A Foreigner’s Observations on the Strained Relations between the Abkhazians and the Georgians
(An Open Letter to the Georgian People)
On 5th May 1989 there took place at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies the second Georgian Studies Day. As lecturer in Caucasian Languages I was asked to take part in the conference. I accepted and decided to read the paper which I would have delivered at last year’s 70th anniversary celebrations of the founding of Tbilisi University, had I had the possibility at that time of coming to Tbilisi. But following the tragedy of 9th April (for which my wife and I wish to offer our deepest sympathy to all the relations and friends of those killed and wounded), and in consideration of the present situation, I reconsidered and expressed just those thoughts which I now wish to share with you, the readers of this letter.
Perhaps many of you are asking yourselves who this Englishman might be who has dared to lecture you on the subject of this exceptionally bitter problem. Let me explain a few things about myself and then you will realise why I have taken upon myself this risky mission. I first came to Tbilisi in 1975 to learn Georgian. If we add up all the months I have spent in Georgia during the last 14 years, it comes to a total of 3 years – in other words, I am not short of experience when it comes to speaking of Georgian and the Georgians. As for my professional position, I hold the single academic post in Great Britain which is dedicated to Georgian and the Caucasian languages. One of my superiors recently asked me to write a new grammar of Georgian, which should be published in about 5 years in Holland in a new series devoted to oriental languages; and I was already gathering material for a grammar of Mingrelian. But it is not only the Kartvelian languages which represent the centre of my attention.
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