The Bumpy Road to Democracy: Success and Failure in the Integration of Ethnic Armenians in the Republic of Georgia
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After the chaos that ensued during the 1990s, Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in 2003 seeking to rebuild Georgia into a functioning, unified state. One of the ways he tried to do this was through the integration of national minorities into Georgian mainstream society. Significant research has been done on his integration efforts with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but much less has been done about his efforts with the Armenians of Samtskhe-Javakheti. This paper begins by setting the stage for Saakashvili by looking at the actions of his predecessors and how they influenced the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia. The second section provides a brief examination of important Georgian laws that will provide the framework for what Georgia has sought to achieve since independence regarding its ethnic minorities. The third section of the paper explores what integrations means and examines specific actions that the Saakashvili Administration took in this region looking at education, language, civic participation, and infrastructure rehabilitation. The fourth assesses the impact of Saakashvili’s actions – where he had success and where he had failure. The fifth and final section explores why the Saakashvili Administration got the results it did and what Saakashvili’s legacy is today.