Armenians in Post-Rose Georgia

Azg, Armenia
Aug 19 2004

ARMENIANS IN “POST-ROSE” GEORGIA

Van Baiburtian, an Armenian deputy at the parliament of Georgia, says
that the anti-Armenian atmosphere in Georgia, that was more apparent
during the 2003 parliament elections, has come to an end with Mikhail
Sahakashvili becoming the president. Armenians are hopeful about the
future.

According to the last population census, there are 250 thousand
Armenians in the country. The Armenians of Abkhazia, running to 80
thousand, are not included. The Armenians of Georgia welcomed the
rose revolution in the country and generally voted for Mikhail
Sahakashvili at 2004 polls.

What has changed in the neighboring country during the last 6 months
and what are the expectations the Armenians have? Today the euphoria
of the revolution is recessing, the roses are fading and there appear
people displeased with the new leaders. For instance, a group of
around hundred men gathered in front of the seat of the Georgian
president, when the later hosted the prime minister of Armenia,
demanding the “Judeo-Masonic” leaders to release Basil Mkalavishvili
known for his intolerance towards religious minorities.

Marina Kirakosian-Mosesova is a poetess who writes in Russian but
claims to be an Armenian poetess by her mentality. She lives in a
house built by a famous oilman Avetik Ghukasian and is very proud of
that as the Armenian Catholicos Khrimean Hayrick was once hosted
there. Marina published 2 books during the time of Eduard
Shevardnadze and now the third book is to be published.

“At present I can’t say what has changed for the Armenians with
Sahakashvili coming into power. It has been several months that he is
a president and there is no major change yet. I hope that the state
of Tbilisi Armenians will better”, she said.

The Armenians of Georgia occupy a distinct place in all Armenian
Diaspora. First of all they are poor. There is not even a single rich
Armenian in Georgia, which is a rather strange fact if we consider
the ability of the Armenians to earn money abroad.

Though most of the Armenians are optimistic about the future, Yuri
Mkrtumiants, a might-have-been president candidate at the 2004 polls,
thinks that the Armenians will not have a “rose” future. Mkrtumiants
says that Sahakashvili is the Georgian Ataturk. He thinks that the
Georgian nationalism will not be fought back by the new authorities.

He singled out two cases of nationalism. Recently a group of Georgian
journalists from Rustavi-2 TV station was in Sanahin. In the
reporting back to Georgia they declared that it’s high time that
Georgian believers return to their ancient worship places. Some
nationalistic circles in Georgia consider not only Sanahin but also
the whole marz of Lori up to the Sevan lake to be a Georgian land.

If the Rustavi-2 TV has the greatest audience then the Kviris Palitra
newspaper has the biggest circulation in Georgia. In one of its May
issues the newspaper published the map of the historical Georgia
where Armenia appeared to be a Georgian territory.

Khngianos Bazayan is one of old residents of Havlabar (Armenian
district in Tbilisi). He says that today’s Georgia is ruled by
chauvinists and fascists. They operate in conspiracy and “poison the
mind of the Georgians against Armenians”. “A man goes to ask for a
job and they ask what nationality you are and then throw at his face
that he is Armenian”, complains Bazayan and adds: “But I have little
hope as Sahakashvili is more realistic.” He tells with a deep pain
that Armenians are considered superfluous whereas they have done a
lot for Tbilisi.

Khachatur Gevorgian is another old resident of Tbilisi. He is known
as teacher and miniaturist. “Nothing has changed, everything is the
same as it was with Shevardnadze. They promised to broadcast Armenian
programs on the TV but instead the Armenian radio has stopped
working”, says Gevorgian.

He remembered the days of Russian tsar Nikolai the II when Armenian
Diaspora was flourishing in Tiflis (name of Tbilisi till 1936). “The
Armenian life here is dying away and will continue to die away. There
are a lot of things to speak out but we can’t as we live here”, he
says.

The head of the Armenian section at the Georgian radio station
Susanna Khachatrian is sure that there appeared a spark of hope for
the Armenians with the new authorities coming into power. “Today we
have hope that we will remain Armenians in this land by preserving
our cultural establishments, monuments and the Armenian spirit”, she
says.

By Tatoul Hakobian

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