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Russia: Treatment of Georgians

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Georgia, Russia, Ethnicity & Race, Freedom of Speech, Governance, Human Rights, International Relations, Media & Journalism, Migration & Immigration, Politics, Protest

Blogger Sukhumi has been following the coverage of the persecution of Georgians in Russia (previous Global Voices posts are here [1] and here [2]). He writes [3] (RUS):

On the TV channel “Imedi” I saw a demonstration in St. Petersburg against the persecution of Georgians. To my delight, I caught sight of my friend Valiko [4]. I am very grateful that, unafraid of the consequences, she took to the streets and made her stand as a citizen. It's in times like this that you learn who is a real person, and who is just an empty shell.

But most of the news is bad. It seems even sport is becoming politicised. The ‘Kremlin Cup’ tennis tournament, Sukhumi writes, has just been won by ethnic Georgian Anna Chakvetadze – in the face of a crowd shouting taunts like “Georgians go to Georgia!” (Edit: Irina, in the comments below, says this wasn't the case). And another Georgian sports star has fled Russia:

Yesterday Elena Gedevanishvili returned to Tbilisi. She is a Georgian figure-skater, trained in Moscow, who has won sixth place at the Winter Olympics. Her parents were deported from Russia on the first plane; Elena herself went [first] to Vienna, where she won some big competition…

Sukhumi also recounts an interview on Russian television with Dmitry Rogozin [5], leader of the right-wing Rodina party and one of the many politicians who link the current Russian-Georgian dispute to an ongoing conflict over the Georgian region of Abkhazia [6]; many residents of Abkhazia are ethnic Russians, and a majority of Russians would like to see Abkhazia either become an independent state, or become incorporated within Russia:

[Rogozin was] asked whether he was “prepared to send Russian soldiers to their deaths, since Georgia will never acquiesce to the loss of Abkhazia, and so war will certainly begin”. To this Rogozin replied that he was prepared not only to send Russian soldiers to their deaths, but to take up a gun and go to seize Abkhazia himself.

Sukhumi also recounts the story of a 13-year-old boy separated from his parents, who were on the first planeload of deported Georgian citizens:

I thought it was only the fascists of the German SS who separated parents and children, shoved them into different railway carriages…

In the comments, Sukhumi is taken to task for being too one-sided. He replies:

Things aren't perfect in Georgia. There is authoritarianism here, but not fascism like in Russia. They aren't evicting Russians from here, you don't hear slogans like “Georgia for the Georgians.”

One reader disputes the level of racism in Russia:

I have lived in St. Petersburg for 14 years now, with a Georgian surname,
and I have never encountered hostility because of my race.

Another reader responds:

I have lived in St. Petersburg for 16 years now, I have a Georgian surname, and I constantly encounter hostility on the grounds of race. You've obviously been lucky.

Yet another suggests:

It all depends on appearance. If you are not obviously from the Caucasus, you're OK.