Are Russian residents fleeing their nation welcome in Georgia?

Russians fleeing to Georgia

The Georgian government says part of the public concern about the possible mass migration of Russian citizens to Georgia amid the Russo-Ukrainian war is “ethnic” discrimination fueled by the opposition. Authorities threaten citizens with “decriminalization”. Meanwhile, private companies are already imposing restrictions on Russian citizens.

“The campaign against the arrival of Russian citizens in Georgia is being waged by the United National Movement, which wants to take the country to war,” said Irakli Kobakhidze, head of the Georgian Dream

He directed law enforcement agencies to respond to cases of “discrimination” against Russian citizens in Georgia and announced the tightening of the law against incitement to “ethnic hatred.”

“Georgia is the only country where a large-scale campaign against ethnic discrimination against Russian citizens has been launched. Discrimination against people on ethnic grounds is an unheard-of phenomenon in the civilized world,” said Irakli Kobachidze.

According to him, there is a “war party” in Georgia whose sole aim is to involve Georgia in the military conflict, and behind this party is the opposition United National Movement.

“Another manifestation of the intentions of the ‘war party’ is a new campaign they have launched against Russian citizens in Georgia,” Kobachidze said.

“Currently, there are cases when private companies refuse services to Russian citizens or impose discriminatory conditions for the provision of such services. There is a serious risk that such practices will spread and lead to physical abuse of Russian citizens. We call on law enforcement authorities to take all measures to prevent and repress any physical confrontation and attempts to foment racial strife. Anyone who commits such acts should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said the Georgian Dream chairman.

According to him, the Parliament of Georgia has already started to work on tightening the law against ethnic discrimination and incitement to ethnic hatred.

Russians fleeing to GeorgiaTbilisi, Georgia. Photo: David Pipia, JAMnews

A few days ago, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said Georgia will not join sanctions against Russia because “sanctions are ineffective”.

Georgian authorities also did not allow volunteer fighters leaving for Ukraine to depart from Tbilisi airport, which, according to Irakli Kobachidze, would mean “direct involvement in the conflict.”

“Shall we let them in or not?”

The Georgian government is outraged by the furore over the alleged mass arrival of Russian citizens in Georgia, which has been raging on Georgian social media and news programs for the past two days.

After Western sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine were lifted and the Russian government began shutting down media, restricting social media, and tightening repressive laws, many Russian citizens began looking for ways to flee the country.

One of the most favorable destinations for them is Georgia – because of the visa-free regime and the liberal residence regulations in the country.

A foreigner, including a citizen of Russia, can enter the country without a visa and stay for a year without obtaining a residence permit or registration.

For this reason, Russian citizens planning to move to Georgia have become more active in Russian-speaking groups on social media in recent days.

Many of them ask how easy it is to find a job or enroll a child in school in Georgia.

The Georgian Real Estate Association has also confirmed the increased interest of Russian and Belarusian citizens in real estate in Georgia.

Such activities by Russian citizens have caused great concern in the Georgian segment of social media. There are demands that the state no longer accepts Russian citizens and that property owners refuse to rent their apartments to Russians.

This issue has caused a fierce controversy among Georgian social media users.

The main argument for not allowing Russian citizens into Georgia is that the increase in the number of Russian citizens in Georgia will allow the Putin regime to continue its aggression under the pretext of “protecting Russian citizens”.

“Russians are being followed by Russian tanks, recent history tells us that,” wrote one of the users.

“Now Mr. Vladimir Putin is the one who suffers the most mentally and needs our true Caucasian warmth and hospitality, let’s rest him somewhere in Abastumani or Gonio, hug and caress him and let him go home again,” writes another user sarcastically writes.

“Do not bring here Russian imperialists who are looking for a better life, who are not leaving the country because they are being persecuted, but because they want to buy Nike and Adidas and travel to the Maldives! Introduce visa regime, urgently!”

“There is no collective crime”

However, there are also opposing opinions.

“I’ve seen things like this in many places – why are these ‘normal’ Russians fleeing their country instead of fighting to defeat Putin? To this I would like to say: This is the same as the German intellectuals who fled from Hitler in their day – not to mention the Georgians who fled from Bidzina,” wrote Davit Darchiashvili, a professor at Ilia State University.

Citizens who do not support the closing of the Georgian border to the Russians offer a solution to the state:

“Let all Russians sign a document recognizing the unity of Georgia and letting them in as refugees!”

“I don’t think the Russian state will need a reason if the Kremlin decides to invade. The time of “reasons” is long gone, now they don’t even try to cover up their actions, the most correct decision in my opinion would be a visa regime. Also in the form of an electronic visa…

At the same time, experts and politicians are warning the public that their genuine and legitimate outrage could turn into xenophobia and unacceptable behavior.

“If it’s true that Russians are leaving their country, there are two possible reasons:

  • flight from dictatorship and threatened repression;
  • avoid the inconvenience of penalties.

These are two completely different reasons and the approach should also be appropriate.

  • our anger should not turn to xenophobia;
  • The visa regime was invented to control the flow of people;

“Those who are running from sanctions but still have Putin’s pictures on their Facebook should not be allowed into Georgia,” wrote former Defense Minister Tina Khidasheli.

Russians fleeing to GeorgiaTbilisi, Georgia. Photo: David Pipia, JAMnews

“First of all, we have to admit that the problem is difficult. Not only in the sense that a large part of these people share values ​​that are unacceptable to us and their presence here can be (really) harmful to us, but also in the sense that it is difficult to make a decision about what policies are right,” wrote political scientist Gia Nodia.

“Letting everyone in is not good, and neither is it good not to let anyone in. Not showing Russians who come here what we think about the crimes committed by their country is also not good. If we see a Russian, should we shout “Slava Ukraine” or “Putin Khuilo”? A bit primitive, but maybe acceptable. In short, we are also in trouble in this respect. But as for the moral side of the case, we have to keep one thing in mind: there is no collective crime,” Nodia said.

“Once you take a step toward recognizing a collective crime, that is, judging a person based on their race, citizenship, socioeconomic status, or some other characteristic even if it seems emotionally right at the moment, you will be taking a step in towards a kind of fascism”.

In his view, however, there is a collective responsibility. The Russians are collectively responsible for Putin’s government, just as the Georgians are responsible for “the rule of Bidzina and his viziers”.

Alexander Rakviashvili, MP for the opposition Girchi party, believes that migrating Russian citizens to Georgia can be beneficial for the country:

“Now the most active people are fleeing Russia, people whose morals make it dangerous for them to live in modern Russia. The best Russian population is fleeing the country, and like the Jews, these people can bring great benefits to the country that will take them in.”

Russian citizen: “It hurts and we’re scared”

Russian emigrants living in Georgia are calling on Georgian citizens not to direct their anger against the Putin regime against Russian citizens.

“Citizens of Georgia – Listen to me! The aggressor is the Russian regime, and not all Russian-speaking people living in other countries, and especially in Georgia.

Almost all Russians living in Georgia took part in the anti-war rallies. Some even burned their passports. “Because we are in pain, we are afraid and it is unbearably bitter to realize that you are a citizen of such a country!” – writes one of the emigrants.

Bank of Georgia introduces first restrictions on Russian citizens

Bank of Georgia services will not be used by Russian citizens who fail to sign a statement acknowledging their condemnation of Russian aggression in Georgia and Ukraine. The information about this was confirmed to Netgazeti by the bank’s press service.

Russians fleeing to GeorgiaBank of Georgia form for Russian citizens.

In order to provide services, a citizen of Russia must sign a form stating:

  • I condemn Russian aggression in Georgia and Ukraine;
  • I agree that Russia is an occupier that invaded Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 and 2022;
  • I agree to support Georgia’s territorial integrity and to recognize that Abkhazia and Samakhablo are an integral part of Georgia;
  • I agree not to share the Russian government’s propaganda and help fight it;
  • I understand that any breach of the above terms will result in the termination of my Bank of Georgia account.

The bank states that the above conditions have been in force in all branches since March 4th. The press service said that several citizens refused to sign the above reservations, so the bank refused to open accounts for them.