EMIGRATION FROM GEORGIA AND ITS REASONS

(Results of a Sociological Survey)

Guram SVANIDZE
Konstantin KOKOEV


Guram Svanidze, Ph.D. (Philos.), member of the Georgian Parliament Civil Integration Committee

Konstantin Kokoev, Ph.D. (Tech.), President of the Za Mirniy Kavkaz International Center


Introduction

With the liberalization and democratization of our society, Georgian citizens have gained the opportunity to execute their emigration rights. At the beginning of the 1990s, emigration was stimulated by the abrupt deterioration in the socioeconomic and political conditions in the former Soviet republics, including in Georgia. Departure from the country became a survival tactic for many people, and emigration assumed mass proportions.

As this phenomenon intensified, it was more difficult to keep official track of it. There is essentially no organization in our country which possesses precise statistics about those who have left the country to reside permanently abroad. Sometimes even the best intentions create difficulties in organizing the registration of migration processes. For example, elimination of the residence registration system unwittingly led to additional problems with respect to keeping statistical account of the specifics of population movement within the republic or to the near abroad. Emigration to the far abroad is not reflected to the fullest extent by the statistics of the Visa and Registration Department (OVIR). Official data essentially show the repatriation of Jews, Greeks and Germans, who constitute the overwhelming majority of emigrants in this agencys reports. Such a phenomenon as defection should be taken into account, whereby those leaving to earn a living, study, on private invitations, or on tourist trips do not return, but seek permanent residence abroad. There are no reliable statistics on this account, or methods for gathering them, but there is a constant empirical sense of this phenomenon. The extrapolations used by various specialists, which, in so doing, were based on different premises, only confuse the matter. All hopes are placed on the recently completed national census.

The fact that a significant number of emigrants are the representatives of national minorities makes the problem especially tricky. Some political forces interpreted their mass exodus as the result of national discrimination. Here chauvinist rhetoric of the time of Zviad Gamsakhurdia played its part, which some authors became caught up in without noticing that the emigration activity of the representatives of national minorities did not wane long after his overthrow.

The organizers of the survey on emigration problems set themselves the following tasks: to define and trace the dynamics of the emigration intentions of the population for 1994-1996-1998-2001; to register the changes in the structure of emigration factors and the place occupied by discrimination, to analyze the correlation between the reasons for departure and non-departure abroad; to identify the character of emigration intentions of Georgian and non-Georgian population groups. This study is the fourth in a series conducted on the problems of emigration from Georgia. We conducted the first with the assistance of the Caucasian Institute of Peace, Development, and Democracy in 1994, the second with the cooperation of the Open Society Institute in 1996, the third with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 1998, and the fourth with the help of the U.K. Government Department for International Development (DFID) in 2001.

In this article, we will limit ourselves to analyzing the data obtained in ethically mixed regions (Tbilisi, Batumi, and Rustavi), where 662 respondents were surveyed.

Results

Mood of the Microenvironment

One of the premises influencing a persons decision to leave the country is the mood of the microenvironment and immediate surroundings in which he resides. If his friends and acquaintances frequently talk about emigration or, moreover, a member of his family or one of his relatives has already emigrated, the greater the likelihood that this individual will be inclined to opt for moving abroad.

Table 1

Are There People in Your Immediate Surroundings Who Are Thinking about Leaving Georgia to Live Permanently Abroad (%)?

Tbilisi, Rustavi, Batumi

  Total group

662 respondents
Georgians

434 respondents
Non-Georgians

228 respondents
Yes, I know a lot of people like that 38.8 32.7 50.4
Yes, I know a few people like that 33.5 35.5 29.8
No, I do not know anyone like that 17.2 22.6 7.0
I cannot say 10.4 9.2 12.7

As can be seen from Table 1, the environment of respondents from the non-Georgian subgroup is more infected by emigration than the immediate surroundings of the Georgians surveyed: almost more than half of the representatives of the first subgroup uphold the opinion that there are a lot of people thinking about emigrating. Almost one third of the Georgians surveyed were of this same opinion.

When analyzing the dynamics of the emigration background, a particular trend is revealed. If this process is depicted in the form of a curved line, it reaches its peak in 1994, after which (in 1996 and 1998) its trajectory takes a downward turn. For example, in 1994, 60% of the national minority subgroup on average believed that many of those around them were thinking about leaving the country permanently, whereas in 1996 this percentage amounted to only 39.6%, and in 1998 to 30.4%. A similar situation was found in the Georgian subgroup: 41% in 1994, 28.3% in 1996, and 17% in 1998.

It is symptomatic that 58.3% of those surveyed in the national minority subgroup, who indicated that at the time of the survey some of their relatives were abroad, noted that these relatives had left permanently, compared with 19% of the Georgian respondents (see Table 2).

Table 2

Is Any of Your Family Living Abroad at the Time of the Survey, and, if so, for How Long (%)?

Tbilisi, Rustavi, Batumi

  Total group

382 respondents
Georgians

195 respondents
Non-Georgians

187 respondents
Temporarily, for a specific time 26.7 42.6 10.2
Temporarily, for an indeterminate time 30.6 34.9 26.2
Permanently 38.2 19 58.3
I do not know, or refuse to answer 4.5 3.6 5.3

Where Have Your Relatives Gone?

Those who indicated that they had emigrant relatives revealed that they had primarily gone to live in Russia (almost half of the national minority respondents and one third of the Georgians), and in second place the Georgian subgroup (as well as the national minority group) named the U.S. and Germany as destinations. But a relatively larger number of Georgians have emigrated to these latter countries than the representatives of national minorities.

The geographical location of states where the family members of those surveyed have emigrated has significantly expanded to include such distant countries as Australia, Argentina, and South Africa.

Emigration Intentions

An important aspect of our study was to determine the emigration intentions of the respondents themselves. Almost twice as many representatives of national minorities (in percentages) expressed the desire to emigrate (28.9% compared with 15.2% Georgians). Compared with the Georgian subgroup (45.9%), there were fewer non-Georgians who have definitely decided to stay (36.4%) (see Table 3).

Table 3

In Which of the Listed Categories Do You Classify Yourself? (%)

Tbilisi, Rustavi, Batumi

  Total group 662

respondents
Georgians

434 respondents
Non-Georgians

228 respondents
Among those who would like to emigrate 19.9 15.2 28.9
Among those who cannot decide whether to leave or not 22.5 23 21.5
Among those who have definitely decided to stay 42.6 45.9 36.4
Among those who have not thought about this subject 15 15.9 13.2

An analysis of the dynamics of emigration intentions shows that whereas in the Georgian subgroup, the data were distinguished by a certain constancy (11% in 1994, 8.2% in 1996, and 8.5% in 1998), in 2001 this index noticeably increased (15.2%). Whereas previously in the national minority subgroup, a decrease in the number of those wishing to emigrate was observed (on average about 30% in 1994, 22.3% in 1996, and 16.7% in 1998), in the latest study an increase was noted (28.9%), which almost reached the 1994 level.

To the question of where potential emigrants would go, the responses were distributed as follows. In the Georgian subgroup, 35.2% would go to the U.S., 13.6% to Germany, and 12.5% to Russia. In the non-Georgian subgroup, 32.2% indicated Russia, 16.6% the U.S., and 8% Greece.

Opinions About the Reasons for Emigration

In this section, it was important to identify whether the relatively high emigration potential of non-Georgians was caused by discrimination. When analyzing the respondents opinions about their reasons for leaving the country, a ranking system was used.

Table 4

Why Do You Think People Emigrate From Georgia?

Tbilisi, Rustavi, Batumi

  Total group Georgians Non-Georgians
Drop in the standard of living 2 2 2
Failure to satisfy their language and/or cultural needs 11 11 12
To rejoin relatives 8 8 6
Failure to satisfy their religious inclinations 14 14 14
Uncertainty about the future 4 4 4
Unfavorable attitude of the authorities and/or population toward their ethnic origin 12 12 10
Enjoy moving about 9 9 9
Increase in crime 7 7 8
Political crisis 5 5 5
Unemployment 1 1 1
Failure to fulfill their potential 3 3 3
Do not know the state (Georgian) language 13 13 13
Wish to return to the land of their birth 6 6 7
Political motives 10 10 11

Thus, Table 4 shows that according to the representatives of both subgroups, the main reason for emigration is unemployment. Unanimous opinions were also noted with respect to several other factors: drop in the standard of living (second place), inability to fulfill their potential (third place), uncertainty about the future (fourth place), and the political crisis (fifth place). As for discrimination of representatives of national minorities, such as an unfavorable attitude of the authorities and/or population toward their ethnic origin, the inability to satisfy language and/or cultural needs, and the inability to satisfy religious inclinations, they were among the less important reasons for the respondents of this subgroup.

If we take a look at the dynamics of factor significance, we cannot help but notice the increase in rank of inability to fulfill ones potential (third place) compared with uncertainty about the future (fourth place).

Judging from Table 5, the reasons why people do not want to leave the country do not differ much according to group.

Table 5

Why Do You Think Some People Do Not Emigrate?

Tbilisi, Rustavi, Batumi

  Total group Georgians Non-Georgians
Do not want to leave acquired property 6 5 7-8
Do not want to part with relatives 2 2 2
Do not know the emigration procedure 11 11 11
Obstacles raised by the consular services 4 6 4
Lack of self-confidence 8 8 9
Patriotic feelings 3 3 6
Do not know the language 7 4 7-8
Lack of financial opportunity 1 1 1
Satisfied with their situation 9 9 5
Heard about the failure of people they know who emigrated 10 10 10
For health reasons 5 7 3

First and second places in the Georgian and non-Georgian groups were occupied by the lack of financial opportunity and unwillingness to leave relatives. In so doing, unwillingness to leave acquired property was of secondary importance (compared with the previous studies, ranking in seventh and eighth place among the national minorities and in fifth among Georgians). This seems to indicate that people no longer have anything of value to leave. Attention is drawn to the fact that the non-Georgian subgroup ranked for health reasons in third place and obstacles raised by the consular services in fourth place. According to the Georgian respondents, patriotic feelings and not knowing a foreign language stop people from emigrating (ranking third and fourth).

What Do Potential Emigrants Think?

The study took a separate look at the data of the subgroup potential emigrants (132 respondents). It was presumed that nascent trends would be the most visible in this particular subgroup, which was confirmed by the results of the survey. For example, there were relatively more people between the ages of 18 and 35 among potential emigrants than in the sampling as a whole (50% and 37.5%, respectively), which is very legitimate since people in this age group are the most mobile. But whereas in the study as a whole, national minorities accounted for a little more than one third of the respondents, in the potential emigrant subgroup they constitute 50%, which confirms that emigration intentions are more prevalent among the representatives of minorities.

Seventy-one point two percent of the respondents in this subgroup indicated that there are a lot of people in their immediate environment who are thinking about emigrating permanently, while 38.8% of the entire group of respondents hold this opinion. In so doing, 68.9% of them say they have close relatives abroad (49.2% of the entire sampling). Potential emigrants constitute one fifth of all the respondents, but the number of their relatives who were absent at the time of the survey amounts to one third of all those who were said to have left the country. Fifty-four point six percent of the family members of those surveyed from this subgroup have left permanently (the corresponding index for the entire group is 38.2%). This shows that the indices for potential emigration in this subgroup are higher than among the entire sampling as a whole.

No significant differences were observed between the total group and this subgroup with respect to the reasons for emigration. In the second case, only the factor of rejoining family was the most significant. In this subgroup, attention is drawn to the fact that obstacles raised by the consular services, as a reason for not leaving the country, ranks in second place. At the same time, this factor ranks fourth among the sampling as a whole.

Conclusion

The study conducted in 2001 showed a noticeable increase in the inclination to emigrate among the group of respondents surveyed in places with a mixed ethnic population composition compared with the data obtained in 1994, 1996, and 1998. In the national minority subgroup, this inclination is still greater than in the Georgian subgroup. What is more, there were relatively more respondents among the national minorities than among the Georgians with relatives who have left the country to live permanently abroad.

The geographical location of the countries where the relatives of those surveyed have emigrated is wider spread in the Georgian subgroup, although the Russian Federation definitely leads in both subgroups. Ethnically oriented emigration is not particularly prevalent with respect to Armenia and Azerbaijan. There is a noticeable increase in the number of potential emigrants. In the Georgian group, it reached the highest level compared with the previous studies. If we compare the willingness of the survey respondents to leave the country permanently, it is higher among the national minorities. As for the destination of potential emigrants, the percentage of countries in the far abroad is noticeably growing.

Among the reasons for emigration, the respondents placed socioeconomic factors in first place. Discrimination does not rank very highly.

An analysis of the reasons preventing people from leaving the country showed that those who are sufficiently well-off and physically healthy have already left. This is particularly characteristic of the national minority groups. This indicates that the populations emigration resources are becoming exhausted.


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