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Russian card in Georgian politics

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, March 22
Since the Russian aggression of August 2008, there appeared in Georgia some political forces that no longer concealed their pro north orientation claiming that their major incentive is to regulate relations with Russia.

In general there is nothing wrong with this, the political spectrum in any country has parties of different orientation and even Georgia’s western friends many times advised the Georgian leadership to regulate their relations with Russia. However here in Georgia the question being posed is how far the Georgian population is prepared to support pro Russian orientation of the country? How does Georgian society currently understand relations with Russia? What could be expected?

The company BCG research carried out internet and telephone polling. 500 respondents in Tbilisi were asked and the results were interesting even though the research only covered the capital city. One of the questions was 'what is Russia to Georgia?' Almost 38% responded that it is an occupier, almost 9% consider Russia as an enemy, around 20% call it a threat, so altogether around 67% of respondents have a negative understanding of the northern neighbour. Only 29% think it as a neighbor and 4% as an historic partner.

Concerning the question about Georgia’s future, 58% see Georgia as an EU and NATO member, only 1.6% see Georgia in a military alliance with Russia. It is interesting that around 40% see Georgia as neutral country. Some analysts attribute such a position to the frustration of the Georgian population towards the country’s western allies, in particular after the August war. It is suggested that people with such an understanding do not accept Russia as a partner country however they still distance themselves from the west. Theoretically this segment could be considered as a potentially pro Russian segment.

The question whether there is any possibility to negotiate on issues other than territorial integrity with Russia, opinion was divided around 50/50. The question of who should conduct negotiations with Russia was answered like so – only government – 28%, everybody – 25%, international organizations – 13%, patriarchate – 10%, nobody 4 % , opposition parties 1.6%. So it could be assumed that the claim of the opposition parties to take initiatives with Russia is not strongly supported by the Tbilisi population.

The results of the polling are being assessed differently. The representatives of the so called pro Russian orientation consider these polling results as propaganda to manipulate against their activities. Our observation gives us reason to suggest that there are some anti western sentiments in society based on disappointment concerning different issues (mainly the August Russian invasion) however these sentiments do not necessarily equate to pro Russian feeling.