On 2 December 2013, in an interview with Russia Today, the Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Gharibashvili, stated that: “Over a million Georgians reside in Russia.”
FactCheck verified the accuracy of Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement.
It is noteworthy that the discussion on the subject of how many ethnic Georgians actually live in Russia has been going on for a fairly long time now. Various figures have been named but the most predominant belief in society is that up to a million Georgians reside in Russia. This belief is widespread not only in Georgia but in the Russian Federation as well.
For instance, Badri Kutelia, a Georgian sociologist currently living Russia, wrote that: “The number of Georgians living in Russia is somewhere between 600 thousand and 800 thousand.” Mikheil Khubutia, President of the Georgian Union in the Russian Federation, asserts that the official figures estimate the number of Georgians living in Russia atone million. The unofficial figures, however, add up to 1.5 million. On 28 August 2008, in his interview to CNN, Vladimir Putin stated: “About one million and even more Georgians moved to Russia.” The internet portal nregion.com wrote in May of 2006 that:“Russia could deport up to one million Georgians back to their homeland.”
FactCheck set out to investigate the feasibility of the abovementioned figures estimating the number of Georgians residing on the Russian territory.
In the course of our research we addressed a letter to the Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Diaspora Issues. The letter we received in response states that:“The Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Diaspora Issues holds no data on the number of our fellow citizens residing in foreign countries.”
In line with the research conducted by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) in 2012, Georgian Diaspora Study, around 800 thousand Georgians live in Russia and, as of 2009, a total of 285,946 ethnic Georgians were granted Russian citizenship. The spokesperson of the EPRC, Irma Guruli, further clarified to FactCheck that the indicated research had been carried out in close partnership with the Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Diaspora Issues and the figures named in the study had been attained precisely from the said government body. It is also to be noted that the official website of the Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Diaspora Issues presents information on the number of Georgians living in Russia according to which, as of 2005, from 800 thousand to 900 thousand Georgians were living in the Russian Federation.
We inquired about the reasons why the Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Diaspora Issues had not provided the abovegiven information in response to our letter of request. The spokesperson of the Office, Davit Chikvaidze, explained to FactCheck that: “The data given on the website does not portray official figures and solely represents estimations.” Chikvaidze also noted that: “The Office of the State Minister of Georgia for Diaspora Issues finds it very difficult to ascertain the number of Georgians residing in the Russian Federation, or in Western countries. Equally vague is the number of Georgians living on the Turkish territory.” In conversation with FactCheck, Chikvaidze also pointed out that: “Dramatically diverging figures are being named with respect to the Russian Federation and it is hard to determine which one of them comes close to the reality.”
We obtained data on the said issue from the National Statistics Office of Georgia as well. The received data is based upon the findings of the General Population Census carried out in 2002. The census estimated the total number of Georgian emigrants in the amount of 92,298 while the number of emigrants residing in the Russian Federation, in particular, is 13,221.
In line with the findings of the census held in 1989 in the Soviet Union, a total of 130,688 Georgians resided in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic in the given period.
In 2011, a programme on the socio-political development of Georgia was published by the academician of the Georgian Academy of Natural Sciences, Professor Aleksandre Tvaltchrelidze and the member-correspondents of the National Science Academy of Georgia. According to the second chapter of the indicated programme (Demographic Picture of Georgia) found on the website of the National Parliamentary Library, in 1990 the population of Georgia reached 5.46 million. Over the years 1990-2009 the population shrank by 1.11 million owing to the increased emigration.
Of interest is what number of the indicated 11.1 million were ethnic Georgians and what portion had moved to Russia. In line with the same study, in the period from 1989 to 2002 the share of ethnic Georgians in Georgia grew from 68.8% to 83.8%. This indicates that the emigration primarily concerned ethnic minorities residing in the country. However, the absolute number of Georgians in Georgia has also decreased as compared to 1989, from 3,787.4 thousand down to 3,661.2 thousand; that is to say, by 126.2 thousand persons.
Even if we add the total number of Georgian emigrants – 126.2 thousand to the number of Georgians residing in Russia by 1989, we get only 256.8 thousand. However, naturally, all 126.2 thousand persons could not possibly have moved to Russia.
In 2010 a general population census was carried out in the Russian Federation which studied the ethnic composition of the Russian Federation. In line with the results of the census a total of 157,803 Georgians live in Russia.
In the course of our inquiry about the number of Georgians residing in the Russian Federation, FactCheck received very diverging and contradictory figures from different organisations and individuals. The named figures range from “13,221” to “over a million.” Every source (official or not) presented different data (or had no information altogether) on the following subjects: Russian citizens with Georgian ethnicity, Georgian citizens with Georgian ethnicity, Georgian citizens with non-Georgian ethnicity and illegal Georgian residents of the Russian Federation.
Relying upon the study conducted by Professor Aleksandre Tvaltchrelidze and the member-correspondents of the Georgian Academy of Natural Sciences, 126.2 ethnic Georgians left Georgia during the years 1990-2002. Considering that by 1989 a total of 130,688 Georgians resided in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, hypothetically, based upon the study, the maximum number of Georgians living on the Russian territory by 2002 could equal 256 thousand. We can further assume that given the massive deportation of ethnic Georgians from theRussian territory in 2006, the Russian-Georgian war of 2008 and the nationalistic and specifically anti-Caucasian sentiments particularly intensified over the last years in Russia, the number of ethnic Georgians in Russia has, if not decreased, then at least not grown.
Throughout the research, FactCheck encountered various unofficial data on the subject. A special consideration should be given tounofficial information published by the Office of the State Minister for Diaspora Issues according to which the number of Georgian residents in Russia varies between 800 thousand and 900 thousand. However, as noted above and confirmed by the spokesperson of the Office himself, the said figure is unofficialand, therefore, cannot be considered reliable.
As for the official data, there are three sorts of such (in any event, we were unable to encounter any other official source): the findings of the population census conducted in the Soviet Union in 1989, the population census carried out in the Russian Federation in 2010 and the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia acquired through the population census conducted in 2002. None of the sources listed above give us ground for assuming that the number of Georgians residing in Russia reaches one million.
Similar to the EPRC, the Prime Minister might have been referring to the data provided by the Office of the State Minister for Diaspora Issues when estimating the number of Georgians living in the Russian Federation to be at one million. Or, he could simply have been vocalising the widespread belief in Georgian society.
The fact persists that no official data could be found justifying the assertion that the number of Georgian residents in Russia even comes close to one million. We add herewith that FactCheck will return to this issue after the findings of the 2014 population census of Georgia are published.
In the meantime, we conclude that Irakli Gharibashvili’s statement claiming that: “Over a million Georgians reside in Russia,” is MOSTLY FALSE.