09TBILISI1309, GEORGIA: FAITH AND LANGUAGE NOT ENOUGH; GEORGIAN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09TBILISI1309 2009-07-15 12:38 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tbilisi

VZCZCXRO7923
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR
DE RUEHSI #1309/01 1961238
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 151238Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY TBILISI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1921
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 TBILISI 001309 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/CARC 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/22/2019 
TAGS: PREL PGOV GG
SUBJECT: GEORGIA: FAITH AND LANGUAGE NOT ENOUGH; GEORGIAN 
IDENTITY POST ROSE-REVOLUTION 
 
Classified By: Ambassador John F. Tefft for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (U) Summary.  Georgian academics, artists and journalists 
gathered on June 18th at the Ambassador's residence to 
discuss the question of Georgian identity. Though 
specifically not intended to be a discussion of the current 
political situation, contemporary and historical politics 
were considered, with the consensus being that there is no 
contemporary civic identity in Georgia and that this is a 
fundamental hindrance in developing Georgia's democracy. End 
Summary. 
 
2.  (C) Comment.  The quest to define the Georgian identity 
seems pulled between historical definitions and Georgia's 
role in the modern world.  Georgian identity is viewed 
differently by those from Soviet and post-Soviet generations, 
and those with experience studying, working or traveling 
extensively abroad versus those who have not.  The younger, 
more well-traveled segment of Georgian society appears to be 
pursuing the discussion of Georgian identity beyond what they 
view as a historical emphasis on ethnic, religious and 
geographical identity.  To them geographical identity 
includes regions within Georgia, and whether someone is from 
Tbilisi or "the village."  The older generation does not 
dispute the point that it is time to move beyond a 
linguistic, religious and ethnic identity, neither they nor 
the younger generation could point to specific contemporary 
figures or events as examples of components of modern 
Georgian identity.  End comment. 
 
LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS 
 
3. (U) One of the overarching themes of the discussion was a 
comparison with the West, and in particular the U.S.  The 
idea that America has a diverse ethnic and religious 
population, but still has a cohesive identity, was used in 
comparison to Georgia which continues to dwell on ethnicity. 
The shared U.S. ideal that all are entitled to life, liberty 
and the pursuit of happiness regardless of background was put 
forth by Georgian journalist Shorena Shaverdashvili as an 
example of what Georgia lacks. Continuing focus on ethnic 
instead of national or civic identity was seen by all as an 
obstacle to the development of a modern democratic Georgian 
state.  The lack of modern Georgian "national myths" was 
discussed, and the participants agreed that the Rose 
Revolution could have led to the creation of such a myth, but 
in the current political climate it is not viewed as such. 
 
EDUCATION IS THE FUTURE 
 
4. (U) Dr. Ketevan Kinturashvili, Professor of Art History at 
Tbilisi State University of Theater and Film, compared her 
teaching experience in the U.S. to her experience in Tbilisi, 
lamenting the lack of available textbooks and well-stocked 
libraries locally.  Professor Giorgi Gogsadze of Tbilisi 
State University's Department of Human Geography suggested 
that modern civic values have not developed in Georgia.  Mr. 
Tamaz Gamkrelidze, the President of the Georgian Academy of 
Science put it differently, saying that the challenge for 
Georgians is preserving their historical identity based on 
faith and language while living in a globalized world. 
Multiple participants expressed that their or their students' 
travels abroad worked as a mirror on their own identities, 
and that increased opportunities for Georgians to travel, and 
especially to study, in other countries would help Georgians 
to better understand their place in the world. 
 
OWNERSHIP OF IDEAS 
 
5. (SBU) A constant theme throughout the discussion was the 
importance of Georgians feeling that changes in their 
Qimportance of Georgians feeling that changes in their 
society, be they cultural, legal or social, come from support 
within the country, and not be imposed from the outside. 
Andro Dgebuadze, Professor of Financial Management at the 
Caucasus School of Business, quipped that he "liked" being 
fined by the police because it showed progress of the rule of 
law.  Participants agreed that the reduction in official 
corruption is a very positive development, but lamented that 
the current protracted protests have slowed additional 
reforms in recent months.  The consensus was that though the 
West can be a positive influence on Georgia and Georgians in 
many ways, the way forward must be developed and executed by 
Georgians themselves. 
 
6. (SBU) Participants in the lunch included: 
Alexander Rondeli, President, Georgian Foundation for 
Strategic and International Studies 
Tamaz Gamkrelidze, President, Georgian Academy of Science 
Ketevan Kintsurashvili, Professor, Tbilisi State University 
of Theater and Film 
 
TBILISI 00001309  002 OF 002 
 
 
Giorgi Godsadze, Head, Dept. of Human Geography, Tbilisi 
State University 
Andro Dgebuadze, Professor, Caucasus School or Business 
Giga Zedania, Professor, Ilia Chavchavadze University 
Shorena Shaverdashvili, Editor in Chief, Hot Chocolate 
Magazine 
TEFFT

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