Monday, April 21, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
In his widely read 1983 book, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson wrote that English now serves “as a kind of global-hegemonic, post-clerical Latin.” In Georgia, knowledge of the English language is often important for educational opportunities as well as employment. In 2010, the Georgian government began an English teaching program called Teach and Learn with Georgia (TLG) which brought English teachers to Georgia in order to improve the level of English in the country. TLG continued with fewer teachers after the change in government in 2012. Additionally, only native English speaking teachers are now accepted for TLG, whereas non-native speakers of English had previously been accepted as teachers. With this background in mind, this blog examines which languages Georgians think should be mandatory in schools, as well as the perceived level of Russian and English knowledge in the South Caucasus, and how age relates to knowledge of Russian and English.
Survey data from the Caucasus Barometer (CB) shows that when the English language teaching program began in 2010, the majority of Georgians (75%) thought that English should be mandatory in school. The level of support for English and Russian as mandatory languages remained similar until 2011 to 2012 when support for Russian increased and support for English decreased. During this time period, a deal for Russia to join the WTO, which Georgia had been blocking, was worked out. This implied that the Russian embargo that had existed on Georgian products would be lifted in the future, as it slowly has been over the course of the last year. Furthermore, a change in government occurred in 2012, which was perceived by some international observers and Georgians as a vote to ameliorate ties with Russia. Moreover, TLG was in its second year, and though the program had experienced successes, many Georgians criticized the program for not having certified teachers, and the actions of some volunteers proved irksome to many Georgians. Between 2012 and 2013, no dramatic change occurred despite what appears to be a slight uptick in English and down-tick in Russian for 2013.
A common language can facilitate business and relationships between people. It can also facilitate the effective management of relations and communication between neighboring countries. Thus, it is important to look at which languages Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan share. In the CB, respondents were asked to assess whether their level of English and Russian language was no basic knowledge (1), beginner (2), intermediate (3) or advanced (4). Throughout this blog, “knowledge” of Russian and English refers to people who felt they had at least a beginner’s level of knowledge (i.e. beginner, intermediate or advanced) of the language. The survey shows that at least a quarter of people believe they have some knowledge of English in each country, and a majority say they have knowledge of Russian—especially in Armenia and Georgia.
As the graph demonstrates, knowledge of Russian continues to be far more common than English in the South Caucasus, with more than twice as many South Caucasians reporting some knowledge of Russian in all three countries compared to English. Yet, this trend may change as knowledge of English increases, especially among young people. The percentage of 18 to 35 year olds who believe they have at least some knowledge of English is at least twice as high as older age groups in the South Caucasus. Furthermore, knowledge of Russian is lowest in the youngest age group.
What does the language that Georgians want their children to learn say about how Georgia positions itself internationally? Does it tell us anything about whether or not closer ties with its neighbors are desired? For more information, please visit the following blog post about the Georgian education system and Timothy Blauvelt’s 2013 article on language in Georgia.
Monday, April 07, 2014
Happiness is an issue that has been the subject of philosophical and social science reflection at least since the ancient Greek philosopher Democratis (460 BC -370 BC) said, “Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” This oft cited sentiment frequently comes with the suggestion that home and family are more important than material wealth. This blog post will take a look at these sentiments and examine how happiness relates to personal income, settlement type, and marital status in Georgia.
Economists have been debating whether money can “buy” happiness for decades, if not centuries. Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Ramussen in their 2010 article have argued that Adam Smith, author of the famed book, The Wealth of Nations “was the first ‘happiness’ theorist in economics.” Interestingly, the 2013 Caucasus Barometer shows that in Georgia, individuals with higher incomes are also more likely to say they are happy.
Although self perceptions of happiness in Georgia appear to increase with personal income, the Easterlin Paradox holds that happiness will increase with income, but only up to the point where needs and wants are met, and where having more money becomes superfluous. Judging whether the Easterlin Paradox applies in Georgia is not possible from an examination of data from the Caucasus Barometer. However, Lia Tsuladze, Marine Chitashvili , Nani Bendeliani , and Luiza Arutinovi write more about income, economics and happiness in their 2013 article.
Settlement type also seems to be related to how happy Georgians consider themselves to be. Georgians living in urban areas (66%), including Tbilisi (67%), are more likely to consider themselves to be happy than those living in rural areas (56%).
Marital status is a third factor related to happiness in Georgia. Alfred Lord Tennyson's 1850 poem, In Memoriam: 27, states, “Tis better to have loved and lost/ Than never to have loved at all.” Despite these lines’ continued prominence today, at least in Georgia, it appears that it is better to have loved and not lost, or to have never loved at all. Georgian widows, widowers, the separated and divorced report being unhappy more than twice as much as Georgians who are married, cohabiting or who were never married.
Personal income, where one lives, and marital status appear to be related to perceptions of happiness in Georgia. We encourage you to explore the data further using our ODA tool. We also recommend reading this blog post which examines happiness in Azerbaijan.
Thursday, April 03, 2014
Note: This blog is re-posted from the MYPLACE project's blog. The original MYPLACE blog can be found here.
Claims to 2000 or even 3000 years of nationhood are not difficult to find in Georgia as has been amply documented (see Pelkmans 2006, Suny 1994, Rayfield 2013). The former president Mikheil Saakashvili was even fond of using the earliest human skulls found outside of Africa, in Dmansi in Southern Georgia, as proof that Georgians were “ancient Europeans.” The pride in Georgia over ancient aspects of history is palpable. Yet, the events of more recent Georgian history often have pain and trauma attached to them. In this historical context, the CRRC-Georgia conducted focus groups, semi-structured interviews, and observation in Telavi, focusing on YMCA Telavi’s work with IDP youth. Research data was gathered as a part of a European Union funded project, MYPLACE. Fieldwork in Telavi was conducted in order to better understand the role of historical memory in the civic engagement of young people (aged 16 to 25), and the inter-generational transition of memory in both IDP and non-IDP families.
Beginning shortly before and stopping shortly after the end of fieldwork, the historic city center of Telavi was being ‘rehabilitated’ by the government. Discussion of the rehabilitation with respondents proved an interesting lens on how history effects and produces affect in the everyday lives of young people in Telavi. Furthermore, the rehabilitation can be seen as a metonym for the government’s larger efforts at rehabilitating many sites in the country, and more importantly how these ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘development’ projects shaped citizens’ relationships with the state through the use of history and its relation to time.
As mentioned above, Georgia’s ancient history is often glorified in both every day and political discourses. The palace of King Erekle II, a celebrated 18th century king of Eastern Georgia, is located in Telavi’s historic center. The historic center with King Erekle’s palace had functioned as a site of memory, which elicited memories of the glorious past. The process of rehabilitation, however, began not only to evoke memory of the glorious past, but also to serve as a reminder of the rule of the Mikheil Saakashvili and the United National Movement (UNM), which were responsible for initiating the rehabilitation project in Telavi.
Participants in the MYPLACE project’s research in Telavi unanimously agreed on three things in regards to the ’rehabilitation’ of the city: the quality of works and materials used in rehabilitation were sub-standard; historical monuments were not well preserved; coordination with the local population was less than adequate. These complaints in many ways illuminate the political situation at the time of fieldwork and do so as if a light containing the political problems of the day were being projected through a prism, with the complaints emitted as rays.
The fact that, in the eyes of informants, the quality of works and materials used in rehabilitation was less than standard and the fact that the historical monuments were not well preserved points to the felt defamation of memories of the glorious past. One should remember that the sites being rehabilitated had previously evoked affects of pride in the celebrated and memorialized glorious past and served as sites of memory for this past. As one respondent stated:
I think that generally what’s happening here is the eradication of the old, and the newly made will no longer be able to preserve the history. After 50 or 100 years they [Telavians] will no longer be able to remember [the past], because it [will] no longer exists, [i.e.] that is the face [of the town] which had been preserving the history until now.
With the perceived (and actual) debasement in quality in rehabilitating the sites, the government had effectively defamed the past which they had previously tried so hard to be symbolically associated with.
This symbolic association took a variety of forms of meddling with the past, but one notable example comes from former-President Mikheil Saakashvili’s first presidential inauguration in 2004. Saakashvili, before his official inauguration came to Gelati Cathedral in the Imereti region in order to take an oath on the grave of 11th-12th century Georgian King, David the Builder. King David is accredited with the inauguration of the Georgian ‘golden age’ of the 11th-13th centuries and is known, as his name implies, for the geographic expansion and architectural development of the country. The intended symbolism that Saakashvili’s action was supposed to project was clear. Despite this symbolic gesture, complaints about construction quality, not only in Telavi but elsewhere in the country, imply that maybe Misha, as he was commonly known, will not be remembered for what he helped to build.
Moreover, the complaints of the population of Telavi regarding rehabilitation works in the town point to another inadequacy in the country at the time – an apparent lack of democracy. After 2007, the government had been sliding towards authoritarian rule (Slade and Tangiashvili 2013). Telavi respondents, in mentioning which events were important in recent history mentioned the “terror tactics” of former President Saakashvili’s party, the United National Movement (UNM), in 2007-2012. In complaining that the government had not adequately consulted with the local population about the rehabilitation works, in microcosm, a country wide issue was on display in fieldwork discussions.
Further enunciating the democratic deficit, consultations with the local population in almost all respects were non-existent. Adding to the dismay, no contracts were signed with residents whose homes were being ’rehabilitated’ regarding when works would be finished or whether the structural integrity of homes would be taken care of. After the end of ’rehabilitation’ works, families often came home to devastated interiors, destroyed furniture, and structurally questionable domiciles.
In looking at these larger issues in microcosm, the past was obviously present in relation to the ‘rehabilitation’ of historic sites, but at the same time, the future was also being meddled in.
Ongoing construction works in and of themselves can inherently be seen as a projection into the future – a building being built today may be in response to the needs of the day but they are also for a projected future use. In looking at construction as a projection into the future, coming along with it comes a projection of what that future will be like. Thomas De Waal, in a pamphlet published by the Carnegie Foundation, characterized the rhetoric of the UNM as speaking in the “future perfect” (De Waal, 2011). Speaking in the future perfect meant that the government made statements about what the country would be and would have. The government not only projected into the future through its rhetoric, but also through construction. Construction was further accompanied by glossy brochures which were widely distributed with computer generated images of what finished buildings would be like. Works in progress were not left to the imagination alone, but an actual image was delivered along with the grounds broken for construction.
Source: Georgia Today
In Telavi, as it was elsewhere in Georgia, the projected future muddied memories of the glorious past. One young woman who was interviewed during MYPLACE fieldwork stated that she tried not to look at what was happening in the historic center and tried not to notice what was new while walking through it. Her desire not to know is at least twofold in its avoidance. In not looking around it seems reasonable to say this informant was avoiding both the defamation of the old as was shown previously to be felt, but also the creeping reminder of the present ’terror’ and the then present government’s projected vision of the future. Sites of memory had been transformed into sites of reminder.
This future though was not to last. During fieldwork a viable opposition led and financially backed by Georgian billionaire, Bidzina Ivanishvili emerged. Its emergence and eventual victory in parliamentary elections ruptured the future that had been projected. With the loss of positions of authority as well as moral authority, the UNM had lost its ability to project the future it saw on Georgia – their future had become part of the past. ’Rehabilitation’ works along with a number of other projects in the country were halted shortly after Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream came to office. The halting of works in some way has preserved the sites of memory in the historic center of Telavi; their preservation though is not the kind which a preservationist would hope for, but rather, the preservation of the alteration of the sites. This preservation has thus, in turn, made sites of memory in Telavi polysemous. In preserving the alteration of the sites, now for those in Telavi, the sites are linked to both the distant past and the less than democratic recent past.
For how long the ‘rehabilitated’ buildings will serve as sites of memory of the recent past is unclear, but what is clear is present and future governments in Georgia will continue to meddle in the past and project their visions into the future thus impacting Georgians, young and old alike.
Monday, March 31, 2014
On June 28, 2013 the Georgian parliament passed a law placing a moratorium on agricultural land sales to foreigners until the end of December 2014. Agriculture has been called one of the pillars of the Georgian economy as 53% of Georgians were employed in agriculture in 2011 according to a European Union Neighborhood Programme report. Furthermore, agricultural investment has been the focus of both the current Georgian Dream coalition government, as well as the previously governing United National Movement. As a blog by the International School of Economics at Tbilisi State University highlights, the question then becomes, if Georgia wants to invest in agriculture, where will the money come from if not abroad? This blog looks at how Georgians feel about doing business with different ethnic groups as well as how Georgians feel about Georgian women marrying outside their ethnic group. The post also considers knowledge of foreign languages in rural areas in order to highlight that communication between Georgian and foreign farmers would be difficult without a common language.
Approximately 2,000 Indian farmers settled in Georgia according to a 2013 BBC report. This led to the incitement of protests particularly in the eastern Georgian province of Kakheti in 2013. The 2010 Caucasus Barometer asked Georgians how they felt about doing business with Indians. Results of the survey showed that 64% of rural Georgians approved of doing business with Indians compared to 71% of Georgians in Tbilisi. By looking at how Georgians living in rural areas feel about doing business with other ethnic groups, we can see how the Georgians most likely to be involved in agricultural activity might be inclined to working with foreign agricultural investors. The following graph shows that doing business with Iranians, a group that has also been reported to be investing in agricultural land in Georgia, is approved of by 59% in rural areas, compared to 86% in Tbilisi.
A further way of gauging how rural Georgians feel about foreigners is looking to whether they approve of Georgian women marrying other ethnic groups. Though Georgians generally are against marriage to foreigners, rural residents consistently disapprove of Georgians marrying other ethnic groups more often than Tbilisi based Georgians. The following graph shows this relationship for Russians, the ethnic group which Georgians are most likely to approve of Georgian women marrying. Notably, rural Georgians approve 15% less than Tbilisians. This question may be related to rural support of the moratorium. Although the CB 2013 does not ask whether respondents would like to have foreign neighbors, presumably rural inhabitants would be less likely to want foreign neighbors if they are unlikely to support the marriage of a local woman to a foreigner.
An additional factor to consider is that rural residents are much less likely to speak a foreign language compared to urban or capital based residents. The majority of rural Georgians (80%) report having no basic knowledge of English compared to 46% of Tbilisi’s residents reporting no basic knowledge of English. Furthermore, 44% of rural residents report having either no basic knowledge or a beginner’s level of Russian, compared to 12% of Tbilisi residents who say the same.
Note: Responses of Intermediate and Advanced were combined in this graph.
With the language barrier, it could be difficult for Georgian and foreign farmers to form relationships and communicate effectively. In order to avoid the language barrier, a number of companies have brought their own labor force to the country, including the Xinjiang Hualing Group which operates a small factory town on the outskirts of Kutaisi. Despite this, many foreign farmers who have moved to Georgia report hiring Georgians, especially during the harvest season. This could be a further factor which has conditioned the relationships existing between local and foreign farmers, as well as future relations between them.
This blog post has looked at the perspectives of rural residents on doing business with members of other ethnic groups as well as their level of knowledge of English and Russian. It shows that rural Georgians are much less likely to approve of doing business with other ethnicities, and that rural residents are much less likely to have knowledge of Russian or English. With these factors in mind, support for the ban on agricultural land sales may be more understandable. If residents in rural areas, many of whom are involved in agriculture, are less likely to be able to communicate with foreigners and are more likely than other Georgians to disapprove of relationships with them, then would they want them as neighbors? To explore these issues further, we recommend using our ODA tool here or reading this blog post detailing the extent of foreign agricultural holdings posted on the Transparency International Georgia website.
Monday, March 24, 2014
Note: This chart has combined responses for jobs and poverty, as well as territorial integrity, relations with Russia, problematic relations with Russia and Peace. In 2008, a show card was used for this question during the Caucasus Barometer interviews. The card offered a number of issues for respondents. After 2008, a show card was not used and the open ended question mentioned above was asked. This may have effected the results to survey responses between 2008 and other years.
In Stephen Jones’ 2013 book, Georgia: A Political History since Independence, he argues that economic issues are more important to the average Georgian than issues related to nationalism. According to Benedict Anderson’s classic exegesis of nationalism, Imagined Communities, a nation is defined as, “an imagined political community - and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (Anderson 2006). Anderson’s definition, in this blog post, is considered in conjunction with the oft quoted expression of Ilia Chavchavadze, “Homeland, Language, and Faith,” which referred to those things most important for Georgia in his view. As such, issues Georgians believe to be the most important issue facing the country over time and how Georgians feel about Georgian women marrying men of other ethnic groups are examined to gain an understanding about some aspects of nationalism in Georgia.
Each year the Caucasus Barometer (CB) asks (as an open-ended question), “What do you think is the most important issue facing Georgia at the moment?” The following graph shows that the only time territorial integrity, relations with Russia and peace have been more important than jobs and poverty in Georgia was in 2008 which was also the year of the August war with Russia. Notably, data collection for the 2008 CB was conducted only three months after the war. Furthermore, only one year later, economic considerations once again became the number one perceived issue facing the country. Considering that territorial sovereignty is considered to be a critical aspect of nationalism, it is interesting that Georgians have been more likely to consider economic issues to be the most important issue facing the country rather than issues related to territorial integrity.
A second way of assessing how Georgians feel about other ethnicities, is to examine to what extent Georgians approve or disapprove of Georgian women marrying members of other ethnic groups. The graph below shows that most Georgians do not support Georgian women marrying men of other ethnicities. This shows a certain level of social conservatism among Georgians, but this conservatism may be religious rather than ethnic as nationalism in Georgia is also tied to religion. The graph shows that Georgians have the highest level of approval for Georgian women marrying men of other ethnic groups that primarily tend to be Orthodox or another Christian group - Russians, Europeans, Americans, Abkhazians, Ossetians and Armenians.
This blog post has looked at several factors related to Georgian nationalism. It shows that economic issues have been consistently more important to Georgians than issues related to territorial integrity since 2008--a year which saw war with Russia. Finally, the blog looked at trends in how Georgians feel about Georgian women marrying men of other ethnicities and found that religion might play a bigger role than ethnicity when it comes to marriage.
To further explore issues related to nationalism, ethnicity, and economics we recommend exploring our data further using the ODA tool here, or reading Stephen Jones’ chapter on “The Myth of Georgian Nationalism.” For readers who read in the Georgian language, we also recommend this blog post on tolerance in Georgia and the South Caucasus more generally.
Monday, March 17, 2014
With Russia’s recent military intervention in the Ukraine, some commentators have begun to compare Ukraine to Georgia in 2008. In August 2008 Russian troops entered Georgian territory, resulting in the expulsion of the ethnic Georgian populations of the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Thus, there is speculation that the Crimea will become separated from Ukraine as South Ossetia and Abkhazia became separated from Georgia. Markets have also strongly responded to the recent Russian intervention as the value of the ruble and the Russian stock exchange has fallen. As a result, the Russian central bank injected around ten billion dollars into currency markets to stabilize the value of the ruble. Furthermore, Russian president Vladimir Putin has aimed to tighten up the proposed Eurasian Customs Union that some see as a revival of the Soviet state. Although Georgia’s participation in the customs union was not strictly ruled out by former Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanashvili, the priority of Georgia is an Association Agreement with the European Union according to parliamentary speaker Davit Usupashvili. With this context in mind, this post examines support for joining the Eurasian Economic Community (a precursor organization to the Eurasian Customs Union), support for the Georgian government’s involvement in business, and whether Georgians think being critical of the government is important for a good citizen. These factors are all seen as connected to how Georgians today perceive the Soviet past, and how this past relates to the present.
Georgians are nearly evenly divided on whether the state should be more like a parent (47%) or like an employee (53%). The 2013 Caucasus Barometer asked respondents to indicate whether they feel that “People are like children; the government should take care of them like a parent,” or that “Government is like an employee; the people should be the bosses who control the government.” This question gives some understanding about what relationship Georgian’s feel they should have with their state. Those with positive connotations towards the Soviet past may be more inclined to respond that the government should be like a parent. The following chart shows that 53% of Georgians who think the government should be like a parent, also support membership in the Eurasian Economic Community. Furthermore, the graph shows that Georgians who think that the state should be like a parent are 15% more likely to support Georgia’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union.
Note: “Do not support at all” and “rather not support” were combined in this graph to form “Do not support.” “Rather support” and “Fully support” were combined into “Support.”
Georgians who support the idea that the government should be more like a parent are also more likely to support an increase in government ownership of businesses. Support for Eurasian Economic Community membership is also strongest among those who think government ownership of business should increase.
Note: The data here has been collapsed from a 10-point scale where 1 indicated most disagreement with the proposed statement and 10 indicated most agreement with the proposed statement. Data from points 7 through 10 are shown indicating agreement with each statement. Data from points 5 and 6 are shown indicating neither disagreement nor agreement. Data from points 1 through 4 are shown indicating disagreement with each statement.
The following graph shows that Georgians who think it is important for a good citizen to be critical of the government are more likely to think that the government should be like an employee.
This blog shows that Georgians are more or less divided when it comes to whether the government should be like a parent or an employee. In looking at Georgians who think that the government should be more like a parent, it appears that they are also more likely to support membership for Georgia in the Eurasian Economic Community. Moreover, parent-like government supporters put less emphasis on the importance of being critical towards the government as a quality of a good citizen. To further investigate how Georgians feel about their government, we recommend exploring the data further using our ODA tool here.