The subject of religion in Georgia is important and interesting in at least two ways. This is an increasingly conspicuous, debatable, and divisive issue in Georgia’s public life and politics. It is often believed that the Georgian Orthodox Church, which is historically close to the Russian Orthodox Church, as well as various groups claiming to advocate its values represent the main alternative to Georgia’s efforts to become a European-style liberal democracy. There is a record of religiously-based tensions in the Georgian society: between representatives of the dominant Orthodox Church and religious minorities, but also between champions of religious conservatism and liberal secularism. This means that thorough academic research on relevant issues will have a ready audience both within academe and beyond.
On the other hand, Georgia is a very important and interesting case for comparative research on the resurgence of the role of religion in public life, which is a notable trend of the last decades, broadly analyzed in the academic literature. In particular, Georgia’s trajectory with regards to the public role of religion may be considered unique among former Communist countries. Break down of Communist (therefore, ideological atheist) autocratic regimes lead to resurgence of religion more or less in all post-Communist countries, while in some countries (such a Poland, for instance), historically dominant Church played a prominent role in mobilizing resistance to the Communist rule. However, almost everywhere this resurgence was temporary, and was followed by the reduction of the public role of religion and historically dominant Churches. Georgia stands out on this account: here, while religious themes were indeed manifest during pro-independence and anti-Communist movements in late 1980s, during the subsequent quarter of the century the public role of religion tended to increase further rather than recede. It is too early to judge whether public role of religion has already peaked or may still grow, but the general trend of the Church and religiously positioned groups becoming more politically assertive and influential appears rather obvious, and levels of religiosity - rather high. Some observers believe that the role of the clergy that almost openly sided with the opposition during 2012 elections had been important for determining the electoral outcome, but there had been no thorough research on how exactly the Church exerts its political influence.
What is special about the project?
This is a political science oriented project focussing on crucial aspects of the transformation process in Georgia thereby contributing to the overall goal of ASCN.
The proposed research includes two components, quantitative and qualitative. The qualitative one implies conducting a survey for 2,000 respondents which will be focused on the issues of religion and democracy. Special value of this survey would be that it would replay two surveys conducted in 1997 and 2004. The same questionnaire and methodology, developed by Prof. Theodor Hanf of University of Freiburg, and Prof. Ghia Nodia of the Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development) will be used. The first survey resulted in a book publication (Theodor Hanf and Ghia Nodia, Lurching to Democracy. From agnostic tolerance to pious Jacobinism: Societal change and people’s reactions. Baden-Baden, Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 2000), that has been one of the few researches that linked development of Georgian democracy to trends of societal development. The third poll conducted in 2015 would help obtain especially valuable data that will provide a base for tracing developments within the Georgian society during the last fifteen years.
The project was completed according to the schedule. A quantitative survey, as well as, 22 in depth interviews were conducted and allow for a nuanced picture on the role of religion in Georgian society. The research results related to two case studies (firstly The Role of the Church in the 2012 Parliamentary Elections and secondly Regional Transformation and Religious Identity in the Adjara Region) were presented in Tbilisi to an audience compromising civil society representatives, religious figures, journalists and students.
Persons involved in the project
Tamara Brunner, Projektkoordinatorin, Universität FreiburgProf. Ghia Nodia
, The Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development, 72, Tsereteli Ave, 2nd floor, 0154 Tbilisi, Georgia
Last update to this project presentation 12.05.2020