Since gaining the independence, Georgia’s “cultural intelligentsia” did its best as a group to interfere in politics. Directors, actors and writers have turned themselves into a group within the society, who present ready- made “recipes” for the internal and foreign policy. Yet we must remember that for the last 22 years the Georgian intelligentsia has been pro-Russian.
Let’s consider the older generation – those for whom Russia has always been a cultural center, the model and point of reference. Georgia is too small to answer to their needs – in terms of privileges as well as the size of their audience. The success and fame of many intelligents come from the benevolence of the Soviet Union. As -the new post-Soviet era of independence came, the level of unemployment among the intelligents started to grow up – the desire to “remain friends” with Russia is instinctual: some would do much just to stay on the stage and survive as artists and Russia remains a huge market.
The first time the so-called “cultural intelligentsia” seriously made itself visible was during the events which led to the overthrow of Georgia’s first president Zviad Gamsakhurdia (1991-92). Its members, ideologically prepared, actively opposed the head of state, gaining the title “red intelligentsia” (as those looking towards Moscow), created by the president himself. Gamsakhurdia ‘s successor, Eduard Shevardnadze, heavily relied on the group – the directors, actors and writers from the “old school”, who advocated closer relations with Russia, were the main supporters of Georgia joining the CIS in 1993.
The words of Jawaharlal Nehru – “Intelligents raised by a colonizer are the main enemy of their own people” – came to my mind during the event that took place on 27 February, when about 100 intelligents gathered together in Tbilisi and publicly stated – “in the name of our nation” that Georgia must be a close friend of Russia. They sincerely believe that they are the moral and intellectual leaders of the country, the conscience of the nation. The truth is that they are driven by personal motives and expectations of benefits. After all, for their generation the doors to MTV or any other Western music channel are closed. Their scene is in Moscow. They are self-motivated, despite their slogans about “saving the country”.
This part of the Georgian society has been trying to promote the Georgian-Russian friendship for a long time, but before the elections on October 1 the idea had been remaining a marginal concept, in opposition to the officially declared anti-Russian policy of the country as well as the social mainstream. However, after the election, the cultural intelligentsia felt that their time has come. They have become active, like in the 1990s, and started to promote pro-Russian ideas. At the same time, the number of cultural exchange events have increased, and several Georgian art groups plan their tours including Moscow. A natural way of things, yet we cannot ignore the fact that the majority of intelligents have been enjoying solid cash benefits from the current Prime Minister of Georgia and billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili for all these years.
Accordingly, activation of the Georgian cultural intelligentsia can damage the image of the new government of Georgia, that, on one side, does not hide the desire to improve relations with Russia, but the cultural intelligentsia, or rather its “politically active part” in their intentions goes much further than just the improvements of relations with Russia. It can become a political provocation aimed to cross up the new government.
Actions of the cultural intelligentsia met with a response in social media, mostly criticism. Although many Georgians agree that without the improvement of relations with Russia it will be difficult to resolve problems of the territorial integrity, the intelligents are considered more the apologists of Russia and advocates of anti-Western views than supporters of the Russian Federation. The favorite arguments of the cultural intelligentsia representatives includes a comparison between relations of Georgia with Russia and Turkey. In their opinion, if the August 2008 war between the two countries is a reason against a friendly relationship with Russia, then why we remain on friendly terms with Turkey, against whom we also have fought many times?
Apparently, that intelligents are becoming more and more active – any social organization they would create might later transform into a political social movement, as it is a standard evolution of any social initiative in Georgia so far.
There is another important question: is the promotion of rapprochement a solely local and grassroot initiative of local intelligents or is it backed by the new Georgian government? If so, then the pro-Western part of society may have some concerns, for the “red intelligentsia” is promoting not just a normalization of relations, but a close cooperation with Russia at the expense of cooperation with Turkey – a NATO member.
Anyway, the current situation reminds of 1993, when Georgia lost the first, not officially declared war with Russia. At that time the very same people who are today called the intelligentsia – and who have gathered on February 27 in Tbilisi – got together and promoted Georgia’s joining the CIS, placing it under “the protection of Russia”. The history likes to repeat itself, but, nevertheless, the Georgian society has changed since 1990, and one can hardly imagine that it would call on the directors, actors and singers of the previous system to come for an encore!
Translated by MA