Identity, conservatism and political views of the Kvemo Kartli population

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi state university, Faculty of social and political sciences
The report reflects the results of a complex research of the attitudes of the population of Kvemo Kartli (excluding the city of Rustavi). It includes both a quantitative component - a survey of ethnic Azerbaijani and ethnic Georgians, as well as a qualitative part - focus group sessions, interviews, case studies, media analysis and content analysis. The research showed that the Georgian and Azerbaijani communities of the region differ significantly not only in terms of identity, but also in terms of issues related to values and political views. The ethnic Azerbaijani population of Kvemo Kartli is more connected to Azerbaijan and Turkey than to Georgia in terms of ethnic identity, language skills and information sources. Although both Georgian and Azerbaijani populations assess the economic situation of their own families, settlements, and the region as generally average, the dynamics between ethnic groups in the region need attention. The research showed that the identity of ethnic Azerbaijanis living in Kvemo Kartli is currently in a dynamic, fluid state, which is mainly related to the change or strengthening of their ethnic and religious self-identification. The latter refers to various aspects of religious life, which, compared to the Georgian community, has a more intense nature. At the same time, within the Azerbaijani community itself, there is a kind of competition between the two main denominations of Islam - Shiites and Sunnis. As it turned out, representatives of both (Shiite and Sunni) denominations are engaged in proselytizing, especially active are Shiite clerics, a significant portion of whom have been educated in the religious centers of Iran and enjoy the support of this country. Apart from the religious factor, the fluidity of the Azerbaijani community in Kvemo Kartli also has a serious ethnic component. The strengthening of the pan- Turkish identity is noticeable, which was given a special impetus by the Karabakh war of 2020. In addition to Azerbaijani and pan-Turkish self-identification, much of this community considers itself to be Borchalo and/or Qarapapakh. The share of Georgian identity in them is insignificant. The rate of fluidity in both religious and ethnic contexts is more evident in the younger generation. The research showed that the attitude and expectations of Azerbaijanis towards Georgians are more positive than vise versa. At the same time, Azerbaijanis perceive the rights of religious and ethnic minorities as less protected than the rights of other groups, and are more likely to feel unjustly restricted during the spread of the Covid 19. This is not surprising, since the Georgian population of Kvemo Kartli is less willing to accept the right of religious minorities to participate in religious rituals as legitimate and thinks that this hinders the unity of Georgians. The Azerbaijani community is more conservative in matters of child rearing and other issues related to family, more inclined on restricting individual liberty and adhering to traditional social norms. However, Georgians are much more conservative about the right of a aliens to buy real estate in Georgia. The Azerbaijani community of Kvemo Kartli is significantly detached from the Georgian context in the field of information and culture. Instead they prefer Azerbaijani, Turkish and even Russian media. However, in recent years there has been an augmentation of several local media outlets, which have started to occupy dominant positions in this community and are also disconnected from the Georgian context. At the same time, the views of the Azerbaijani community on foreign policy orientations show that their views differ from those of the Georgians in Kvemo Kartli, as well as from the majority of the Georgian population in general, and are definitely less pro-Western. The views of Azerbaijanis about enemy and friendly countries show that they think primarily on the basis of ethnic and religious identity and see little state perspective.
Identity, conservatism, political views, Kvemo Kartli, ethnic Azerbaijanis