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Kremlin’s Strong and Soft Power

29.10.2019

 
Lado Bitchashvili, Shida Kartli

In parallel to the strong power – occupation, Russia intensifies so-called soft power in Georgia. In order to improve Russian-Georgian relationships, organization Public Diplomacy without Borders was established in Akhaltsikhe. The presentation took place on October 20 and Vladimer Khomeriki, an ally of the Russian President Vladimer Putin attended it. On October 21, Vladimer Khomeriki arrived in Shida Kartli and reacted to the ongoing occupation in Atotsi village, Kareli municipality. Khomeriki, who is famous for his pro-Russian and anti-Western propaganda, did not betray his tradition this time either. 

“Russia is ready for negotiations and the Government of Georgia shall start a dialogue. Russia has its geo-political interests and Georgia shall take them into consideration. Russia does not wish NATO and enemy’s army to be deployed close to his border and I think neither Georgia needs NATO’s army. If negotiations start, we will achieve results soon,” Vladimer Khomeriki said. 

On April 20, 2019, Vladimer Khomeriki attended the presentation of the organization “Friendship and Justice,” when representatives of the opposition political parties and civil activists met him with protest remarks. The organizations established in Akhaltsikhe and Gori, regardless their names, have one goal – to change the western course of the country into a northern one. 

“Our organization was established to respect Georgian interests, first of all with the aim to improve relations with the neighbors. Let us not be pro-Russians and stay pro-Americans, what will we achieve with that? We do not support the idea of joining the NATO; we must improve relations with Russia,” said Zurab Mezvrishvili, chairman of the Gori based organization Friendship and Justice. 

Civil activist NIka Tsikaridze said the Kremlin intensifies the so-called Soft Power in Georgia alongside the occupation process and establishment of the pro-Russian organizations close to the occupation line and in ethnic minorities inhabited regions is connected with that. 

“These organizations work in two directions: first it is pro-Russian feelings, claiming that Russian is our neighbor with the same religion and that we cannot succeed with principles-based politics with them, and the second – those organizations carry out active anti-western propaganda in the Russian context claiming that if we join the NATO, our relations with Russia will get even tenser. And it even ended up with a new war. Unfortunately, there are vulnerable groups, among whom similar information can be easily spread - particularly in the villages alongside the occupation line, where people have weak access to real information. In similar situation, we really have to work hard to leave the least possibilities to such organizations to influence the citizens’ opinion in Georgia,” Nika Tsikaridze said. 

Representative of the Gori Information Center Natia Nadiradze said the pro-Russian and anti-western feelings are detected in Georgia; however, the level is not alarming. She believes it is necessary to conduct in-depth survey to identify the motives of the pro-Russian feelings. 

“It is clear that the Russian influence is increasing but it does not happen only in Georgia. Russia tries to widen the networks of its supporters not only in the Caucasus region but in the entire Europe. The most important question for me is what the key causes for making the Russian propaganda so strong in our country are, as it gains supporters too. We may assume that it is hard social life, nostalgia about the past life - Soviet Union, but it will be good to conduct in-depth survey about it. It is necessary to have clear statistics when elaborating the strategies, which will help us to eradicate these problems,” Natia Nadiradze said. 

In accordance to the NDI research published in May 2019, 39% of the Georgian population believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union was bad for Georgia. Four months later, on September 17, 2019, the NDI published the new report and the number of people, who believed that the collapse of the Soviet Union was bad for Georgia, increased up to 41%. 49% of the interviewed people stated it was good for Georgia. 10% of the interviewees “did not know” what to answer. Mostly, people aged over 55 believe that the collapse of the Soviet Union was negative for Georgia (56%); majority of them live in the villages (47%) and in the small towns (42%). 

In accordance to the NDI and CRRC survey results, the number of people, who support Georgia’s joining the NATO and EU, has also increased. 78% of the respondents support Georgia’s EU integration and 71% of them – Georgia’s NATO integration. 14% of the interviewees negatively answered the question about the Georgia’s EU integration, while 8% of them could not answer the question at all.

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