From 1988, a tempest of nationalistic fervour swept through Georgia, triggering eruptions of ethnic violence. The rallying cry “Georgia – for the Georgians!” emerged, a sentiment echoing the same essence as “Deutschland über alles!” This highly charged slogan, symbolising an intense ethnic pride and a call for national unification, was adopted with varying degrees of fervour by all Georgian political parties and movements of the time.
This article delves into the tumultuous journey of this slogan, tracing its roots, the prominent figures championing it, and its modern resurgence in Georgian society.
Taken from the documentary film "Absence of Will'' documentary film by Mamuka Kuparadze (2009).
Origins and Key Proponents
Contrary to the common attribution to Zviad Gamsakhurdia, a prominent Georgian politician and later the country's president, the slogan "Georgia for the Georgians" was initially coined by Giorgi Chanturia. Chanturia (born 1954, died 1994) was the leader of the National Democratic Party. However, such was the potency of this slogan that it soon transcended its origins and became synonymous with the larger Georgian nationalist movement, regardless of party affiliation.
The 1980s were marked by political dynamism. The state authorities, recognising the burgeoning nationalism, attempted to co-opt the sentiment. They initiated the Rustaveli Society in March 1988, with Akaki Bakradze at its helm. In response, a breakaway faction was formed – the Ilia Chavchavadze Society—Fourth Group. This group brought together influential figures such as Merab Kostava, Chanturia, and Irakli Tsereteli, with Gamsakhurdia joining them later.
The National Democratic Party of Georgia, considering itself a radical offshoot of the Ilia Chavchavadze Society—Fourth Group, released a manifesto in August 1988.
The manifesto-statement read as follows:
"Our slogan is ‘Georgia for the Georgians’, which in no way implies suppression of the rights of the ethnic groups living on Georgian territory or limitation of their political freedom."
Gia Chanturia incorporated the slogan "Georgia for Georgians" into the National Democratic Party's (NDP) political programme. This catchphrase frequently headlined nationalist demonstrations, standing out among various rallying cries.
'Georgia for Georgians' slogan is still popular among the Georgian Ultra-Nationalists. Tbilisi, 2014.
The slogan quickly gained traction. As noted by journalist Michael Parks in a 1989 article for the Los Angeles Times, "Georgia for the Georgians" became ubiquitous. It graced the walls of cities, was vociferously chanted in political meetings, and underscored broader discussions on the survival and revival of the Georgian nation. The intertwining themes of sovereignty and independence began to dominate the public sphere, with the slogan often at the centre .
However, like many political slogans, its potency waned with time. By the mid-1990s, as Edita Badasyan highlighted, the slogan had diminished in prominence. Yet, recent signs suggest its resurgence. Badasyan's 2016 article pointed to the slogan's reappearance in various forms: graffiti, stickers, and vocal endorsements in public spaces. The re-emergence suggests that the issues it encapsulates — Georgian identity, nationalism, sovereignty — remain pertinent.
Refugee Minister David Darakhvelidze: "Georgia must be for Georgians"
'Georgians For Georgia'
Just three days before the attack at the Kiwi Cafe, during Georgia's May 26 celebrations marking independence from the former Soviet Union, a group of Georgian nationalist extremists marched in the streets of Tbilisi chanting and carrying banners with the slogan "Georgians for Georgia".
For Georgians, that slogan is an obvious twist on a catchphrase that has specific, dark connotations in the country: "Georgia for the Georgians". The phrase was among the anti-Soviet slogans that emerged from Georgia's chaotic rebirth as an independent post-Soviet republic.
— Sausage-Wielding Extremists Attack Vegan Cafe In Tbilisi, RFE/RL 30 May 2016
Georgian ultra-nationalists marching in downtown Tbilisi @Onnik James Krikorian (2016)
While the passionate cry of "Georgia for the Georgians" and its variations continue to reverberate through the streets of Georgia, it serves as a poignant reminder of the nation's complex history and the challenges of its multicultural identity. The evolving nature of these slogans highlights the delicate balance Georgia continues to strike between nationalistic pride and inclusive unity. As the country navigates its future in the global landscape, it remains to be seen how these slogans will further evolve, and whether they will serve as unifying cries or divisive chants. What's undeniable, however, is their emblematic representation of a nation's struggle to define its identity in a rapidly changing world.