I meet many interesting people at Hotel Bursa in Kyiv, but the most fascinating folks have got to be the Georgians. After dinner a few months ago I found a large group of rough and tumble gentlemen at the bar chatting in a language I definitely didn’t recognize.
They were a group of journalists visiting ethnic Georgian brigades fighting in Ukraine. Georgians have no love for Putin either, so when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, so many Georgians volunteered to help their Ukrainian brothers and sisters, they created their own military bases and brigades featuring Georgian commanders!
This old sweet song
Georgia is a small but ancient country of 3.5 million people bordering Russia, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Situated at the crossroads of the fertile crescent between the Black Sea and Caspian sea, Georgia is famous for its natural beauty, food and wine.
Georgia is also the birthplace of the most barbaric Soviet leader in history, Josef Stalin, who murdered millions of his own citizens and banished millions more to Siberia during his ethnic-cleansing purges.
No, no, no peace I find
Georgians have been victims of ‘frozen conflicts’ in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since 2008. Like south-eastern Ukraine, these regions have significant ethnic Russian-speaking populations. After sham elections in 2008, Russian troops invaded Abkhazia and South Ossetia to protect ‘Russians’ and liberate them from the tyrannical government in Tblisi. Sound familiar?
Georgians know all too well how important it is for Ukraine to defeat the Russians once and for all. A frozen conflict in Donbas or Crimea is not an option if anyone in this troubled region, especially Georgia, expects to gain independence and membership in the European Union.
Victory in Ukraine is so important for Georgians, they are willing to fight and die for it.
Other arms reach out to me
The parallels between Georgia and Ukraine are so stark, it’s obvious they came from the same old Russian playbook. Ukraine has been occupied since 2014, Georgia since 2008. Ukrainians revolted against their Russian-controlled government in 2013 when it tried to move the western-leaning country away from Europe and back towards Russia. Georgians are rebelling against their pro-Russian government in 2023 for exactly the same reason.
My Georgian friends assure me that this time they will be successful ridding themselves of Russian oppression and occupation. They know their best chance is to support Ukraine so their bigger brother can return the favour and help Georgia get Russia off its mind once and for all.
Slava Ukraini! Slava Georgia!