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The Russians have arrived. How Georgia suddenly became the most pro-Russian country in the Caucasus

Back in the USSR passes velvet

Back in the USSR passes velvet

A photo: Vladimir VORSOBIN

BRAIN, MONEY AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Neighbors are known in trouble. Truth is in trouble. The moment of truth. You can see: who “does not quit, does not ask too much”, and who – “and not a friend, and not an enemy, but just like that.”

You go to Tbilisi through Armenia and think: “There is neither a land border with Russia, nor the insane mountainous border crossing to Georgia“ Upper Lars ”, there are enough Russian planes clogged“ to the top ”. Prices in hotels start at $170 per room, and Yerevan itself is mobilization appetizing. Close off a couple of streets full of Russian youth, and the plan to call up a dozen Russian regions at once is ready.

“I never thought I would say this,” an Armenian politician friend told me. – But the most pro-Russian country in the South Caucasus is now Georgia.

– Come on! – wince, remembering 2008. There were Russian tanks near Tbilisi, and my good landlady Elsa lost her nerve.

– If Russian soldiers enter my yard, I will put you out of the house! she cried. Then she apologized…

– And suddenly Georgia became pro-Russian?! What the hell? – I’m incredulous, but I get the answer: “You’ll see …”

A photo: Vladimir VORSOBIN

BACK IN THE USSR

Tbilisi immediately seemed strange to me …

Imagine a standard Georgian morning. Freedom Square. At the underground passage, Ukrainians barkers for a bus tour have fun. They drew a mocking sign “Russian Commissariat” on an advertising stand and neigh, boobies, throwing different words at the passing Russians.

Without much malice, by the way. But with a challenge.

You go into the store, and there a half-drunk Georgian rocker in a dirty leather jacket tells the whole line in broken English that Russia is an occupier. Russians smile wryly, endure because of their bird rights. The Georgian brothers came to the rescue. They said in chorus: “Hey, damn it!” – and pushed out the screamer vzashey.

The saleswoman is red as a cancer:

– Sorry, for God’s sake, everyone went crazy. I’ll call the police next time…

And you go out into the street, where Ukrainian flags are across the house, where anti-Russian slogans are painted on the walls, where strange demonstrations roam at night – six people drag around the city and monotonously mutter into a loudspeaker: “Russians, leave the country, you are not welcome here,” and you understand that in 20 years of traveling around Georgia you have never seen anything like this.

Is it possible to imagine that the Russian population of Tbilisi, who escaped from poverty and coercion to learn Georgian (a side effect of the construction of all young national states) during the collapse of the USSR, will return, and even twice as many?! For some month!

That Back in the USSR will pass velvet. That if earlier Russia broke through here on tanks, now it is storming Upper Lars with children and suitcases. That in the great city of new buildings Batumi, where houses were riveted with Turkish money, like pies in McDonald’s, apartments ran out. Redeemed. In general (it’s like running out of oil in Kuwait).

That the Slavic renaissance will flourish in Georgia: Russian schools, kindergartens, dance clubs will grow around… And the Georgian youth, who once learned English counting on a career in Europe, will bite their elbows – the language of the “occupiers” is more needed.

During this season of the “Great Russian Harvest”, Georgia’s GDP growth reached 10.5%. 6.9 thousand new enterprises were opened (2 times more than in the past). The Russians have arrived.

A photo: Vladimir VORSOBIN

ON TWO CHAIRS

From all this it turns out … some kind of nonsense. Georgia (the Armenians are right here) looks, uh-uh … “double-chaired.” Weird. Indefinitely.

Georgia joined the anti-Russian sanctions, but Kyiv accuses Tbilisi of betrayal. Local radicals are inciting: “But shouldn’t we recapture Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the sly, while the Russians are not up to it?” The West is pushing Georgians to open a second front against Moscow…

– What is the orientation of the Georgians now, sorry, – I ask. – Are they going West or North? Biden or Putin?

We wandered with the director of the Primakov Georgian-Russian Public Center Dmitry Lordkipanidze near the marvelous Turtle Lake. Once it was owned by the oligarch Khardziani, but Saakashvili took away the lake (in prison the owner was forced to sign a donation in favor of the state). Having redeemed his freedom in this way, the oligarch joyfully met Ivanishvili’s new government in the belief that the Turtle would be returned, because the rule of law is now in Georgia. But it turned out unpretentious: Khardziani was shot by a killer, and Turtle remained in the treasury.

Lordkipanidze, a former member of parliament, is a brave man: his office in the midst of the yellow-Blakyt sea of ​​ensigns is like an island, a bastion in which, apparently, the last Russian flag flies in Tbilisi. He flies, however, in a secluded place, in the hall of the center (Dmitry prudently removed the sign of the center with a mention of Russia). The rest of the Russian flags have already broken. The penultimate one was solemnly torn off the roof of some rural house, which was immediately trumpeted by the Georgian Internet.

Lordkipanidze, a former member of parliament, is a brave man: his office is like an island in the yellow-Blakyt sea of ​​ensigns

Lordkipanidze, a former member of parliament, is a brave man: his office is like an island in the yellow-Blakyt sea of ​​ensigns

A photo: Vladimir VORSOBIN

– Why do you think that Georgia is going somewhere, – Lordkipanidze smiled. – Georgia froze in anticipation. And he prays that the world catastrophe will pass by. There is a great fear of war here, and this fear determines the policy. And no matter how they criticize our authorities, everyone understands that Ivanishvili is trying his best to avoid a new fight with Russia, and he is supported by the overwhelming majority here. In addition, people have accumulated frustration.

– In the West? – I’m interested.

– I’m not quite sure about that yet, – the head of the Russian-Georgian center shook his head. – But the guides who show us the western path are definitely angry here.

AMERICAN COWBOY IN A SKIRT

Tbilisi’s relationship with the West now is like that of newlyweds after a year of marriage. Passion crashed against a harsh life, relations grew cold, but the union is still strong. There is hope, there is hope.

In addition, the Georgians felt painfully familiar. Native.

– The West turned out to be no better than the USSR – the same regional party committee, – says Lordkipanidze. – Previously, a second, Russian, was assigned to the first secretary of local nationality. Now – an American, US Ambassador to Georgia Kelly Degnan. Unique woman…

I noticed that at the word “Degnan” Georgian politicians twitch nervously.

Degnan burst into Georgian politics with the audacity that betrays an ardent missionary and conquistador.

The first speech – Russia, they say, “a hostile neighbor of Georgia.”

A year later, Degnan begins to understand where she got to. Post-Soviet territory…

“Elections in Georgia are unfair, people do not trust their results,” she cursed.

A photo: Vladimir VORSOBIN

A couple of months later, she criticized the country’s authorities after they refused to invite the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (almost all such organizations live on Western grants) to a meeting of the working group on EU conditions.

Tbilisi’s patience snapped when the American embassy encroached on the sacred. It tried to interfere with the tradition of the entire CIS – to imprison those who are especially noisy and arrogant. The judge, who imprisoned the ex-Minister of Culture of the times of Saakashvili and the director of the opposition channel Gvaramia, complained – the envoys of the frantic Degnan asked him: “Why did you imprison him?” And then they refused a visa to the United States.

As a result, a meeting between Degnan and Ivanishvili took place, which became a serious failure of American diplomacy. Apparently, the American ambassador, with her characteristic cowboy directness, decided to speak frankly with the Georgian …

Scandal erupted. Rumor has it that the Americans offered Ivanishvili a choice: either he is already officially enrolled in the “pro-Putin oligarchs” with all the consequences, or Tbilisi is imposing real sanctions against Russia…

“Besides, our economic ties with Moscow are now on the rise,” says Lordkipanidze. – It was Russia that allowed, for example, in Georgia sunflower oil and grain to become cheaper by 24%, when there is a catastrophic growth in Europe. The Russian Federation has taken second place in trade with Georgia, and this suits both business and the authorities very much!

Here everyone already guesses: Tbilisi and Moscow are exchanging hidden signals.

Georgia does not impose sanctions, refuses to recruit volunteers for Ukrainian troops? RF leaves doors open for Georgian goods.

But Degnan demanded from Tbilisi not to cheat, but to oppose Moscow… Something like a second front.

And it was opened in Georgia. Against… the American embassy. According to all the sophisticated rules of the East.

They created an anti-American special group in parliament. Four deputies formally left the ruling Dreamers party and created the Power of the People movement to curse the United States from the rostrum. Calling “puppeteers” and asking a cheeky question.

“But didn’t the US Ambassador try to blackmail Ivanishvili in order to involve Georgia in the war?” asked Deputy Sozar Subari, whom I remember as a young ombudsman from the Saakashvili era (he proudly showed me a massive bruise on his leg after he had been beaten up by the police).

And away we go.

It turns out that the Georgians have accumulated a lot of claims to the West. Degnan, personifying America, was impressed by everyone.

Believers – for trying to hold gay parades.

Intelligentsia – for the support of the tyrant (Saakashvili).

Pensioners – for the loss of the communist past.

Youth is the future…

– Stop! – I say. – The Georgian youth is hardly angry at America. She got so many opportunities…

– Work three months in Europe? – Temur Maisuradze, the former deputy chairman of the Committee on Economy of the Georgian Parliament, chuckled. And he gave me a tour of the Georgian Disappointments.

A photo: Vladimir VORSOBIN

GREEDY WEST

The state program for the employment of Georgian citizens abroad, around which there are so many grievances now, at first glance, is beneficial to everyone. Germany was the first to sign a contract for 300 people – and received a workforce. State – percentage of the contract. Youth – legal earnings during the holidays.

But the Georgians returned from the European Union grumbling. Europeans, languishing within the tight confines of labor standards, seem to have “broke off” on the unfortunate Georgians. The poor fellows worked in the fields, at meat-packing plants, factories from dusk to dawn. They paid extra for processing, but only a thousand euros a month came out with it for hellish work …

“Capitalism,” I shrug. – Give a fishing rod, not a fish.

“But what is disappointing in the West is that they don’t even give you a fishing rod,” Maisuradze exclaims.

– Didn’t the Americans give money for development?

– Miserable. There was a project for the production of something competitive – they did not give it. But willingly – for the development of public organizations that serve them within our state.

Temur Maisuradze, former Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Economy of the Parliament of Georgia

Temur Maisuradze, former Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Economy of the Parliament of Georgia

A photo: Vladimir VORSOBIN

– You won’t deny that the West paid for the construction of the infrastructure, on which Georgia is now earning tourist money? – object.

– Of course. And although they stole most of the money, the picture – the West is helping Georgia – turned out. But this “aid” was in debt, which now we already have 62% of the budget … To really raise the economy of Georgia, 100 billion must be invested here, and the West has invested 6, and even then – in politics. To support myself…

MOSCOW IS STILL STRONG

That’s just the question “What’s next?” causes most Georgians … fear. Numbness. In Tbilisi, people live with Russian-Ukrainian news, in apocalyptic expectation. Little Georgia understands perfectly well that she is a grain of sand in a storm that has fallen, which threatens to break the entire world order and scatter the titans… Therefore, she tries her best to be invisible.

– For example, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia do not create any problems for Georgia now for one reason: Russia is strong, – says Temur Maisuradze. – People understand it. As well as the fact that for the well-being of the country it is necessary to get along with its neighbors. Otherwise – trouble and collapse. Now history teaches this lesson to all. And the Georgians learned it long ago.

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