Georgia is an enigma. Along with Kyrgyzstan and Moldova, it is the most democratic country in the former Soviet Union outside the Baltic States. The October 2012 parliamentary elections witnessed a rare peaceful transfer of power at the ballot box. Yet Georgia resists easy definition. Europe, Russia, the United States, and Georgian nationalist tendencies all compete for space in Georgian society. For 20 years the country has had a strongly pro-Western foreign policy and difficult relations with Russia, yet opinion polls suggest that Georgians are more favorable towards Russians than Turks. Georgia has suffered by begin idealized as a “beacon of democracy” by outsiders with their own ideological agendas, but much of what is described as “democracy” in Georgia may be better termed “competition” or “pluralism.” In this lecture Thomas de Waal will aim to unravel some of the historical and political mysteries of this intriguing country.
Thomas de Waal is a senior associate in the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, specializing primarily in the South Caucasus region, as well as in the wider Black Sea region. He is an expert on the unresolved conflicts of the South Caucasus: Abkhazia, Nagorny Karabakh, and South Ossetia. De Waal has worked as a journalist for the BBC World Service, the Moscow Times, the Times of London, and the Economist. He is the co-author (with Carlotta Gall) of the book Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus (NYU Press, 1997), for which the authors were awarded the James Cameron Prize for Distinguished Reporting. He is author of the authoritative book on the Karabakh conflict, Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan through Peace and War (NYU Press, 2003), and his latest book is The Caucasus: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010).
Sponsors: WCED, CREES