Russia is Our Neighbor!

Zaza Bibilashvili

I must admit that I have always believed in Russia. I believed in Russia when Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili was trying to persuade us that settling relations with that country was possible by merely changing the style of our relations and the tone of our rhetoric. I believed in it when our eloquent oligarch was reinstalling figures desirable for Moscow in the government of Georgia. I believed in Russia when the Georgian Dream was discrediting Western ideas by referring to the Georgian tabloid Asaval-Dasavali as an exemplary newspaper; when it released terrorists and religious extremists as political prisoners under the amnesty; when, on 8 February, a mob of those "political prisoners" roughed up representatives of the former government; when on 17 May, a throng of aggressive people attacked a small and peacefully group defending LGBT rights; when the government was legitimizing Russia's stooges and people of their ilk.

I did not lose belief in Russia when the Georgian government rehabilitated various renegades and active collaborationists, resurrecting the odious public officials of Shevardnadze's vintage, Nugzar Popkhadze, Tengiz Kitovani, Kakha Targamadze, Koka Kandiashvili and others – thanks to all of whom Georgia, until 2003, was merely a dark suburb of the Russian empire, an underdeveloped, corrupt, criminal dead end.

I did not lose my belief in Russia when, with provocative cynicism, Paata Zakareishvili, the so-called "minister for reintegration," began lobbying for clearly damaging amendments to the Law on Occupation with the help of the aggressive parliamentary majority.

Nor did I question my belief in Russia when all our infrastructure projects suddenly came to a halt in favor of the intensive rehabilitation of the so-called Georgian Military Road, stretching from Tbilisi towards the north.

You might be surprised, but I did not even get nervous when, upon the demands of the Chief Sanitary Inspector of Russia, Gennadiy Onishchenko, the Georgian government closed down the US laboratory in Tbilisi or when businesses, "tortured" by levels of economic growth previously unseen in Georgia, breathed out such a sigh of relief with the change of government that they have since failed to breathe again for almost a year now.

My belief in Russia was further strengthened when, in response to Ivanishvili's thesis that Georgia's vital issues could also be settled by restoring cultural and trade ties, Dmitri Medvedev unambiguously stated that the ties between peoples are one thing, and those between states quite another.

And when, after all this, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin ostentatiously held a meeting with Alexander Ankvab, the de facto president of occupied Abkhazia, and the only thing the presidential candidate of the Georgian Dream, Giorgi Margvelashvili, had to say was that Georgia will by no means rise to provocation and will stubbornly continue pretending that nothing extraordinary happened...

The unilateral and often inexplicable concessions the Georgian government has made to Russia have been alarming – all of these are part of a deliberate policy of the Georgian Dream, something which has not been difficult for the average, reasonable person to foresee. Nevertheless, I remain optimistic because I have never lost my belief in our large coreligionist neighbor consumed by an inferiority complex; I know that Russia will not fail me.

Complexes are difficult to cure if one does not try to cure them. Being in the final phase of the breakdown of its empire, Russia has not yet figured out its own sentiments and is still in search of its identity. It is no longer demographically, intellectually and morally strong enough to remain as an empire, but is also not sufficiently developed to become a nation state. It wants to do that, but it cannot. That embitters it.

Russia's political mentality is stuck in the anachronistic Realpolitik of the 19th century. Russia's political class, save for a few exceptions, cannot reason according to win-win principles. They only acknowledge the rules of a zero-sum game. However, under these rules any scenario in which both sides can be happy is unimaginable.

Russia wants to be loved and respected, but fails to understand that its behavior deserves neither love nor respect. Russia doesn't want Georgia to strive towards NATO, but it fails to understand that it itself is one of the main causes of Georgia holding such aspirations.

A veteran of Georgian politics, Nodar Natadze, used to say that it is better to be raped than to voluntarily jump into the bed of an offender. A victim of violence gains compassion and deserves support, whilst prostitution is the free choice of a prostitute. Nonetheless, the Georgian government opted to jump into bed rather than being dragged into it. Thinking that the bear would overcome anyway has led to us calling it a teddy for almost one year now, but – thank god! – Russia is not content with merely lying with Georgia. Russia has an absolute requirement to humiliate and rape even a partner which willfully obeys it (let's recall Belarus, Kazakhstan and now Ukraine). Russia wants such a Georgia that will put ashes on its head in repentance and plead to be taken back in bondage. Russia is not content with getting you obedient – it wants you to kneel before it. However, under the current government of Georgia, Russia has to do the very minimum to allow Ivanishvili's government to make concessions whilst maintaining illusory dignity (if anything, the Russian-Soviet past instilled in these people an understanding of the requirement for illusory dignity). But Russia's complexes are so deep-rooted that it fails to even do this minimum. Was it not the famous Russian poet and chauvinist Fyodor Tyutchev who said that Russia cannot be conceived by intellect....

That's why, at a time when I am losing my belief in the reasoning of those Georgians attending the concerts of Russian singers arriving in Tbilisi, dancing on the stages of the Kremlin, or pinning their hopes on the Russian market and on a shared religion, I have never lost my belief in Russia. I have never stopped believing that, no matter how much we strive, it will not receive us alive. We are doomed to be free.


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