Georgians don’t need “lessons of hatred”25.02.2009 | 10:30
For the first time, a week is taking place in Georgian schools devoted to the "occupation" of the country by the Soviet army on 25th February 1921. The enlightened Minister for Education had the idea of carrying out this "patriotic" action as a result of the August war in South Ossetia.
From 18th to 25th February, exhibitions, discussions, literary events, and open lessons are being organized in all schools and higher education institutions, reports the website for the Georgian Ministry for Education and Science. This means that throughout this week it will be drummed in especially intensively to the country's young citizens that Russia was and remains Georgia's sworn enemy. This theory is meant to be strengthened by an event at the so-called Museum of the Occupation. Judging by the results of the week, "the most gifted" children will take part in an essay-writing competition about the occupation. The Ministry for Education will publish the best "creations" in its journal. The most active schools will be rewarded.
The offensive theory of the Georgian authorities about the "Sovietization of the country" in 1921 is simple: a cunning and brutal enemy attacked the small, peaceful and defenceless young republic. The Georgian army demonstrated miraculous levels of heroism, but could not cope with the enemy's superior forces, especially after Turkey invaded the country from the south. (However, this does not stop Tbilisi now regarding Ankara as its close friend!) On 25th February 1921, Soviet troops entered the capital, and Soviet power was declared in Georgia.
In his textbook for year 10, the historian P. Lomashvili explains: "Gradually the occupation of Georgia by Russia turned into an annexation. First and foremost, this was reflected in the violation of Georgia's territorial integrity and the "giving away" of indigenous Georgian land... This provoked great outrage among the Georgian people and gave rise to the establishment of the national-liberation movement... But popular uprisings were suppressed with bloodshed. The repression of the dark year of 1937 also raged in Georgia, and thousands of people were shot without trial..."
Nobody is going to deny that there were revolts in Georgia by those unhappy with collectivisation, people were subject to repression, and religious believers to persecution. But that was not just the case in Georgia, but throughout the entire enormous country, including in the Russian regions. Incidentally, these actions were carried out under the leadership of three sons of the Georgian people - Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Iosif Dzhugashvili and Lavrenti Beria. So, if we are going to be led by the principles underlying the Old Testament - "an eye for an eye" - it's not the Georgians, but the Russians who should be creating an occupation museum and rendering their account.
Tbilisi officials like to remind everyone that Moscow cynically broke the treaty of 1920. But they forget to recall how Georgia itself acted with regard to its neighbour that was being torn apart by civil war. It declared its independence on 26th May 1918. And as early as June the Georgian army, armed by the Germans, captured Abkhazia and advanced further onto Russian land populated by Russians... Its own people, outraged at the German occupation of Georgia and the authority of the bourgeoisie, rose up against their leaders. The Menshevik government deployed its armed guardsmen to suppress these recalcitrant citizens, and introduced the death penalty, notes the Soviet historian Georgi Pipia.
As far as Abkhazia and South Ossetia are concerned, Georgia regards them as "its own territories", proceeding from the situation that existed when it declared its independence in 1918. But the treaty then in action with Sukhumi had been signed when the republic was under Georgian occupation. And South Ossetia was then trying to liberate itself from Tbilisi's rule, for which it was subjected to armed aggression from the Menshevik leadership of Georgia.
Following Germany's capitulation in the First World War, Georgia found itself a new protector in the form of Great Britain. Nowadays this role belongs to the USA. Incidentally, at the opening of the infamous Museum of the Occupation in 2006, Mikheil Saakashvili stressed that the events of 1921 involved a "Soviet", not a "Russian" seizure. The current presence of the Russian military in Abkhazia and South Ossetia is viewed by Tbilisi as an "occupation".
The rhetoric of the Georgian government that was left humiliated in August can be understood on human terms. But should a young generation of Georgians be being brought up on historical falsifications and hatred of a friendly people? In these situations, history is unforgiving.
At a meeting between representatives of the two countries, the political analyst Vyacheslav Nikonov noted: "For centuries we had not just neighbourly, but brotherly relations with Georgia, and we need to lay down a foundation for relations, even if it is a stretch to imagine this now, which we will one day be able to call brotherly again." One would like to believe that the current hysterical anti-Russian campaign, which has now reached Georgian schools, will cease, and that the two nations will again find a common language.