The influx of Russians to Georgia in recent years has stoked tensions between the two countries, prompting some Georgians to call on Moscow to “get out”. The number of Russians living in Georgia surged to over 160,000 last year, more than double from the beginning of the decade, according to the latest United Nations population figures.
This influx is largely down to a series of measures introduced by the Georgian government to attract the highly educated, often affluent members of the Russian professional class to its economy. The initiative has been successful in that regard. But it has also stirred up resentment among some Georgians, who view Russia as an occupying force that should be kicked out of their country.
The feeling is particularly acute among the younger generations who remember the 2008 conflict between Georgia and Russia—which led to the de facto occupation of two breakaway regions in the country—as well as Moscow’s support for the separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The issue has become a political football for both sides, with the Georgian opposition using it to criticize the authorities’ open-door policy towards Russian migration, while Moscow has used it to accuse Tbilisi of discrimination against Russians living in the country.