Speculations about Georgian political, cultural, geographical and economical place in the world is disputable and ongoing. After the creation of the Soviet Union latter become the Eastern power, which generally meant non-European, non-democratic, non-capitalist unity and after the dissolution of USSR, some countries, even Georgia, this perception stuck on to it. This is a important issue, not just for the Georgians but to the Europe itself.
First of all lets talk about geography. Through this dimension Europe is not a continent, it is a subcontinent, which is a part of Eurasia. Europe’s – as a subcontinent – boundaries lies across Ural mountains into the east, Caucasian mountain range into the south-east and Bosporus strait into the south. These boundaries remains artificial and still challenging. But even if we agree that these border lines are correct, we still find that northern parts of Georgia turns out to lies into Europe. Moreover, in the Köppen climate classification these parts of Georgia have almost same climate as eastern parts of Germany, Poland and southern Sweden.
But now, let’s talk about political boundaries. Most of European countries are democracies. They have a parts of common history and developing dynamics. Georgia is not excluded from it. When enlightenment began during the seventeenth century and lasted whole eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Georgia was a part of it. Alexander Amilakhvari was a contemporary of Montesquieu and Rousseau. He created one of the most important political treatise called “Wise man of the East”, in which he asserts importance of rule of law, division of power and people’s participation process of governing. His ideas were popular among the people and ruling class and spread widely during the last years of Georgia’s independence in the 1780’s.
The idea of a welfare state have a great importance among European states. But first real welfare state (not a communist utopia, with dictatorship and purges, but with a free election and responsible government) in the Europe established in Georgia, when 1918 Georgia, with help of Germany, gained independence from the Russian empire and elected social-democratic government ruled the country almost a three years. Beyond this, Georgia was one of the first countries who adopted equal suffrage for all citizens – for the women and the men. In 1921 Georgia made a constitution and secure all human rights for every human being, including free speech, free access to information and right to assembly.
During the process of stagnation and then dissolution of USSR Georgia was among few soviet republics who started dissident movement against the soviet unjust and totalitarian rule. This movement was logical continuity of the similar movements which existed in Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and the Baltic States. In the 1989 21 people died and hundreds other injured when Soviet tanks attacked anti-Soviet demonstration in the Rustaveli Avenue – center of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi.
As I mentioned above, democracy has a undivided part of the modern Europe. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Democracy Index since 2006 Georgia almost constantly improving its position. Current rank of Georgia is 5.93 which means that after Georgia gain at least the rank 6 it will become flawed democracy – title which also shared countries like France, Portugal and Romania. Before that, it is clear that Georgia is a most advanced democracy in the region and its neighborhood. For instance, Turkey’s is ranking 5.04, while Turkey is a candidate for the EU and Georgia – not.
All of these examples shows how Georgia shares its political development and history with the Europe but what about the culture? Some historians speculate that Europe’s boundaries lies there, where wine and alcohol are making and consuming. Georgia is a place where tradition of wine making has been born. When we are talking about culture we should mention religion. Like most of European countries, Georgia is a secular nation, but majority of its population is Christian, same as EU. According to a 2012 survey about Religiosity in the European Union in 2012 by Eurobarometer, Christianity was the largest religion in the European Union. If we describe Europe as a context of culture and values, than we can easily see how Georgia can fits into it.
And what about the Economy? According to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception index Georgia is ranking 44 from 176, according to which latter is surpassing countries of the EU like Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Croatia. It is also notable that doing business environment is good and the level of crime is low.
But numbers, statistics, geography and politics does not matter, when it comes to perception. Population of Georgia strongly and intensively perceives and considers itself as an European nation. Every survey since early 2000’s – last one made by NDI in the December 2017 – shows that Georgians assertively favored to the Europe, European Union and perceive themselves as Europeans. This is very important to note, because in XXI century human geography really matters.