Monday, August 12, 2019

Georgian Language Proficiency and Perceptions of Government Performance among minorities in Georgia

Integration of ethnic minorities into Georgian society is a significant challenge. As a result of ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis’ linguistic separation from ethnic Georgian compatriots, some research suggests their ability to participate in government has been low. Indeed, programming aimed at minority integration in Georgia often focuses on language skills. But, the question remains, how do ethnic minorities that are proficient in Georgian perceive the government? The April 2019 CRRC and NDI data suggest that, while ethnic Armenians that speak Georgian at an advanced level have worse attitudes towards government performance in Georgia, ethnic Azerbaijanis that speak Georgian at an advanced level have better attitudes.

Ethnic Azerbaijanis and Armenians generally have positive perceptions of the current government. Almost two thirds (62%) of ethnic Azerbaijani’s and about half (51%) of ethnic Armenians rate the current government as having performed well or very well. By comparison, Georgians rate government performance more negatively.


Further analysis, however, suggests that ethnic Armenian’s perceptions of the government are more negative if they report they have an advanced proficiency in Georgian. In contrast, ethnic Azerbaijani’s perceptions of government are more positive when they report knowing Georgian at more advanced levels.


Knowledge of Georgian language among ethnic minorities is associated with perceptions of government performance. However, for Armenians knowledge is associated with more negative attitudes, while for Azerbaijanis it is associated with more positive attitudes.

Note: The above analysis is based on an ordered logistic regression analysis, where the dependent variable is the respondent's perceptions of the current government's performance. The independent variables are knowledge of Georgian interacted with ethnicity and sex, age group, education, , household size, employment status, settlement type, and household economic status. Replication code for the above analysis can be found here

Monday, July 29, 2019

Perceived Threats to Georgia’s Security

Russian aggression is a key security issue for Georgia. In August 2008, a war broke out over the South Ossetia region with Russia party to the war. Since the war, there have been attempts to restore economic and diplomatic relations between the two countries. Some in Georgia support a policy of having closer ties with Russia. Still, the April CRRC/NDI 2019 survey shows that the public continues to see Russia as a threat.

A majority of the population of Georgia (59%) perceives Russia-related threats as the top threat to Georgia’s security. About a fourth (24%) of the population named other issues. Around a fifth (18%) cannot identify a threat to national security of Georgia and answered “don’t know”.

Note: The threats to Georgia’s national security considered as Russia related include the response options: “Occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia”, “Russian propaganda”, “Russian military aggression”, “Economic dependency on Russia”, and “Energy dependence on Russia”. 

Further analysis shows that threat perceptions vary with ethnicity, settlement type, sex, and education level. Compared to ethnic Georgians, Azerbaijanis and Armenians are more likely to name other threats as the top issue for Georgia. In addition, minorities tend to report “don’t know” more often compared to ethnic Georgians. Compared to people in rural areas, those who live in the capital report “don’t know” rarely. People with secondary or lower levels of education say “don’t know” more often than people with higher education. Women are less likely to name other threats compared to men.


Note: On the above chart, base variables for each category are as follows: male, 18-34 age group, Georgian ethnicity, rural, higher than secondary education, and Georgian Dream supporter. The category “No party” consists of individuals that responded none or don’t know when asked which party was closest to them. The liberal group consists of New Rights, Bakradze-Ugulava - European Georgia, the Republican Party, the Free Democrats, the New Political Center – Girchi, the Movement State for the People, Political Platform - New Georgia, and European Democrats. The other grouping consists of the Alliance of Patriots of Georgia, Free Georgia, Democratic Movement – United Georgia, Left Alliance, Industry will save Georgia/Industrialists, the Georgian Conservative Party, the Georgian Labor Party, the Unity of Georgian Traditionalists, Tamaz Mechiauri for United Georgia, and Georgian Troupe.

Different political parties have different views about Georgia’s relationship with Russia. Yet, there is no significant difference between Georgian Dream (GD) and United National Movement (UNM) supporters when it comes to threat perceptions. However, compared to GD supporters, those who identify with liberal parties are less likely to name other threats. In contrast, supporters of parties in the other grouping compared with liberal ones tend to name threats besides Russia more often. Those who report that they do not support a particular party are more likely to report they do not know what Georgia’s top security threat is, and they are less likely to mention a Russian threat.

While parts of Georgia are occupied by Russia, some do not see Russia related threats as the primary security issues the country faces. Still, a majority do. Ethnic minorities tend to name Russian threats less than ethnic Georgians. Support for different parties is also associated with threat perceptions, with parties outside the mainstream being less likely to name Russia as a threat.

Note: The above analysis is based on a multinomial logistic regression analysis, where the dependent variable is the top threat to Georgia’s national security. The independent variables are party support, gender, age group, ethnicity, settlement type, education, and household economic status. Replication code of the full analysis is available here. The data used in the blog is available here.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe’s Future Project Meets in Tbilisi

The fifth international meeting of the Cultural Heritage and Identities of Europe's Future’s (CHIEF project) was held on July 17-18, 2019 in Tbilisi, Georgia. The meeting gathered all nine partner countries involved in the three year international project funded by the EU. Overall about 40 researchers attended the meeting from UK, Georgia, Latvia, Spain, Turkey, India, Germany, Slovakia, and Croatia. In Georgia, CRRC-Georgia is leading the project.



The project aims to explore young people’s (aged 14 to 25) cultural literacy and identity through conducting research in schools, non-formal and informal institutions; and improve cultural literacy and appreciation of diversity through partnerships with a diverse range of policy and cultural institutions. It also aims to build an effective dialogue between young people, education practitioners, civil society activists, community leaders and policymakers to facilitate a future of Europe based on more inclusive notions of cultural heritage and cultural identity.

To achieve its’ goals, the project is using a combination of a survey in schools, semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with young people, and participant observations in all participant countries.

During the two day meeting, participants discussed works in progress. In addition, the leads of the work packages presented the next steps of the fieldwork and led discussions on methodology and different approaches.


To stay up to date on the CHIEF project check out the project’s website here, and follow CHIEF on Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The direction Georgia’s headed in

The most recent NDI polling showed a decline in the direction the country was heading. Though not the direct cause by any means, the growing sense that Georgia is going in the wrong direction was likely an enabling factor for the protests that erupted in June and have continued through July in Tbilisi. The CRRC-NDI survey has tracked the direction people think the country is headed over the last decade. While numerous factors affect people’s perceptions of where the country is going, a number of events including elections and the devaluation of the Georgian Lari against the US Dollar appear to show up in CRRC-Georgia and the National Democratic Institute’s data. This blog provides an overview of how views of the direction the country is headed in have changed over time.

In 2009, 40% of Georgians reported that the country was going into the right direction. Attitudes improved from this period to February 2012 when it reached the highest recorded share of positive response on the survey. Attitudes dipped slightly afterward, but remained generally positive, until there was a sharp rise in people reporting that the country was not changing in June 2013. This was a period of relatively tense co-habitation between then President Mikheil Saakasvhili and the newly in office Georgian Dream coalition. It was also the start of the pre-electoral period for the presidential race which resulted in Giorgi Margvelashvili winning the elections. In the November 2013 survey, immediately following Margvelashvili’s electoral victory, there was a spike in people saying the country was headed in the right direction and a drop in people reporting that the country was not changing and saying it was going in the wrong direction.



While attitudes shot up following Margvelashvili’s electoral victory, optimism was short-lived. In the wave of survey after the pre-electoral one, attitudes returned to levels comparable to prior to Margvelashvili’s electoral victory. In the subsequent wave of the survey, attitudes were similar, and then experienced a precipitous decline between August 2014 and April 2015. Not only was there a decline in positive attitudes, but also a sharp increase in the number of people reporting that the country was going in the wrong direction. One likely contributor to this rise in pessimism is the devaluation of the Georgian Lari, which started in October 2014 and continued during this period. Notably, this was the first time that the survey had recorded more people having negative than positive outlooks for the country in the history of the survey.

Between March and November 2016, attitudes recovered to a certain extent though similar shares of people reported that the country was not changing, going in the wrong direction, and going in the right direction. This recovery might be associated with the 2016 elections as negative attitudes peaked as elections approached and then become less negative after elections.

In June 2018, during the pre-electoral period for the presidential race, more people started to report that the country was not changing and fewer reported that it was going in the right direction. Attitudes recovered following the elections in December 2018. However, in the most recent CRRC-NDI survey in April 2019 attitudes became more negative.

Public opinion on the direction of the country has become increasingly pessimistic over the last ten year. The public mood often declines prior to and improves after elections. However, this recovery does not last long. Besides elections, the devaluation of the Georgian Lari appears to have led to a precipitous decline in people’s outlooks for the country. There are surely many other causes of changes, but these do stand out as plausible explanations for some of the larger shifts shown above.

The data used in this article is available from CRRC-Georgia’s Online Data Analysis tool.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Who is afraid of the Lugar Centre?

[Note: This piece was written by David Sichinava, the Research Director at CRRC-Georgia, and co-published on OC Media. The views expressed in this article represent the views of the author alone and not of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) or East-West Management Institute’s ACCESS program.]

In Georgia, a conspiracy about the US-funded Richard Lugar Centre for Public Health Research in Tbilisi has recently gained traction. As CRRC-Georgia’s USAID-funded research shows, Georgia’s far-right groups eagerly picked up on this conspiracy and blamed the centre for the seasonal flu outbreak in early 2019.

The conspiracy has also acquired influential endorsers outside Georgia. Russia’s diplomatic and military circles were quick to accuse the centre of developing biological weapons and conducting secret experiments on human subjects.

How do Georgians perceive the conspiracy around the Lugar Centre? In a recent CRRC/NDI survey, respondents were asked whether it was true or not that the Lugar Centre contributes to the spread of epidemics. About 20% of respondents said that the proposition was true, while about 40% did not know whether the statement was true or false.

Attitudes vary across socio-demographic groups. Women are slightly more likely than men to believe that the Lugar Centre spreads epidemics in Georgia. Respondents with a higher education are less likely to believe in the conspiracy.

Ethnic Armenians in urban and rural areas are more likely to think that the statement is true. Ethnic Azerbaijanis are more likely to have no opinion than to believe that the statement is false. There is no significant difference between older and younger respondents, or among those who have different economic status.

Importantly, the way people perceive the Lugar Centre conspiracy is strongly associated with their geopolitical views. Those who believe that the Centre contributes to spreading epidemics are more likely to think that Georgia would benefit more from better relations with Russia. They are less likely to believe that Georgia would benefit more from membership in the European Union or NATO.
Georgians and Azerbaijanis who think the Lugar Centre conspiracy is true are also more likely to support abandoning Western integration projects at the expense of improving relationships with Russia.

Disbelief in the conspiracy is associated with positive feelings towards Western integration projects.


Note: The probabilities given on the chart are calculated using a logistic regression model. Explanatory factors include the respondent’s demographic characteristics (gender, age, education, ethnicity) and socio-economic controls (index of household’s economic conditions, knowledge of Russian and English).

The most tempting explanation of what is described above would be accusing Russia of spreading propaganda. Considering how Russia’s state-run foreign-language media outlets weaponise conspiracy theories to manipulate foreign public opinion, this might indeed be a plausible explanation.

Although the study only establishes possible links between pro-Russian feelings and beliefs in the Russia-endorsed Lugar Centre conspiracy, further research is required to attest to whether the latter can actually change foreign policy attitudes.

What is more important is that the belief in a conspiracy, or exposure to it can have negative consequences. Research shows that exposure to conspiracy theories undermines trust in institutions.

Right-wing populists often use conspiracies to propagate hatred towards minority groups. As conspiracies provide simple answers to complex questions, especially to those who are seeking one, hoaxes like the one surrounding the Lugar Centre can easily gain traction.

While beliefs in certain conspiracies can be reversed, there is no clear evidence that fact-checks and information corrections are always successful.

This matters in the Georgian context. Georgia’s far-right groups have already endorsed the Lugar conspiracy and their leaders seem to be attracted to others.

As beliefs in anti-Western conspiracies and one’s attitudes towards foreign policy show strong associations, the data might suggest that the Lugar Lab conspiracy, among others, could shift people’s attitudes.

While this requires further research, the data do suggest that communicating on the issue is important, and particularly among ethnic Armenian and Azerbaijani communities, given their higher prevalence of belief in the conspiracy and uncertainty over it, respectively.

Monday, July 01, 2019

Judges in the criminal justice system: A new study

What is the role of judges in the criminal justice system? Are there obstacles that judges face to providing fair, impartial, and human rights oriented justice? A new study on the role of judges in the criminal justice system collected the opinions of city court and court of appeals judges and lawyers in February-March 2019. The report was released on June 26th.



CRRC Georgia conducted the study on the role of judges within the project “Facilitating Implementation of Reform in the Judiciary” (FAIR), funded by the European Union and implemented in partnership with Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) and the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

The study attempted to identify issues that judges and lawyers find important for the expansion of the role of judges, their evaluations of the role of judges, and any needed changes in a number of domains, including: administrative offenses, competitiveness in criminal law, closing cases at the pre-court hearing stage, plea bargaining, punishment policy, the role and status of victims, domestic violence, and drug crime. In addition, the report provides information on general issues such as the mechanism for appealing to the Constitutional Court.

Some of the findings include:

  • Some judges and lawyers described a need to change the Code of Administrative Offences. The exact definition of different offenses was of particular focus in this regard;
  • The absence of the burden of proof when discussing administrative offences was named as a challenge, especially if there is only testimony or the protocol of an administrative body representative in the case; 
  • When discussing the Criminal Procedure Code, judges and lawyers named two main domains for the expansion of the role of judges: 
    • Giving judges the right to ask questions without the consent of the parties and; 
    • The ability to demand expert testimony;
  • Some judges and lawyers also find it necessary to equip judges with the right to change the terms of plea agreements;

When it comes to the role of victims:

  • A large number of judges see no need for change. 
  • A smaller share noted that victims should have the right to present evidence and to appeal if the Prosecutor’s Office rejects their request;

With domestic violence cases:

  • Judges name insufficient evidence and witnesses changing or rejecting testimony as the main challenges; 
  • Lawyers report it is important to investigate the reasons victims change their testimony or refuse to make it again and to take into consideration their social-economic background when discussing the case;

With drug-related crimes:

  • Judges see no need to expand their rights to check the reliability of the sources of investigative information;
  • According to a small number of judges, they should have some ability to check the reliability of the source of investigative information;
  • In contrast, most lawyers think it is necessary that judges check the reliability of the source.

Overall, the study suggests the need for a number of legislative changes, the expansion of the role of judges in the criminal justice process, and their increased activity in terms of appeals to the Constitutional Court to overcome legislative shortcomings. The full study report with a detailed summary of the views of legal professionals for each topic is available in Georgian, and the executive summary is available in English.

Monday, June 24, 2019

How is memory about Stalin kept in contemporary Georgia?

[This blog post was written by Rati Shubladze and Tamar Khoshtaria within the auspices of the CHIEF project. It was originally published here. The opinions expressed in this blog are the authors alone, and do not represent the views of CRRC-Georgia, the CHIEF Project, or the European Union]

On May 12, 2019, the Joseph Stalin museum hosted a public lecture in his hometown, Gori, dedicated to the “Day of Georgia’s Allotment to the Virgin Mary”, a holiday that the parliament of Georgia minted into the calendar a week prior in special session. Rather than a scene from a postmodern farce or satire, this is Georgian reality. In that reality, memory is bifurcated. As Nutsa Batiashvili  has argued, this bifurcation in collective memory presents Georgia as glorious or heroic and wrong or inadequate at the same time. Memory of the legacy of Joseph Stalin in Georgia is no exception to this broader pattern, and the Stalin Museum in Gori is a clear manifestation of this.

The fact that a Georgian became one of the most powerful people in the world awoke national pride in Soviet Georgia. In the peak of his power, in 1937, the house where Stalin was born was turned into a memorial museum. Later, but still during Stalin’s lifetime, next to the memorial house, construction started on a new building, which would become the museum. The building was finished in 1957, four years after Stalin’s death.


Today, the two-floor building is considered a monument of cultural heritage. The museum has kept its Soviet aesthetic. The first thing a visitor sees in the gigantic hall of the building, built in the best practises of Stalinist architecture, is a white statue of Stalin. The size of the hall gives the impression that you are visiting a Soviet bureaucracy with red carpets and old wallpaper. Inside are artefacts related to Stalin’s life, including childhood and family photos, materials from his school days and the revolution, his works and his poems.

As one of the most influential political figures of the 20th century and a leader of the Soviet Union, Stalin is considered a national hero and saviour of the country from Nazism. At the same time, he is perceived as a bloody dictator. A survey that CRRC Georgia conducted in 2012 showed that nearly 45% of Georgians had positive attitudes (respect, sympathy, or admiration) towards Stalin, while 20% reported having negative feelings (antipathy, irritation, fear, disgust, or hatred).  The same study showed that while half of Georgians (53%) agree that Stalin was a cruel tyrant, responsible for the deaths of millions, a significantly higher percentage (68%)  perceive Stalin as a wise leader who brought power and prosperity to the Soviet Union.

The Stalin Museum, as a storehouse of memory of Stalin, is a vivid manifestation of the bifurcation of memory in Georgia. In it, the official soviet iconography of Stalin and contemporary attempts to show the horrors of Stalin’s rule co-exist in one space. When entering the museum, a wise and powerful portrayal of Stalin in Soviet style greets the entrant. Though, not many things have changed in the permanent exhibitions to reflect recent Georgian history, the museum added two small exhibits dedicated to victims of the Great Purge of the 1930s and the 2008 Russian-Georgian military conflict, during which Gori was largely affected. These small exhibits are meant to emphasize the Soviet Union’s and Russia’s destructive side. However, the image of Stalin overshadows these minor updates.

The subject matter of the museum is sometimes challenging. During field visits within the CHIEF project, one of the museum’s staff noted that visitors are divided in their assessment of Stalin’s legacy and arguments and debates occur regularly among visitors. Guides try to remain neutral to avoid arguments with visitors. However, they find it difficult to talk objectively about Stalin’s deeds in a quasi-temple of the “Father of Nations”.

Today, as a local hero in his hometown, many schools organise field trips to the Stalin Museum. Interviews conducted with school children near the Stalin Museum indicate that young people frequently visit the Museum with their school. These young people noted that they respect Stalin, as he was a strong man and a local, who remains a source of pride in the community.


The notion of Stalin as a sort of local hero is clearly illustrated in a study Alexi Gugushvili and a number of collaborators published in 2016. It shows that there are clear links between people’s attitudes and where they live in Georgia. In settlements around his birthplace and locations in Georgia where he usually spent his holidays attitudes are more positive.

Another 2016 study Peter Kabachnik and colleagues published argues that positive attitudes toward Stalin among young people relates to the process of socialization in schools and families. They argue that “while parents in families cannot be prevented from transmitting positive attitudes toward Stalin to their offspring, schools and universities are public spaces in which positive indoctrination about Stalin can be prevented by way of governmental policy and the crafting of national curricula.

What efforts there have been to erase Stalin from Georgian public life have achieved limited success. A study Carnegie Endowment published in 2013 suggests that the de-Stalinization process in Georgia was superficial and that attitudes toward the leader remained positive. More recently, in 2008, Georgian authorities tried to revise Stalin’s place in the public discourse through removing a bronze statue of Stalin from the central square in Gori. The move angered the Gori public as, the government removed the statue without consulting them. Since 2012, following the loss of power of the government that removed the Gori statue, new Stalin monuments were raised in other villages, towns, and cities.

Politicians and civil society groups have proposed different policies on the Stalin museum since independence. In the book The Stalin Puzzle, Lasha Bakradze, the director of the Georgian State Museum of Literature, together with Maria Lipman and Lev Gudkov, discuss two proposals. In 1995, then Georgian president (and former Communist Party leader), Eduard Shevardnadze proposed transforming the museum into a “centre to study the ‘phenomenon’ of Stalin.” Civil society groups in the mid-2010s advocated for it to be renamed the “Museum of Stalinism”. However, neither of these proposals gained traction.

Efforts to erase Stalin are unlikely to work. Therefore, rather than making Stalin “disappear”, it would likely be more effective to start addressing the issue by providing more information about the consequences of Stalin’s legacy in schools and educational centres. The Stalin museum as an education oriented institution could play a role in this process, given its status as a storehouse of memory about Stalin and his legacy.