HomeLifestyleGeorgia: Popular with Russian tourists, despite political tensions

Georgia: Popular with Russian tourists, despite political tensions


Wearing a slick white linen shirt and beige trousers, Georgian tour guide Levan Dvali saunters over as I wait on a shady bench in Tbilisi’s elegant April ninth Park. It is comfortingly quiet right here, a mere stone’s throw from the capital’s bustling Shota Rustaveli Avenue, which is teeming with vacationers and locals. This well-kept park — named after the Tbilisi tragedy of April 9, 1989, when Soviet forces brutally dispersed and killed Georgian pro-independence protesters, offers the proper backdrop to speak in regards to the nation’s difficult relationship with Russia, and Russian vacationers. (Additionally learn: Russian vacationers flock to non-European destinations)

38-year-old Dvali, who started working as a information in 2017, says Russians love spending their holidays in Georgia. “It is among the best locations for them: Black Sea, good meals, hospitality,” he tells me proudly. Dvila used to point out Russian holidaymakers round his residence nation however remembers disagreements with some who refused to consider the Soviet Union’s affect on Georgia had been something however benevolent. He has no problem with Russian guests per se — his personal sister-in-law and cousins dwell in Russia — although feels some regard Georgia as little greater than a pleasantly reasonably priced vacation vacation spot.

Why Russians are drawn to Georgia

In response to the Georgian Nationwide Tourism Administration, the variety of Russians visiting Georgia has been rising steadily since 2011. In 2019, one and a half million folks traveled there, producing about $700 million (€687 million) in income.

Georgia’s dramatic Caucasus mountains, verdant valleys, lovely Black Sea seashores, various delicacies and wine make it a pretty vacation vacation spot. On prime of that, Georgians are well-known for his or her hospitality.

All that explains why Russians are drawn to the nation. However the two additionally share an extended historical past: Georgia was as soon as a part of the Russian Empire, after which a Soviet republic.

A rocky relationship

Russo-Georgian relations have, nevertheless, develop into strained lately. In 2008, each international locations fought a short warfare over South Ossetia, a Russian-backed breakaway province in Georgia’s north. Russian troops stay stationed there, in addition to within the Georgian breakaway area of Abkhazia. Its forces now occupy 20% of Georgian territory.

In the summertime of 2019, when violent protests erupted in Tbilisi over what some deemed undue Russian interference in Georgian affairs, Russia suspended direct flights to the nation. On the time, Russian officers urged their compatriots to depart Georgia, and suggested in opposition to touring there. The flight ban stays in place to at the present time. The variety of Russian vacationers in Georgia subsequently plummeted, dealing a severe blow to the tourism trade.

Russians hold coming

However, Georgia’s land border with Russia stays open. To enter, Russians — like EU residents — do not want a visa. Whereas Georgia remains to be accessible, an increasing number of European states are limiting entry for Russian vacationers. As of this Monday (19.09.2022), Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, in addition to Poland, started making it tougher for Russians to enter, together with these with a sound Schengen visa. There are exceptions for vacationers on humanitarian grounds and dissidents, however the overwhelming majority of Russians should enter the EU through different routes, for instance by flying from Georgia.

With Georgia’s land border open, many Russians hold streaming into the nation. And the streets, eating places, bars, and museums of Tbilisi are filled with Russian-speakers — although what number of of them are in exile or odd holidaymakers will not be all the time clear.

Throughout a leisurely night dinner within the capital’s charming outdated city, I strike up a dialog with 38-year-old Fedor Portnykh sitting on the neighboring desk along with his mother and father. In immaculate English, the jovial Muscovite tells me he left Russia for Prague after Putin invaded Ukraine in February. Now, he’s visiting Georgia to satisfy his mother and father on “impartial floor” as he calls it, as he deems Russia a “jail” the place free speech is curtailed. He says his mother and father, who nonetheless dwell in Moscow, traveled to Georgia by bus, ready many hours to go Russian and Georgian border checks.

Regardless of Georgia’s troublesome relationship with Russia, and a broad feeling of solidarity amongst Georgians in the direction of embattled Ukraine, Portnykh says he senses no animosity in the direction of Russian-speakers. In actual fact, he tells me, older Georgians had been very well mannered and have even spoken Russian, although youthful Georgians had been extra reserved.

Many in Georgia’s vacationer trade warmly welcome Russian holidaymakers — however despise the Russian president. Marika Kopadze, an lively mom of two, who runs Tbisli’s Metropolis Coronary heart Resort along with her husband, tells me “we all the time attempt to be respectable.” Then she provides: “However what about [Russian President] Putin? By no means, by no means in Georgia, will we love him!”

Most Georgians, it appears, share her view.

Not everybody needs to speak politics

A number of days later, hiding away from the cruel noon solar at a restaurant in Mtskheta, Georgia’s historical capital, I converse to a pleasant Russian couple having fun with their lunch. They inform me they’re from the Ural mountains and traveled right here by automotive — a distance of roughly 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles). They’re additionally very keen on Georgian meals, they inform me, as they tuck into their order of Khinkali, or Georgian dumplings.

After I reveal I am a journalist and ask them in regards to the warfare in Ukraine and whether or not they really feel welcome in Georgia, the temper modifications. The person weighs his phrases fastidiously, telling me “we’ve got our opinion, however we don’t wish to voice it.” He tells me he’s suspicious of DW and most different media retailers, together with these in Russia. He additionally says he finds the sanctions in opposition to Russia “completely incomprehensible.”

I sense the 2 don’t have any want in any way to proceed speaking about politics, so we rapidly return to praising Georgian fare and having fun with the remainder of the afternoon.

Edited by Elizabeth Grenier



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