Speeches & Statements

Mikheil Saakashvili addressed the international conference of experts on the Caucasus

I am extremely pleased to be here for the second time in this amazing university and among good friends of Georgia, and that’s a great symbolic 17th anniversary of martyrdom of the saint of Georgia Grigol Peradze, but also a great person in Poland as well as  many Georgians who came to Poland. No other county in Europe or elsewhere in the world attracted Georgians so much and welcomed Georgia as Poland did.

Marshall Piłsudski brought in Georgian officers immediately after the Russian occupation of Georgia and they were given the same ranks as they had in the Georgian Army, and they served Poland exactly the same way as they served their homeland, because they believed it was a continuation of their fight, the fight of Poland was also a continuation of their fight for Georgia.  Many of them died in the Warsaw uprising before the chief of the Polish Army was a Georgian general and then some of them also died in Katyn, and we all remember that.

We also remember that Poles played special role in history of Georgia and in the culture of Georgia. Indeed, a big part of Tbilisi is built by Polish architects and engineers, they brought culture in 19th century and what Poland brought to Georgia in 19th century – beginning of 20th -was Europe. Again, Poland has this role to bring Europe to our part of the world, and indeed from that point of view this is what Marshal Bolusevic has done a lot in previous years as well as our Polish friends. I remember Marshal Bolusevic talking so much about Georgian democracy, talking about the way how we should take it. It was always an approach of a friend like from other Polish friends. If not for this Polish support, Georgia as a state would not have survived.

 I think Grigol Pheradze’s figure is an amazing symbolic figure for what Georgia stands for. Grigol Pheradze was somebody, who represents the good side of Georgia, because in the 20th century Georgia produced villains like Stalin, but also has produced saints like Grigol Pheradze. And I would say that this symbolizes two faces of the nation, and we want Georgia to go in the right direction, in the direction of people like Peradze. He also stood for the same values what we were fighting for all this years. What we fight for is freedom for the entire region.

Several years ago the Georgian Parliament recognized genocide of Cherkezians by the Russian Empire in 19th century, and we were the first nation to do so. I believe in the idea of united Caucasus, notwithstanding the borders, borders should stay as they are. But it should be one symbol of freedom, democracy, movement of people and I have seen how people in the Caucasus were admiring what Georgia has achieved in previous years, because for the first time in many centuries Georgia has managed to keep our modern statehood. The idea of our conquerors was that the Caucasians are chronically not capable of organizing themselves into being modern and civilized. That was the idea, and that’s what Georgia has broken in last several years. Georgia is an amazing success case, because if you look, we are one out of ten easiest places to do business with in the world according to the World Bank. We are the least corrupted and criminalized country in Europe according to European Union, and certainly Georgia has also set an example, as the Marshal rightly said, for elections because for the first time in our part of world the elected government was transferred through elections, not through civil war that killed thousands of people in the 90s in my country, not by a revolution but by a peaceful change of power though it was still, basically, a big institutional shake-up for the country.

This time we have a chance to have this new beginning. Grigol Peradze talks about meeting Cherkez and this city of Hom, and he talks about how dignified Cherkezians were. He said Cherkezians helped us when we needed it the most. And now we need to help them. And it’s a whole long lasting purpose of helping each other, holding each other, not allowing other empires to divide, not allowing fighting with each other, but to overcome traditional divisions of compasses to create something new, something very special. And from that point of view, Peradze spoke about the Caucasus at peace and free.

And our policy is not against Russia anyway, and has never been. Our policy is to have long lasting peace, development and a chance for all inhabitants of our region. And from that point of view it’s not about religious divisions. Grigol Peradze, fundamental as a great Christian priest and theologian, didn’t believe in division among religions. He didn’t believe in divisions inside the Christian church. He thought that the Christian church should come together. From that point of view he a very advanced thinker from that epoch and also for our epoch. The point is that we need to go on that way, and we need to bring together all of the groups and the symbolic parallel that we had an Orthodox, Christian priest Grigol Pheradze, who was a great fighter for Muslims and Cherkezians and who gave his life for a Jewish family in Auschwitz. There is a great parallel with Maximilian Colbe. He of course is the Catholic who did the same thing, and who is an amazing hero not only for this country, but for all of mankind. And this unity, this Christian gesture, no matter the Catholic or Orthodox Church, on this great land of freedom, which I think is an amazing inspiration for all of us, is the very existence of a Polish nation, so open and so understanding of all the grievances of small peoples. You know, all of us, we often say that there are nations which have a bigger meaning than their territory, that carry ideas, like for instance, America carries an idea. I think Poland also carries an amazing idea for the world and our part of Europe which was forgotten and neglected for many centuries. And as Poland is successful now, then all of us will be better off and we’ll make it.

As rightly said by the Marshal, there was change of government in Georgia, but nobody can bring Georgia back to its knees and back to the Russian empires influence. Of course there might be ups and downs, but our people have already tested what freedom looks like, what success looks like, what democracy looks like, what change of government looks like with all the pluses and minuses, and what being in Europe starts like and there is no way back from this Europeanism. There were several nations in Europe that have had setbacks, there were several nations in Europe that are members of the European Union and at least a couple of them had leaders that tried  to establish some kind of dictatorship , but it cannot work in Europe. And I think it’s a great example of Poland, and I think there was a Polish President who did this classic formula saying that the test for democracy is that every nation should have one president, one prime minister, many presidents, many prime ministers, ex presidents, ex prime ministers, none of them in prison, none of them killed, or disappeared. And that’s exactly what we are trying to build in Georgia. I think my nation will also eventually pass this test. And we are willing to contribute, because we are a proud nation, we are a nation with this history, that as I said had villains, but also had great figures, and we have friends and we don’t feel ourselves alone. That’s exactly the main hope for us, because Poland is a beacon for all of us, we also admire and were inspired by Poland, but for the same sake Georgia is a beacon for many countries that surround us that are looking at what happens there. They were admiring our reforms for all these years. They admire that we had free, transparent elections. If we had a vote all around region, our government would have won the next five elections maybe, but that’s not how it feels, one thing is from the outside and others are things that happened inside the country, and people decided to change the government.  This was also admired by these people , because  they said it’s not a successful  government just modernize, but it’s also a democracy which is what we all want to have, the other people said in region. Now we need to have democracy continue for us to have an ultimate success and in that respect we will be guided by your example, and by the great historic figures of our and your nation, thanks.


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