This is not going to be one of my better posts. Politics is not my thing at all. I would rather watch HGTV than MSNBC, but living in such a politically-charged country, I am daily faced with some type of political conversation. I will give my disclaimer right here and now: I should probably do a lot more research on the political situation here in Georgia before writing any posts about it; however, I am going to make a few comments about a meeting I attended yesterday. Please take any political statements I make here with a grain of salt!
For anyone who is unfamiliar with the country of Georgia (as I was before I came), there are two regions of the country (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) that have essentially seceded from the republic. Georgia still considers them to be part of the country, but both have elected their own governments and have closed their borders. Russia has supported both territories in breaking away -- largely in military-strength.
In 1989 and 2008, war devastated the country. Thousands died and more were displaced as the Separatists and Russians violently took control over these two regions. There is virtually no one in the country who has not been personally affected by the loss. And for many, many Georgians -- probably most of them -- becoming a unified country again is their greatest dream. The Georgian government is working very hard to become accepted into the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. They believe that affiliating themselves with these alliances will do two things (among others): get rid of "the bully" Russia and reunify their country.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze came to my school to speak to the high school students and teachers about his work -- namely, getting Georgia accepted into NATO. He arrived with an entourage of secret service, body guards, police, and media. They all filed into the large hallway where we teachers and students sat awaiting their arrival. Minister Baramidze stepped forward and began his address.
Although Lika was sitting beside me, she didn't translate much of what he said -- we were sitting in the front row, and talking would not have been very appropriate. From the little she did tell me, and what I could understand, I gathered that he was relaying what being a part of NATO would mean for Georgia's future. He spoke for about 20 minutes, and then opened the floor for questions. When he asked for questions, I wondered if any of the students would actually ask anything -- from my experience with American teenagers and politicians, there is usually quite a vast expanse between the two in the teens' perceived relevance of the politician's message. That was not the case here. Not two seconds after Minister Baramidze finished speaking, at least five hands went up -- boldly, not sheepishly. Much of the discussion centered around regaining the Abkhazian and Ossetian territories. The students wanted to know if joining NATO would guarantee the country's reunification. Being a good politician, M. Baramidze said yes..... and then expounded on the benefits for ten minutes.
Today in my eleventh-grade class, Tea and I talked with the students about yesterday's meeting. I am continually surprised at and delighted in the interest these kids take in their country and the government. With every word they spoke about NATO, Georgia, Abkhazia, and Ossetia, passion filled their voices. Anytime anyone mentioned Russia, a gravelly note of antipathy rousted the passion. Most of them have a decent grasp on the situation and know that without some external allies, the country will never be one -- Russia will not allow it.
Two of the students in that class are Abkhazian refugees. They have seen horrors that I have never seen -- and I pray I never do. They have had to live through the worst atrocity that can plague a nation. They have watched loved ones go to fight and not come home. And, in the end, they had to flee their home to save their own lives. No wonder they speak with such vigor and longing for their country to be whole.
The Georgians hate war. (The first toast they give at any gathering is to Peace.) But throughout their long history, war has found them. Their newly-formed government is on the right track to shield this small country from any more war -- aligning themselves with international friends (the E.U. and NATO) who will back them against any new onslaught of violence.
I pray that their wish is granted.
მშვიდობა (mshvidoba) -- Peace.