The Russian Principle: What is Mine is Mine, What is Yours Can Be Discussed

Otto von Bismarck once said: “Russia will sign any agreement, but the value of the treaty will be lower than of the papers on which it is drafted”. For every Georgian citizen, the wording of the first German Chancellor has been relevant since 1783, the date of signatory of the ’Georgievsk Treaty’ between the Kingdom of Kartli-Kakheti and the Russian Empire. The Treaty was aimed at establishing Russia’s protectorate on the eastern part of Georgia, thus purporting to guarantee the territorial integrity and protect the land from invasion by the Persians and Turks.

This treaty represented the beginning of Russia’s exertion of force over Georgia by breaching further agreements between the two sides throughout the centuries. Russia first reversed from the commitment of the Georgievsk at the Krtsanisi Battle (1795) of Georgia-Persia. The collapse of stable Russia-Georgia relations began when the Russian Empire then gave financial backing to the Persians against Eastern Georgia to subordinate the entire country, instead of supporting the Georgian side as promised.

Territorial enlargement of Russia was a security strategy for the it across the centuries, which made Russia one of the largest empires in the world. Soon after Georgievsk, in 1801, Eastern Georgia became a Russian satellite.

This short historical overview clarifies the well-maintained strategic concept of Georgia’s northern neighbor: Eurasian domination, which has its roots in the period of Tsar Ivan the Terrible (16th century). Georgia’s geographically strategic location has always challenged the country to endure continual invasions from a number of empires, and Russia is no exception.

The same geographic factor has actively motivated Putin’s modern Russia to endeavor to prevent Georgia from becoming a member of the European and Euro-Atlantic family. Despite numerous attempts to fully subordinate the country, ranging from 70-year Soviet occupation to provoking a civil war (1990s) and occupying 20 percent of the country’s sovereign territory today, Georgia still maintains its laborious route to the Euro-Atlantic space.

To discourage Georgia from its EU and NATO aspirations, Russia has activated its historically known “Fifth Column”, the ideological machine and information propaganda in Georgia. Notably, some elements of the Georgian Orthodox Church, which Russia transformed into a machine of its intelligence (since the 1811 abolishment of autonomy), has actively been utilized as a tool for discouraging Western values in Georgia.

Today, when Georgia is on its transitional standing, it should be pragmatic and rational in its assessment of historical facts, in order to improve the future prospective of Georgia-Russia political and diplomatic relations.

Furthermore, some crucial mistakes Georgia has made since Eduard Shevardnadze’s presidency in terms of trusting Russia (e.g. ceasefire in the war of Abkhazia, 1993), can be attributed to the government’s lack of understanding of Russian diplomacy. Such actions are reminiscent of those of King Heraclius II (1762-1798) of Georgia, who signed the historical Georgievsk Treaty.

Despite the fact that normalizing politics with Russia has been the primary issue for every new government of Georgia, the aftermath of all the endeavors faced deadlocks once talks about Georgia’s sovereignty and European integration took place.

Assuming the risky historical path Georgia has undergone for its last two centuries of cohabitation with its northern neighbor, the lessons of history are worth heeding for the entire Georgian nation to prevent itself from falling into the same historical trap once again.

Juka Vakhtangidze

04 August 2016 21:24