Author: Tomáš Baranec
Discussion about the Georgian extreme-right is generally complicated by a lack of conceptualization and very undisciplined use of terms such as fascist or neo-Nazi. The lack of conceptualisation prevents us from properly understanding the character of this phenomenon. The Georgian extreme-right is not a united fascist or neo-Nazi front.
Two most prominent groups right from the moderate right, the Alliance of patriots of Georgia (APG) and the Georgian March, are right-wing populist in the first case and extreme-right in the second one. Only quite visible, but still marginal, Georgian unity can be considered to be a truly fascist party. Groups labelled as extreme-right in Georgia are united in their disgust to liberalism, promotion of LGBT rights and Muslim migration. However, they differ significantly in their aims and means.
Georgian extreme-right is not a stable and rigid phenomenon. Since 2012, we can observe its evolution on both horizontal and vertical axes. Horizontally, we see a unification of small dispersed groups into a wider movement able to communicate and participate together on rallies. Vertically, these groups which evolved from clusters of mobilized individuals participating in rallies organized by the Church into political parties able to enter parliament or independently stage major counter-rallies.
Far-right rally marching through central #Tbilisi to protest what they call ‘drug and LGBT propaganda’, following Friday night’s raids on #Tbilisi nightclubs #Bassiani and Café Gallery and subsequent protests. pic.twitter.com/OoLZFg2m1Q
— OC Media (@OCMediaorg) May 14, 2018
Roots nurturing the growth of the Georgian extreme-right are local. Their members were not paid or manipulated by some sinister external power. They were mobilized by what they viewed as a top-down elite-led forceful introduction of liberalism. Moreover, under the UNM rule, they had limited opportunities to express their discontent and ventilate their anger. The relaxation of oppressive policies by the new, Georgian dream-led, government, together with an amnesty for several extreme-right leaders, provided a catalyst factor leading to a swift emergence and growth of extreme-right groups in the country.
There is not only the extreme-right but also various radical-left, liberal or ecological groups mobilising on the other end of the political spectrum. As a matter of fact, a more active generation is reaching its adulthood in Georgia. Increased mobilisation of both right- and left-wing groups is a natural phenomenon to a certain degree.
Regarding possible Russian influence on the Georgian extreme-right, it is, indeed, in the Kremlin’s interest for these groups to grow in Georgia, but it does not have the means to initiate it. What Moscow can do, is to raise the capacity of such groups by financially supporting their leadership or by narrative-setting.
Finally, experience from the EU teaches us that the biggest threat for the Georgian liberal democracy is not extreme-right groups winning elections and forming governments, but it is the extreme-right narrative entering mainstream politics by other means. This is done either by extreme-right parties evolving and creating mimicry of moderate party in a longer term or by standard parties adopting extreme-right narratives.
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Tomáš Baranec is a graduate of Charles University in Prague. His research interests include nationalism and factors of ethnic conflicts and separatism in the Caucasus. He was part of the Stratpol Young Professionals Program 2018.
This policy paper was published by STRATPOL as part of the Young Professionals program 2018. The publication of this paper was made possible thanks to the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic.