgian invasion into South Ossetia in August 2008. That is why they don't want to hear anything about Georgian neighbors or even relatives.
- But as you say, in Akhalgori, Georgians live quite peacefully with Ossetians...
- Akhalgori was part of South Ossetia, but has never been integrated into it.
That is why after the first war Ossetians gave it up quite easily. Georgians live there still. Georgian authorities make up stories about ethnic cleansings in Akhalgori trying to prove this to the whole world.