Georgian president criticised for stating country ‘does not, will not have army, weapons’
Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili is facing a barrage of public criticism after stating that the country ‘has no army, no weapons, no economic potential to conquer the region and will surprise the world with its knowledge and ancient culture alone.’
Zurabishvili delivered the speech to scientists, researchers and others during the opening of the Coordination Centre for the Study of Georgia and the Caucasus at the Orbeliani Palace in Tbilisi yesterday.
Speaking about the goals of the new center, Zurabishvili said that many foreigners who write about Georgia today are “illegitimate” and “incompetent,” and this “practice should change.”
Zurabishvili said the main goal of the center will be “to provide the international community with objective information about Georgia and the Caucasus” and intensify scientific work in this direction.
She noted that currently there are a number of incompetent foreigners who write about Georgia, who either “have no legitimacy” or simply do not like Georgia.
“Those foreigners who write about Georgia today either have a negative attitude towards Georgia, or they lack knowledge … and that competence appears if you live in the country, you know the language and become a scientist along with our scientists.”
Zurabishvili said this primarily concerns the field of Kartvelology (the study of the history and culture of Georgia), but not only, and added that often times, political scientists and experts also disseminate biased information about Georgia.
“The same applies to political science. I know very well what they write about Georgia abroad, and people write things about Georgia, while nobody gave them legitimization for this,” said Salome Zurabishvili.
Georgia, Zurabishvili said, has become a “complex nation” and sometimes Georgians forget that “Georgia has always been a scientific and cultural center and center of the Caucasus.”
“We have no army, no weapons, and never will have. We don’t have great economic potential to conquer the region, but we have a very powerful weapon called knowledge, science and culture”, she said.
Zurabsihvili said it was ‘problematic’ that young people choose law as their future profession, rather than “disseminating knowledge about themselves”. According to her, no material production will bring Georgia such success as knowledge, culture and science.
“We must take out (outside of Georgia) our language, culture, identity, (knowledge) about our region, about our country, about our languages, and not just about the Georgian language. We are defenders of the Abkhaz language as well, which has no other defenders. This is our duty and our future,” said Zurabishvili.
According to the press service of the president, representatives of the scientific community asked the authorities to create such a center.
Zurabishvili vs. the army
These statements by President Zurabishvili have been sharply criticized.
“The enemy of the country is in our own home” – under such a slogan, members of the Smena youth movement held a rally near the presidential palace.
They protested against Zurabishvili’s statements regarding the army.
“The country’s commander in chief, the person who represents the country in international relations, the guarantor of the constitution, should not make anti-state statements that play into the hands of Russian propaganda in the country,” said Anna Kartlelishvili, a spokeswoman for the movement.
Protesters held up posters with inscriptions: “Salome vs. Soldiers” and “Salome – Commander of Dreams”, referring to the ruling Georgian Dream party, which supported her candidacy in the presidential election in November 2018.
Almost the entire opposition described the president’s statement as “anti-state.”
Representatives of the opposition social movement Lelo came to the memorial to the dead Georgian military on Heroes Square and from there they addressed the president and the military:
“You, Georgian soldiers, unfortunately are not worthy of the commander in chief, but this is temporary. What you serve – Homeland, is forever, and we are grateful for your service,” said Anna Natsvlishvili, representative of the movement.
According to her, the president’s statements are anti-state and “damage the country’s defense capabilities”.
Former deputy secretary of the Security Council Vano Machavariani says the ruling Georgian Dream party should explain “why the president, imposed on them by Georgian citizens, makes such statements.”
According to Machavariani, the Georgian army does not deserve such a commander in chief.
Representatives of the ruling party were unable to defend the position of the president.
According to Minister of Defense Irakli Garibashvili, Salome Zurabishvili’s statement is unacceptable to him.
“As the Minister of Defense, I want to declare that our military are citizens of the country whom we need to be proud of, and I will do everything possible to strengthen the Georgian army,” Garibashvili said.