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TASS reported on Friday March 9th that the Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, stated that his country and Russia ought to resolve their differences.
I urge the leadership of the Russian Federation to take joint steps and resolve this complicated situation, while fully embracing our responsibility to the present and future generations… Unfortunately, we are facing a difficult reality today. Although we have restored bilateral trade and economic relations, a chain of tragic events continues. This undermines the prospects of regulating Georgia-Russia relations…”
Georgia, a former Soviet republic, broke diplomatic ties with Russia on September 2, 2008, over the recognition of the Abkhazia and Tskhinval regions’ declaration of independence from Georgia. This wasn’t a complete break in relations, as Georgia retained consular relations with Russia.
Relations between these two lands has been complex and troubled for various reasons over their mutual history. Although there are strong religious ties (both nations are Orthodox Christian lands, and Georgia is the worlds’ first officially Christian kingdom starting in 337AD), and strong historical ties, it appears that Russia has had a rather poor record of actions in terms of how to work with the smaller country since about 1804. Bad political leadership on the part of the Tsar Paul in 1800 led to Russia annexing Georgia as part of its Empire, but this was something the Georgians did not actually want. In 1918 Georgia regained its independence after the Russian Empire was abolished by the Bolsheviks, but that lasted but three years before the country was invaded by the self-same Bolsheviks and annexed into the Soviet Union in 1921.
By the time Communism collapsed in 1991, Georgia had had three years of independence in almost two hundred. Although free from the Soviet rule, now Georgia was caught in both internal and external strife, as two regions within the country’s borders – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – broke away in terrible conflicts. The war between Georgia and Abkhazia is not understood or even acknowledged in the West, but it was a fierce near-genocide, and it destroyed half the population of Abkhazia in the process, with atrocities that very few people outside the region know about. (I have been to Abkhazia and heard the stories.)
The final and present strife is in regards to Georgia’s wish to join NATO, which is a real thorn in the side for Russia as the two countries share a common border. The process was in motion before the 2008 Russo-Georgian War. At this time, Georgia is not a full member of the alliance, as there are many problems that need solving still.
It is unclear under what terms the Georgian Prime Minister wants to normalize relations. It is too early to even speculate about the nature of this request – if it is one that has a truly open-to-discussion character or if it is a nicely-worded letter of “we want our way!” Time will tell of course, and we will follow the developments in the region and report as new steps are taken.