Georgians and nationalism, parks and cafes, churches and kisses

Tbilisi. Lake Kur  

 I want to start with saying that the conference which was supposed to be held in Georgia, was postponed, and we found it out only on Georgian boarder and having no other way as it was late to push us on past
Yerevan, we decided to continue our trip. Speaking frankly I was even happy. This meant that I would be free and had the opportunity to go to the places of interest of Tbilisi, which I never managed during my two previous trips.  
The trip was a splendid one. I was on the front seat next to the driver and chatting all the time not letting him  get tired or so. The fairy-like nature in Dilidjan and Idjevan is so enchanting that one cannot drive his eyes away from it. I was open to all impressions and I let my thoughts take colour from what I saw. Enjoy  the pictures I took, but don’t judge them, I’m an amateur.

Tbilisi From my first two trips I got the impression that Georgians are nationalists from head to foot. When you ask what the price of a thing is in Russian they whether ignore you, as if you are a ghost, or declare that they don’t understand Russian and that you’ve better study Georgian. Well, in such situations I hardly resist myself and just leave avoiding any kind of misunderstanding. Shall I explain a man of  50 that his attitude is rude or wrong? He will argue with me, as was the case when once I tried to do it, insisting on his blind nationalism. They posses that feeling so deeply, that they even refuse selling anything from what they have.  Their “you-don’t-know-georgian-so-go-and-study” attitude awfully annoys me and each time remembering those incidents I nearly go mad.  Every time I want to be self-assured that those are only some exceptions and that not every Georgian has that manner, but it must necessarily be me who always faces such situations.

 There was a small model of a city  with Georgian notes on it  in a church. I asked two girls to help me and translate what was written there, they said they cannot read. Well, I don’t think that Georgian girls of about 20 are illiterate as wеll as I don’t think that I have a  horrifying appearance of a maniac as to scare them  away. Just I speak Russian and everything connected with
Russia is looked down upon and is considered loathsome. Knowing that Georgians have that intense longing for
America and
Europe this time I tried to speak  English. But this also didn't help much. We wanted to buy Georgian tea at a well-known supermarket. We asked for it in Russian, but the seller, a girl of about 23, kept deathly-still. I thought she’s dumb. We asked for the second time and she started murmuring some Georgian words. We again asked in Russian and now she started uttering sentences in Georgian. I said that I don’t understand her and now tried to deliver to her my message in English. She again kept silence. Here I came to the conclusion that she does understand Russian, but categorically refuses to speak , she is supposed to know English, but she does not. And this is the case with most Georgians, this is the result of the dark side of nationalism propaganda. And I as a human and not as an Armenian or as a Russian speaking person, I feel insulted and humiliated by the ignorance, by their manner of looking down at you, by the slight and disrespect. Regardless of this fact I am always glad to help people of any nationality,  especially when that help is just limited in some telling the time, translating two words or showing the street they want. And I’m sure most Armenians do. So I still hold to my ground that such expression of nationalism is a hectic one and it must be uprooted.

But Georgian nationalism has another aspect  which I totally respect and appreciate. It  is the fact that they like their country so much and that they are that much nationalists in protecting their city, their cultural values. Probably this sounds extreme if compared to what I wrote  above, but this is what captured my mind during my whole trip.  

First thing to say, there are NO OPEN CAFES in the center as well as throughout the whole
Tbilisi. Instead, the city is just abundant in alleys of trees, artificial forests and parks. One may say that due to its climate even a stick stuck in the soil will blossom and grow. But one thing that differentiates us from Georgians is the way we treat that stick. We exterminate that stick some 50 years later, because a café table is much more lucrative than a «stick» which now provides nothing but a huge amount of oxygen. But what Georgians do is cherishing every single tree and making new alleys, huge parks with rows of benches, fountains, tennis courts.

 Tbilisi. forest

Tbilisi. Parks

  I'm not sure whether one can hear forest-birds twittering while roaming about central
Yerevan parks. The only thing you can hear is a combination of rival low quality music coming from all the cafes which fled those parks. But the picture is quite different in
Tbilisi. Parks are meant for what the true sense of the word implies in it. Old people, youth, couples, parents with their children come here to have rest, to enjoy the meditating calmness of the silence of those parks, the soothing melody of birds’ chirping and leaves’ rustle when kissed with wind. This is so unusual that a man is reasoning that he cannot surrender himself to that fine intoxication that comes of motion in the open air, that begins in a sort of dazzle and sluggishness of the brain, and ends in a peace that posses comprehension. While trying to relish thаt true moment of  pleasure only one thing captured my mind, which shuttered the peace and quiet. I felt that I was jealous, that I envied, I got angry for that this is not in my city, this is not mine and that now it's too late to change anything…

Along with parks they preserve also the face of the capital. Though new buildings resembling the ones on Northern Avenue in
Yerevan also rise up, but as a rule not an old building is being destroyed. On the contrary, all the buildings along the river Kur are renovated without touching it’s aesthetic and cultural value. One may still find streets with very old buildings which have their own value. I hope they will not have the same future as our central buildings which were the dumb representatives of Old Yerevan.Old Tbilisi

About Georgian traffic, no arguments, I thought the Armenian is the worst, but it is so angelic in comparison. No rules, no speed limit, no lines, flinging at each other, scraping each others' cars, over exceeding the speed. Thanks God we were not run by some of those vehicles. No wonder that new police stuff and rules were introduced. They have what to watch and I think they do it properly. Incidentally on our way to
Tbilisi they stopped our car. I had a nice chat with the policemen, he wished us God speed and all.

One more thing which caught my attention.
Tbilisi is overflown with churches. To be precise I don't say that they are more or less than in
Yerevan. But they are so evident that when you watch the city from above  first thing which strikes you is the multitude of churches. At the sight of a church Georgians christen for 3 times then continue their way. Even taxi drivers christen at every sight of a church, which may happen every five minutes.  We were at the church which is being built for several years and I was told it is the biggest in
Caucasus. It is rather a church-complex with two other small churches and with an enormous garden. I liked the architectural design and solutions and it seemed to me much beautiful and alive than our Armenian St. Grigor Lusavorich church. Albeit it rather resembled a museum than a church.

Church, Tbilisi

 What we saw there was a real shock for us. People were christening all the time and kissing everything in and out of the church, be it a picture, a book, the doors, the walls, candles, the coins they were sacrificing, the floor in the church, the ground at the entrance and even the fences. No, I’m not exaggerating, this is what I witnessed. Parents even lifted their little 2-3 years children so that they kiss all those things. I understand that that they are great believers and deep religious and that  this is perhaps part of the devotions of  Orthodox Church, but God, isn't this much too much? Is it that the more you kiss the more religious you are? Hmm, I can't get it, for me it seems rather ridiculous. Besides it's  even unsanitary, but on the other hand probably it’s useful for that the church  doesn’t hire servants to clean around.  I wish all people paid more attention to each other than to some material superstitious things.


We were also at an Armenian church built in 1251, where Sayat-Nova, Armenian great writer and guslar-monger is berried. Then we climbed a hill to visit another church surrounded with bulky thick brick-walls resembling a fortress. Then
Tbilisi was at our feet with all its beauty and glory. To sum it up without lingering anymore, I liked my trip and
Tbilisi. I tried to be very objective in my evaluations, because subjectiveness may obscure the reality. This two nations have been neighboring for thousands of years and animosity in every aspect may drive only to the worse. Armenians can study many things  from Georgians as well as Georgians may study many things from Armenians, as they did many years ago, but for some reasons we forgot about them, but they  preserved. It’s not important who takes from who, it is essential how they treat, preserve and present what they take…


23 Responses to “Georgians and nationalism, parks and cafes, churches and kisses”

  1. Nessuna Says:

    Thanks for the post. Next time try talking in English before saying a word in Russian. That should do the trick 😉

  2. Zarchka Says:

    Eeeh… My appearance betrays me then 😉

  3. Esoteric Says:

    I loathe Georgians; always have and probably always will. I better do some breathing exercises or something, before I start ranting about them. I just find it ironic that they perform the sign of the cross so much; are they feeling guilty of something?

    Great photos by the way. Glad you had a good time atleast. 😀

  4. Onnik Krikorian Says:

    Glad to see facism is alive and well among Armenians, then. Personally, I loathe nationalist Armenians, nationalist Georgians, nationalist Turks, and anyone else that preaches hatred against a particular ethnicity. Still, I seem to be in the minority here. Here they say that Armenians get on better with Azeris than Georgians.

    Really hope you don’t mean what you wrote Esoteric, and I’m even more interested in how many Georgians you might have met in your life. I know you have nationalism and socialism listed on your web site, but I really hope you didn’t put those two together to come up with the 1930’s German interpretation of these concepts.

    Anyway, I can’t help but think that the same negative nationalism and prejudice that Armenians say they dislike in Georgians is precisely the same thing that gives rise to such hatred amongst Armenians towards almost the entire world, in fact. Let’s be honest, here. Is there ANY race or nation that Armenians like?

    It’s what the Georgians call a “Serbian mentality.” Actually, they say the Azeris have it too. Meanwhile, as the Georgians despise the use of Russian, Armenians continue to give their country away to Russia while their fellow countrymen get killed or beaten in Moscow by Russian skinheads.

    Methinks we have a screwed up view of the world. Personally, I like those Georgians I have met, and I love Tbilisi. Can’t wait to return. Met some good Georgians while I was there. I’m sure there are many more bad ones. Just like in Armenia. At the end of the day, however, I’m tired of this hatred. As one Georgian told me last year, even if we hate each other we have to learn to live together. We can’t choose our neighbors.

  5. Esoteric Says:

    Sure we can learn to live together, but we shouldn’t have to swallow the ills they perpetrate. Obviously I don’t hate Georgians in that racist way you’re implying, I’m just full of disdain and disappointment. I’m not preaching anything biased, it’s my opinion formed on facts that have happened and are happening on a geopolitical level.

    Sure compassion and friendliness on a personal level are commendable and most definitely important, but at the end of the day don’t matter when a nation as a whole doesn’t act neighbourly. History speaks for itself.

    I was quite sure you made a post about Armenians being murdered in hate crimes in Southern Georgia some time ago. Maybe it was someone else, nevertheless I don’t hear about any Georgians being brutally killed in Armenia.

    Perhaps it’s the hand of foreign investors pushing nationalist agendas, but to cite Ockham’s Razor it’s probably just another sad case of Georgian greed.

    I’m sure you’re aware in 1918 when they forcibly took regions such as Lori, which were almost entirely populated by Armenians. Much like the current Artsakh, war broke out. Only through strategic advantages and the aid of Turkish and Azeri support did they manage to take the upper hand. They even blocked refugees from returning to their homes in demographic restructuring to ensure they retained what they gained.

    Despite their so called “Christian” bearing, Georgians have been double crossing their Christian neighbour Armenia in favour of monetary and geographic gains for a long, long time.

    Last year, I think, they closed Armenian shops in retaliation to the calling for autonomy from such Armenian inhabited regions and brutally subdued any protests. These protests weren’t unfounded either. Why is it that in northern Iran, Armenians haven’t even cause trouble or called for autonomy? Because they treat us well in general that’s why.

    Another good example to cite is that, instead of respecting Armenia’s struggle against the wrongful policies of Turkey and Azerbaijan, instead of helping us better push the matters into the international arena, they jumped on oil and rail lines like opportunists, much to the detriment of our country.

    The irony is if they had been firmly allied with Armenia, and thus Iran, the profits to be had would have been immeasurable. I guess immediate self-satisfaction won the better of them.

    Then there’re such things as the claim on Armenian churches, which are just plain stupid. The list just goes on and on and on.

    I don’t have the patience nor care to work myself up on such self-evident things, but to put it quite frankly you don’t hear or see Armenians perpetrating nonsense on such a level.

    Liking nations is a matter of principle; usually these are nations that haven’t screwed us, or some other nation over. When you look at it that way, it’s quite a short list indeed, but for those countries that have acknowledged and apologised for their actions and have ceased such depravities, well then what reason is there not to like them on a blanket level?

    Technically, I agree, we should be firmly united as neighbours in a region which is quite volatile. We’re both Christian nations. We have linked royalty and linked alphabets. We should be partnered for progress as it were.

    Bah, I don’t know. I guess I’m trying to say I don’t mind Georgians, but I don’t like Georgia for what it has been doing to us. 😦 I should just shut my trap on my such matters, it would save me the trouble of typing so much haha.

  6. Onnik Krikorian Says:

    Well, for one thing, the Georgians don’t constitute a minority in Armenia where the Georgian equivalents of the ARF-F can push for armed insurrection. Ironically, most Armenians in Hayastan dislike Georgian Armenians, btw.

    Like I said, I wish all this nationalist crap would stop. It’s the same as the blind hatred that most nationalists throughout the world show to other ethnicities, and I’m sick of it.

    This is the reason why persecution and wars start. Nothing else.

  7. Onnik Krikorian Says:

    ARF-D, sorry.

    Incidently, 20,000 Armenians visited Georgia for holidays last year, and this year the figure is set to increase to 50,000. All came back with a better perception of Georgians than before, and also, praised their treatment better from tourism establishments there than here in Armenia.

    Go figure.

  8. Esoteric Says:

    🙂 Considering limiting factors such as exchange rates, airfares, religious orientation, national & ethnic tensions. Holiday destinations in the neighbourhood are pretty limited for the average Armenian I would think.

    By the way, I’m interested to know if you have a statistic on what bracket of Armenians typically visit Georgia? Excluding people who migrated to Armenia from the diaspora, that is. It would be handy. Thanks.

  9. Onnik Krikorian Says:

    It’s mainly locals who ironically can get to Batumi for a better time than Sevan for less. For example, many people were paying around $200 for 10 days in Batumi including travel. It’s not the rich, basically. Those guys go to Europe or even Turkey. Interestingly, many government officials were holidaying in Antalya until the Prime Minister effectively banned them from doing so last year.

    Prime Minister Andranik Markarian has privately forbidden Armenian government officials from spending their summer vacations in Turkey, travel agents in Yerevan said Thursday.

    Representatives of several private travel agencies who spoke on the condition of anonymity told RFE/RL that their clients working in the government have had to cancel plans to travel to the Turkish Mediterranean resort of Antalya with their families as a result.


    Millions of people from Western Europe and Russia visit Antalya every year. The Turkish Mediterranean coast is also becoming increasingly popular with Armenians attracted by the relatively low cost and high quality of services there. Armenian travel firms are reporting a major increase in the number of people traveling there on Yerevan-Antalya charter flights.

    The cost of a week-long package for Antalya now starts from $600 per person. Other traditional Mediterranean and Black Sea resorts are more expensive for Armenians. Travel agents say Bulgaria is now the financially most attractive alternative to Turkey.

    Anyway, never underestimate the importance of internal and regional tourism. In the long term it’s as important as attracting tourists from Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere. Indeed, development of the tourism infrastructure for local and regional tourists is probably essential for the development of the tourism industry in all three countries.

  10. nazarian Says:

    I’ve been friends with a few Georgian guys and they were good people. I have dealt a few customers from Georgia and they were OK as well. They did not mind communicating in either Russian or English.

    But this was abroad, not in Georgia itself. I’ve not been in Georgia after the independence.

  11. Oneworld Multimedia :: Notes from the Armenian Blogosphere :: July :: 2006 Says:

    […] Likewise, as construction in Tbilisi appears to be occuring on areas of land that should be developed in the interest of keeping in spirit with the historical heritage of the entire city, why couldn’t the Government encourage investors to build up those parts of the capital that are in serious need of development? Well, of course, we know the reason for that, but it’s an important question — along with the associated issue of attracting businessmen to invest in the regions of Armenia. […]

  12. Onnik Krikorian Says:

    On the other hand, I can understand how impolite it is for someone to refuse to talk to you in a language you can understand. It’s as if they show no respect or acknowledgement for you as a human being, perhaps.

    So, in retrospect, while I can understand that the official language of the Republic of Georgia is Georgian, yeah, it must be horrible to find yourself in a situation where people leave you out and ignore you.

    Like I said, I suppose it’s as if they consider you worthless.

  13. Oneworld Multimedia :: Nationalism & Language in the South Caucasus :: July :: 2006 Says:

    […] This meant that she would be left sitting like a fool isolated and bored at the table as if she didn’t exist. In the West, this is considered the height of bad manners, and the German girl said she would never do this to anyone — not even a complete stranger. Anyway, I agreed, but it got me thinking about a post that Zarchka over at Life Around Me recently made. This time, however, it was a similar situation in Tbilisi, capital of the neighbouring Republic of Georgia. Here I came to the conclusion that she does understand Russian, but categorically refuses to speak , she is supposed to know English, but she does not. And this is the case with most Georgians, this is the result of the dark side of nationalism propaganda. And I as a human and not as an Armenian or as a Russian speaking person, I feel insulted and humiliated by the ignorance, by their manner of looking down at you, by the slight and disrespect. Regardless of this fact I am always glad to help people of any nationality, especially when that help is just limited in some telling the time, translating two words or showing the street they want. And I’m sure most Armenians do. So I still hold to my ground that such expression of nationalism is a hectic one and it must be uprooted. […]

  14. BEQA Says:

    At the end of article you said that you tried to be objective, though in fact you were very biased, primitive and superficial. The stereotypes through which you saw Tbilisi are definitely the ones which can show you the white color as black or the old granny as young and slim girl.

    The nationalism that you talk about is not something unique which is characteristic to Georgia or Armenia only. You can find the worst examples of it in England, France, and Germany and in southern states of the USA. Georgia lives with other nationalities and religions for centuries so it already knows intuitively very well when, why and against what to react.

    I won’t go in depth. Just what wonders me is the remark at the end of your article, which says;
    This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 21st, 2006 at 3:31 pm and is filed under Armenia, Caucasus.

    I suppose this article should be filed under Georgia, Caucasus, right?

    Cheers all

  15. Zarchka Says:

    Hey, Beqa, you think my post was not also about Armenia? So why shouldn’t I have posted it under Armenia category? Besides I don’t have a Georgia category and not going to add any, if you noticed I have some few categories and don’t want more.

    I wonder whether you have been to Georgia or you are a Georgian by yourself. And if you are an English speaking person you’ll be welcomed so nicely, that you won’t notice a single of those stereotypes. Nationalism, be it in Europe, Asia, America or Antarctica must be uprooted. This is what I think. So if people need something to prove their love to their mother land let it be patriotism.


  16. BEQA Says:

    Thanks for you comments.

    Well if you’ve been in Russia recently the worse happens with those who dare to say a word in any Caucasian language whether it is Geo, Arm or Azeri. What is the most shameful is the fact that many ordinary Russians started to perceive Arm and Geo as Muslim countries, though I think there is nothing wrong to be a Muslim.

    The anti-Caucasian propaganda which is rampant in Russia nowadays seeds hatred and conflict. It is all very much painful particularly for Georgians as Russia has been straight forwardly saying that it is them who are annexing Georgia by spoiling the lives of innocent peoples living on the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the lives of 500 000 refuges who escaped from Russian “sky-to-earth” and carpet bombings from both areas.

    You won’t be able to bear your family members to be abased by the dirty Russian military GAVNADAV (or shit boot) pressing their noses, right?

    This is where everything comes from. It is not a nationalism. It is an emotional self-defense mood of a small country/nation which is thirsty for peace and reconciliation as soon as possible.

    Bests. Keep in touch

  17. ninutsebi Says:

    For being nationalistic, I wil give you one agzample happend to me in Paris and then you tell me please why Georgians or any in fackt other nations so nationalistic? Few weeks ago I was in Paris and as I speack French I tried to ask a lady in a very nice shop something she actually was very rood to me since my accent is definitly not very good and did not even bother to answer, After I asked in English on wich she said that she did not speack it, so dearest, tell me what should we call it, and trust me this is not an only time it had happend to me.

  18. Zarchka Says:

    Guess what dear ninutsebi, I think she just couldn’t get your French, that may happen, or she was scared…hmmm? My Russian is ok, so everyone understands it, just can’t get where you drive this.?

  19. ninutsebi Says:

    Scared of what?????????

  20. ninutsebi Says:

    I am really interested what do you mean scared, and why?

  21. Zarchka Says:

    Scared of a foreigner, can’t be?

  22. Oneworld Multimedia :: Hrant Dink, Zhirayr Sefilyan & the Armenian Diaspora :: February :: 2007 Says:

    […] had this many times before, and most recently on a post by Zarchka over at Life Around Me who said she felt discriminated against because she didn’t know Georgian and had to speak Russian. However, N makes an interesting […]

  23. Ninikson Says:

    First of all I want to thank you for the post. It’s a nice story.
    I am Georgian. I am glad I have good Aremian friends, I love Armenians and Armenia.
    I am really sorry for your experience with the Languages. I am sure it’s not because of nationalism, it’s because the young generation of Georgians (especially those who are working in the shops and small stores) are very bad at languages and they are shame to speak bad Russian or very bad English. I am sure, the girls at the model of the city, could not speak Russian. They could read Georgian! They probably said: “I don’t know” meaning, I cannot speak Russian.
    The other thing is that Georgians are also very bad at service. We are very good hosts at home, in the families, but very bad in service field, like at the hotel, cafe, shop or wherever. I think it’s because Georgians are (sometimes stupidly :)) proud people and it’s a shame for Georgians to take money out of “hospitality” and smile. Please, excuse us for this very Georgian character. 🙂 Believe me it’s getting better today. 🙂
    I am also very sorry for Esoteric. He (or she) loathes Georgians for some reason(s).Hope it will not last for a long time and hope both of you will come to Georgia and you will meet many friendly Georgians who will be glad to assist you on any language.
    Tbilisis is much different from 2006 year and if you have an opportunity please come and enjoy the neighborhood.

    Best wishes

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