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Armenian genocide memorial to put Georgia between rock and hard place

Armenian genocide memorial to put Georgia between rock and hard place

The Armenian Diaspora in Tbilisi has asked City Hall to erect a memorial to their genocide at the hands of the Turks in the early 20th century. Georgian officials have not yet responded to the demand, but it is clear that if they build the monument it will cause a significant amount of discontent among Georgia’s neighbours, Turkey and Azerbaijan.

The proposed memorial would be erected near Avlabari Metro station, according to a general agreement reached with City Hall two years ago. Chair of a multinational Georgia NGO, Arnold Stepanyan, supports the idea of a monument in Tbilisi. Yet the Armenian Diaspora is courting controversy. Advocates of the memorial know that such a move will create problems for Georgia in Turkey and Azerbaijan. Erecting a memorial means indirectly recognizing the genocide, which is a political act. This could also cause discontent in the ethnic Azeri population in Georgia, and could strain relations between them and ethnic Armenians. This could needlessly aggravate the situation in Georgia. Giorgi Gigauri from Asaval-Dasavali draws certain parallels, wondering what would happen if Georgians demanded that Armenia erect in Yerevan a memorial to the Georgians who suffered under the Russian occupation. It would be a provocative move and one Armenia could not yield to, as it would be targeted against its strategic partner, Russia.

However, only recently the Georgian Parliament officially recognized the genocide of the Cherkez people by Russia in the 19th century – so there is a precedent that the government, whatever their decision, will have to work around.