Meeting with journalists in Javakheti (jnews.ge)

Tbilisi, DFWatch – Georgia should not fear separatism in Samtskhe-Javakheti, writes jnews, an Akhalkalaki-based news website.

In a meeting, organized by the Go Group Media back in June, journalists, local civil society activists from Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda and political experts from Georgia and Armenia discussed perceptions of Javakheti separatism in these two countries.

Political scientist Gela Vasadze from Tbilisi said that although an average Georgian in the capital or other regions might think that there is a threat of Javakheti separatism, it is not likely to happen. According to him, Yerevan has a clear position that Javakheti is an integral region of Georgia, ‘a small Armenia in Georgia’. And this position makes it impossible for Javakheti to separate from Georgia and attach itself to Armenia.

However, he continued, there is a strong Russian influence in the region: “I am from Batumi, Adjara, and I am perfectly aware how the Soviet agencies used to function in a border region. For example, if in an average city in the Soviet Union there were three special agents (assigned) for a thousand people, in border regions there were 5-10 of them.  It was the same in Adjara and Samtskhe-Javakheti. And these people did not disappear, and now they can become a real destabilizing factor.”

Local civil society representatives also think that the fear of separatism is not well grounded in reality. They stressed out that Armenia cannot offer anything better than Georgia in terms of social and economic conditions, and that locals prefer to live quietly, to work and preserve their cultural, national and ethnic values.

Political analyst from Yerevan Johnny Melikyan explained that Armenia is concerned with well-being of Javakheti Armenians, but view them exclusively as Georgian citizens.

“I do not see any problems between the governments. I come to the region quite often and meet people, who are often accused of various crimes against the state and called secessionists. But I honestly do not see it, maybe it was the 90s problem only,” Melikyan said. However, he added,  there exist separatist moods in the region, but they change often and do not prevail.

Samtskhe-Javakheti is a region in southern Georgia, densely populated by Armenians, who came here in the 19th century after the Russo-Turkish war and in the 20th century fleeing the genocide in the Ottoman Empire. Armenians consist absolute majority in Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda municipalities.