One word that could perfectly characterise the Georgian nation would be “fighters.” Georgianshave always fought – against the invaders since the ancient times and against contemporary Russia for more than the last 30 years. We have fought in the two wars since 1991; we have been resisting the creeping occupation since the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, and since 2012, we have been battling the pro-Russian government in our own country.
The recent events happening in Georgia could be described as a “state capture.” By trying to pass in an openly harsh way the so-called “foreign agent law”, the ruling party intended to paralyse everything, everywhere, all at once in the country. This law, which in Georgia was rightfully called the “Russian law”, would primarily target civil society and media, which are still considered vibrant and diverse, playing a crucial role in the democratisation processes in the country.
Cooperation between Georgian civil society and its government is close to non-existent. Almost 95 percent of the Georgian civil society actors depend on foreign grants and all data about such funding and respective activities openly available in a public registry. Georgian civil society does not depend or benefit from the governmental funds in any way. However, after achieving full control over all branches of the government, the informal ruler of Georgia – Bidzina Ivanishvili-decided it was high time to shut down remaining critical voices in the country. The People’s Power – a spin-off of the Georgian Dream – immediately introduced the draft bill on foreign agents with no prior consultations with the wider society, and with the media and civil society being the imminent target of the law in case of its adoption.
What followed next surprised us all even if it should not (Georgians are fighters, remember?). The three petty politicians – inexperienced and openly pro-russians – have caused an absolute rage among very different people from different generations and of different beliefs. The Georgians both in and outside of the country immediately realised that this law in the making was not about the NGOs only, but that it would affect everyone – cultural institutions, media, art and many individuals at a later stage.
The major role in the success of the recent peaceful #TbilisiProtests was played by young people and students
- who know the history of the expansionist Russian state and thus, will never want to be part of it;
- who understand the language of a hostile neighbour, but will never try to negotiate with it;
- who are politically engaged, but who cannot be associated with any political party;
- who cannot be bribed, because their future is not for sale.
Youth and students going out to the streets and taking over the microphone always indicated the ‘grand finale’ of any previous governments in contemporary Georgia, yet, it has been also miscalculated by those in power.
Promptly, the support from the large Georgian diaspora followed (by now, more than 23% of the Georgian population has emigrated) by organising peaceful gatherings in front of Georgian embassies in many European and the US capitals, being active in social media and speaking up. All in all, international attention towards the events in Georgia grew with each minute resulting in an increasing pressure on the current Georgian government.
It is in the event of this incredible unity that the non-partisan organisation “Promote Georgia” was born on 8 March 2023. Composed of a team of Georgian volunteers in Belgium and the Netherlands, and inspired by the activities and impact of Promote Ukraine, Promote Georgia aims at advocating for a free, democratic and European future of Georgia by connecting Georgian immigrants across Europe as well as strengthening the cooperation with their strategic partners in the EU.
Why are the recent developments in Georgia important? At least for two reasons. Firstly, an unprecedented unity of people was achieved, when they realised that democracy is beyond institutions and NGOs, but it is the practice for all, which we all must embrace and use for the common social cause. And secondly, Georgia once again clearly demonstrated that at no cost it can and will be dragged back to the russian orbit, no matter what kind of self-assured autocrat wishes for it.
Glory to Ukraine! Glory to Georgia!