On 24 November 2015, the Bishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, Rusudan Gotsiridze, assessed the 2015 strategic document on the development of policy on religion  as issued by the State Agency for Religious Issues and stated: "The document which guides the State Agency for Religious Issues says that the regions located in close proximity to Georgia’s state borders together with those citizens who share the ethnic or religious identity with Georgia’s neighbour countries are considered to be unreliable and dangerous."


undertook to study the issue.

On 19 February 2014, pursuant to Ordinance N77 of the Government of Georgia, the State Agency for Religious Issues was established as a legal entity of public law (LEPL). The Agency’s principal mission, functions and authority cover the following aspects:  it studies and then drafts reports for the Government of Georgia with regard to the country’s state of religious affairs, prepares recommendations (including the drafting of legal acts) and provides consultation about those issues problematic for different religious denominations. Additionally, the Agency is authorised to act on the behalf of the Government of Georgia as an intermediary and participate in settling disputes and disagreements which might arise between Georgia-based religious organisations. It also prepares proposals and recommendations to support the environment of tolerance in society, especially among the youth. The Agency is further tasked with carrying out other directives of the Prime Minister in the realm of religion.

The strategy document named by Rusudan Gotsiridze is a draft document which serves as a guide to the development of Georgia’s state policy on religion. The strategy defines the realms of development and respective strategic views, goals and principles whilst taking the present state of religious affairs in Georgia into consideration.

Rusudan Gotsiridze’s statement concerns the introductory part of the strategy. More specifically, she refers to Point 3 of Article G: "The geographic disposition of religious groups inhabiting the border regions of Georgia where they share boundaries with countries of the same ethnic (for instance, the Armenian community in Samtskhe-Javakheti is bordered by Armenia and the Azerbaijani community of Kvemo Kartli is bordered by Azerbaijan) or religious (Ajara’s Georgian Muslim community is bordered by Turkey) identity presents a specific geopolitical challenge to the Georgian state. It has to prevent the attempts of neighbour countries to exploit the ethnic and religious plurality of Georgia’s population in order to push forward their interests in Georgia’s domestic politics."

The Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia believes that the document’s aforementioned paragraph and the attitude it projects is absolutely unacceptable. According to the article, a citizen of Georgia who does not belong to a dominant ethnic or religious group is proclaimed as a threat to the state and as an unreliable individual who can easily be manipulated to serve the interests of a neighbour country. This approach is completely unacceptable for a democratic and secular state and enhances the already existing themes of the "image of the enemy" and instigates hostilities.


consulted the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association whilst researching this topic. The organisation believes that Rusudan Gotsiridze’s statement is correct because the aforementioned part of the strategy reads in a way that the interests of Georgia’s ethnic Armenian citizens correspond to those of Armenia, those of Georgia’s ethnic Azerbaijani citizens correspond to those of Azerbaijan and those of Muslim Georgians living in Ajara correspond to those of Turkey. The strategy proclaims that there is a danger that neighbour states will use the representatives of the respective ethnic and religious communities to interfere in Georgia’s domestic politics. By inserting this article into the strategy document, the state declares that its religious and ethnic minorities are instruments at the disposal of other countries to influence Georgia.


also contacted the State Agency for Religious Issues within the framework of this research. The Agency’s representatives stated that first of all it is a draft document which has hitherto not been approved as an action strategy. Additionally, the Agency does not share Rusudan Gotsiridze’s opinion but expresses its readiness for discussion. As stated by the Agency’s representatives, even the draft document is of a very tolerant nature and does not contain discriminatory elements.

FactCheck also inquired whether or not the Agency engaged in consultation with field experts or if it had analysed international best practice during its work on the strategy. Agency representatives responded that they did cooperate with every interested foreign partner and took their recommendations and proposals into consideration. However, at FactCheck

’s request to identify the particular partners, we have not yet received a clear answer and not a single specific organisation has been named.


Article G of the introductory part of the draft Development Strategy for Georgia’s Policy on Religion document elaborated by the State Agency for Religious Issues in 2015 underlines several points including the possible problems for Georgia’s security instigated by religious motives in certain geographic areas of the country. In such a manner, the document makes an assumption that those citizens of Georgia who live in the country’s border regions and share boundaries with countries of the same ethnic or religious identity (for example, the Armenian community in Samtskhe-Javakheti is bordered by Armenia and the Azerbaijani community in Kvemo Kartli is bordered by Azerbaijan) might be dangerous as they could transmit the interests of foreign countries into Georgia’s domestic politics.

FactCheck believes that the context of Rusudan Gotsiridze’s statement is relevant (the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association shares the same opinion). However, it is exaggerated to some extent and Ms Gotsiridze has admitted this herself. Taking into account the fact that this is a draft document and recognising that the assessment of the level of discrimination in the document goes beyond FactCheck’s competence, we leave Ms Gotsiridze’s statement WITHOUT VERDICT.