Armenophobia: ‘the oldest form of xenophobia in Georgia’

From tropes about rich, greedy merchants, jokes about cultural appropriation, to overblown fears of separatism, Georgia’s ethnic Armenian community are frequently the targets of hate.

‘My mother is Armenian, and I will always speak proudly about it’, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania said in Parliament in June 2004, after an MP suggested that ‘some people’ hid their parents’ ethnicity.

Being ‘secretly Armenian’ has been a common accusation between political rivals in Georgia, with targets including former President Mikheil Saakashvili and former Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze.

‘They always said about Zurab Zhvania — “he’s an Armenian, he’s an Armenian!” — but I liked the way he replied’, 68-year-old Roza Gharibyan tells OC Media. Roza was born in Tbilisi to survivors of the Armenian Genocide; she now works as a vendor in the city’s Lilo Market.

‘Saakashvili was not Armenian. He was “Georgian” when people liked him and when he became bad, then he became “Armenian” ’, Roza says with a smile.