Current Events Through a Georgian Lens

As I was originally supposed to study in St. Petersburg, Russia this summer, the Russo-Ukrainian war remained on my mind during my time in Georgia. My host family was Georgian, but I had started the first few days of my time in Batumi with a host family consisting of a Belorussian woman, Nana, and her mother. They spoke only Russian, and were excited that I was learning Russian, especially as they watched Russian news channels and viewed Putin favorably (in comparison to my Georgian family who watched Georgian news and were glad that Georgia is no longer a part of the now-collapsed Soviet Union). As my first hosts didn’t speak Georgian and hadn’t really made any effort to learn much, I felt this reflected their cultural values as Belorussians who viewed Russia and Putin’s actions positively. As well, both women were older, Nana is 65, and so, as an outsider, I also perceived their cultural values as a reflection of their age, cultural values possible received from being born into and growing up in the Soviet Union. And again, as an outsider, I perceived the difference in opinion of my peer tutor, Oleg, who is middle-aged, to be partly due to age. 

Ukrainian Flag in Europe Square in Batumi, Georgia.

            I inadvertently got into a limited discussion about the war with Oleg, who is from Moscow, but recently moved to Batumi. I had told him about my original plan to study in St. Petersburg, and to keep the conversation going I simply asked him if he liked living in Russia, not meaning to bring up the war at all (as we were discouraged from discussing sensitive situations or engaging in any political activities during our time in Georgia). His response was, “это сложно” — “it’s complicated.” I tried to steer the conversation away from the complex situation but he continued and said that he and his family don’t support the war and it influenced his move outside of Russia, although the rest his family still lives in Moscow.

A mural in support of Ukraine in Batumi, Georgia.

Overall, the feeling I got while in Georgia was that most people did not support the Russo-Ukrainian war. During my last day in Tbilisi, there was a speaker who said, “Twenty percent of my country is occupied by Russia, Russia is an occupier who wants to conquer and create an empire once again, don’t let that happen.” There are Ukrainian flags and images and phrases supportive of Ukraine displayed all over Batumi. One evening, I visited the market in Europe Square, and there was a group making a speech about how no one should continue to buy Russian products because it would essentially be helping to fund the Russian war effort. Batumi is a resort town, with over 100 nationalities present at any one time, so there exists a tolerance of all different kinds of people and cultures. Therefore, there are many different opinions and views present in Batumi as well, but most that I encountered leaned toward being against the war.

Painting in Batumi, Georgia.