Vazgen Mirzakhanyan:

Armenian community of Georgia hopes for the better

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Armenian communities are scattered throughout the globe, each experiencing the 'syndrome of national minority' which sometimes hampers integration in the society. Under circumstances, it is very hard to maintain unique identity, language, traditions and culture. Primate of the Georgian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Bishop Vazgen Mirzakhanyan comments to PanARMENIAN.Net on the life of the Armenian community in Georgia.
Is the Armenian community involved in Georgia's political life?

The Armenian community of Tbilisi backed incumbent Mikheil Saakashvili. Majority in Javakhk voted the same way. We endeavor to get on with the authorities and this policy produces effect. Saakashvili, at least, tries to be as good as his word. I am confident that Georgia is really concerned over the problem of Javakhk and other regions. Some measures have been already taken. For example, the Akhaltsikhe-Batumi highway has been completely repaired. Funds have been allocated for repair of Armenian schools. An Armenian-Georgian University is likely to open in Akhalkalaki. Of course, it's not enough but we hope for a better attitude towards the Armenian community.

Nevertheless, the Armenian Apostolic Church doesn't have formal status in Georgia. Why is the Church rejected registration?

As you know, we have numerously submitted motions in the parliament which should ratify the legal status of the Armenian Apostolic Church. But we have received no response so far. The AAC Georgian Diocese jointly with Yerkir organization has organized an address to the UN Commission on Human Rights. By the way, no confession has legal status in Georgia owing to resistance of the Georgian Orthodox Church which erroneously thinks that other confessions encroach on its authority. Like Greeks and Muslims, our only wish is to return our churches and property. By the way, we have normal relations with the spiritual leader of Muslims of Georgia.

However, Georgian Armenians are not quite well-off. It is even said that the Armenian community of Istanbul lives a better life…

I would like to note the so-called 'syndrome of national minority' which is inevitable is states where Armenians live. Georgia is not an exception. However, the Georgian popular attitude toward Armenians has changed. The number of anti-Armenian publications has considerably decreased. Moreover, Armenians and treated much better than Azeris. Georgian Azeris are constantly complaining of Baku authorities, which do not attend to their problems properly. The Armenian government behaves quite the other way. We receive textbooks and literature. The AAC Georgian Diocese keeps in touch with the Armenian Embassy in Tbilisi. We established a Center of Armenian Culture. As to the Armenian community of Istanbul, maybe their financial state is better but we are politically free.

Georgia has not recognized the Armenian Genocide yet. Do you think recognition is possible in foreseeable future?

Every year on April 24 the Armenian community, the RA Embassy in Tbilisi organize a march from Saint Gevorg Church to the Armenian cemetery. Armenians of Tbilisi repeatedly sent letters to the parliament urging to recognize the Genocide but no reaction followed. I suppose, the matter is being hampered by Georgia's economic dependence on Turkey and Azerbaijan. However, progress is observed. All newspapers cover our April 24 actions. When we stuck posters dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, policemen did not allow anyone to tear them off. The Armenian community of Georgia hopes for the better. Otherwise, it will be hard to survive.
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