Monday, June 29, 2020

The most important issues facing Georgia, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak

What did Georgians think was the most important issue facing the country prior to the COVID-19 outbreak? The economy. The current COVID-19 outbreak will shift perceptions surely. Yet, the measures to fight the virus have slowed down the economy, exacerbating the previously existing economic issues. While the economy has consistently been the most important issue for most Georgians in recent years, this headline figure hides some nuance. This blog explores this nuance, looking at who names a mixture of economic and non-economic issues as the most important ones facing the country.

The recent Caucasus Barometer 2019 shows that around 77% of Georgians name economic-related issues, like unemployment, unaffordability of healthcare and education, low pensions, poverty, rising prices, inflation, and low wages as the most important issue facing Georgia at the moment. When it comes to the second most important issue, a majority (71%) again name economic problems.

Note: The following answer options were grouped as economic: unaffordability of healthcare, unemployment, low pensions, poverty, unaffordability of professional or higher education, rising prices, inflation, and low wages. Non-economic issues include, corruption, unfairness of courts, unfairness of elections, violation of human rights, lack of peace in the country, political instability in the country, violation of property rights, low quality of education, problematic relations with Russia, unsolved territorial conflicts, religious intolerance, gender inequality, emigration, immigration, threats to national traditions, and other.

While economic issues are the most commonly named, many point to a mix of economic and non-economic issues. About half the public named only economic issues on the above questions, while 34% named an economic and a non-economic issue. In total, 9% named only non-economic issues. However, the trend has been changing over the last decade. More people started naming only economic problems in both answer options from 2010 (with the exception of 2013). Before this, Georgians named both economic and non-economic issues more frequently. Another outlier from the chart is 2008, when non-economic issues, including territorial integrity and security were named by a relatively high share of the population.

A regression analysis conducted on the results for 2019 suggests that, controlling for other factors, those living in the capital, women, those with higher education, and those that use the internet more often tend to name both economic and non-economic related problems a bit more often. There are no statistically significant differences between age, employment status, ethnicity and a wealth index, constructed from the ownership of a number of household assets. 

A number of variables related to a household’s economic situation are not associated with responses on the above questions, controlling for other factors. Households with more assets, people with jobs, and those that report needing to borrow money for food are no more or less likely to name economic issues alone.

Similarly to economic variables, preferences for different political parties are not associated with people’s responses on this question.

Economic issues are the most important ones for most people in Georgia. However, people are not only concerned with the economy. In this regard, attitudes vary across settlement type, gender, educational attainment, and internet use. Measures of socio-economic well-being and political affiliation contribute little to understanding what issues people prioritize. 

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Coming Together and Growing Apart: A Decade of Transformation in the South Caucasus

CRRC is excited to announce its 6th Methods Conference, which will be held on June 26-27 and open to public viewing over Facebook and direct participation through signing up here. The conference focuses on a decade of change in the region.

The last decade has seen broad political, economic, and social changes across the South Caucasus. In the previous ten years, events including Armenia’s 2018 ‘Velvet Revolution,’ the 2016 ‘Four-Day War’ in Nagorno-Karabakh, the region’s first ballot box-driven change in government in the 2012 Georgian parliamentary elections, the devaluation of the national currency in Azerbaijan, and volatility in relations between the European Union and Russia have reshaped the region. Such events have raised questions as to whether the three nations of the South Caucasus are growing increasingly apart, and if so, whether these changes reflect substantial divergence among societies or if they are simply an outcome of the interests of national elites.

The conference this year will contain five panels addressing these questions, two keynote addresses, and two roundtables.


Professor John O’Loughlin of the University of Colorado Boulder will discuss and Professor Julie George of Queens College and City University of New York will each deliver keynote addresses.


The conference will open with a panel on the results of the 2019-2020 Caucasus Barometer surveys in Armenia and Georgia, with papers presented on changes in trust towards institutions in Armenia following the Velvet Revolution, the Church’s scandals in Georgia as well as support for democracy and liberal values. 

The conference’s second panel focuses on memory, rites, identities, and values in the South Caucasus, and includes papers on language policies in the post-Soviet space, places of ritual and monuments in Armenia, and theoretical aspects of the World Values Survey. 

The third panel will discuss the political economy of transition, including papers on reforming governance in Georgia and Ukraine, how mining activities affect public health, energy markets in the post Covid world, and gig workers in the Georgian economy.

The theme of the fourth panel is democracy, parties, and civil society. Presentations will span issue such as Pashinyan versus the Karabakh Clan, national sovereignty with and without nationalism, and election monitoring in Georgia.

The final panel of the conference will focus on nationalism, with papers on Abkhazian nationalism, Georgian public opinion on conflict resolution in Georgia, social norms and human rights in Azerbaijan, and  how narrative, memory, and identity shape conflict in the South Caucasus. 


Aside from the conference’s keynotes, there will also be two round tables. The first will focus on challenges to the social sciences in the South Caucasus, while the second will explore issues surrounding data collection in light of Covid 19.

A sneak peak of the conference in the form of the conference’s abstract book is available here

The conference will start at 11:00 AM Georgia time on June 26 and 11:45 on June 27. To join us for the conference as an audience member, sign up here and to watch the conference during the event, visit our Facebook page.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Attitudes towards policing and the judiciary in Georgia

The world has seen large protests in response to the police murder of George Floyd, including in Tbilisi. Although Georgia underwent significant police reform following the Rose Revolution, the country’s harsh criminal justice policies were also criticized under the UNM, with police killings and the country attaining the ignoble distinction of having the fourth highest prison population per capita in the world. The Georgian Dream government also undertook a number of criminal justice reforms. Still, GD too have implemented controversial policing policies and had numerous scandals. Police murders remain an issue, police drove a boy to suicide in 2019 (and 2016), and for a time police in Tbilisi were implementing a policy resembling New York’s stop and frisk (notably, the UNM also attempted to do so). The police raid of the Bassiani night club and police violence in dispersing protesters in June 2019 were also widely condemned. Clearly, Georgia continues to face challenges with rule of law and law enforcement, ranging from misuse of power in criminal cases to general policing policy and crowd control during protests. But what does the public think?

In the current global and above noted local context, it is worth taking stock of what the public think about policing in Georgia and the criminal justice system more broadly. CRRC Georgia’s data suggest that the picture is mixed, with relatively high trust in the police on the one hand, and low levels of trust in the Prosecutor’s Office and Courts on the other.

When it comes to police, the institution is among the most trusted in Georgia. The Caucasus Barometer survey in 2019 placed them as the third most trusted institution, just after religious organizations and the Army, and just above the country’s medical and educational systems. Although medical institutions have likely become the most trusted since, given the country’s strong response to the Covid-19 outbreak, this still places police among the most trusted institutions in the country. In contrast, the court system was the third least trusted, finishing just ahead of parliament and political parties.

Although the police are among the most widely trusted institutions in the country, data from Transparency International’s 2018 survey on public policy, which CRRC conducted, suggest that the public is divided over some of the more controversial policies the police have implemented. About one in five people thought it would never be justified for law enforcement officials to stop and search cars and individuals, referring to a policy wherein police were searching large numbers in Tbilisi seemingly at random. A plurality (43%) thought it is justified sometimes, and 36% thought it was always justified. More controversially, 45% thought that the police plant drugs on individuals, while 35% disagreed. On drug policy, a majority thought that people should not serve prison sentences, which are quite harsh in Georgia, for the use of light drugs or club drugs. However, people do tend to think that a person should serve a prison sentence for the use of intravenous drugs.

Although the police are widely trusted as an institution, the Prosecutor’s Office is much less positively viewed. Recent surveys CRRC conducted in partnership with IDFI and EMC suggest that only 13% of the public think the Prosecutor’s Office of Georgia never abuse their power. Similarly, only 13% say that prosecutors never make deals with judges to have favourable decisions. This data should be viewed in light of the recent processes surrounding lack of transparency of appointment of Supreme Court justices, which was roundly criticized.

In recent years, Georgia has experienced numerous issues with policing. Despite this, the public still generally trust the police, while often being critical of specific policies. In contrast, fewer trust the Prosecutor’s Office or courts. 

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Lost in the census: Mingrelian and Svan languages face extinction in Georgia

This article was written by David Sichinava and first published on OC Media, here. The views expressed in the article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of CRRC Georgia or any related entity.

On 21 February, Georgia celebrates International Mother Tongue Day, a day established by UNESCO to promote ‘linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism’.

Georgia is home to at least 11 languages on the brink of extinction, according to UNESCO. The Ministry of Education now offers classes to ethnic minority students in several small languages. 

This suggests that the state recognises the need to preserve smaller tongues, although, what languages need to be protected seems to be selective.

Three out of 11 languages that made it to the list of endangered languages are part of the Kartvelian linguistic family, which is closely related yet not mutually intelligible with standard Georgian. 

Two of them — Mingrelian and Svan — are mainly spoken in parts of Western Georgia, while Laz is native to the Northeastern Black Sea region of Turkey. None of these languages have standardised literary forms or strong written traditions.

Until now, there was only a rough sense of the extent to which Mingrelian and Svan are spoken in Georgia, as the government does not tally speakers of these tongues. Data from the 2019 Caucasus Barometer shows that these languages are still in use, albeit as colloquialisms. 

In the Caucasus Barometer survey, about 8% of Georgians named Mingrelian as the language which they use in everyday situations. 

Fewer respondents named Svan; on average, 3% of Georgia’s population uses it to converse with family members, friends, or colleagues.


Estimates for different settlement types are much less reliable due to relatively small sample sizes. For instance, the proportion of Mingrelian speakers in Tbilisi is somewhere between 1%–7%. The same goes for those who speak Mingrelian in urban areas — the data puts estimates between 5%–16%.

Still, the Caucasus Barometer survey shows that about 400,000 Georgians still use minor Kartvelian languages in everyday situations. 

Fears of separatism

Despite the number of native speakers in Georgia, neither Mingrelian nor Svan is recognised legally. None of the documents listed on the government’s official document repository,, mention Mingrelian or Svan languages. 

As noted above, there are no official statistics on the number of speakers. The last census recording speakers of Mingrelian and Svan was the 1926 Soviet census. 

The unclear status of these languages is illustrated by the anecdote of one Tbilisi resident who tried to register Mingrelian as his mother tongue in the 2014 National Census. According to an interview he gave to RFE/RL, census officials fiercely denied his request.

To a large extent, fears of separatism nurture these sentiments. A long-standing, popular opinion views recognition of the Mingrelian (and Svan) language as a potential source of increased separatist sentiments in these regions. 

These attitudes seemingly contribute to the Georgian government’s reluctance to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML). Sanctioning the document might oblige the country to recognise the existence of Mingrelian and Svan and to ensure their protection. 

While the charter underscores that it should not be interpreted as a threat to the status of official languages, some in Georgia believe to the contrary

Tbilisi’s worries of separatism are further exacerbated because the authorities of secessionist Abkhazia have encouraged the use of Mingrelian among Abkhazia’s ethnic Georgian population, even sponsoring a TV station broadcasting in Mingrelian language.

Despite such worries, the creation of a separate Mingrelian or Svan political entity has never enjoyed much popularity in Georgia, even among speakers of these languages. 

When autonomist movements emerged in the 1920s and 1930s amid Stalin’s korenizatsiya policy, the leadership of Soviet Georgia (including Lavrenti Beria, a Mingrelian himself) immediately curtailed them. 

Only fringe groups are currently advocating for political autonomy for Samegrelo. To the author’s knowledge, there has been no known group seeking political status for Svaneti.

Language activists step in

Activists in Georgia have continued to push for the preservation of Mingrelian and Svan languages — despite the government’s reluctance to do so themselves. 

There is a Mingrelian version of Wikipedia with about 10,000 articles. Books are printed and literary competitions are held in Svan

Most recently, the Association for the Preservation of the Mingrelian Language started publishing a magazine in Mingrelian.

Estimates from Caucasus Barometer show that at least 11% of Georgia’s population speak smaller Kartvelian languages. 

However, one recent study shows that younger people in Mingrelian-speaking communities have started shedding their linguistic identity in favour of Georgian. A similar pattern is also attested to in the case of the Svan language. 

In this situation, the reluctance of the Georgian state to preserve or even acknowledge the existence of Mingrelian and Svan endangers these unique languages. If this situation continues, soon there will be few if any speakers of minor Kartvelian languages left to celebrate the International Mother Tongue Day.

Monday, June 01, 2020

Are Lion’s Whelps Equally Lions?!

In Georgia, tradition has it that a son stays in the family and is responsible for taking care of his parents in their old age. Consequently, tradition also gives parents’ property to their sons. This limits women’s access to economic resources. New data from Caucasus Barometer shows that regardless of whether people think that a son or daughter or both equally should take care of their parents in their old age, many believe the son should still get the inheritance.

The data shows that people are either for equally distributing the house between sons and daughters or in favor of giving it only to the son. Daughters are rarely seen as the main heirs of the property. About half (52%) of the population believe that the apartment should be given to both children equally. At the same time, almost half of the population (47%) think that son is the main heir. Only 1% think daughters should inherit their parents’ apartment.

In contrast, Georgians overwhelmingly believe in sharing the responsibilities when it comes to caring for their parents. Three-quarters of Georgians believe that children of both genders should equally take care of parents, and twenty percent think that a son should take care of their parents more. Only 6% believe that the primary caregiver should be a daughter.

Most of those respondents (77%) who think a son should take care of his parents believe that property should be given to him. One fifth (21%) are for equal distribution, and only 1% believe that the property should be given to a daughter. Most people (60%) who think that both should equally care for their parents think that property should be distributed equally. Still, 37% think that the son should inherit and 1% that the daughter should. What is more, (55%) of those who believe that daughters should take care of their parents believe that property should be given to the son, while 40% thinks that it should be equally distributed. These numbers, however, should be treated with caution given the small sample of individuals that reported they think daughters should take care of parents in their old age.

Note: Answer options don’t know and refuse to answer are dropped from the analysis. Overall, less than 2% responded with these answer options to either question. The question “Imagine that there are a son and a daughter in a household; and the household only owns one apartment. In your opinion, who should inherit the apartment?” was shortened to “In your opinion, who should inherit the apartment?”

Further analysis shows that women are less likely to say that sons should inherit property than men. Tbilisi residents are less likely to mention that the inheritance should be given to sons than people in rural areas. Those in Tbilisi are also more likely to say that the inheritance should be given to all children equally. Those who have secondary or lower education are more likely to say that a son should inherit property than those with higher education. Moreover, they are less likely to say that all children should inherit property equally.

Note: On the above chart, base categories for each variable are as follows: male, 18-35 age group, should take care equally, rural, ethnic Georgian, and tertiary education. Answer options don’t know, refuse to answer, and other are not included in the analysis. 

The data shows that people are either for equally allocating inheritances between their children or giving it only to a son. Most people think that all children should take care of their parents equally despite their gender.  Taken together, this shows that gender equality in inheritance still has a ways to go in Georgia.

Note: The above analysis is based on a multinomial logistic regression analysis, where the dependent variable is responses to the question “Who should inherit the apartment: a girl or a boy?” The independent variables are gender, age group, ethnicity, settlement type, education, and conservative index. The data used in the blog is available here. Replication code of the above data analysis is available here.