“You are slaves of Moscow”: Georgians tear themselves apart over Russian influence

You are slaves of Moscow Georgians tear themselves apart over

Has the street won? As Georgian youth danced into the early hours to the sound of police sirens, the majority Georgian Dream party said it was withdrawing its controversial ‘foreign agents’ bill. Modeled on Russian legislation, this law aims, according to its detractors, to stigmatize civil society organizations and independent media. “I would like to celebrate this victory, but I will only trust them when the government puts its words into effect”, posted on Instagram Giorgi Kikonishvili who participated in the last demonstrations.

Like him, thousands of Georgians marched in front of the parliament in Tbilisi, European and Georgian flags in hand. Between several speeches, the demonstrators shouted “slaves” while sending middle fingers to Parliament. According to them, the deputies of the majority would be subservient to Russian power. For Rusudan Kutateladze, an 80-year-old former music teacher, the memory of the bloody repression of April 1989 is still vivid.

Twenty anti-Soviet demonstrators had lost their lives: “We no longer want to be a colony of Russia”. On their placards, many young people display their anti-Russian hatred. Nino Isakadze wears a t-shirt where Vladimir Putin’s head is thrown in the trash: “You won’t get us. Russia is our enemy and that’s not our government, she says, pointing to Parliament. The deputies are 99% submissive to the Russians!” On social media, the hashtag #notorussianlaw has gone viral.

Dictated by Moscow

This bill, which targets “foreign agents”, is seen by opponents as a sabotage of the European integration process. Rusudan Dzigrashvili, project manager, has worked on numerous missions financed by the European Union and Western states: “Previously, foreign investments were more important. Today, we have less and less budget. With this law , it will be even more difficult. But this is not the will of the Georgian people! Our aspiration is Europe.”

According to human rights defender Giorgi Tabagari, this law is clearly dictated by Moscow: “Unlike Ukraine, we do not have a Volodymyr Zelensky leading the country, nor an anti-Russian government. On the contrary, our power is praised by the Kremlin! You only have to read the Russian media to realize this. Our deputies praise the merits of peace with Russia. But at what price? Doctor of social sciences and specialist in civil rights, Tamar Koberidze qualifies her remarks: “Is this the first stage of an authoritarian drift, as in Russia? It is paradoxical, but the latest statements from the government are rather Europhile. This project bill has even been submitted to the Venice Commission [NDLR : organe européen chargé d’apporter une aide constitutionnelle aux Etats d’Europe centrale et orientale].”

“We are losing our country”

Both analysts agree, however, that the protests of the past few days have been on an unprecedented scale. According to activist Giorgi Tabagari, the deputies of the majority Georgian Dream did not expect such resistance: “It is the sign of an awakening. With this bill, a red line has been crossed. It’s not just a law, we’re losing our country. That’s why there’s this sense of urgency and why people have burned cars.”

The academic Tamar Koberidze is delighted with the lack of political recovery from the demonstrations: “Our young people have shown that they do not allow themselves to be manipulated, neither by the government nor by political opponents. This country will survive. If this government buries this law will definitely be a victory for democracy and the country’s European aspirations.”