Today I have this piece by analyst Mikhail Moshkin. This is a continuation of the ongoing saga about the Tbilisi anti-Russian riots, which resulted in Russia cutting off tourism to that Caucasian nation. I did a piece on this story a week ago, but there are new developments. Including: How it came to pass that the Russian diplomat seated himself in the Parliamentary Speaker’s Chair. And also frantic attempts of the Gruzian government to distance itself from the troublemakers. Something they should have done right at the start of this fracas.
It seems that, when the Russian Foreign Office accused the Gruzians of being inhospitable, they touched a real nerve there. Caucasian peoples pride themselves precisely on this point. It is a core value of the culture. It would be like accusing Italian men of being impotent lovers; or French chefs of not knowing how to cook a delicious sauce. Let us expand further on this theme:
First: What is the definition of inhospitality? It’s when you invite people into your home, invite them to sit down in a certain chair; and then physically attack them for sitting in that chair.
Now, a week later, the Gruzian government are performing a frantic backstroke, like a panicky fly in a bowl of soup. Yesterday Gruzia’s Minister of Finances Ivane Machavariani, announced that the recent attempt to beat up Russian Parliamentary Deputy Sergei Gavrilov, is not compatible with Caucasian traditions of hospitality. Which is exactly what Maria Zakharova of the Russian Foreign Ministry, was trying to tell them! “You can’t beat up your guests,” Machavariani conceded. “Where is it written that you can do that? Whether somebody sits in a chair or climbs up a tree, are you supposed to burn everything down?”
About That Chair…
The Chair, of course, is the casus belli here. Not that Saakashvili’s goons needed any pretext to incite chaos. And here is the backstory behind that chair, according to Moshkin: On that fatal day (June 20) was opened the session of the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of Orthodoxy (МАП, in Russian). Ironically, Russia’s delegate, Sergei Gavrilov, represents the Communist Party of Russia. Gotta wonder why a Commie is representing Orthodoxy, aren’t they supposed to be atheists? Strange world that we live in… Anyhow, technically Gavrilov did not do anything wrong, it wasn’t even a mistake when he sat down in the Speaker’s chair. According to the Greek representative, Andreas Michaelides, who is actually the General Secretary of МАП, it’s written right there in the bylaws that the annual session is conducted by the President of that organization who, this year, happens to be Gavrilov. That’s why he was shown to the Speaker’s chair. And, just for the record, Russians are not like ignorant Americans in this respect. If they see a priceless 1,000 year old throne in a museum, they are not going to just plop themselves down on it and take a selfie. I can attest to that.
So, this mob of extremists who, in a highly organized yet spontaneous demonstration, attempted to burst in and beat up the Russian delegation, were supposedly “outraged” [air quotes] by the very presence of Russians inside their Parliament, let alone taking on airs and sitting on the Sacred Throne of 1,000 Swords. As if the bad evil Russian bear had returned to reclaim his colony! Fearful of their lives when they heard the mob baying outside, the Russian delegation had to flee the country in quite a hurry. Not even pausing to pack their underwear. Perhaps they were remembering that horrible day in 1829 when Ambassador Griboedov was torn apart by a Persian mob attacking the Russian Embassy. Not that Persians are Caucasians, still, it shows the sometimes dangerous life of being a Russian diplomat. Persians, by the way, showed a similar lack of hospitality in 1979 when they stormed the American Embassy and took hostages from among the diplomatic staff. For people who say that Iranians never did anything bad to America, that’s like, the one exception. Not that the Iranians didn’t have their reasons, but that would be a very long digression…
Anyhow, after the flight of the Russian delegation from Tbilisi, President Putin, in a cold anger (one presumes) decreed the shutting down of all tourist flights from Russia to Gruzia, starting on July 8. This will be a significant blow to Gruzia’s tourist industry, and economy as a whole. It is estimated (by Gruzian National Bank) that Gruzia will lose something like $200-$300 million dollars. Which is not chump change for such a small country.
Doin’ the Backstroke
At the time of the donnybrook itself, the Gruzian government did the right things (allowing the police to fight back, defeat the mob and arrest the ringleaders), but said the wrong things. Like, blaming Russia for its imperialist and occupationist tendencies, etc. Which only poured more oil on the fire. And is now trying to dial that rhetoric back. Just in the past week the Gruzian lari (the national currency) fell in value by 2.5%, achieving a historic low. The loss of Russian tourists in the prime of summer vacation season is the main reason. An alarmed Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze immediately announced that he would try to preserve the flow of valuable Russian tourists, and suggested “a timely regulation of the problems that have arisen.”
Bakhtadze went further, and found a convenient scapegoat, blaming all the unrest on ex-President Mikhail Saakashvili, “along with his aggressive group.” According to Bakhtadze, the protest began as something sincere and spontaneous [highly dubious], but then Saakashvili and his supporters “utilized this sincere protest of our fellow citizens and attacked our constitution.”
Yesterday the leader of the pro-Saak forces Nikanor Melia was stripped of his Parliamentary immunity and charged with organizing a riot. Melia is currently under house arrest. According to Gruzian political analyst and Saakashvili enemy Gulbaat Rtskhiladze, the Americans are actually behind this whole provocation — Surprise Surprise! Their goal is to incite Gruzians against Russians, as per the usual divide et impera policy of the Empire.
Rtskhiladze: “The government itself did not want to quarrel with Russia. It got itself into a difficult situation. Its main mistake was cowardice, from the very beginning they should have come out and explained that Gavrilov had not done anything wrong; that just because he sat in the Speaker’s chair that did not make him the Speaker of the Gruzian Parliament.” The Gruzian government, he added, is under strong pressure from the West, to continue hating on Russia. Rtskhiladze, by the way, is skeptical of one current conspiracy theory, according to which Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, paid for the rent-a-mob. However, the various conspiracy theories offer convenient ways for the Gruzian government to shuffle the blame onto other actors and players. In the hope that hot heads will calm down, and Russian tourists will return. The Gruzian diaspora living within the Russian Federation has also begged the Russian government to resume the tourist flights. They actually have a dog in this fight, as they probably rely on these flights to travel back and forth, to visit their relatives.
Despite many differences between the two governments, and even fighting a small war back in 2008, ordinary Russian people have always felt comfortable, and even welcomed, in Gruzia. Russians and Gruzians have been neighbors, and even friends, (and intermarrying and being families) for over 1,000 years. Gruzia is a small country, but one to which god granted spectacular scenery and natural resources. Many Russians have enjoyed the scenery, the food and wine, and even the people who are usually (when not incited by Saakashvili, or Ukrainians or Americans) the very picture of hospitality. It would be a shame if that were to change because of one little kerfuffle.
Gruzian political analyst Josif Mandjavidze: “People need to get to know each other. I agree with what the Minister said: In Gruzia, as in the Caucasus in general, the guest is something holy. The guest was sent by God, and may not be offended. We Gruzians have always lived by that tradition. Unfortunately, what happened, happened.”