“Georgians need visa to enter Russia?” – Russian journalists, participants of the Caucasian House Project Georgian-Russian Dialogue, asked on the first day of the one-week meeting in Tbilisi. Later, they received maximally complete information about Georgian-Russian relations, from Georgian viewpoint, from Georgian diplomats directly participating in the process.
Georgian and Russian journalists, participants of the project related to Georgian-Russian relations listened to the State Minister for Reintegration Paata Zakareishvili, Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Relations with Russia Zurab Abashidze, first Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikoloz Vashakidze.
Russian journalists stressed that for them it was interesting to directly get acquainted with the position of Georgian side, as it is hard to see it from Russia. An important discovery was to see nonaggressive attitude of Georgians to Russians. According to them they had different information about this.
According to media-researcher Yulia Yakusheva, when she was coming to Georgia she had feeling of dead-end about Georgian-Russian relations based on information being received in Russia. “I do not have illusions that we will be able to change political situation; for me it is important to meet with people; the fact that real people, journalists are talking about these topics. I believe such meetings must be popularized; information must be circulated that Georgians and Russians are sitting together and calmly discussing complicated issues,” Yakusheva said.
“I want to participate in such meetings again and then to return to Russia and say where I was; that I met people, asked questions to politicians and that they were all open to me,” Yakusheva says and stresses that as she believes it would be impossible to organize analogous meetings in Russia due to Russian bureaucracy.
TV-Company Dozhd journalist Lola Tagaeva also agreed to the opinion that it will hard to overcome the Georgian-Russian political dead-end, although she sees more readiness for that from Georgian side.
“I think before people had the will to regulate relations with Russia, but President Saakashvili did not. Now, the positions of the people and of the new government match, but considering the fact that Putin will probably never refuse recognition of Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s independence, I do not know how we can come of this dead-end,” Tagaeva says. According to her, people are more politicized in Georgia and are more involved in discussing issues important for the country than Russians.
“I did not like that it feels that there’s lack of economic and social reforms. I really did not like to see the newly built Presidential Palace while majority of Tbilisi districts are in grave condition. Although, it has to be recognized that Saakashvili built the palace and does not hide it, as many other politicians do,” Tagaeva said.
In framework of the Project participants also got acquainted with processes underway in Georgian media, visited the Public Broadcaster, at which, unlike all other meetings discussion was not held. Georgian and Russian journalists had the possibility during all other meetings to ask questions, including harsh questions and to receive answers from politicians, experts and officials of different state bodies, including Prosecutor’s Office, Minister of Internal Affairs. Public Broadcaster representatives were irritated by media.ge question that despite reforms the Public Broadcaster is still not believes to be a public television and that its level of objectiveness, or due to specifics of broadcaster its program network is not acceptable by the society. GPB representative described the question as “insulting” and the situation in this view is a lot worse in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Ukraine. As far as Georgia in this view “is far ahead; we have to be satisfied with what we have.” During the same meeting “far more important” was the question about the repairs of the GPB building.
According to Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper journalist Alexander Shamshiev, Georgian and Russian media are facing similar problems. “As I saw, journalists here and there have the objective to be under less political influence; and to have more independence. In Russian media is executing political orders; as I understood, the same is happening here. Meanwhile, we all have one goal – to serve the public,” Shamshiev says. According to him, due to politicization there is lack of real information about Russian-Georgian relations in Russia; that is why he plans to prepare series of materials on the given issue upon return to homeland.
“Georgia is more open country than I thought and it is a good platform for cooperation. I want to reflect the complexity of Russian-Georgian relations in my materials; to emphasize positive moments. Russian citizens must know that Georgians do not have bad attitude to Russians,” Shamshiev says.
According to Georgian participants of Russian-Georgian dialogue, they expected and it appeared to be true that Georgian journalists know more about Georgian-Russian relations than Russians. For them the meeting was useful in view of getting acquainted with colleagues and organizing personal contacts with them, which is very important considering the fact that Georgian journalists do not have possibility to visit Russia due to complicated visa regime.
Meeting with Russian political scientists and human rights protectors has already been held in framework of Russian-Georgian Dialogue. Group of Russian economists is to arrive to Georgia at the end of this year.
Objective of Georgian-Russian Dialogue is increasing awareness of Georgian and Russian young professionals about Georgian-Russian relations and creating cooperation platform between them.