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Georgians Consider Themselves 'Last Frontier' of the Russian Empire

(Washington, D.C.--October 31, 2006) Georgia and other post-Soviet states are on the "frontlines of freedom" and therefore, Russia has exerted extreme pressure on them to maintain its "empire", said a group of three Georgian parliamentary deputies. Giorgi Bokeria, David Bakradze and Nikoloz Rurua told a recent audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that Russia views current democratic revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan as threats to its influence. As a result, Georgia has worked toward achieving a diplomatic solution with Russia, yet will prepare itself for everything necessary to maintain its democratic progress.

Bokeria, Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Issues, told the conference, which was co-sponsored by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), that the very core of the problem between Russia and Georgia is a "profound unacceptance" by the Kremlin that Georgia is an independent and sovereign country. Russia, according to Bokeria, has used all of its "instruments" to destroy and secure a regime change in Georgia. What Georgians are afraid of, Bokeria said, is that the Kremlin may provoke military confrontation on the territory of Georgia. While Georgia wants productive dialogue and diplomacy with Russia, he added that there cannot be any compromise regarding Georgia's sovereignty, independence and democracy.

Bakradze, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration, said that Georgia is approaching a decisive moment in its relations with Russia. He described Moscow's support of ethnic unrest as "alarming" and accused Russia of making military threats. Bakradze said that Georgia is just one case of a "wider problem", that Russia has opposed the recent democratic revolutions in Ukraine, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. Bakradze characterized the future of Georgian-Russian relations as a "test" for the way that the international community responds to Russia's actions against its sovereign neighbors.

Rurua, Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Issues, said this conflict is less about relations between Georgia and Russia, than between Russia and the world. Rurua said many Russians are unwilling to give up their dream as an empire. Georgia, according to Rurua, is a "catalyst," which has exposed this imperial nostalgia to the world. Rurua agreed with his colleagues that Georgia is perceived by Russia as the "last frontier" and its first opportunity to claim itself as a superpower and kind an empire. Diplomacy from Russia and Georgia, Rurua said, is the key factor in avoiding any military confrontation.