Economic Issues and Ethnopolitical Tension: The Example of the Region of Samtskhe-Javakheti in Georgia**

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  • 1 Dr. Frank Evers is Acting Deputy Head of the Centre for OSCE Research (CORE) at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH).

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  • ** This article is the result of the author's field studies in Samtskhe-Javakheti in 2001 and of his following research work in Armenia and Germany. The author wishes to express his gratitude to those who have supported him in researching the subject. In particular he thanks Mrs Ruzanna Baghdasaryan (OSCE Office in Yerevan) for her coordinating assistance and experienced advice, Mr Burkhard Conrad and Mrs Elena Kropatcheva (CORE Hamburg) for undertaking compre- hensive research and developing analytic originality, Mr Ashot Melkomyan (Director, Institute of History of the Armenian Academy of Science, Yerevan), Mr George Tarkhan-Mouravi (Institute for Policy Studies,Tbilisi), Mr Konstantin Zhgenti (ABCO Georgia,Tbilisi), Mrs Nana Gibradze (Programme Analyst, UNDP Integrated Development Programme for Samtskhe-Javakheti), Mr Hovhannes Aivazyan (Javakhk Union of Compatriots and Head of the Armenian Encyclopaedia Publishing House) for materials and interviews, as well as Mrs Irada Abbasova (Baku, Azerbai- jan) and Mrs Nicole Klitzsch (University of Hamburg) for bibliographic assistance.

  • 1 See on ethnic integration: Rolf Ekeus, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, "Promoting Integration and Development in the Samtskhe-Javakheti Region of Georgia", speech of 19 November 2002,

  • 2 See also: UNDP Georgia, Samtskhe Javakheti Integrated Development Programme, Annual Proj- ect Report 2003, (GEO/02/008). Governmental statistics may vary from UN figures. See for example: Homepage of the Parliament of Georgia, 3 The creation of S-J might have been in line with Georgian national legislation. However, cur- rently, even the Georgian Constitution does not provide a clear definition of the country's terri- torial divisions and administration structure. In point of fact, central authorities are handicapped in this issue. Since the countries two 'frozen conflicts' are far from resolution, nationwide legal arrangements for territorial issues have so far been intentionally avoided.

  • 4 Most recently, a corresponding declaration was adopted by the 29`" Congress of the Revolution- ary Federation Dashnaktsutyun in Tsakhkadzor (Armenia) on 17 February 2004. 5 See: ARMINFO, "Javakheti NGOs Write Letter to CE Secretary General", 19 March 2004, 6 Since early 2004, Mr Nikoloz Nikolozoshvili, who had prior to his appointment been Georgian ambassador to Armenia, holds the S-J Special Representative's position. 7 The most recent local elections were conducted in June 2002.

  • 8 For comparison, Georgia's ethnic composition includes 70.1 per cent Georgians, 8.1 per cent Armenians, 6.3 per cent Russians, 5.7 per cent Azeri, 3 per cent Ossetians, 1.8 per cent Abkha- zians and 5 per cent of others. Georgia's religious parishes consist of 75 per cent Christian Ortho- dox believers (including 65 per cent Georgian Orthodox and 10 per cent Russian Orthodox), 8 per cent Armenian Apostolic Christians, 11 per cent Muslims and 6 per cent others. See: UNDP, Facts about Georgia, 9 These cases happened mainly outside of S-J. Worries were recently caused in Javakheti when local authorities removed an Armenian khachqar (stone cross) that had been erected for the memory of the victims of the 1915 Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey near the town of Akhaltsikhe on the eve of its inauguration during the Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day on 24 April 2004. Later on, the khachqar was re-erected. See: ARMINFO, "2,000 Residents of Akhaltsikh Demand Return of Dismantled Khachqar-Memorial to Victims of Armenian Geno- cide", 24 April 2004,

  • 10 Armenians belong to the canonically autonomous Armenian Apostolic Church that traces its roots back to the apostles Thaddeus and Bartholomew, while Georgians are parishioners of the Orthodox Apostolic Church of Georgia, which is understood as having been founded by Saint Andrew the Apostle and Saint Simon the Canaanite. 11 The Armenian diaspora, above all in the US, France and Russia, but also in a number of other European and Arab states, have also developed considerable economic competence and political influence.

  • 12 For further details see also: Frank Evers, Mission Information Package "South Caucasus", October 2003, Centre for OSCE Research (CORE) at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH), http:// MIP South_Caucasus.pdf. 13 See: US Committee for Refugees, World Refugee Survey 2002 Country Report, http://www.refu-

  • 14 Georgia was inter alia expected to adopt a legal framework permitting repatriation and integra- tion, including the right to Georgian nationality, for the Meskhetian population deported by the Soviet regime, and to complete the process of repatriation of the Meskhetian population within twelve years after its CoE accession. See: Opinion No. 209 (1999J Georgia'sApplication for Membership of the Council of Europe, Official Gazette of the Council of Europe, January 1999, 15 A corresponding declaration has been adopted by the 5Ih Extraordinary Congress of the Akhiska Society of Meskhetian Turks, "Vatan". See also: Caucasian Knot News, "Congress of Meskhetian Turks in Baku", 24 February 2004, html.

  • 16 See also: UNDP, "Troubled Georgian Region Gets Help for Development and Integration", 31 January 2003, Document. 17 Enthusiasm about the ethnic recovery of post-Soviet motherland-Armenia had included certain anti-Russian feelings. Education reforms in the early 1990s had sacrificed the affixment of school and university curricula to Russian for the purpose of reviving Armenian. Public administra- tion and media switched to Armenian too. Meanwhile, Russian is experiencing a slight revival. Upper-class families see it as opening additional education and migration perspectives to their children. Under the roofs of S-J households, Russian movies and shows fill the evening hours. They are shown by Armenian and Russian TV channels. 18 Most comprehensive development assistance activities are bundled in the UNDP Samtskhe- Javakheti Integrated Development Program. It includes first of all a Supporting Social Cohesion through Good Governance Project; a Regional Networking Initiative; a Women's Training and Resource Centre Project as well as an Irrigation Systems' Rehabilitation Project; a Regional Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project and a Drinking Water Provision and Sanitation Project. UNDP activities in S-J are supported by the OSCE HCNM.

  • 19 From the Russian standpoint, the base, like other Russian military activities in Georgia and Armenia, ensures exterior and interior stability across the Caucasus mountain range. In this context, special reference is made to interaction and mutual influence of the so-called small peoples of the Russian North Caucasus and the South Caucasus peoples. While this reading is in contrast to official Georgian positions and also conflicts with Russian commitments on the withdrawal of forces taken at the OSCE Istanbul Summit (November 1999), Javakhk-Arme- nians welcome the base as guaranteeing local interethnic peace. Conversely, Tbilisi sees Georgian national independence and ethnic revival threatened. In any case, the base's economic role in S-J is rather a side effect of its political dimension.

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