World » Former USSR
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Times Change, History Remains

The relations between Russia and Georgia have always been problematic

In August of 1783, in Georgievsk Fortress in the Northern Caucasus, the Russian Empire signed a treaty with Kartly-Kakhetinsky Kingdom (Eastern Georgia). Pursuant to the treaty, Russian Empress Ekaterina II claimed responsibility to defend the territory of Tsar Irakly II from external dangers. During the Soviet era, the date was celebrated as the day of unification between Russia and Georgia. Everything has changed a lot since that time. The "unification" means the "colonization" and the "defense" means the "occupation" now.

It is surprising, but people are very fond of adjusting the past to the situation of the present. There is absolutely no point to argue, if the territory of Georgia was "colonized" or not. Yet, even incumbent Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who is definitely not a pro-Russian politician, acknowledges that the above-mentioned treaty saved Georgians from the physical extermination.

One may encounter another curious thing: Georgia (or Iveria, Kolkhida, and so on) always preserved its autonomy, whoever ruled and controlled it - Romans, Turks, Mongolians, Persians. However, when Russians came, Georgia was allegedly deprived of the autonomy. It would be good to know, what Georgian peasants or craftsmen used to think about it at that time, when they were all living in fear of Turkish or Persian invasions? How did Georgian aristocrats feel, whose rights were never violated in Russia?

Brushing emotions aside, the relations between Russia and Georgia have always been rather complicated. Georgian kings tried to avoid taking sides of the region's strong powers - Russia, Persia and Turkey, trying to keep their power. They were ready to sign any documents with anyone for it. Of course, Russia enjoyed a special honor as a country of only one faith. In addition, Russia was aspiring to become the protection for all Orthodox Christians. Russian rulers attempted to use separated Georgian kingdoms in their interests too - i.e. the weakening of Persia's and Turkey's influence in the Caucasian region. However, it did not work fine until the beginning of the 19th century. There were no reliable communications between Russia and Georgia: bad roads in the mountains and constant bandit attacks made trips very dangerous.

One has to acknowledge that the annexation of Georgian kingdoms to Russia definitely brought a lot of good to Georgia, no matter the troubles in the relations between the two countries. There is nothing chauvinistic about it - it is simply very hard to judge people's lives of the 18th century on the base of the 21st century.