The visit of Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili last week was marked with an important episode, which, it seems, hasn’t been given the attention it deserves. When speaking after the meeting with Mr. Kvirikashvili, Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan said:
“We have agreed to take steps with a view to boosting communication between young people in our two friendly countries.”
Giorgi Kvirikashvili responded:
“The Georgian side is ready to promote new relationships between young people, and we have a lot to do in this field.”
I wanted to speak about the Armenian-Georgian relations for a while, and this news, courtesy of the two Prime Ministers, is a good reason to do so. Four years ago Armenian and Georgian experts paid 10-day visits to Yerevan and Tbilisi for research in the framework of a joint project. The topics for the research varied: media, pension reform, social activism, e-governance. The results were published in a book that presented the two countries’ experience in mentioned areas, indicating the similarities and differences.
I met with those young Georgian specialists and found out that four out of five were visiting Yerevan for the first time. When I asked why they didn’t come here before, although the road takes 4-5 hours by car, almost all said there was no specific reason to visit Armenia.
We have to create such reasons! Of course, not everything is smooth and happy in Armenian-Georgian relations, even if we don’t mentioned the events that took place 100 years ago or even earlier. We do not like Georgia’s close relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, and Georgia isn’t fond of our alliance with Russia. The list goes on. However, this is the case where disagreements and mutual suspicions should move us and the Georgians to communicate and get to know each other better.
Tens of thousands of Armenians travel to Georgia annually, mostly for a vacation by the Black Sea. Many people visit Tbilisi for a day or two, mainly on weekends. But Georgians almost never come to Armenia and the young people in our neighboring country have a very vague idea about our life and daily routine.
The situation calls for a change, and I’m glad that Karapetyan and Kvirikashvili understand that. But I believe that politicians can only provide support and the initiative should come ‘from below’. Young Armenian musicians, artists, physicists need to contact more with their Georgian peers. A friend of mine has close pals in Tbilisi and he says that if something happens, he can call them in the middle of the night and be sure that mere hours later they will be in Yerevan, by his side. Naturally, such displays of friendship cannot be a mass phenomenon, but I’m certain they don’t have to remain unique cases either.
Geography won’t change. We can argue about different topics for hours, but the fact is that Georgia is and will remain the closest to us in the region by religion, culture, the way of life, family ties, and many other points. By getting to know each other better, we won’t solve all current issues immediately, but we will definitely get a better understanding of one another’s natural interests and limitations.
We have lost enough time and now we need to act quickly. Middle-aged people and the elders, for whom the Armenian-Georgian friendship isn’t a propaganda trick, but an integral part of life, can become a bridge between the two nations and pass the good memories and customs to their children and grandchildren. For many Armenian and Georgian youngsters, the iconic Soviet film “Mimino” about the Armenian-Georgian friendship doesn’t hold the same meaning as for my generation. If we don’t act now, 10 years later “Mimino” will be forgotten. And we will all be poorer for it.
Ara Tadevosyan is Director of Mediamax.