A recent article in Georgia Today entitled “India through the eyes of Georgian children” described an exhibition, which was hosted by Bharatma, a Georgian-Indian cultural organization established 20 years ago, in which young Georgian public school students displayed artwork portraying their visions of Indian culture. This organization receives funding from the Indian Embassy to Armenia and Georgia (located in Yerevan) and seeks to foster mutual Georgian-Indian understanding. The exhibition sparks further interest in Georgians' perceptions not only of distant, far-away India, but also on the growing minority of Indians in Tbilisi.
The website for the Indian Embassy to Armenia and Georgia draws historical links between Georgia and India in a cursory summary of India-Georgia bilateral relations. This overview alludes to ties in literature and trade, as well as centuries-old connections dating back to the Mughal era during which Georgians were believed not only to have occupied rather high positions in the Courts but also to have married into the Mughal imperial family.
Currently, a number of Indians reside in Tbilisi as students at Tbilisi State Medical University as well as professionals working for Indian companies with office locations in Georgia. Although, there seem to be both historical and current close ties between Georgians and Indians, it would be interesting to explore specific attitudes of Georgians towards Indians. The recent 2010 Caucasus Barometer included two questions that provide some fascinating insights on Georgians’ approval on doing business with Indians and on Georgian women marrying Indians.
This first figure reveals some interesting findings, particularly that Georgians approve doing business with Ukrainians more than with other groups selected for comparison. While Georgians’ approval of doing business with Indians (60%) does not fare particularly well, it is also, rather strikingly, comparatively not that bad, with just 4% lower than Armenians. Perhaps these figures could reflect some historical ties or a familiarity with Indian culture through exposure to Bollywood films. That the approval percentage is not even higher for Indians could feasibly be a function of a variety of factors, including xenophobia and the fear of foreigners taking Georgians’ jobs.
The figure below presents a much more differentiated, stark picture. In this case, it is evident that a relatively low percentage of Georgians approve of Georgian women marrying Indians. However, data shows that Turks do not garner more approval, nor do the Chinese, who receive even less approval. There are many forces that could conceivably be at play here. For example, religion could be a major factor influencing approval rates, as could a common Soviet history. Geography could also be a viable explanation, as Georgians outside of Tbilisi or urban settlements might not have any interaction with local Indian and Chinese populations. This could potentially render them more foreign to Georgians. Then again, increased interaction might not necessarily be associated with higher approval ratings on doing business or Georgian women marrying Indians.
Understanding any effects of a burgeoning Indian community on Georgians’ approval for doing business or Georgian women marrying Indians would necessitate some kind of analysis over time. Without such, it is difficult to make any firm conclusions. However, upon first glance, this data shows some interesting overall, general attitudes. What could be some other speculations based on this data? We welcome your thoughts!