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What Georgians Really Think About Russia

U.S. -- Dr. Hans Gutbrod, Regional Director of the Caucasus Research Resource Center, during a briefing on public opinion in Georgia at RFE/RL Washington, 11Jun2009
(WASHINGTON/PRAGUE) Although Georgia went to war with Russia last year, a new nationwide survey indicates mixed feelings about Russia. Although 90% of Georgians view Russia as an unfriendly country, almost half are opposed to limiting trade with it. And when asked to approve or disapprove of Georgian women marrying foreigners, Russians were deemed the least objectionable from a pool that included Americans, Armenians, Azeris, Abkhaz, Ossetians, and others.

"This indicates that Georgians are able to separate their personal feelings about Russians from their charged political feelings about the Kremlin," said Dr. Hans Gutbrod, who conducted the national, face-to-face survey for the Caucasus Research Resource Center (CRRC).

In a briefing at RFE/RL's Washington, DC office, Gutbrod told the crowd that the poll's results "show that Georgians have generally measured and balanced opinions on a wide variety of political and economic issues."

"Georgians are exhausted by the continuing sense of crisis," he said.

Joining the discussion via videoconference from Prague was RFE/RL Georgian Service Director David Kakabadze, who noted the survey's mixed results on Georgia's recent political protests.

Although about 70% of Georgians think the government should address the opposition's complaints about judicial independence, media freedom, and legislative reform to guarantee free and fair elections, the survey gives no indication of widespread dissatisfaction with President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"It appears that Saakashvili's restraint from using force on the protestors is paying dividends," said Kakabadze. "It has resulted in a widening split among the opposition and a 5-point bump in his approval ratings in the last few months."

In addition to questions on Russia and domestic political opposition, the survey includes data on how Georgians feel about the economic crisis, crime, Western culture, and other topics.

About CRRC
The Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) is a program of the Eurasia Foundation, supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. With offices in Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan, CRRC conducts numerous research projects in the South Caucasus with a specific emphasis on gathering high-quality data. Dr. Gutbrod has been working in the Caucasus since 1999 and holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics.

About RFE/RL's Georgian Service
Since 1953, RFE/RL's Georgian Service has established a tradition for high professional standards for its news reporting and is widely regarded as the only objective and unbiased source of news and information in Georgia.