Monday, August 29, 2011

Georgia's EU aspirations

CRRC has just completed a second wave of the survey entitled “Knowledge and Attitudes toward the European Union (EU) in Georgia” (2011). Just over half of the Georgian population thinks that Georgia will actually join the EU at some point in the future and they have high expectations from EU membership. Many Georgians also support membership in the European Union (EU) despite uncertainty over whether or not European citizens share the same views about Georgian accession. This new survey also lets us compare data with the first survey conducted in 2009.

A large percentage of Georgians (69%) support the idea of potential EU membership despite the economic and debt crisis across the EU. Moreover, they are keener on EU membership than citizens of Croatia (52%) and Turkey (38%) even though the latter two states are more likely candidates for EU membership. In addition, according to EU attitudes survey, 53% of Georgians trust the EU, while data from the 2010 Eurobarometer shows that only 37% of Croatians express trust towards the EU.

Georgians also stay optimistic about the timeline for EU accession. According to CRRC’s 2011 survey of attitudes towards the EU in Georgia, 35% of Georgians believe that the country will be ready for EU membership in five years or less, compared to 32% of Georgians who said the same in 2009. Nearly one fifth of the population (19%) thinks that the country will be ready to join in five to ten years, compared to 21% of Georgians who said the same in 2009.

Opinions on when Georgia will actually join the EU are slightly different. In 2011 30% of Georgians believe the country will join in five years or less, while 17% think Georgia will become a member in five to ten years. In 2009 results were almost the same. 31% of Georgians said Georgia would become an EU member in five years or less and 20% claimed the country would join between five and ten years. However, quite a large proportion of Georgians (42%) answered “don’t know” on the same question in 2011 (38% said “don’t know” in 2009).

Support for the idea that Georgia will become an EU member may lie in the fact that just over half (55%) of people in Georgia agree with the statement: “I am a Georgian and therefore I am a European”. Younger Georgians are more likely to agree with this statement. 64% of those between the ages of 18 to 35 agreed, followed by 58% of Georgians between 36 and 55 years old. This figure is 46% for the older generation (age 56+).

However, a majority of Georgians are not sure whether or not European citizens share the same attitude towards possible Georgian accession. 35% of the Georgians think the majority of European citizens would like to see Georgia as a new member state, while 57% answered “don’t know”.

High expectations about EU accession may partially explain why Georgians are so supportive towards EU membership. The majority of people in Georgia think that the EU membership may improve the general political, economic and social situation in the country. For instance, 46% say that the EU membership might decrease poverty. 52% think that EU membership may increase the number of available jobs, and 64% of Georgians believe that EU membership can increase the possibility of restoring territorial integrity.

Thus, the data shows that despite the economic and debt crisis in the EU, Georgians are overwhelmingly supportive towards EU integration and have high expectations from possible membership. Are these expectations justifiable? Share your opinion with us.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Georgia and Russia: Can positive relations between the populations overcome the political turmoil?

On the third anniversary of the 2008 August war the Russian Foreign Minister said that Russia will not renew ties with Georgia as long as the Georgian President Mikhail Saakhashvili is in power. Relations between the Georgian and Russian governments have been at a standstill since the conflict in 2008. Nevertheless, the attitudes of Georgians towards Russians remain positive.

While relations between the Georgian and Russian governments can be described as troublesome, Georgians remain positive towards the Russian people. According to the Caucasus Barometer 2010, 73% of Georgians approve of doing business with Russians, compared with 79% who approve of doing business with Ukrainians (the highest rated result for this question). Moreover, 42% of Georgians approve of Georgian women marrying Russians which was the second highest rated result for this question after Ukrainians (45%). In addition, data from the Caucasus Barometer suggests that people who have a better knowledge of Russian are more likely to approve of Georgian women marrying Russians. The data also shows that 90% of Georgians think they have at least a beginner’s level knowledge of Russian, while 32% think they have at least a beginner’s level knowledge of English.

Socio-cultural characteristics such as a sizeable Georgian diaspora in Russia and Orthodox religion may also play a role in the positive perception of Russians by Georgians. The Georgian Ministry of the Diaspora estimates that the number of Georgians residing in Russia varies between 800,000-900,000 people. Also, the strong role of religion in Georgian society might help to explain positive attitudes towards Russians. Relations between the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) are good. For example, the ROC recognizes the canonical authority of the GOC over the breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as was confirmed by both patriarchs during their August 2011 meeting in Kiev to commemorate St. Vladimir Equal-to-the-Apostles the Baptizer of Russia.

Nevertheless, positive attitudes towards the Russian people do not influence Georgia’s predominant pro-Western orientation. According to the 2010 Caucasus Barometer, 70% of Georgians support membership in NATO and 71% think that English should be a mandatory language in schools, while only 16% think that Russian should be a mandatory language in Georgian schools. Georgian-Russian political relations are also at odds with the different approaches towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Tbilisi claims both territories as an integral part of Georgia, while Moscow has recognized their independence.

Georgians have positive attitudes towards the Russian people despite political turmoil between the Georgian and Russian governments. We do not have data on Russian attitudes towards Georgian people. However, do you think that positive attitudes between people could pave the way to a Georgian-Russian rapprochement?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Intermarriage in the South Caucasus

As a continuation of the blog, Forbidden Love: Attitudes Toward Interethnic Marriage in the South Caucasus, this blog focuses only on approval/disapproval rates and the socio-cultural preferences of women marrying men from different ethnic and national groups.

According to the 1996-1997 World Value Survey, 98% of both Azerbaijanis and Armenians and 99% of Georgians considered the family to be important in their lives. Marriage can be viewed as an important step towards the formation of families and the family itself can have an important impact on individual identity formation.

Data from the 2010 Caucasus Barometer shows that 54% of Azerbaijanis approve of an Azerbaijani woman marrying a Turkish man and this was the highest rated result for the question. Similar Turkic identity and linguistic similarity between the nations may be part of the reason behind this. Azerbaijanis have much lower levels of approval for marriage with other groups, ranging from 74% disapproval of marriage with Iranians to 98% disapproval of marriage with Armenians.

While there is more disapproval than approval of intermarriage in all three countries of the South Caucasus, Georgians expressed higher rates of approval towards intermarriage than Azerbaijanis. 45% of Georgians approve of Georgian women marrying Ukrainian men, followed by the second and third highest approval rating for marriage with Russians (42%) and Greeks (41%), respectively. There are slightly lower levels of approval (between 39% and 35%) for marriages with Italians, Americans, Germans, Ossetians and Abkhazians. The highest rate of disapproval (between 77% and 80%) was for marriages with Iranians, Turkish, Indians, Kurds and Chinese. Analyzing these data, it is possible to notice that Georgians have the highest levels of approval for marriages with predominately Orthodox groups, while they show the highest levels of disapproval for marriages with some non-Christian groups. The strong role of the religion in Georgian society might explain preferences to marry with Orthodox and other Christian groups. For example, according to the CB 2010, 90% of Georgians consider religion to be important in their daily lives.

Armenians have lower levels of approval for intermarriage than Georgians, but they show more approval for such marriages than Azerbaijanis. Russians have the highest approval rate (49%) followed by Italians, Americans, Ukrainians, Germans and Greeks with slightly lower levels of approval ranging from 41% to 37%. The highest disapproval levels are for marriages with Kurds, Iranians, Turks and Azerbaijanis. Levels of approval/disapproval for Armenian women marrying other ethnicities may be influenced by political preferences. For example, both the Armenian government and Armenian people have positive attitudes towards Russia. Also, the fact that Armenians have more positive attitudes towards marriage with Russians than with other groups might include the fact that there is a large number of Armenians living in Russia (2,250,000 according to, and both knowledge and use of the Russian language is widespread in Armenia. The CB 2010 suggests that only 5% of Armenians have no basic knowledge of Russian.

This data show that attitudes towards intermarriage in the South Caucasus may be influenced by a variety of different factors in this diverse region. Thus, it is interesting to consider what roles factors such as religion, political alliances and ethnicity, among others, can play in marital preferences.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Material Deprivation in the South Caucasus

Material deprivation is a non-monetary measure of poverty which measures ownership of durable goods considered valuable by a society for a good standard of living. The CRRC’s 2010 Caucasus Barometer provides a limited assessment of material deprivation by measuring household ownership of nine durable goods in South Caucasian homes: TVs, DVD players, washing machines, refrigerators, air conditioners, cars, landline telephones, cell phones, and computers. The results indicate a great deal of variety in levels of material deprivation by country, but show that material deprivation is mostly prevalent within rural areas and among the poorly educated in the South Caucasus.

When the ownership of durable goods is defined as the possession of fewer than four of the nine items, 32% of the South Caucasus is materially deprived. Armenia has the lowest level of material deprivation at just under 19%, while Azerbaijan has a material deprivation rate of around 25%, and Georgia has a rate of 48%. When the definition of material deprivation is expanded to include households possessing fewer than five of the household items, the material deprivation rate increases dramatically to 38% in Armenia, 47% in Azerbaijan, 64% in Georgia, and to 51% in the entire South Caucasus.

Despite the percentile difference between the countries, living in a rural settlement and low education are similar characteristics shared by most materially deprived people throughout the South Caucasus.

In the South Caucasus as a whole, as well as within each state, the capital has the lowest rate of material deprivation, rural areas the highest, and urban non-capital areas lie in between. For example, in the South Caucasus as a whole, only 15% of capital inhabitants own fewer than four of the items, while this figure is 30% for urban non-capital areas and 47% for rural inhabitants. Georgia and Armenia’s material deprivation rate in the capital is half that of urban non-capital areas, and one third that of rural areas. In Azerbaijan the biggest gap in living standards is between rural and urban non-capital areas, rather than between the capital and urban areas. In all three countries the rate of material deprivation in rural areas is over three times that of the capital.

In addition to the high variance based on location, material deprivation is negatively correlated with the education level of the respondent. The material deprivation rate for people with only a primary education or less is over 50%, while it is only 16 % for people with completed higher education, and just 7% for those with post-graduate degrees. In fact, in Azerbaijan and Armenia, no survey respondents with post-graduate degrees and less than 8% of those with higher education are materially deprived. In Georgia, 15% of those with post-graduate degrees and 27% of those with completed higher education own fewer than four of the durable goods. However, these rates are still far below the country average of 47%.

In each country and in the region as a whole, the achievement of at least a secondary technical education is the threshold for a lower than average level of material deprivation. Despite some trend-defying findings such as the relatively low rate of durable good possession for those with no education in Armenia, the overall trend in the South Caucasus clearly shows that a higher level of educational achievement corresponds with a lower rate of material deprivation. Moreover, a failure to move past high school education is linked with a higher than average risk of living in a materially deprived household.