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Georgia's Ex-President Saakashvili Resorts To Swiftian Satire

Former Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili (file photo)

A day after announcing that he is an almost pure-blood Georgian, former President Mikheil Saakashvili had people scratching their heads after he updated his Facebook cover photo to show himself depicted as Gulliver enslaved by Lilliputians, a reference to Jonathan Swift's classic 18th century novel.

In the new cover photo, the ex-Georgian leader lies on the sandy shore, taken prisoner by the tiny Lilliputians and surrounded by watch towers. Saakashvili's official Facebook account has more than 1 million followers.

The photo was originally created by Nugzar Metreveli, who is known for his photoshopping skills and political satire. The mocked-up image is based on the 2010 film version of Swift's satirical novel, starring Jack Black.

Saakashvili posted the picture after sharing on February 17 what he described as his DNA test results, which he said showed his ethnic makeup was 98.3 percent Georgian and 1.1 percent Greek and Balkan.

His decision to share the test results was an apparent attempt to end long-standing rumors and conspiracy theories that said he was actually of Armenian origin and that his real surname was Saakian.

"It seems that my ancestors didn't mix with anyone else besides Georgians over many centuries, and I became the first person to break with this tradition, by marrying a European," Saakashvili wrote in the same Facebook post, referring to his marriage to a Dutch citizen.

Saakashvili publishing his DNA results echoes the case of U.S. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has announced she will run for U.S. president in 2020. In October 2018, Warren said that she had taken a DNA test that indicated she had some native American ancestry. She has been criticized by U.S. President Donald Trump, who questioned her claims of tribal heritage.

Whatever his ancestry, however, Saakashvili is effectively stateless after losing both his Georgian and Ukrainian citizenships.

Saakashvili was issued a Ukrainian passport in 2015, before he served as the governor of Ukraine's Odesa region. That meant he automatically lost his Georgian citizenship.

But Saakashvili was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship by ally-turned-foe Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in July 2017 after the two politicians fell out.

Saakashvili, who reportedly lives in the Netherlands, has said he will return to Georgia in the future.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Georgian Service
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    Farangis Najibullah

    Farangis Najibullah is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL who has reported on a wide range of topics from Central Asia, including the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region. She has extensively covered efforts by Central Asian states to repatriate and reintegrate their citizens who joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.