Tbilisi. A participant in a protest action against the Foreign Agents Bill in front of the Georgian Parliament building. Photo: Alexander Patrin/TASS
To walk around Tbilisi, of course, you need to have a strong psyche. From time to time they send you. Not in the face, of course. And not even on the back. And, one might say, in the eyes. Of walls and fences.
Graffiti. Here with him, to put it mildly, problems. Both the center and the surroundings are written indecently. And from time to time wishes “from the bottom of my heart” slip in.
HELLO! WHAT DO YOU WANT?
In science there is something called “cognitive dissonance”. Among scientists, this is a state of mental malaise of an individual, caused by a clash in his mind of ideas, beliefs, values and emotions. In people, of course, everything is simpler: you touch the ice and get burned – cognitive dissonance, you turn into a brutal bully, and he answers you in an angelic voice – dissonance.
This is about Tbilisi. You walk along it, look around, periodically you are sent to a well-known address with inscriptions on the walls, which are accompanied by Ukrainian flags every other time. And she sneaks in: “Well, that’s it, I’m not welcome here. It is better not to say anywhere that I am Russian.” I tried it in English, but after the first “Hello” I heard: “Oh dear! You are from Russia?! How long have you been in Tbilisi? How?” And with a smile like that. Again dissonance.
I decided to experiment: I went to a pedestrian street lined with cafes. In one out of two there are Ukrainian flags, somewhere even the furniture is yellow and blue. Well, I’m definitely not happy here.
– Welcome. What would you like? The benevolent waitress didn’t even move her eyes when she learned that I was from Moscow.
Conservative rally participants arrived with icons.
Photo: Valentin ALFIMOV
BIG AGAINST MOSCOW
But why then all these anti-Russian decorations? With this question, I turned to the former deputy of the Georgian Parliament, director of the Georgian-Russian Public Center, Dmitry Lortkipanidze.
– Explain. I don’t understand.
– The answer is simple. Representatives of the previous government in Georgia, when they were still with it, took over many buildings and businesses. And today they earn from it, attracting tourists and emigrants loyal to the West.
– I still do not understand. Why do they curse me, a Russian, from all the signs, but in a personal conversation they are friendly?
With this question I go to the local veteran Merab.
– All these flags, inscriptions – this is not for Ukraine, but in spite of Russia. You understand, the Georgians have no complaints about the Russians, – explains Merab. – But there are questions to Russia. And because of Abkhazia with Ossetia, and because of the closed direct air communication, and because of the visas that we must obtain to come to Russia. So my wife couldn’t go to her father’s funeral in Rostov because of this.
But it is true. To come from Russia to Georgia, a passport is enough and Georgians must obtain a visa. And it costs $300. And not everyone is given. There are rumors in Georgia that the Russian authorities are already considering canceling these visas and resuming flights. Waiting for the right moment. And it doesn’t come.
The action of supporters of the “Conservative Movement” party near the parliament building in Tbilisi, in a few seconds the EU flag will be torn apart by the crowd. Photo: ERA/TASS
850 GIRLS WILL STAY FOREVER
Maybe because of this, crowds of Russians rushed to Georgia in the fall of 2022? Because of the warm attitude of Georgians towards us? Partly so. Georgia is one of the most welcoming countries for relocators. There is no need to travel outside the country every three months and almost everyone speaks Russian.
– I did not come here because I was fleeing from the mobilization, – the jeweler Denis tells me. – It was even before. I just invited a friend. And then when it all started, I decided to stay.
– Are you going home?
– I’m happy with everything here. There is work, plenty of money, the climate is excellent.
But IT people feel better in Georgia. Especially those involved in cryptocurrencies. There are cryptocurrencies on every corner. Yes, and in local relocator chats, this is a popular topic. Therefore, IT people usually live in the center of Tbilisi (renting apartments for $600-700).
Those who do not have enough income for Tbilisi are artists, designers, they go to the regions. Favorite – Batumi. The sea is there, there are a lot of Russians, and you can find an apartment for $300-400 per month. Those who do not have money for this settle in Kutaisi. For $200. No, they themselves, of course, say that they just “don’t like big cities.” But these are fairy tales.
Russians seem to be everywhere here. I especially counted the line in front of me at the supermarket checkout. 7 people. And all Russians. Not a single Georgian or German, American.
And the Georgians are happy with the money from our relocators.
– Listen, they spend their money here, rent apartments, start a business, – Dmitry Lortkipanidze tells me. Also, he looks. During the year, 850 marriages were registered in Georgia, where Russian girls were married. Maybe guys get married too, but I looked at the stats for girls. That is, 850 girls have found their refuge in Georgia, future mothers. This is good for us.
Overturned car and protesters against the bill on foreign agents in central Tbilisi, March 9, 2023. Photo: Mikhail Egikov/TASS
TEAR GAS OF FREEDOM
Indeed, not everyone here is happy with the relocators from Russia and immediately put these airy boys and girls with dyed hair in their place. They even wrote a memo for them. In a nutshell, then:
– Not “Georgia”, but Sakartvelo,
– Speaks in English,
– Russia is an occupier,
– Georgians are intelligent and cultured.
For those who did not understand, they even released a “GUIDE TO SURVIVAL in Georgia for newly arrived citizens of the Russian Federation.” There it is explained in more detail and in a much more humiliating way that no one is expected here. Well, for example: “Respect the citizens of Georgia, don’t demand “Caucasian/Georgian hospitality”. “For a considerable number of Georgian citizens, you are not a guest here, but an occupier, you were not invited.”
Variety of street vendors in central Tbilisi: American, Georgian and Ukrainian flags next to plastic pipes.
Photo: Valentin ALFIMOV
And among our relocators there are those who protest for a sweet soul. Which has already happened. Our compatriots also participated in the riots on March 7-8 on Rustaveli Avenue against the Georgian law on foreign agents. Then they share their impressions on social networks:
“At the protests in Tbilisi, under the audio guns and water cannons, in the smoke of stun grenades and fireworks, with lungs burned by gas and throat suffocated, blacking out and eyes dripping, I was less scared than at any rally in Russia. Federation. (More precisely, he was not scary at all) ”, wrote one of these activists on her social networks.
And she is not the only one.
Even Georgians wonder why Russians go to Tbilisi for rallies. But there are at most a hundred or two of them. In total, from 30 to 60 thousand relocators came. Don’t send everyone back now.