Monday, November 18, 2019

Knowledge of visa-free requirements falls since launch of scheme

Georgian citizens have been able to travel visa free within the Schengen zone for approaching three years, the result of several years of complex dialogue and policy reform. Despite the elapsed time, and a major EU-funded public information campaign, the results of the 2019 Survey on Knowledge of and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia (EU Survey) suggest that public knowledge of requirements for visa free travel have fallen since the scheme launched. Similarly, the same period has seen a large rise in the number of Georgian citizens being denied entry to EU countries, with Eurostat reporting over four thousand such cases in 2018 alone, up over a third since 2017.

For a Georgian citizen to enter the Schengen zone under the visa-free regime, the following documents are required:

  • A biometric passport;
  • Proof of financial means to cover expenses;
  • A return ticket;
  • Proof of address during stay (for example a hotel reservation).
Additionally, stays may not exceed 90 days in any 180-day period, and visitors under the visa free regime are not allowed to work.

In both the 2017 and 2019 waves of the EU survey, respondents were asked about their knowledge of requirements for documentation, length of stay, and right to work. The data suggest a marked decline in areas of knowledge asked about aside from the requirement for a biometric passport and the duration of stay. Falls were seen in awareness of the need for proof of address during the stay, proof of financial means to cover expenses, and a return ticket. In addition, there was a steep decline in knowledge of whether or not one can work during a stay.

To better understand who is more and less aware of the above requirements, a simple additive index describing an individual’s overall understanding of the EU requirements outlined above was developed. Correct responses to the above questions are counted as one point, resulting in knowledge scale from 0-6, with a score of zero representing no correct responses and six representing fully correct responses. Overall, across both waves, less than one percent of respondents answered all six questions correctly, with 13% answering none correctly. The average score on the index decreased from 2.6 in 2017 to 2.2 in 2019.

Scores on the index in 2019 are associated with the sex, age, ethnicity, employment status, education level, and internet use. After accounting for other factors, there is no significant differences in awareness between people living in Tbilisi, other urban areas, and rural areas. Younger people, men, people with tertiary education or higher, ethnic Georgians, the employed, and regular internet users are more likely to have better knowledge of the requirements for visa free travel on average, all else equal. By far the largest observed difference was for ethnic minorities, who are predicted to score one point lower on the knowledge index than ethnic Georgians.

This pattern is reflected in minorities reporting lower levels of awareness across all questions asked, except travel insurance. For example, 56% of ethnic minority respondents knew about the need for a biometric passport compared to 81% of Georgians survey – a 35 percentage point difference. Similarly large differences between Georgian and minority respondents were observed in correct responses relating to the right to work and financial requirements for entry, with minority respondents as a group respectively scoring 17 and 14 percentage points lower than their ethnic Georgian counterparts.

Although ethnic minorities are consistently less aware of visa free regulations, the overall decline in awareness appears to be driven by a fall among ethnic Georgian respondents. Between 2017 and 2019, there is a rise along some dimensions of knowledge of the requirements reported by ethnic minority groups. However correct responses from ethnic Georgian respondents have fallen in three of the six domains asked about.

While knowledge is lower among ethnic minorities, their knowledge has increased between waves of the survey along some dimensions. In contrast, awareness of the rules of visa free travel have been on the decline among the ethnic Georgian population.

With the available data, it is not possible to identify the source of the higher baseline (2017) scores for ethnic Georgian respondents vis-à-vis ethnic minorities, nor the driving factors behind their divergent changes over the past two years. This noted, this pattern would be consistent with the hypothesis that previous information campaigns may have been more effective in reaching ethnic Georgians than minority groups, and that public awareness has slipped as this issue has fallen from national headlines.

Substantial numbers of Georgian citizens have been denied entry to the EU since the introduction of visa-free travel, a process which generates significant financial costs and personal distress for the individuals concerned. In this context, it is concerning that the Georgian public’s knowledge of requirements for visa-free travel to Schengen zone countries has fallen since 2017 – suggesting a need for renewed messaging around the details of the scheme.

Furthermore, whilst there are some differences between knowledge across many demographic categories, ethnic minority groups display substantially lower knowledge than any other group. As such, for any renewed information campaign to be effective, it should take concrete steps to ensure the inclusion of ethnic minority groups.

Note: The data presented in the above blog post is available here. Replication code for the regression analysis is available here.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Government employees assess the work of the government better than the general public

The outlook in Georgia continues to be increasingly pessimistic, with more people reporting that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Similarly, performance assessments of government institutions have been on the decline in recent years. As recent CRRC analyses have highlighted, party identification, attitudes towards individual politicians, ethnicity, and Georgian language proficiency among ethnic minorities are associated with attitudes towards government. Analysis of the July 2019 CRRC and NDI survey suggests that working for the state is also associated with performance assessments. However, government employees in poor households and those in Tbilisi rate government performance significantly worse.

On the survey, 32% of respondents reported the government was performing well. In contrast, 60% said it was performing poorly. The remaining respondents stated either that they don’t know or refused to answer how they thought the government was doing.  On the survey about one in ten (12%) respondents said they work for a public agency or government, which is equivalent to one third of the respondents on the survey that reported having a job (33%). While 30% of people who do not work for government responded to the survey question saying the government was working well, 44% of state employees reported it was working well. Aside from state employees, people with tertiary education were more positive about government performance than people without, and people in the capital were less positive than in other settlements.

The significantly higher performance assessment among government employees remains after controlling for age, settlement type, wealth, sex, employment status, and education level. After adjusting for the previously noted characteristics, state employees are 14 percentage points more likely to report the government’s performance is positive compared to those without a job and 13 percentage points more likely than those with a job outside government. Similarly, the differences with education and settlement type remained after controlling for other factors. Other variables included in the analysis did not show significant associations with assessments of state performance.

However, digging deeper into the data to look at differences among different groups of government employees suggests that some government employees are more approving than others. Government employees that are in wealthier households (and presumably also earning larger amounts of money), are significantly more likely to have a positive attitude towards state performance: there is an 8% chance that the poorest government employees think government performance is positive compared with a 68% chance among the best off government employees. By comparison, performance assessments do not vary with wealth for those outside state employment.

Attitudes among government employees also vary based on what type of settlement they live in. In Tbilisi, government employees are most critical of the government, while in other urban and rural areas, they are significantly more likely to report they are positive about government performance. By comparison, the differences are much smaller between settlement types for individuals that are not employed or work outside of government.

While on average, people working for the government are more likely to think performance is better, government employees in Tbilisi and living in poor households are significantly less positive about government performance compared with both other government employees and the general public.

Note: The above analysis is based on two logistic regression analyses. The first contains sex (male, female), state employment (state employee, employed elsewhere, not working), wealth (number of assets owned), education level (secondary or less, vocational, or tertiary), age, and settlement type as independent variables. The dependent variable was positive (Very well, well) versus negative (Poorly, Very poorly) responses to the question, “Please tell me, how would you rate the performance of the current government?” The second analysis included the interaction of employment status with wealth as well as with settlement type. The data used in the above analysis is available here. The replication code for the above analysis is available here.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Drugs for desert? Biggest monthly household expenses in Georgia

The economy remains the main concern for people in Georgia. Together with the consumer price index and USD-GEL exchange rate rising, average household expenditures also have increased over the last couple of years. Meanwhile, according to recent data only 10% of the population has any savings. Although household expenditures have increased, what are people spending money on? The most recent CRRC-NDI survey from summer 2019 asked questions about household expenditures which provide a sense about what people spend money on in Georgia as well as who spends more on different categories of goods and services.

Most of the families in Georgia spend everything they earn. When asked about the largest monthly household expenses, everyday necessities came out on top, while leisure related expenditures were named by only a few. Food and utilities were named twice as frequently as any other expense. While this might not be a surprise, it is noteworthy that expenses on medicine came third, with more than one in three naming it as one of their largest monthly household expenses. Interestingly enough, some people, though a negligible number, still name travel, exercise, and entertainment related expenditures as the largest.

Note: Respondents were allowed to name up to three categories.

To understand how household expenditures vary between different demographic groups regression models were constructed. They included sex (male, female), age group (18-34, 35-54, 55 and +), settlement type (capital, large urban, small urban, rural), ethnic enclave status (primarily Georgian settlements, primarily minority settlements) and an additive index of ownership of different items, a common proxy for wealth.

When looking at the most common household expenses, food and utilities are on top regardless of people’s gender, age, the type of settlement they live in, or their economic situation. Nevertheless, the regression model showed that several demographic variables are useful in predicting who is more likely to have certain kinds of expenditures. For example, people who live in the capital  are less likely to name loans/installments/mortgages as their largest monthly expenditure compared to people in small urban and rural areas. People over 55 and people with lower economic standing are much less likely to name this expenditure as well, compared to people who are younger and people with higher economic standing. Also, minority settlements are less likely to name loans compared to Georgian settlements.

Similarly, there are some small differences in terms of education costs as well. People who are over 55 and men are slightly less likely to name education related expenditures compared to younger people and women. In households with higher economic standing, education related expenses are more likely to be mentioned among the largest monthly household expenditures.

One of the most interesting issues to look at is spending on medicine. It is third highest on the list, which is telling: a third of the population is spending as much or more medicine as food. There are also some interesting differences between various groups associated with medicine related expenses. People living in small urban and rural areas are more likely to name medicine among their top expenditures than those who live in the capital. Also, minority settlements are slightly less likely to mention medicine in their expenditures, than people from Georgian settlements. Similarly, younger people are one third as likely to name medicine, compared to people who are 56 or older. An additive index of ownership of household items shows that Georgians who own fewer things are more likely to say medicine is one of the top monthly expenditures in their household compared to people who own more. Differences between richer and poorer people hold even, when looking at people in different age groups. In all age groups people with higher economic standing name medicine less frequently than poorer people. Thus, older people and people with worse economic situations are more likely to name medicine as among their largest monthly expenditures. Interestingly, the same pattern is not present with medical care spending as opposed to spending on medication.

The data show that in all demographic groups in Georgia subsistence related expenses occupy the main position in household expenditures. Food, utilities, and medicine are the top expenditure categories for young and old, well-off and poor, men and women, and people in cities and rural areas. Though, there are of course some differences in expenditures between some demographic groups as well. Older people are less likely to have loans or education related expenses. Economically better off people are more likely to name these among their top expenditures. Moreover, older people and people with worse economic situations are more likely to name medicine related expenses, than younger people and those with better economic situation. Importantly, economic situation remains important even when controlling for age: better-off people are less likely to name medicine related expenses than the poor no matter their age.

Note: This blog post is based on logistic regression analyses. The dependent variable was a dummy variable for mentioning food, cost of utilities, medicine, medical care, or loans as the largest monthly household expense versus not naming this expense.  The independent variables included sex, age group, settlement type, ethnic enclave status, and an additive index of ownership of household items. The data used in the above analysis is available here. The replication code can be found here.

Monday, October 28, 2019

How many cars are there in Tbilisi’s streets?

People in Tbilisi often talk about the growing number of vehicles and problems associated with them. According to NDI and CRRC public opinion surveys, every third Tbilisi resident considers traffic, every fifth parking, and every other pollution among the most important public goods related issues in the city. These issues clearly relate to the cars on Tbilisi streets. Yet, a basic fact that could help inform policy to address these issues – how many cars drive on Tbilisi’s streets – is unknown, with different data sources indicating sharply different estimates.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) is responsible for car registration and maintains a database of registered vehicles in the country. The number of registered vehicles are available from the MIA in annual reports and monthly updated lists of vehicles that have valid registration status. The official data suggests that at the moment there are 494,627 vehicles registered in Tbilisi. Excluding agricultural vehicles, specialized vehicles, non-motorized trailers, and two-wheeled vehicles, as some international reports do, suggests there are 462,922 light vehicles, trucks, vans and buses registered in Tbilisi. This is equivalent to 395 vehicles per 1000 residents.

While these numbers are informative, what they really say is how many vehicles are actively registered rather than driving on Tbilisi’s streets. These numbers likely differ, because the registered vehicle list includes cars that are no longer working, but still have valid registration status. These cars are not removed from the vehicle registry, because there is rarely an incentive to do so for the owner such as registration fees or fines for failing to remove the car from the registry. The exceptions to this are when inactive cars are sold for scrap or for export, because the people purchasing the vehicle often request that the owner remove it from the registry.  Given this situation, it is reasonable to believe that the actual number of vehicles driven in the city is lower than the official number of registered vehicles.

Estimating the number of cars
To estimate the number of vehicles driven in the city, the following assumptions are used:

  1. Only light vehicles, trucks, vans, and buses are included in the data analysis. Agricultural vehicles, specialized vehicles, non-motorized trailers, and two-wheeled vehicles are excluded from the data analysis, though they are provided in the MIA data. Aside from international practice, this generally makes sense: agricultural vehicles are on the streets relatively rarely compared to cars and vans. Generally two-wheeled vehicles are not considered due to their lighter impact given their lighter size and parking space needed.
  2. The analysis assumes all registered vehicles under corporate ownership are in working condition and in use, while only some individually owned vehicles are. The rationale behind this is that corporate owners (both state and private) have stronger incentives to de-register vehicles, as they appear on their balance sheets, a factor individual owners do not consider. 
  3. The share of registered vehicles in working condition is estimated using household survey data from April-June, 2016. The analysis assumes that the share of vehicles registered and in working condition has not changed significantly. 

From here, when vehicles is mentioned, it means light vehicles, buses/vans and trucks together. Otherwise, the specific group of vehicles is used (e.g. light vehicles or buses/vans and trucks). All statistics refer to Tbilisi only. When the ownership status is not specified as individual or corporate, all vehicles are included.

As noted above, there is good reason to believe that there are fewer individually owned vehicles in operation than registered in Tbilisi. Hence, survey data is used to estimate the number of individually owned vehicles in use in Tbilisi. The latest publicly available survey data comes from 2016 and is used to estimate the share of individually owned vehicles in use among all individually owned vehicles, and then based on the third assumption above, this number is used to estimate the number of vehicles in combination with 2019 official registry data.

The survey data comes from the Tbilisi Metropolitan Area Transportation Household Survey, which Systra conducted in April-June, 2016. The survey had 6,092 respondents in Tbilisi. It asked about the number of vehicles households have, the vehicle type (light car/SUV, pickup truck, van/boxcar, heavy truck, light truck, microbus or other), ownership status (owned, professional use, rented or other), and frequency of usage. Vehicles in working condition are defined as those that have driven at least one kilometer during the 12 months prior to the survey. According to the survey, there were 168,314 (+/-5,702) individually owned vehicles in use in Tbilisi in 2016.

The next step is the calculation of the share of working vehicles among individually owned registered vehicles in 2016. However, the official registry data provides information about ownership status only for 2017-2019 data, while for 2016, there are only two official statistics available: the number of light vehicles (376,962) and the number of total vehicles (440,042). Ownership status, however, is not available. Hence, to estimate the number of individually owned vehicles in 2016, this post uses the average of 2017-2019 data to estimate:
  • The share of individually owned light vehicles among all registered light vehicles and; 
  • The share of individually owned trucks, vans, and buses among all registered vehicles.
Between 2017 and 2019, the average share of individually owned light vehicles in Tbilisi was 83%. The analysis assumes that the average share of individually owned vehicles among all vehicles did not change significantly between 2016 and 2017-2019. Under this assumption, multiplying the average share of individually owned light vehicles by the total number of registered light vehicles leads to an estimate of the total number of individually owned registered light vehicles. According to the MIA data, there were 376,962 light vehicles registered in Tbilisi in 2016. Of these, approximately 313,896 of them were individually owned based on the above estimate.

As for buses/vans and trucks, the average share of individually owned buses/vans and trucks among all vehicles in 2017-2019 was 4%, which translates to 16,780 individually owned buses/vans and trucks (from 440,042 registered vehicles in 2016). Adding the two estimates leads to an overall estimate of 330,675 individually owned, registered vehicles in 2016. By comparison, the survey data from 2016 indicates that there were 168,314 (+/-5,702) individually owned vehicles that were working in 2016.  These figures taken together suggest that among registered, individually owned vehicles, 51% (+/- 1.7%, due to a survey error) are in working condition and being used.

Assuming that the share of vehicles in use is the same for individually owned vehicles and has not changed significantly in recent years, the number of individually owned light vehicles, buses/vans and trucks in Tbilisi in 2019 is approximately 186,855, out of the 367,101 registered individually owned vehicles. Assuming that all corporate vehicles are working (95,821), there are 282,676 light vehicles, trucks and buses, on the streets of Tbilisi of the 462,922 which are currently registered

Based on the above figures, there are 241 vehicles driving on Tbilisi’s streets per 1000 residents in 2019, 57% of the number that are registered in Tbilisi. The real number of vehicles in Tbilisi’s streets might still be higher than this estimate, as some vehicles are not registered in Tbilisi, but drive on its streets. At the same time, many cars registered in Tbilisi are likely to be driven outside of Tbilisi. Even taking this into account, it seems unlikely that there are so many cars that drive on Tbilisi’s streets but that are registered elsewhere that it would throw this estimate off dramatically.

Even though there are likely less cars on the road than previously thought, the problems they create are foremost in the minds of the residents of Tbilisi. In turn, the data suggests that the impact per car on the problems with parking, traffic, and pollution are larger than one might believe based on the official estimates of cars registered in Tbilisi. In turn, this suggests a clear need for policy to address the issues before they become worse.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Selection of Supreme Court judge candidates: What people in Georgia know and think about the process

Following the constitutional amendments and changes to the organic law of Georgia on common courts, the minimum number of judges at the Supreme Court increased to 28. At the same time, 10-year appointments were changed to lifetime tenures, and the High Council of Justice was given the authority to nominate candidates for parliamentary appointment.  Following these changes, the High Council of Justice started the selection of Supreme Court candidates and in the beginning of September 2019 provided a list of 20 candidates to be submitted to the Parliament of Georgia for approval.  Interviews with candidates were live streamed and the process enjoyed wide media coverage.

The selection process was generally critically received, despite positive assessments of the live-streaming of interviews. The OSCE/ODIHR assessed the Supreme Court judge candidate selection process as “lacking transparency and accountability despite some positive measures to build public trust in the judiciary”.  The Coalition for an Independent and Transparency Judiciary was also critical of the process as well as the regulatory framework, which “allowed the formation of a list of candidates suiting the interests of the dominant group of judges and the ruling party”.
What does the public in Georgia know about the process and what is their attitude towards the selection of Supreme Court candidates and judicial institutions? A phone survey conducted on September 5-11, 2019 suggests that people in Georgia are divided in their trust towards judicial institutions, are not knowledgeable about the process, have little trust in it, and largely have not heard of the selected candidates.

Generally, the public is divided in whether they trust the High Council of Justice, Supreme Court, and the court system in general. About half of the public trusts and distrusts each of these institutions.

The public is also divided in terms of awareness of the selection process of Supreme Court candidates. Approximately half of the Georgian-speaking adult population (54%) has heard of the selection process of Supreme Court candidates. However, their attitude to it is not particularly positive, as about half of those who have heard about the selection do not trust the process (53%). Similarly, almost half of those who heard about the selection process, say the selection was not unbiased (48%).

The survey asked respondents to share their first association regarding the selection of the Supreme Court candidates. The majority (64%) did not have any association, responding don’t know. Of those who shared their view, there were both positive and negative associations as well as neutral ones. However, negative attitudes predominated. Overall, 3% of respondents reported a positive word, 20% reported a negative association and 10% of responses were neutral. The top three associations were that “appointment should not be lifetime” (6%), “insecurity” (3%), and “distrust” (2%). Positive associations included “hope” (1%), “the process is going in a good direction” (0.6%), and “fair court”. Some of the negative associations were: “negative attitude” (2%), “unfairness” (1%), and “clan” (1%).

After the long selection process, the High Council of Justice finalized the list of 20 candidates to be submitted to the Parliament. The survey asked about whether each candidate should or should not be appointed as a Supreme Court judge. The majority of people in Georgia (over 60% for most candidates) reported that they have not heard of the candidate. Attitudes were most approving of appointment towards: Shalva Tadumadze, Prosecutor General (14% of the population approve of his appointment), Giorgi Mikautadze, Secretary of the High Council of Justice (13% of the population approve of his appointment), and Shota Getsadze, judge of the Tbilisi Court of Appeals (10% of the population approve of his appointment).

About one fifth of the adult Georgian-speaking population (19%) says appointment of these 20 candidates will improve justice in the country. The same share (19%) says the state of justice will get worse. About a third (29%) believe it will stay the same.

Considering the knowledge of the population about the selection process and their attitude to it, it may not be surprising that only 1% of the Georgian-speaking adult population considered it one of the most important events of the summer.  The top five events named during the survey were:

  • The devaluation of Georgian Lari; 
  • Dissolution of the June 20 rally;
  • Further moving the administrative boundary line between Georgia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region;
  • The protest rallies “It’s a shame” and; 
  • Gavrilov’s visit to Parliament. 

More than a quarter of people responded “Don’t know” to the question or refused to answer altogether. There were non-relevant answers as well, such as “good weather” and “lack of water and electricity”, etc.

Overall, the public is divided in their trust towards judicial institutions. More than half of the population has heard of the Supreme Court judge selection process, though few find it to be among the most important events over the summer. Among those that are aware of the selection process, attitudes are more negative than positive. A majority of people in Georgia have never heard about the candidates.

Note: This blog post has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of CRRC-Georgia, EMC and IDFI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

On September 5-11, 2019, within the EU-funded project “Facilitating Implementation of Reforms in the Judiciary (FAIR)”, CRRC-Georgia conducted a phone survey to find out people’s knowledge and attitude about the Supreme Court selection process. The survey resulted in 867 completed interviews, and is representative of the adult Georgian-speaking population of the country. The average margin of error of the survey is 2.2%.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Public Opinion in Georgia on Premarital Sex for Women

Conservative traditions are deeply rooted in Georgian society, particularly when it comes to premarital sex. The 2019 Knowledge and Attitudes towards the EU in Georgia Survey, which CRRC Georgia carried out in partnership with Europe Foundation, shows that as in the past waves of the survey, people think that it is more justified for men than women to have pre-marital sex. Between the 2017 and 2019 waves of the survey, the shares of people thinking it is justified has not changed significantly.

To explore the issue in greater depth, read this blog post which breaks down the demographics on attitudes using the 2017 wave of the survey or look at the data using our Online Data Analysis tool.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Young people are learning English in Georgia

A common sentiment when discussing foreign languages in Georgia is that young people know some English, older people know Russian, and those in between are mixed. Previous CRRC Georgia analysis from 2014 supported this claim, showing that knowledge of English was on the rise among young people. The 2019 survey on Knowledge and Attitudes towards the European Union in Georgia which CRRC Georgia carried out for Europe Foundation suggests that this trend is continuing in Georgia.

Since 2009 when the survey asked respondents to assess their knowledge of English, the share reporting they have no basic knowledge of English has declined from 73% to 58% in 2019, a 15 percentage point decline. When broken down by age, young people (18-35) have experienced the largest drop and older people (56+) the smallest in reporting no knowledge of English. Compared with 2009, young people are 22 percentage points less likely to report they have no basic knowledge of English. By comparison, people between the ages of 36 and 55 are 16 percentage points less likely to report no knowledge of English and people 56+ are 9 percentage points less likely to report no basic knowledge of English.

When it comes to Russian, the share of people who have no basic knowledge of Russian is much smaller – around 10% of adults in Georgia report no basic knowledge of Russian and this has been static over the years. However, the share of young people reporting either intermediate or advanced Russian knowledge has declined since 2009. While 70% of young people (18-35) reported intermediate or advanced knowledge of Russian in 2009, 54% did in 2019.

In Georgia, English language knowledge appears to be on the rise among young people. Although a lack of basic knowledge of Russian has remained low in Georgia over the last decade, people’s self-assessed fluency has declined, particularly among the young.

The data used in this blog post is available here.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The gender gap in the wages in Georgia exists only among the well off

[Note: This blog post was originally published in partnership with OC Media, here.]

Much has been made of the gender pay gap in Georgia. A related but different economic indicator is the reserve price of labor i.e. the wage which someone wants before they would consider accepting a job. The July 2019 CRRC and NDI survey suggests a gendered gap in the reserve price of labor as well: women want significantly less than men to start working on average. However, further analysis suggests that the gap only exists among the relatively well-off and not among poorer households.

On the survey, respondents that did not consider themselves employed were asked, “Considering your education and skills, what is the minimum salary you would agree to work for?” Eight percent of respondents asked the question refused to answer and 16% reported they did not know. Among those that did know how much they would want to start a job, the average was GEL 719.  For men, the average was GEL 823 while for women, it was GEL 643 – GEL 180 less. Women’s lower reserve prices appear to stem from the larger share of women who report they would be willing to start working for GEL 500 a month (33%) compared with men (22%).

Further analysis of this question suggests that sex remains a significant predictor of the minimum salary someone would be willing to start working for, controlling for education level, settlement type, household wealth (proxied through the number of assets they own), age, and the presence of children in the household. Aside from sex, household wealth has a statistically significant association with the salary people want to start working.  In Tbilisi and other urban areas, salary expectations are also higher than in rural settlements. Among the oldest age cohort in the survey (56+), expectations were lower.

However, after controlling for the interaction between sex and other variables rather than sex in and of itself, the data suggests that the interaction between a household’s wealth and sex is the key gender related factor when it comes to the reserve price of labor. There is no significant difference between the sexes in the reserve price of labor in poorer households. However, as wealth increases, men’s reserve price of labor increases at nearly twice the rate as it does for women: for every additional asset that a household owns, men want GEL 80 more to start working on average, compared to GEL 44 for women.

Rather than wanting more money to start working than men, women have lower reserve prices overall. While women want less to start working, this is only the case when women are in relatively better off households. In poorer households men and women that are not working are willing to start work at statistically indistinguishable wages.

Note: This blog post is based on two ordinary least squares regression analysis. The first controls for sex, age group, education level, household wealth (number of assets owned, from 11 asked about), settlement type (Tbilisi, Urban, Rural), and whether or not there is children in the household as independent variables. The dependent variable is the salary someone would want in order to start working. The second regression analysis looks at the interaction between all of the previously noted variables with sex. The data used in the above analysis is available here. The replication code can be found here.

This piece was written by Dustin Gilbreath, the Deputy Research Director of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of the National Democratic Institute or any related entity.

Monday, September 16, 2019

What divides and what unites Georgian society?

[Note: This article was published in partnership with OC-Media, here.]

The last year has seen a number of conversations about polarization in Georgia. The President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, even commented on the issue in his Batumi speech.  One of the components of polarization, though not the sole factor, is division in society over actors, issues, and institutions.

While many things could divide the public, what do the people think and which groups report more and fewer sources of division? The April 2019 NDI-CRRC poll suggests that there are fewer perceived reasons for division in rural areas and among ethnic minorities.

Although ethnic minorities perceive fewer divisions, they also think that different issues divide the country: minorities are more likely to think that western actors create division, while ethnic Georgians are more likely to blame Russia and domestic institutions.

One factor does unite ethnicities however: the most commonly cited source of division, no matter the respondent’s ethnicity, was politicians.

The survey asked about whether 11 issues, actors, and institutions unite or divide Georgians as a society. The results suggest that politicians are most widely viewed as divisive.  Even Russia was viewed as less of a divider than politicians in Georgia. In contrast, religion and educational institutions were considered to unite society more than any of the other issues, actors, or institutions asked about. Uncertainty (don’t know responses) was greatest about NGOs (28%) and Euro-Atlantic institutions (24% for NATO and the EU).

 To further explore perceptions of division, a simple additive index of the above questions was created to carry out further analysis, with respondents receiving one point for each item they reported divided society. On average, individuals named seven items as dividing society. One in twelve (8%) reported that none of the issues asked about divide society and one in twenty (5%) reported that all of the issues asked about divided society.

The results of a regression analysis on the above index suggests that a number of socio-demographic groups perceive more issues, actors, or institutions as divisive. Ethnic Georgians, Tbilisians, and people with higher levels of education report that more groups are dividing society, all else equal. The difference is rather small for education, with people with vocational and higher education perceiving about one half of one issue more on average.

By comparison the difference is rather sharp with ethnicity. Ethnic Armenians perceive almost two issues less on average, and ethnic Azerbaijanis note around 2.5 issues less on average. The difference between settlement types falls in between, with inhabitants of rural areas highlighting about one issue less than those in Tbilisi, and those in other urban areas falling between the capital and rural areas.

With ethnicity, there are three sources of the observed differences. First, ethnic minorities express uncertainty more often than ethnic Georgians. This is particularly true of ethnic Azerbaijanis who report don’t know more often than ethnic Armenians.

Second, among those that said each of the above issues either united or divided the country, there are differences in attitudes related to foreign policy. Ethnic Armenians and Azerbaijanis are significantly less likely to report that Russia divides the country, and significantly more likely, albeit to a smaller degree, to report that NATO divides the country. Ethnic Azerbaijanis also report the EU divides the country at a greater rate.

Third, ethnic Georgians are much more critical of domestic actors. Georgians are more likely to say that politicians, educational institutions, the Georgian media, the country’s leaders, the current economic system, law enforcement, and NGOs divide the country.

While there is a division in perceptions of what divides the country between ethnicities, one thing is common among ethnic groups: of all the issues, actors, and institutions asked about on the survey politicians are the most commonly cited source of division.

Note: The above analysis was based on an ordinary least squares regression model. The model’s dependent variables was the number of issues respondents named as divisive in the survey. The independent variables included age, sex, wealth (proxied through number of assets owned), educational attainment (secondary or less, vocational, at least some tertiary), ethnicity (Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani), settlement type (capital, other urban, rural), and employment status (have a job versus not having a job). The data used in the analysis is available here. Replication code for the analysis is available here.

Dustin Gilbreath is the Deputy Research Director of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not necessarily represent the views of CRRC-Georgia. The views presented in this article do not represent the views of the National Democratic Institute or any related entity.

Monday, September 09, 2019

The Easterlin Paradox and Happiness U-curve in Georgia

Two of the more prominent findings from the study of happiness are that money does not buy it (up to a point) and that young and old people are happier than those in between. That money does not buy happiness is often referred to as the Easterlin Paradox. It highlights that between and within countries happiness increases with wealth, but only up to a certain point, at which increases in wealth are associated with marginal gains in happiness. That the elderly and young are happier is referred to as the happiness U-curve. This finding has been found to hold in the West, but not in the former Soviet space, where the elderly are the least happy. This blog looks at these phenomenon in Georgia.

On the 2018 UN Women and CRRC Georgia survey, respondents were asked to rate their self-reported happiness, from “Extremely unhappy” to “Extremely happy” on an eleven point scale. A plurality of respondents reported being extremely happy (40%). By comparison, only 1% reported being extremely unhappy.

In agreement with previous studies on happiness within the post-Soviet space, increased household economic status was associated with higher levels of happiness. Individuals who were wealthier were more likely report a happier response on the scale. In contrast, those who have relatively few assets reported lower levels of happiness. However, once respondents have three out of the eleven assets asked about or more, reported happiness increases at a marginal rate, as the Easterlin Paradox would predict.

The U-shaped happiness curve does not hold in Georgia, as happiness generally decreases with age. The presence of children, sex, settlement type, household size, whether or not the respondent was displaced by conflict, and education level were not associated with happiness.

The above data suggests that the Easterlin paradox appears to hold in Georgia, with individuals becoming happier with greater wealth, up to a point. As in other post-Soviet countries, older people are generally less happy, again re-affirming the lack of a u-curve in happiness in the region.

Note: The above analysis is based on an ordinary least squares regression, where the dependent variable is the respondent's self-reported happiness level. The independent variables are respondents’ household economic status (measured with an asset index, composed of ownership of 11 assets), age, sex (male, female), education, settlement type, displacement status, household size, and age’s interaction with the presence of children in the home. Replication code for the above analysis can be found here. The data for the above analysis can be found here.

The views presented in the above blog post do not represent the views of UN Women, SDC, or any related entity.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Internal Displacements’ Impact on Attitudes towards Gender Relations

As a result of the conflicts in the 1990s and in 2008 in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, nearly 6 percent of Georgia’s population is internally displaced. Previous studies have suggested that internal displacement from conflict can alter attitudes towards gender relations, and specifically perceptions of women’s household authority, tolerance of domestic violence, and attitudes towards women earning money.

This may be related to the psychological impacts of conflict and displacement on everyday household gender dynamics. Some have theorized that displaced women’s roles in the household often shift to that of breadwinner, and in response men push back by becoming more of a dominant presence in the home.At the same time, women reject their new leadership role by becoming more accepting of the idea of male authority.

A matching analysis, which compares individuals with similar social and demographic backgrounds except for whether or not the respondent had been displaced by conflict, using a 2018 nationwide survey CRRC conducted for UN Women shows that the previously noted differences in attitudes are present among Georgia’s conflict displaced population.

In the survey, male respondents in general were more likely to believe that men should have the final word in the household. However, both male and female respondents displaced by conflict were more likely to believe that men should have the final word in the household than individuals not displaced by conflict that had otherwise similar backgrounds.

As it relates to domestic violence, non-displaced women were least tolerant of domestic violence as a means to keep the family together, while female displaced respondents and non-displaced male respondents were more tolerant. Moreover, male respondents displaced by conflict were more tolerant in their attitudes towards domestic violence for the sake of family preservation than all other respondents.

In relation to women earning money, female respondents were more likely to believe that a woman earning more than her husband would cause problems regardless of whether they were displaced by the conflict. However, male respondents not displaced by conflict were less likely to believe that women earning more would cause relationship problems than men displaced by conflict.

Men and women displaced by conflict are more tolerant of domestic violence over the non-displaced in Georgia. Males displaced by conflict are more likely to believe men should have the final word in the home over non-displaced individuals, and non-displaced men are less likely to believe that if women earn more than their husbands, it will cause relationship problems. These findings support past research suggesting that the process of internal displacement can lead to adverse gender norms.

Note: The above analysis is based on the use of matching together with a regression analysis, where the dependent variable is the respondent's attitudes towards gender relations. The independent variables are displacement status and sex.  The individuals in the sample were matched on the following characteristics: parental education level, age, ethnicity, settlement type, and sex. Replication code for the above analysis can be found here.

The views presented in the above blog post do not represent the views of UN Women, SDC, or any affiliated entity.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Attitudes toward politicians are related to evaluations of institutional performance

How citizens evaluate the performance of the state is often a reasonable proxy for its performance. In Georgia, evaluations of public institutions are mixed. While a number of social and demographic variables are associated with people’s perceptions of state performance, so too are people’s attitudes towards political parties and politicians. This shows once again how politics is personalized in Georgia.

The 2019 April CRRC/NDI data suggests that social and-demographic characteristics, including settlement type, ethnicity, and age are associated with perceptions of state performance. Ethnic minorities and rural residents tend to evaluate public institutional performance higher than ethnic Georgians or urban dwellers. In addition, young Georgians think public institutions perform well more often than older people.

Besides demographics, attitudes toward politicians are associated with attitudes towards institutional performance.  Positive attitudes towards Georgian Dream politicians are associated with more positive assessments of government performance. Interestingly, the same holds for attitudes towards opposition politicians, albeit to a weaker degree.

Note: An ordinary least squares regression model was used to generate the above chart. To measure the population’s attitudes toward institutional performance a public institutions evaluation index was created based on assessments of the following public entities: the current government, Sakrebulo (local councils), Parliament, Courts, Georgian Army, Georgian Police, Office of the ombudsman, Office of the Chief Prosecutor, and Public Service Halls. Attitudes towards the government and opposition affiliated politicians index are measured based on attitudes toward individual politicians asked about in the questionnaire. The regression model also included the following co-variates: Which party is closest to you? (First choice); intention to vote in the parliamentary elections; main sources of information; education level; employment status; age; gender; ethnicity, asset ownership index and settlement type. 

Partisanship also matters. Georgian Dream supporters evaluate institutional performance more positively than United National Movement or other opposition party supporters do.

While partisanship matters, attitudes towards government affiliated politicians still matter despite party affiliation when it comes to evaluation of public institutions. When supporters of different parties have positive attitudes towards GD politicians, they are more likely to evaluate government performance positively no matter what party they support.

Evaluations of public institutions are linked to how citizens see politicians. The more positive are people’s attitudes towards politicians, the more positive they are about institutional performance. This holds no matter the party of a given politician. However, partisanship still matters, with opposition supporters less positive about government performance than supporters of the Georgian Dream. Taking both of these factors together, suggests that attitudes toward government affiliated politicians is more important however.  Taken together, this suggests that institutional performance assessments in Georgia remain tied to personality.

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.