Caucasian Regional Studies
The International Association For Caucasian Regional Studies
Law Politics Sociology Economics Modern History International Relations
Caucasian Regional Studies, Vol. 3,
Issue 1, 1998
THE MAKING OF THE NEW GEORGIA: DEVELOPMENT FACTORS - PLUSES AND MINUSES
More than six years have passed since Georgia and the other former Union Republics of
the USSR were recognised as independent members of the World community. From the point of
view of political history six or seven years is not a long period ÷ much more time is
usually needed for the formation of a new statehood. Therefore there is no place either
for surprise, or (even less so) for blaming any of the Newly Independent States (NIS) for
the serious shortcomings in the first stage of their development.
There is no doubt that most of these shortcomings were predetermined by objective
factors; but for time being, many people in the NIS, who have no experience of real
political participation, who live in the conditions of an embryonic democracy (it is hard
to say whether in each NIS these embryos will find fertile soil to develop), who reside in
countries at an early stage of statehood, which are encountering a dramatic change of
economic paradigms, tend to blame their plight (quite real, it should be said), simply
upon the subjective actions of the former and recent leaders of the USSR and its successor
states. Nevertheless, it can be argued that what is now perceived as a subjective factor,
years after may be re-evaluated by scholars who will find an objective scientific
explanation for it from the point of view of the logic of economic and political
There is no doubt that absolute majority of the population of the ex-Soviet Union now
lives in harsher conditions than under "real socialism". The difficulties are
mostly caused by:
a dramatic fall of economic output, after the previous
single economic complex (producing goods more or less affordable within the closed
economic space, though non-competitive on the world market) happened to be torn apart into
at least 15 new separate parts (none of them a complex): this left many people unemployed;
a dramatic decline in the real welfare of population: social
welfare in the USSR had been subsidised from the budget, which was mostly secured by the
state ownership of natural resources and their injurious exploitation ÷ this factor no
a sharp polarisation of wealth distribution: the number of
those who require social support is increasing rapidly;
ethno-territorial tensions and even wars, which have
happened, are proceeding or can be envisaged (they are mostly due to the ambiguity of the
political and administrative boundaries
the heritage of the USSR): this has turned many people
intorefugees and internally displaced persons.
It is clear that these aspects do not cover all the reasons for the decline in the
material welfare of the population of the NIS, but they seem to be more important than any
On the other hand, it is arguable that the positive sides of the denunciation of the
Union treaty of 1922 and the refusal to follow dogmatically accepted Marxism
("Marxism-Leninism" ÷ a more familiar term in the USSR) will in the end
outweigh the difficulties the population of the post-Soviet Union (PSU) suffer now.
To the positive aspects of recent development of many of the NIS may be attributed the
all the NIS had the opportunity to become real owners of
their natural wealth. The best examples are Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, rich
in natural resources(especially hydrocarbons) and Russia, rich in all kinds of natural
resources. Previously this wealth was wasted elsewhere and many potentially rich countries
were doomed to live in poverty (the best example was Soviet Turkmenistan);
the NIS with better developed industrial forces and higher
culture of production have the chance to overcome more rapidly the inefficiency of the
planned economy (the best examples here are the Baltic states);
in some countries (Georgia not the least among them)
ideological blinkers no longer limit the economic success of a person: the market economy,
although the transition to it is painful and quite often accompanied by a sharp economic
polarisation, is still capable of giving the majority of the population (and, certainly,
to its most energetic, well-educated and industrious part, which under the levelling
tendency of "real socialism" was doomed never to exceed an average level)
material welfare of a much higher standard than the centralised economy of the Soviet
period could offer them;
in some countries (Georgia being a clear example) the
process of democratisation is proceeding. Although the results so far are relatively
modest, they are encouraging. It is important that people of many NIS are step by step
getting used to the possibility of choice during elections, in contrast with the
"elections" under Soviet power (with the only candidate on the ballot list)
which just endorsed the rule of the single party;
for the world community it is important that the threat of a
devastating war from "the one sixth of the Earth" has been substantially
An objective argument against Soviet-Communist nostalgia is the impossibility of
restoring all the free benefits, the source of which was the injurious exploitation of
natural resources, the levelling of wages and incomes and the suppression of individual
initiative in favour of false collectivism.
Nowadays the people with such a nostalgia prefer to forget the rising prices, queues
and eternal deficit of all kind of goods and services under "real socialism".
The general political and economic background of the development of the whole
post-Soviet region is almost identical, but the objective factors ÷the concrete natural,
socio-cultural, political and economic realities - differ very much and they cause visible
differences in the way in which state-building proceeds in each NIS, as well as in the
pace and peculiarities of solving of their socio-economic problems.
It must be noted that it is very difficult to single out separate factors of
development in an absolutely pure manner. Quite often the factors are so interconnected
that it is hard to discuss them separately, for example, to consider natural resources
without mentioning the local economic basis, or to argue about economic factors ignoring
the international political situation. Nevertheless, it seems more appropriate to analyse
the factors before attempting to synthesise them.
Georgia, resembling the other NIS in its general problems, nevertheless has substantial
differences in its developmental patterns. The task of a geographer is to determine the
reasons for these differences. The aim of this article, in particular, is to find the
answer to the question ÷ what are the internal and external factors of development of
the New Georgia? With the aim of obtaining a correct geographical explanation it is
preferable to consider the answer against the background of the overall post-Soviet
realities and especially those f the other NIS of the Southern Caucasus and Central Asia
(the "Southern NIS").
Internal Factors of Development of the New Georgia
These factors could be grouped into four large components:
- Natural resource potential;
- Socio-cultural potential;
- Economic potential;
- Internal political potential.
1) Natural resource potential
From the point of view of climatic, water, forestry and, to a certain extent, soil
resources Georgia has some advantages in comparison with the other Southern NIS.
The water resources of Georgia (its riversand glaciers) are substantially larger than
in most of the other Southern NIS. Climatic conditions are relatively good in spite of
frequent droughts in East Georgia. This country includes virtually the only important
region with a humid subtropical climate in the PSU ÷ the Kolkheti lowlands of West
Georgia (there are only smaller analogies, the tiny south-western part of the Krasnodar
Kray in Russia and the Lenkoran lowlands along the littoral of the Caspian Sea in
Azerbaijan). Even against the background of the rest of Europe the climatic niche of humid
subtropical Kolkheti lowland may give a definite advantage to Georgia (especially in the
development of a specific agriculture, namely subtropical crops and dairy farming).
Against the background of the rest of the PSU the recreational resources of Georgia
(Black Sea littoral, mountain resort and spapotential) are quite substantial. The
development of mountainous, skiing and spa tourism destined for specific customers seems
Georgia possesses many deposits of mineral resources, especially important being the
deposits of construction materials (marble, granite, and tufa).
The most important asset of the resource potential of this country is GeorgiaÔs
access to the open sea: nine out of the fifteen NIS, among them all the seven other
Southern NIS, do not possess such an access and are landlocked countries.
Along with these definite pluses Georgia nevertheless has certain minuses in its
natural potential. Of these the following may be considered less serious:
Water resources are located unevenly. The western, humid part of the country possesses
twice as many hydroresources as the more arid eastern part, which needs capital-consuming
irrigation systems. It will be rather expensive to develop the hydroenergy potential of
the mountainous country: this sort of development needs large capital investments.
Although almost half of the territory of Georgia is covered by forest, these
mountainous forests have a environmental and recreational purpose and the state cannot
permit wide-scale lumbering. The serious deforestation since the early 1990s can be
explained by the uncontrolled action of the rural population due to the grave energy
crisis in the country.
The recreational potential is not easy to develop, first of all because of relative
remoteness of Georgia in comparison with its potential competitors in the Mediterranean
and the Alps. GeorgiaÔs Black Sea littoral is considered (maybe arbitrarily) less
attractive than the beaches of the Adriatic and Aegean Seas because it is rainier. The
tourism infrastructure needs to be almost completely changed.
Earlier, the most frequent tourists from Russia already paved a way more to the south
and to the west. Nevertheless, the recreational potential of Georgia can be used in a
competitive way if large enough capital investments are available. On the other hand, the
latter may follow only after full political stabilisation is achieved (the latter is
examined as a separate factor).
A much more serious drawback of the natural resource potential of Georgia is the lack
of more or less substantial metal ore deposits and fuel (hydrocarbon) resources. Once the
rich manganese ore deposits of Chiatura (West Georgia, exploited since 1879) are
exhausted, neither of the other metal ore deposits has an international significance:
although the deposits are quite numerous and diversified, they are relatively small. Local
oil and gas resources are scarce (larger deposits are still to be discovered): their
virtual absence is the cause of an ecological problem (the cutting down of the forest for
fuel) and of the dependence of Georgia on foreign suppliers ÷ in the first place Russia.
If large enough deposits of fuel are found inside the country (and there are some signs of
this) the economic situation in this country may improve substantially.
2) Socio÷cultural potential
This is probably the most important internal factor of development of the state.
From this point of view Georgia has substantial pluses. Among them is the high level of
education: 10 per cent of the working age population (350 thousand in 1989, the year of
the last census) has complete higher education (university or college diploma) and over
half an incomplete higher or a secondary education. Even if the real professional
knowledge of these people doesnÔt match western standards, their behaviour (e.g.
demographic, economic, electoral) differs substantially from that of the masses in the
classic developing countries. And they influence the behaviour of the rest of the
population: although independent Georgia has the formal status of a "developing
country", the reproductive behaviour of its majority population is similar to that of
Europe. In Georgia there are high consumer standards. The qualifications of most of the
working population are also quite high.
There exists a numerous and quite well prepared intellectual elite (according to the
still persistent Soviet tradition referred to as the "scientific and artistic
intelligentsia"). Although it does not form any independent political group, and
possesses little economic force, its influence on public opinion is great (sometimes this
becomes a political factor: see below).
One more advantage is the easy adaptability of the majority of the population of
Georgia to the "western" way of life compared to most of the other Southern NIS.
This is predetermined by the well-grounded claims of the Georgian nation to belong to the
western (Judaeo-Christian) civilisation: the religious majority (75-78%) are nominally
Orthodox Christians (most of the ethnic Georgians, Slavs, Ossetians, Greeks, and many
Abkhaz). In spite of the youth of democracy the electorate, at least the urban electorate,
tends to make its own choice and is not easily manipulated. The political culture is
developing, though slowly.
The social mobility of population is quite high. This is the result of the social
policy carried out by the CPSU during the seven decades of the 20th century to
"eliminate differences between intellectual and physical labour, between urban and
rural settlements". Although this social policy could not be given a purely positive
or purely negative evaluation, in one case it resulted positively ÷ this is the
practical absence by the mid-1990s of any specific social tension in Georgia which could
be labelled as a "class struggle".
The consolidation of the (ethnic) Georgian nation (on the basis of the literary kartuli
language) is complete. In spite of persistent efforts of external forces and local
separatists (e.g. in Abkhazia, north-western Georgia), even in the gravest years of the
Civil Wars (1992-93) it became impossible to play off the regions settled by the different
Georgian subethnic groups against each other. A very positive role in this case was played
by the capital city of Tbilisi, which concentrates more than a third of the total ethnic
Georgian population and which serves as the virtual "melting pot" of the nation.
The importance of family and kinship relations is still rather high. Although this
factor can be given a negative evaluation as well, as it affects parochialism and
traditionalism, on the other hand, precisely because of such relations the burden of the
material shortages of recent years has been relatively evenly distributed over the whole
society and has restricted the emergence of serious social tensions. Therefore this factor
may be attributed to the list of "pluses".
At the same time this group of developmental factors has negative aspects as well.
The social structure of the population is undergoing a dramatic change. The
"Middle classes" are practically unidentifiable. It is clear that the existence
of a large enough proportion of the population which is economically independent from the
state ("middle classes") is a certain guarantee of political and economic
stability. Such classes are not interested in destabilisation as they have something lose
(in contrast with "the proletariat which has nothing to lose except its chains"
as a popular Marxist motto stated). But the middle classes represent a minority within the
social structure of all the NIS, Georgia among them. In the present conditions of the
transition to a market economy a process of economic polarisation is in progress. Most of
the population of Georgia, which earlier achieved a relatively high standard of material
welfare, is nowadays on the edge of marginalisation. This applies first of all to the
state employees (e.g. schoolteachers, postmen, etc.) who have to depend on meagre
salaries, and to the large number of pensioners with tiny pensions. As these people
constitute a large part of the electorate, who can vote for radical counter-reforms (e.g.
for the leftist parties, advocating the refusal of development towards the free market)
the government has to pursue some kind of populist policy to the detriment of economically
sound but harsh reforms. Many members of the existing economic elite are not ready to bear
the burden of economic reforms. Although there are in Georgia real businessmen as well,
especially among the younger generation, their number at the moment is not large enough.
Due to the system, widely practised in the USSR, of assignment of the Communist Party
functionaries to posts as industrial enterprise directors, the last Soviet directors in
the PSU space, including Georgia, as fate has willed, became the virtual owners or major
stock-holders of these enterprises during the privatisation process of the 1990s. However,
many of such "new businessmen" (especially if they are in their middle age or
older) are still unable to understand the system of market relations, prefer to hamper
reforms and to act circumspectly, with one eye always on the government functionaries.
The political elite is not strong enough. The small and inexperienced political parties
do not have clear programmes oriented towards specific layers of the society. The price of
charismatic leadership is too high, while very few politicians could rely upon their
charisma. Many of the governmental functionaries are either non-professional (belonging to
the same circles as the above-mentioned "new businessmen"), or underpaid and
corrupt. Some new developments in Georgia, such as the building-up of several national
political parties (the ruling "CitizenÔs Union of Georgia" is the best
example) give more confidence that this particular shortcoming might be overcome.
A serious drawback of the social structure of the population is the scarcity and low
training level of the existing army officersÔ corps. This was revealed in the most
dramatic way during the military conflicts of the early 1990s when these officers had to
confront the much better trained military of the former Soviet Army. The establishing of
the new officersÔ corps will take some time and international support is urgently
The morals of the nation were affected negatively by the presence of criminal elements
in governmental structures during the period 1992-1994. The effect of this presence may be
revealed to some extent in the future, especially since it influenced the young generation
of the first half of the 1990s.Not all the ethic minorities of Georgia (up to 25% of the
total population) have patriotic feelings towards the state. The problem of their
acculturation is partly caused by their belonging to different cultural groups. Up to 8
per cent of the population - the Azeris, Kistins, Avars, some of the Abkhaz and Kurds -
are Muslims, up to 7 per cent - the Armenians - predominantly Gregorian (monophysite)
Christians, and there are also smaller communities of Yezidi Kurds and Jews (Judaic). But
such a differentiation was not (and hopefully never will be) a cause of any ethnic
tensions in Georgia. The real reasons are the legacy of the nationality policy of the
Soviet state in which the citizenship of any Union Republic, formally, under the Soviet
Constitution, a "sovereign state", meant nothing and people were distinguished
by their ethnicity marked in internal passports. Even more important causes of tensions
are the internal boundaries (which are mentioned below as a political factor). An attempt
to introduce "ethnic nationalism" in 1990-1991 proved unsuccessful. There is a
necessity to elaborate some form of "all-national ideology" which will promote
the self-identification of all the peoples inhabiting the state as the citizens of
Georgia. This can be achieved only in the conditions of a strong statehood, economic
stability, and non-interference from the outside (meaning the "nearest abroad").
Unfortunately such conditions are limited in Georgia at the moment (it appears unavoidable
here to mention again the political factors ÷ internal and external).
3) Economic potential
The economic structure of Georgia within the USSR was very specific. Agriculture was
specialised, with such products as tea and citrus fruit in the western part, grapes (for
winery) and continental fruit in the east. Almost all the production was intended for the
vast, less fastidious Soviet market, well protected from external competition. A good
income was enjoyed in the tobacco-growing and sheep-grazing areas. Many rural districts of
Georgia achieved a material welfare far exceeding the average Soviet level. This affected
the welfare of the urban population as well.
The output of the industrial enterprises was also diversified and oriented towards the
internal Soviet market (to a lesser extent towards the COMECON countries), but its
competitiveness on the world market was low. Up to 60 per cent of industrial production
was in the light and food-processing branches. The more sophisticated products of
electronic and machinery factories were intended almost entirely for the Soviet
military-industrial complex, a customer which no longer exists. Hence many factories have
To the positive sides of the economic potential may be attributed the existence of
quite a substantial technical infrastructure. Although the existing factory buildings,
roads, electricity transmission lines, water supply, sewage systems, etc. need large
capital investments for their renovation, they represent a good basis for the restarting
of industrial activities.
The presence of technically well educated personnel, quite well trained (especially in
more sophisticated fields) and a substantial workforce, which at the moment is very cheap
compared with that even in Southeast Asia, may also be an attractive factor for foreign
In the long term perspective a positive factor will be the privatisation of the
industrial enterprises (which is in progress) and of the land (which has been partially
accomplished and will be completed after full political stabilisation is achieved).
The most important positive factor of GeorgiaÔs economic potential is its
geographical location: the possibility to serve as the shortest transit way for raw
materials, including oil, gas, cotton, to reach the West from the East (the Caspian Sea
basin and Central Asia). The TRACECA project (Transportation Corridor
Europe-Caucasus-Central Asia) is already being implemented. There are projects aimed at
restoring the "Great Silk Road" passing through Georgia. The latter can also
serve as a transportation corridor from the North (Russia) to the south (Turkey) and vice
versa. There is a ready to implement plan for the construction of a railway connecting
Turkey with Georgia, which will enable the latter to have a railway link with the European
states without passing through Russia and Ukraine.
In spite of the definite pluses of the economic potential of Georgia negative factors
are also noticeable. They are mostly connected with the grave, but inevitable, changes
occurring during the transition period to the market economy and adjusting to the
conditions of the world market.
It is necessary to restructure industry, first of all "the industrial giants"
("giants", according to the Georgia scale, naturally) of machinery and
metallurgy: their sources of raw material supply have been left in the near abroad and
markets in the same area appeared to have narrowed greatly. Structural change will leave
many enterprises and even branches obsolete.
The necessity to feed their families forced many rural people( and some extent, even
urban inhabitants) to change the structure of agriculture and to turn to subsistence
farming. Only a part of what is produced in the rural area reaches foreign markets.
Nevertheless, local production of food has proved to be quite enough for the population of
Georgia, which is now supplied almost entirely by local farm products (incidentally,
ecologically now much more cleaner than before, as chemicals became too expensive).
Even partial privatisation of land has given birth to too many farms, most of them
economically nonviable. The inevitable future rationalisation of agriculture will reduce
the number of such farms as well as employment in this branch of the economy. It is
important if these changes begin in conditions of economic growth to alleviate the social
tensions that may arise during the redistribution of the land.
The external economic links of Georgia need to be changed drastically: instead of an
orientation towards the North they are gradually turning towards the West and the East.
This change is not an easy task, taking into account the low competitiveness of local
products. To a certain extent the change is connected with the closing (hopefully,
provisionally) of the old transportation lines, which in their turn were predetermined by
the temporary success (with the most active help from the same North) of separatism in
Abkhazia, northwestern Georgia. The only railway and important highway directly connecting
Georgia with Russia passed through there: since 1992 there has been no connection via this
area. Besides, Russian border guards substantially impede economic links via the mountain
passes of the Great Caucasus Range. All this influences negatively the earlier intensive
trade between these states. It is clear that if the conflict in Abkhazia is not resolved
and transport links are not restored, it will later become more difficult for Russia to
return to its previous economic position in Georgia.
The entire technical infrastructure was created according to the Soviet standards, a
fact impedes the co-operation of Georgia with the EU. Meanwhile, the strategic aim appears
to be the restructuring of the economy according to western standards of production and
There is one more indirect drawback paradoxically caused by the good location of
Georgia. If not all the neighbouring countries derive economic benefit in the
transportation possibilities of the Southern Caucasus this may give a cause to the
"deprived nations" (certain neighbours who at the moment do not see a direct
benefit from the TRACECA and the other projects) to destabilise Georgia (and, quite
possibly, Azerbaijan as well). Thus, even the most important economic factor, the good
location, which gives a chance to Georgia to integrate within the world economy escaping
the old metropolis ÷ carries a certain vulnerability.
4) Internal political potential
To the pluses of the internal political potential must be attributed the quite advanced
process of democratisation (in contrast with many other Southern NIS) and the formation of
several all-national parties, which can bear the burden of power.
Although not all civil rights may be observed according to Western standards, the
freedom of speech and press is not limited. This is at least true of the capital city
(where almost a third of the total population reside) and the majority of the other
regions (apart from those controlled by the separatists).
The strengthening of statehood was predetermined by the adoption of the new democratic
Constitution (August, 1995) and parliamentary and presidential elections (November,
1995):the latter were considered by all the foreign observers to be free and fair in most
of the regions. The consolidation of the central government followed these events.
There is no doubt that the development of a state is impossible without internal
stability ÷ the most important component of the internal political potential. At present
there appears to be a trend towards such stability, despite the efforts from outside to
Nevertheless, the contemporary political situation has certain shorcomings as well.
Complete internal peace has not been achieved in independent Georgia due to several
objective political factors, most of them the legacy of the Soviet period:
The multi-ethnic composition of the population, not united
by a single "national idea" (as mentioned above);
The virtually federal administrative-political system which
was imposed upon Georgia at the earliest stage of the forced Sovietisation (1921-1922),
revealed in the setting up of internal borders of the dubious autonomous units whose
governments tend to rely on the support of a foreign power;
The absence on the eve of independence of a well-prepared
political and economic counter-elite (there were no large parties other than the Communist
one; no social groups economically independent from the state), which could have taken and
held power after the Communist regime crashed. The easy overthrow of the first
nationalistic government in January 1992 was the result of the absence of such a
Inadequate political culture.
The first two factors have a clear geographical appearance in Georgia: the peripheral
location of the minorities and the autonomous units complicate the problem of preservation
of the territorial integrity of the state.
As soon as the possible disintegration of the USSR became apparent (the late 1980s)
strong separatist tendencies were revealed in some peripheral parts of Georgia (the same
wasobserved in some other multiethnic Union Republics).
These were strongly supported by Kremlin, who considered such tendencies the best lever
to keep the disobedient Union Republics under control. In the areas where ethnic
minorities had a territorial autonomy (e.g. in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where the
"federal system" existed) separatism appeared to be better institutionalised.
None of the successive central governments of Georgia, neither the final Communist one
(till October, 1990), nor the nationalist one(till January, 1992) which succeeded the
former in a legal way, and even less - the formally illegitimate Military Council and
State Council (till the elections of October, 1992) could not find strong enough arguments
(not even military force) and, most tellingly, no positive stimuli to overcome these
The internal conflicts which followed (wars in South Ossetia in 1990-1992, and in
Abkhazia, 1992-1993) led to tragic consequences. First of all to the violation of the
territorial integrity of the state: Georgia had been recognised by the international
community within the boundaries of the former Georgian SSR. In addition, up to 300
thousand refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), most of them ethnic Georgians,
had to flee the battle areas. Even if these conflicts had been inspired from outside (and
there is hardly any doubt of this) the local political elite has been easily provoked to
commit grave mistakes. This waspredetermined by their inadequate political experience.
The democratisation of political life, as the guarantee of stability, cannot yet be
considered an irreversible process (the same is true of the other NIS).
The military overthrow at the very beginning of 1992 ("the Winter
Revolution") of the elected government, even if the latter was ineffective and acted
against the real interests of the country, caused a civil war and divisions in the
society. No doubt one of the real factors was a subjective one: the inability of the
nationalist leadership to govern the country in an appropriate way, and the lack of the
will to compromise. The leadership underestimated the influence of the existing
intellectual elite when attempting to humiliate the latter, and became the victim of its
own mistakes. Nevertheless, the precedent of a military coup does not contribute to the
process of political stabilisation.
The full scale use of the internal political potential in the making of the New Georgia
could be achieved after the restoration of territorial integrity of the state, but even
before that this group of factors will work in favour of state-building.
External Factors of Development of the New Georgia
These factors could be grouped into two large components:
- the geopolitical context of the country;
- the political situation in the states for which Georgia represents a sphere ofvital
1) GeopoIitical context of the country;
Since Georgia is a small country it depends upon the external factors of development no
less, and maybe even more, than on internal ones. It is obvious that a small country
cannot make decisions absolutely independently, without support from outside. The
geographical location of a country, the attitudes towards it and interests in it of the
larger powers create the geopolitical context within which the foreign political activity
of a small country is carried out.
A positive aspect of the international relations of Georgia is that it has no
territorial claims to any neighbour. From this point of view Georgia is a peaceful factor
in the region. It is in its national interests to keep the peace in the region and to
increase co-operation with all its neighbours. Georgia is ready to give all the
neighbouring countries the possibility to use its territory for economic contacts, for
instance to Turkey to communicate with Azerbaijan and Russia, to Russia - with Turkey and
Armenia, and to the landlocked Armenia, which has strained relations with its Turkic
neighbours, to obtain access to the outside world.
To a certain extent another geopolitical factor (some may consider it just an emotional
one, but it sometimes works in practice) is the good relations with the North Caucasus on
the peopleÔs diplomacy level: for decades GeorgiaÔs capital served as the major
cultural-educational centre of the North Caucasian autonomous units, and national cadres
were trained in Tbilisi. Many representatives of the local intellectual elites of the
North Caucasus have not forgotten this fact and consider Georgia the major actor in the
whole Caucasus. Besides, Georgia is much larger than any of the North Caucasian Republics
(all of them landlocked) and possesses access to the sea. Chechnya, for example,
intensively seeks such access via Georgia.
But its geo-political location does not give Georgia full confidence in its security.
It constantly has to take into account the interests of all the four neighbouring
countries ÷ Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the interests especially of the
first of these. Russia tenaciously keeps its military bases in Georgia and Armenia (the
latter is considered as the most reliable strategic ally of Russia).
In spite of the diplomatic activity of Georgia to balance its international links, the
major player in the geo-political games of the Southern Caucasus remains Russia. It seems
that the latterÔs policy towards Georgia is ambiguous: it needs a formally independent
(and integrated?) Georgia, but actually a weak nation dependent upon Russia.
Georgia itself needs a democratic and integrated Russia with distinct national
interests. Georgia needs to enjoy an equal partnership with Russia - it does not require
philanthropy. There is no doubt that the true interests of Russia also mean the existence
to the south of a democratic and integrated Georgian state with traditional friendly
attitudes towards the former. The litmus paper of the real attitudes is Abkhazia. There is
an impression that Russia pursues a policy of "neither war, nor peace" in this
part of Georgia and makes some contradictory "chess sacrifices" which may not
lead to eventual gains. Thus it permitted the appearance of a de-facto ethnic "Abkhaz
State" (at the expense of Georgia). Still cherishing it, Russia takes steps virtually
against its own national interests by: a) permitting the precedent of the splitting of a
NIS, which is not beneficial to Russia itself; b)promoting Abkhazia as an effective
supporter of future North Caucasian separatism; c) stimulating the increase of the
influence of Turkey in the Southern Caucasus.
Probably relying upon its military strength, which the forces left to the other NIS
cannot match, Russia considers that it will be always able to suppress separatism on its
territory. But the example of Chechnya proves the opposite.
In the case of Georgia, Russia can abuse the factor of the common cultural character:
Georgia will always consider the Realm of Orthodox Christianity closer than the Realm of
It appears that Georgia has got into a vicious geo-political circle: it cannot go away
from Russia. It is not only the "Abkhaz hook" which holds Georgia. If Georgia,
desperate in its efforts to recover Abkhazia in a peaceful way, will insist upon the
removal of the Russian military bases and will start to carry out a completely independent
policy, there are the other "hooks" ÷ actual separatism in South Ossetia and
potential separatism in Southern Georgia, or the threat of the splitting-up of the nation
(e.g. the periodical "crises" in Adjaria, another autonomous unit, very much
resemble ones staged from abroad). It is naive to think that Russia will permit Georgia to
resolve the problems of separatism in the same manner as Croatia solved them in Srpska
2. Political situation in the other states
The political situation in the states for which Georgia represents a sphere of vital
interests is an important external factor. The USA and Germany have already announced that
the Southern Caucasus, including Georgia, is an area of their national interests. Such a
giant as China must not be ruled out either. The global balance of interests of these and
other powers and Russia may influence in many ways the political situation in the region.
A concrete analysis of the configuration of the political forces and interests of the
neighbouring and the world powers exceeds the aims of this article. It must only be noted
that Georgia would prefer such an international development, which would stabilise the
overall situation in the PSU and would not impede its market reforms. Such conditions
might be a positive factor in the making of the New Georgia.
A relatively negative factor would be the victory of the forces in Russia which openly
attempt to restore the USSR, or the victory of Muslim fundamentalism in Turkey. But, on
the other hand, such developments may activate different, equally influential, forces,
which are less seen nowadays.
Internal factors in the making of the New Georgia may be evaluated as more favourable
than unfavourable. The minuses of these internal factors may be overcome to a large
extent, although this will need a lot of time and effort.
The minuses of external (geopolitical) factors seem to be more serious: in general
external factors ought to be evaluated as more unfavourable than favourable. Yet even in
this case it is up to Georgia to use the smallest opportunities, and to play on the
contradictions between the competing forces in the multipolar world. Even the gravest
geopolitical problems do not seem to be fatal. Economic development and democratisation of
political life, which are in the end, together with westernisation, the national goals of
Georgia, and the most of all the achievement of the situation in which Georgia would
become a strategically important economic partner for the developed countries, would help
the former to solve the far-reaching problems of its state-building.
* Revaz Gachechiladze is Professor of Human Geography at
Tbilisi State University, and from 1998 he has been Ambassador of Georgia to Israel,