Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The May 17th Events in Tbilisi Revisited

May 17th has become a reference in Tbilisi for the violent protests against LGBT activists that occurred during the rally for the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) held on that day. Thousands of people, priests among them, took to the streets and attacked the rally of about 50 activists, causing several injuries. From May 18th to June 30th, CRRC conducted a survey in Tbilisi on attitudes towards these protests. This blog presents three main results of the survey. First, tolerance of homosexuality remains low. Second, most respondents disapprove of the use of physical violence, unless traditional or national values are at stake. Third, in general, respondents felt that the presence of priests was justified at the protests, although their confrontational actions were not. 

The majority (97%) of survey respondents were familiar with the May 17th events, and most received their information from television (94%), with acquaintances, social networks and newspapers being far behind. However, the purpose of the event was not well understood. When asked whether a gay parade or a peaceful demonstration for the IDAHOT had been planned, 45% said the former, 40% said the latter, and 15% didn’t know. 

Several questions in the survey provide information about general attitudes towards homosexuality. When asked if sexual minorities should have the same rights as everyone else, 60% said yes. However, about half (49%) agreed with the statement that a good citizen should never respect the rights of sexual minorities. Only 16% said a good citizen should always respect their rights. Women and Tbilisi residents 18 to 37 years old are slightly less intolerant than men (47% of women vs. 52% of men say “never”), and those 58 years and older (38% of 18-37 year olds vs. 61% of those 58+ say “never”), respectively. It should also be noted that intolerance towards sexual minorities is several times higher than intolerance towards ethnic and religious minorities.

When asked to decide which type of person is least desired as a neighbor—between criminals, homosexuals and drug addicts—31% of respondents said they would least prefer a homosexual. Similar to before, women (24%) have a more tolerant view than men (43%), but those 58 years and older appear to be the most tolerant (24%), compared to 30% of those 18 to 37 years old and 37% of those 38 to 57 years old. This may be explained by the fact that 45% of older people perceive a neighbour who is a criminal as the worst option.

Another important feature of the May 17th protest was its brutal character. 87% of respondents felt that “physical violence is always unacceptable”. However, 50% agreed with the statement that “physical violence can be acceptable towards those people or groups who endanger national values” (46% disagreed). 57% of those interviewed also said that a successful peaceful celebration of the IDAHOT would have endangered Georgia. 

Finally, the role of the clergy at the protest was also widely discussed. The day before the protest, the patriarch called for a cancellation of the IDAHOT rally denouncing it as an “encouragement” of “anomaly and disease”. Many Orthodox priests took part in the protest against the rally, and some were at the frontline of the confrontation. In the survey, a majority of people believed that, “The clergy should have gone to the May 17th demonstration” (71%), but only 26% agreed that “The clergy should have directly taken part in the confrontation”. Fewer women than men agreed that the clergy should have gone (68% vs. 76%), but they were almost as likely as men to think that they should have taken part in the confrontation (25% vs. 26%). When broken down by age, the data shows that younger and older people have similar views with 68% of the former and 66% of the latter agreeing to the presence of clergy at the protest, and 22% and 24%, respectively agreeing about their confrontational attitude. Middle-aged people (38-57) are more prone to agree with the clergy’s participation in the protest (77%) and in the confrontation (30%). Lastly, 31% of respondents thought that the clergy who participated in the confrontation should face trial, whereas 57% did not.

To conclude, the survey also asked people to identify what they considered to be the main result of the May 17 events. Their two principal answers broadly sum up the findings of this blog; while 34% viewed the protests as “defending the dignity of Georgians”, 29% saw it as a “confrontation between people”.

For more information on the May 17th events in Tbilisi, see our survey page.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Does Climate Change Matter in the South Caucasus?

The Environment and Security Initiative confirmed that climate change has already negatively impacted the South Caucasus in its 2011 study, “Regional Climate Change Impact Study for the Caucasus Region ”. The issue of climate change was recently given media coverage when a group of approximately 40 people gathered at Turtle Lake in Tbilisi on August 5th to protest the destruction of trees and shrubs in order to construct a new restaurant complex. Their aim was to protect the plants in order to help reduce pollution. This post assesses knowledge of and attitudes about climate change in the South Caucasus. Data from the 2011 Life in Transition survey shows that the general concern for issues related to climate change is higher in Azerbaijan with Georgia being very close and Armenia somewhat behind. However, there is little understanding about what climate change is in all three countries. 

The Life in Transition survey shows that the majority of people in the South Caucasus have a certain degree of concern about climate change. Measured on a scale from 1 (not concerned) to 5 (extremely concerned), the data shows a high degree of indifference in Armenia (33%). Six out of 10 Azerbaijanis express concern (61%), followed by 59% of Georgians, and fewer Armenians (42%). 

However, when asked to assign a relative value to climate change by choosing from a list of serious problems currently facing the world, respondent’s opinions differ from what was expressed in the figure above. 73% of Azerbaijanis view climate change as a very serious problem, followed by Armenians (61%) and Georgians (45%). The answers to the next question, “Which is the most important?”, are consistent; 17% of Azerbaijanis, 13% of Armenians and 7% of Georgians view climate change as the most important issue.

 In your opinion, which of the following do you consider to be a very serious problem currently facing the world? 

And which is the most important?

(Life in transition survey II, 2011)

In order to measure general awareness of climate change, it is important to assess how people feel they understand the causes of this phenomenon. Throughout the region, the majority of people feel they are “not very well informed” or “not at all informed” about the issue. Again, Azerbaijanis show the highest propensity with 48% of them feeling well informed about the topic, Armenians being second (35%) and Georgian third (23%). Thus, the lack of concern may be due to a lack of knowledge.

Finally, respondents were asked if they had personally taken actions aimed at helping to fight climate change. Very few people said they had done so—2% in Armenia, 2.5% in Azerbaijan and 1.6% in Georgia. 

For more information on climate change and the South Caucasus in general, visit the Life in Transition data on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s website.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Internet Usage and Popularity in the South Caucasus

May 31st is often called the Birthday of Internet. It was on this day in 1961 that American engineer and computer scientist Leonard Kleinrock published his first paper entitled "Information Flow in Large Communication Nets". Even though the idea of the internet began being developed in the late 1960s, Kleinrock’s paper presented the initial idea of the internet as we know it today. More than 50 years later, 39% of world’s population is online. This is how many people have access to the internet according to the UN International Telecommunication Union. An earlier blog discussed internet and computer usage in Azerbaijan. This blog presents current trends in internet accessibility and usage in all three countries of the South Caucasus.

The 2012 Caucasus Barometer (CB) reveals that under half of each population uses the internet once a week or more, and within that 33% of Armenians, 26% of Georgians and 11% of Azerbaijanis use it every day. While internet use is more common in Armenia, its usage has increased in all three countries since 2010. Additionally, internet use is more common among men than women, among capital residents, and among those 18-35 years old.

Although internet usage is increasing in each country, over half of each population does not use the internet. Lack of need for the internet is the primary reason in Armenia and Azerbaijan, whereas lack of access to a computer is the primary reason that people do not use the internet in Georgia. Additionally, about a quarter of Azerbaijanis indicate that they are not interested in using the internet (24%) or have no way to connect (20%).
Those who use the internet were asked to name their most frequent activities online. The majority of people in Georgia and about half in Armenia and Azerbaijan mentioned social networking sites such as Odnoklassniki, Facebook and Myspace. Searching for information was also frequently mentioned, as was using Skype, particularly in Armenia. The data also shows that Azerbaijanis more frequently download, listen to and watch music and videos, as well as receive or send emails than in their Caucasian neighbors. Other internet activities such as playing online games, visiting dating websites, blogging, shopping or engaging in forum discussions were not frequently mentioned and thus remain less popular in the region.

This blog has shown that while internet usage is not as widespread as in some other countries, its use is increasing rapidly in the South Caucasus. Also, there are differences in the most frequent types of internet activities among Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. CB data allows us to understand internet usage in the South Caucasus and to compare types of use among the three countries.
If you want to explore more about these questions, please visit the 2012 Caucasus Barometer dataset