- by Alex Robins and Arina Kuzmina
- The Guardian
- Issue #2079
Stalin’s first office in the Kremlin.
What do Joseph Stalin, a NATO incursion into the former USSR, Medical Marijuana and the final leg of China’s Belt & Road initiative have in common? Oh, that would be Georgia! The Guardian reports directly from Stalin’s Memorial Museum in Gori on the exciting geo-political changes occurring within the country as it realigns itself into more cordial relations with Russia and launches a pivot Eastwards-towards China.
Alex Robins and Arina Kuzmina (Communists, Russian patriots and Guardian contributors)
Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union for 29 years, was actually born in Georgia in 1878. The museum dedicated to the memory of ‘Stalin’ (AKA Josef Jughashvili) lies in Gori. His memory is celebrated there in numerous exhibits, and the museum also houses the modest wooden house in which he was born and his green, armour-plated, 85-tonne Pullman train carriage in which he travelled to the Yalta conference. From humble beginnings, Stalin became one of the most influential men of the 20th Century and is revered to this day in Georgia.
Fast forward to 27 September 2022, another Russian strong-man President Vladimir Putin launched his ‘Special Military Operation’ against Ukraine, to De-Nazify Ukraine once again. Declaring Partial Mobilization within Russia, many men became eligible for the draft into military service. This in turn, resulted in an exodus of millions of Russians, virtually overnight; those who did not want to be drafted. The majority crossed the nearest land border by car, at Upper Lars, into Georgia. Sleeping for several days in a 36 km traffic jam on the border, the exodus began; it has not stopped. As Russia attempted to protect itself from military encroachment at its borders, a well-crafted NATO media narrative ensued. Hostile feelings mounted against Russia globally, coupled with a total blackout of Russia’s media and widespread sanctions. Russians felt the same censorship, travel restrictions, and sanctions as Cubans or Iranians.
In Georgia, negative feelings towards the Russian influx were doubly hostile. Georgian landlords capitalised on the influx, charging excessively high prices for rental properties and often stating ‘Russians – do not apply.’ But despite this resentment, the flow did not stop. Sharing the closest Eastern land border, with a language and culture in common, both countries seem inseparable, despite negative NATO influence.
Arina, a native of Sochi, states: “I arrived in Georgia in September 2022. I saw Tbilisi covered with anti-Russian graffiti about ‘Russian Terrorists.’ The Ukrainian flag flew from many balconies and I, as a Russian, did not feel at all welcome here, whether I supported the war or fled from it. It felt like NATO-inspired cancel-culture had instantly been applied to all in the Russian diaspora. This situation made many of us feel uncomfortable to speak Russian openly in the street.”
Arina further notes that, “returning to Tbilisi one year later, Georgia harbours a much lower level of anti-Russian sentiment. The graffiti is sparse and less Ukrainian flags are flying. Russian is openly spoken, no longer feeling like a forbidden language. The disaster that a NATO-provoked conflict has caused in Ukraine is obvious to all. Palestinian flags now fly in the place of Ukrainian ones. The common enemy is now obviously NATO, as it is their bombs which land in Ukraine and Palestine. People know who the real enemy is now. Georgia respects the Russian position against Ukraine and is seeking to sweeten ties.”
Over the last 12 months, many Russian expats have settled and assimilated in Georgia. These expats come from all walks of life. Dentists, embryologists, computer programmers, jazz singers, restaurant and bar owners, and the founders of Tbilisi’s first recreational marijuana shop. Georgia is one of the first countries in the world to legalise marijuana in 2019, for both recreational and medical use, and the first former communist state in the world to do so. Russians are accepted across the country again, especially the influx of entrepreneurs who have helped Georgia’s economy pick up. For the first time in five years, direct flights between the two countries have resumed again.
In 1989, NATO immediately began encroaching into the former states of the USSR. The Republic of Georgia declared independence from the USSR in March 1991. NATO encroachment continued. With Putin’s election in 2000 and a pro-Western change of power in Georgia in 2003, relations between Russia and Georgia started to deteriorate. Starting in 2008, conflict ignited in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, strategically important areas of Georgia’s South Caucuses. This is considered to be both the first war within Europe in the 21st Century and a precursor to the current conflict in Ukraine. Resolution through swift military intervention by Russia and annexation of these strategic areas, restored Pax Russica (Russian peace) to the Russkiy Mir (Russian World) of the South Caucuses.
GEORGIA AND CHINA: STRONG TIES FACING EAST
With the announcement in July 2023 by Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili of a decision to upgrade ties with China to a strategic partnership, Visa-free travel between China and Georgia is now possible. A reshuffle of ties between Georgia and new partners in the East has occurred. Expanded relations between these countries should perhaps be seen as the start of much stronger geopolitical ties between the Caucuses and Central-Asia, traditionally Russia’s sphere of influence. Development of Georgia’s Black Sea port Anaklia, will finish China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative as the shortest route between China and the EU. With the development of this maritime infrastructure, China’s maritime presence is set to grow both globally and within the Black Sea. General initiatives to develop infrastructure projects that traverse Georgia from East to West, referred to as the Middle Passage, remove the traditional need to travel North into Russia which faces military and sanctions-related problems.
Moving ahead, Tbilisi now seeks Russian rapprochement through completely toning down public eagerness to join NATO and abstaining from implementing sanctions on its neighbour. A re-tightening of ties between the two countries is also evident as the corruption of Ukraine becomes evident, NATO stands as the culprit. Trade between China and Georgia will change the scene furthermore. Interesting times ahead!